Nicole Murph

Gabriela Pelaez

Melissa Guzman

Ed Cruz

Article Summary

 

Knauss, L. K. (2001). Ethical Issues in Psychological Assessment in School Settings. Journal of

            Personality Assessment. 77(2), 231-241.

 

            Psychologists providing assessment and testing services in schools have the task of recognizing and negotiating the ethical challenges specific to academic settings. There are several issues psychologists deal with such the process of parental consent and involvement and the obligation to select non-biased test instruments and using them in a way that is not racially or culturally biased. Other issues psychologists deal with is the use projective tests and computerized psychological assessment measures. Those that provide services in school settings are usually psychologists employed by the school district. They face of the issue of deciding who is the client (the child, the parents, the teacher, or the school system). Most issues with assessment come from the differing needs of students, parents, teachers, and administrators.

 

Informed Consent

            Informed consent is one of the most frequent issues that psychologists deal with in school settings. Informed consent involves the process of obtaining parental consent and the amount of parental involvement when assessing a child. Because a child is not of age to give consent to being tested, parents must be informed and their consent obtained. “Ethical codes, professional standards, and law all agree that informed consent should be obtained prior to providing psychological services for school” (Knauss, 2001). Consent is affirmative permission before actions can be taken. School psychologists must obtain written consent from the student’s parent or guardian or from the student if the student has reached the age of majority. Informed consent agreements include the reasons for assessment, the type of tests and evaluation procedures to be used, what the assessment results will be used for, and who will have access to the results. In addition, an explanation of the nature and purpose of all test assessment instruments should be provided. Consent is also required if there is the possibility of reevaluation of the child, but if parents fail to provide it, the school can proceed with the evaluation. However, schools should use mediation or other due process procedures to pursue the evaluation of the child if parents are in disagreement. Children who are evaluated must be informed the reason for assessment, the types of tests that will be given, and the ways in which the results will be used. However, if the assessment will be educational benefit, it is still ethical to assess a minor child without his or her consent. Finally, parental involvement is critical once the assessment of the child has been completed. “School psychologists must share their findings with both parents and guardians” (Knauss, 2001) This allows students and parents the opportunity to share in the decision making process and will allow more cooperation.

 

Nondiscriminatory Assessment

            “Psychologists are obligated to select nonbiased test instruments and procedures and administer and interpret them in a way that is not racially or culturally discriminating” (Knauss, 2001). For a student whose second language is English that is having difficulties in school, psychologists make sure the tests being administered measure intelligence, aptitude, or personality factors, and not her language skills. If the test is to be administered in the student’s native language, a standardized version of the test must be given or else the validity of the results will suffer. In addition, if the examiner is not fluent in the language of the student, a translator may be used that may misinterpret the student or the examiner and cause misunderstandings. Also, examiners must take into consideration the effect of cultural factors on test performance because it may be that students of certain cultures are less responsive to speed pressure or reluctant to answer certain questions. Other considerations psychologists must take into account are that they must evaluate the research on test bias when selecting instruments for use with minority children and to choose the most fairest and most appropriate instruments available. The use of biased tests may thus lead to unfair decisions that could be detrimental to the child.

 

Projective Personality Assessment

            There has been considerable controversy on the use of projective techniques in school settings. Psychologists must consider when using projective testing how helpful it will be in answering the referral question by specifying what material in the projective test related to it. There is also the issue of whether projective tests are “an unwarranted invasion of privacy” because they use indirect questions (Knauss, 2001). In addition because the test reports become part of a student’s educational record which others have access to, there is the possibility of intrusion on student or family privacy. Other concerns in the use of projective testing include the competence of the examiner. The examiner must be properly trained in administering and interpreting the results of the tests. The issue of test validity is also important to consider in that psychologists must make sure that the test is useful to the purpose of the assessment.

 

Computerized Psychological Testing

            Though computerized testing allows more efficiency and more test accessibility, the fact that tests can be administered, scored, and interpreted with no human contact raises issues. Psychologists are ultimately responsible for the psychological services and test reports they provide, not matter if it requires automated scoring and interpretation. Many argue that there is a significant disparity between the automated report and the psychologist’s clinical impression of the client, there may be the possibility of an erroneous report. Computerized tests are less individualized than traditional tests and computer-assisted assessment should not be used to extend the boundaries of one’s competence. Computer programs should be a not be a substitute for supervision because they are not designed to teach testing skills to the person using the program. There is also the fear that improperly trained individuals have access to these computerized tests, scoring and interpretation services and may not be able to understand the complexities and proper use of these instruments. “It is the responsibility of psychologists to implement proper test administration procedures and to oversee proper testing procedures in their supervisees” (Knauss, 2001). The validity of computer-assisted assessment is also an issue and whether results are valid for a particular individual. Ultimately, computer-assisted assessment should be used in conjunction with the clinical judgment of well-trained professionals.

