School-Based Assessment of Executive Functions
- Executive Function Assessment
- Standardized Measures Commonly Used To Test Executive Functions
- Observations and Interviews
- Program Design
Assessment of any student should not rely on a single test or measure. Assessment involves gathering data from several sources and synthesizing the information to look for trends and patterns across time and setting. Assessment of executive functions is no different. For an effective assessment of executive functions, a variety of measures should be used including: formal one to one assessment, standardized checklists, observations, interviews, and work samples. From these, conclusions may be drawn on the use of executive functions in a particular student. The following is a list of measures and techniques used to gather information on executive functions in students.
Caution: Using checklists or rating scales alone may overestimate executive functioning difficulties in typical school children. Therefore, it is important to consider the age of the student and compare student progress with same-age peers. It is also a good idea to consider re-testing or monitoring progress in executive functions later on in the student's school career.
Behavior Rating Index of Executive Function (BRIEF):
Designed for students ages 5-18, both parent and teacher versions are available. The BRIEF uses a 3 point scale to determine how often a student performs a behavior. It offers a global score and index scores on behavioral regulation (with inhibit, shift, and emotional control scales) and a Metacognition Index (with scale scores of initiate, working memory, plan/organize, organization of materials, and monitor). It was published in 2000 by Psychological Assessment Resources. A preschool version is also available.
Child Behavior Checklist – Teacher Report Form (CBCL):
This is a general measure of behavior that taps into social emotional functioning attention. It was published in 1991 by Achenbach, who is also the author.
NEPSYII (Korkman, Kirk, Kemp, 2007)
An individually administered assessment battery for students ages 3 to 4 and 5-16, it is used to measure Social Perception , Executive Functioning/Attention, Language, Memory and Learning, Sensorimotor Functioning, and Visual-spatial Processing.
Cognitive Assessment System (Naglieri Das, 1997)
Evaluates planning and attention and is one of the few measures based on a single theory of intelligence. The battery uses six subtests to evaluate performance in two areas, planning and attention, both of which are involved with executive functions. It takes about 60 minutes to administer.
Children's Category Test (Boll, T. 1993)
This brief measure was designed for students ages 6-16 and provides an indication of mental flexibility and a child's ability to categorize. It takes 15-20 minutes to administer. The overall score is the best indication of performance. The CCT is appropriate for use in combination with intellectual and academic achievement tests and is a nonverbal task to be administered independently or during the California Verbal Learning Test®–Children's Version's (CVLT®-C) delayed recall section. It also responds to federal legislation requiring the evaluation of students suspected of having traumatic brain injury. In addition, the test accommodates the needs of children with color acuity problems and may be appropriate for children with severe motor handicaps. Unlike most comparable instruments, CCT was standardized on a national sample with stratification variables including age, sex, race/ethnicity, region, and parent education level. It is a booklet version based on the Halstead-Reitan Category Test for Children. CCT was co-normed with the CVLT-C.
WISC-IV Advanced Clinical Interpretation (Weiss, Saklofske, Prifitera, Holdnack, 2003)
This text introduced a potential screener/research executive functioning. The index uses 4 subtests based on 1 subtest from each modality. The subtest must not contribute to other indexes. Evidence of sensitivity to EF-based disorders uses Comprehension Multiple Choice, Elithorn Mazes, Spatial Span Forward, and Cancellation Random. The text has normative information and clinical group research for EF-based clinical groups.
Use both observations and interviews to determine the following types of information regarding a student's executive functions and ability to perform in a variety of situations and environments. Observe in the classroom and in a less structured environment. It is imperative to observe the student in "normal" settings for any type of evaluation. Another vital piece of information comes from interviews with teachers, parents, and the student to determine concerns and areas of interest.
Watch for and ask how well the student is performing on:
- Self-regulation of affect when tasks are demanding or boring.
- Problem solving strategies.
- Perseveration of ideas or response choices.
- Persistence in a goal or in attempting to complete a task.
- Flexibility in switching from task to task or changing ideas when solving a problem.
- Attention span and ability to sustain attention.
- Memory or recall of previously learned information or specific words.
- Working memory, or the ability to recall needed information such as directions, steps, or sequence needed to solve a problem.
- Time management.
- Theory of mind (ability to understand the perspective of another person).
- Task initiation or how long it takes a student to start a task.
Observe and interview students and teachers to determine activities that indicate the ability to organize, plan, use working memory, initiate, change tasks, sustain attention, and use response inhibition and time management or other executive functions.
To do this, find out if the student:
- Has materials ready at the beginning of a lesson.
- Begins and stops working when others in the class do.
- Switches from one task to another.
- Recognizes that another student's feelings and ideas are just as important as his or her own.
- Is considerate of others.
- Has difficulty with writing:
- Motor control.
- Planning how written information will fit on a page.
- Writing automatically.
- Organizing content in written material.
- Retrieving and using ideas when writing.
- Holding and manipulating thoughts, retrieving ideas, and executing written material.
- Has difficulty in math:
- Monitoring progress and self-correction when doing calculation.
- Maintaining an idea, organizing a strategy, and retrieving steps accurately when calculating.
- Organizing, storing information, retrieving information, and executing steps when learning and applying memorized information, such as addition facts.
- Has difficulty in reading:
- Planning, recalling, and using decoding strategies.
- Reading words fluently.
- Understanding and using information read in a sentence, passage, or longer article.
- Making inferences or using strategies for reading comprehension.
- Has difficulty in study skills:
- Organizing desk, backpack.
- Completing homework.
- Reading a text and gleaning needed information.
- Listening and gleaning needed information.
- Turning completed homework in on time.
- Interpreting assignments correctly.
- Using study strategies in the classroom.
Informal Settings Observation
With peers look for:
- Effective interaction in social situations.
- Ability to join a topic of conversation.
- Ability to understand information being discussed by peers.
- Ability to speak appropriately in a given setting.
- Ability to start and stop a conversation appropriately.
- Appropriate comments to others indicating a regard for their feelings.
- Adaptation of behavior to a situation.
Ask the family the following types of questions:
- Does the student plan events in advance?
- Is the student able to start and stop a conversation appropriately?
- Does the student adjust voice, topic of conversation, or comments depending on the setting or environment?
- What is the student's ability to initiate activities, such as going out of the house, getting to school on time, etc?
- How well does the student appropriately express emotions?
- Does the student demonstrate a full range of emotions, few emotions, or extreme emotions only?
- What types of future plans does the student have?
- Are the student's room and belongings organized to an age appropriate degree?
- Create a hypothesis after assembling all the information.
- Hypothesis should rely heavily on observed behaviors within the student's daily routine.
- Evaluate hypothesis by trying an intervention.
- Test the outcomes from the intervention used.
- Assess the outcomes.
- Modify the program as needed.
D'Amato, R.C., Janzen, E.E., Reynolds, C.R., (2004).Handbook of School Neuropsychology.New York: John Wiley and Sons.
Dawson, P., (2004).Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents: A practical guide to assessment and interpretation.New York, NY: Guilford Press.
deCaire, M.Clinical Measurement Consultant, Harcourt Assessment-PsychCorp. retrieved 11/17/07. http:www.harcourtassessment.ca.