This Week’s Episode: Assessing Language: Informal Assessments
This month we are diving into all things language assessment with Kallie Knight.
Today Kallie and I discuss all of the different options that we have for informal assessment when it comes to a language referral and navigating that process.
Let’s dive in!
Where to start with informal assessments…
In this episode, Kallie and I share some of our favorite tools for informal assessments and how to use them in tandem with informal assessments to build a stronger case.
🛠 Informal Assessment Tools
🛠 Kallie’s Informal Assessment Checklist
✔️ Parent information form
✔️ Teacher information form or teacher input
✔️ A classroom observation
✔️ Language sample
✔️ Dynamic assessment in some way, shape, or form.
Check out episode #136: Assessment 101: Informal Assessments for more info!
✨ Need the SLP Now Paperwork Binder to help streamline your process? SLP Now members can grab it here!
(Not a member? Sign up for a free trial and search for “paperwork binder” once you’re in!)
Here’s what to expect this month:
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Marisha: Hello there, and welcome to the SLP Now Podcast, where we share practical therapy tips and ideas for busy speech language pathologists. Grab your favorite beverage and sit back as we dive into this week's episode.
Marisha: Welcome to the SLP Now Podcast. We are continuing the conversation on language assessment with Kallie Knight and this week we're diving into the best part of the series, in my opinion, and talking about informal assessment.
Marisha: Kallie was on the podcast previously and she did a really epic series of posts on evaluations for culturally and linguistically diverse students. So she kicked off on Episode 114 and then she talked about how to use language samples in 115, non-word repetitions in Episode 116, and in Episode 117 she talked about dynamic assessment. So we already have a lot of great content talking about considerations for culturally and linguistically diverse students or consider for them in terms of informal assessment.
Marisha: But today I wanted to back up and do a recap of all of the different options that we have for informal assessment when it comes to a language referral and navigating that process. And then just some strategies in terms of building out that comprehensive about and what that would look like.
Marisha: So Kallie, can we start off, I just listed a bunch of the episodes that we did. So some options that we've already talked about for informal assessment include languages samples, and non-word repetition, and we also did-
Kallie: Dynamic assessment.
Marisha: Yes, yes, yes. The most important and exciting one.
Kallie: My favorite.
Marisha: So definitely check out episodes 114 to 117 if you are wondering more about that, but is there anything that you would add to the list in terms of things to consider for informal assessment? When it comes to a language?
Kallie: I'm trying to visualize my checklist, which, to be honest, sometimes I don't get to do every single thing, and that's reality. And so if that's you too, that's okay. We just got to do the best with the time we're allotted. But a case history or a parent information form, whatever your school happens to call that, a teacher information form or teacher input, a classroom observation, language sample, like you said. And then usually dynamic assessment in some way, shape or form. That's generally what my informal battery looks like. Do you use anything else in your informal battery? That's a lot actually.
Marisha: That is a lot. So some things that I've used in the past, and you mentioned this in the first episode in the series about looking at work samples, but I think that can be really valuable, especially for older students. So I sometimes doing curriculum-based assessments, kind of looking at the grade level standards. If I don't have a good representation from the work samples, that might be helpful information. And yeah, I think you've covered everything else.
Kallie: Good. I love those too as well. Because I guess we all kind of do that. Or not we all, but that is something that I integrate. I'm always curious to know what different people's parent and teacher input forms look like because I know sometimes I tweak mine to include specific either questions or concerns, kind of like you said, about different standards. Or at least standards that if a student was really significantly struggling in that standard, that it would come down to me probably to evaluate to see if speech language was affecting that. But I don't know if everyone has that in their input forms, but I would recommend it. Because I think especially being a school-based SLP where your primary responsibility is to help students meet standards or really access the curriculum, that can be really helpful information to get from the teacher. But that also might require you to get a little bit more familiar with the standards, and there's a lot of them.
Marisha: Yeah. Absolutely. If you're looking for some form options, our paperwork binder does have some. So if you go to SLPNow.com/136, you can refer to that if you're just looking for a quick resource to grab and go. There's tons of options out there, and I don't think there's a perfect form, but we do our best. Right?