 

Conclusion

            “Psychological assessment is one of the major responsibilities of psychologists who work in schools” (Knauss, 2001). However, there are ethical challenges in ensuring that tests and assessment procedures are used in ways that protect the rights and promote the well-being of students.

Article Outline

Knauss, L. K. (2001). Ethical Issues in Psychological Assessment in School Settings. Journal of

            Personality Assessment. 77(2), 231-241.

 

I.                   Ethical Issues in Psychological Assessment in School Settings

A.    Most frequent ethical issues psychologists confront

1.      Process of parental consent and involvement

2.      Obligation to select non-biased test instruments and use them in way that is not racially or culturally biased

3.      Appropriate administration and interpretation of projective tests in school settings

4.      Use of computerized psychological assessment

B.     Where ethical dilemmas arise from

1.      Dilemmas arise from the differing needs of students, parents, teachers, and administrators

2.      Therefore it is important for psychologists to be familiar with the higher order ethical principles of autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, fidelity, and justice

C.     Informed consent

1.      Informed consent is most frequent ethical issue

2.      Ethical codes, professional standards, and law all agree that informed consent should be obtained prior to providing psychological services for school and from the student’s parent or guardian or from the student if the student has reached the age of majority

3.      Consent requires affirmative permission before actions can be taken

4.      It must include the reasons for assessment, the type of tests and evaluation procedures to be used, what the assessment results will be used for, and who will have access to the results

5.      Children who are evaluated must be informed the reason for assessment, the types of tests that will be given, and the ways in which the results will be used

6.      Parental involvement is critical so psychologists must share their findings with both parents and guardians

D.    Nondiscriminatory Assessment

1.      Psychologists are obligated to select nonbiased test instruments and procedures and administer and interpret them in a way that is not racially or culturally discriminating

2.      Tests administered to students whose second language is English must measure intelligence, aptitude, or personality factors, and not language skills

3.      A standardized version of the test must be given or else the validity of the results will suffer if test is administered in a different language

4.      If the examiner is not fluent in the language of the student, a translator may be used that may misinterpret the student or the examiner and cause misunderstandings

5.      Cultural factors on test performance must be looked at because it may be that students of certain cultures are less responsive to speed pressure or reluctant to answer certain questions

6.      Psychologists must take into account are that they must evaluate the research on test bias when selecting instruments for use with minority children and to choose the most fairest and most appropriate instruments available

E.     Projective personality testing

1.      No definite answer on whether projective testing should be used school settings

2.      Psychologists must consider when using projective testing how helpful it will be in answering the referral question

3.      There is issue of whether projective tests are “an unwarranted invasion of privacy” because they use indirect questions

4.      Because the test reports become part of a student’s educational record which others have access to, there is the possibility of intrusion on student or family privacy

5.      Competence of the examiner is also important because the examiner must be properly trained in administering and interpreting the results of the tests.

6.      Issue of test validity is also important

F.      Computerized Psychological Testing

1.      Tests that can be administered, scored, and interpreted with no human contact raises issues

2.      Psychologists are ultimately responsible for the psychological services and test reports they provide, not matter if it requires automated scoring and interpretation

3.      There is a significant disparity between the automated report and the psychologist’s clinical impression of the client which may lead to possibility of an erroneous report

4.      Computerized tests are less individualized than traditional tests and computer-assisted assessment should not be used to extend the boundaries of one’s competence

5.      Computer programs should be a not be a substitute for supervision because they are not designed to teach testing skills to the person using the program

6.      There is fear that improperly trained individuals have access to these computerized tests, scoring and interpretation services and may not be able to understand the complexities and proper use of these instruments

7.      Validity of computer-assisted assessment is also an issue and whether results are valid for a particular individual

8.      Computer-assisted assessment should be used in conjunction with the clinical judgment of well-trained professionals