Kallie: And I just feel like everyone's school, or everyone's location, is so different. So even if you start with, say your form, which I think is amazing, even if you realize, "oh, this is mostly helpful, but my district functions a little differently, so I'm going to tweak this form to help me." I think that's totally cool. In fact, I think everyone should do that. So don't feel bad for changing someone else's hard work. Just make it work for you.
Marisha: Yeah, I love that. I feel like there's so many things as we're having this conversation, I'm remembering all the little things that I used to do. Do you send home hard copy forms or do you ever collect things digitally?
Kallie: Depends. I'm kind of like a hard copy gal, and so I'll often send something home, but it really depends on the parents. And I feel like you kind of get to know parents the longer you work in a place. So if I know that there's a parent that digital, if I send it via email and it's fillable, and they can send it back, I know I'm going to get it better that way. I'm going to send that to the parent that way.
Kallie: If I'm pretty sure that I've sent it mostly digital three times or I've done it in the past, and they haven't returned it, but I stick a hard copy in their backpack, and it comes back the next day. I have a whole list of things where I have notes on the kids and their parents and preferences and communication preferences, and that's one of them. Whether they prefer digital or paper, so that's kind of how I determine it. It's not like one size fits all.
Marisha: Yeah, it's what's best for the family.
Kallie: Which is what's going to end up being best for you because if you only choose digital and they never see it, you're going to rip your hair out. Or if you only choose paper, but their preference is digital, you're never going to get your information. So if you choose what's right or helpful for the parent, it's going to be more helpful to you.
Marisha: Yep, I love it. Good stuff. Okay, so we talked about the intake piece of things and then I think the work samples are easy to just grab from the teacher whenever. And we talked about the classroom observation, and the paperwork binder also has a little bit of a template. So just in the interest of time, I think we can jump towards the other side of things. So do you find yourself doing a standards based assessment for a lot of your kiddos? Or is that something you occasionally use? Or not really?
Kallie: Kind of, but I feel like I do it more informally. It's not a tool that I have that really lays out the standards, and then I'm giving them tasks that align with that standard. Although, I can't even think of what it's called, they do have one that we used in my district. I'll have to go back and look at it. I really didn't like it because even though it was supposed to be standards-based or criterion-referenced, I didn't actually feel like the tool itself was giving me what I needed or was helpful. So the one that I was given access to, I didn't use. But that doesn't mean that the informal tools I use or what I think about...
Kallie: So, for example, language samples. I know that in a lot of different grades they're looking at different syntactical structures or being able to use "because" to explain or give evidence. So if I know that they're not doing that, and I can see that in a work sample and talking to the teacher and doing a language sample or conversing with the kid, then I know that syntactic structure is missing and it's likely functionally impacting the kid because they can't meet that standard because they can't explain why. Or give an evidence for something. So I feel like I cater or the things I look at in my language sample, because you could look at a million things, is largely aligned with standards, but it's not like a tool, if that makes sense, that you just grab off the shelf and do.
Kallie: Did you have one that was more standards based that you could grab off the shelf and do with the kid?
Marisha: So again, Monica Lynn also helped us make some assessments that are loosely standards based. And so those are nice comprehensive things to give. I like to give them when I'm doing an eval or when I'm doing an IEP renewal, updating a student's IEP, because it gives me some helpful information in terms of it helps me back up. Because I get so in the weeds with the goals, it just helps me get bigger picture again. It's like how are they doing with grade level standards? So I really like doing that. That's how I like to start off a lot of my evals because, like I said, I feel like it helps me frame things again, and then I fill in the pieces from there. Like, "Oh, I would like a formal assessment to look into that more," and all of that. So yeah, that plus the language sample are kind of my major go-to's, and then I kind of plan from there.
Kallie: I feel like I need to reiterate what you just said. And it's going to sound like I'm beating a dead horse, but I think what you said is so important. Or I'm going to take out the theme of what you just said. The purpose of informal assessment, I mean, yes, you can use it to help determine disability, but usually that standardized form or the formal test is the black and white. Is there a disability present or not?
Kallie: But it's like that doesn't help you with providing intervention or doing goals. When you're doing informal, it's like, what is the functional impact? What is actually making it so that they can't access their... It's everything you just said. So functional impact, that's what you're doing with informal. And I think sometimes we're just, I think I'm supposed to do a language sample. Some people are like, "oh, I could just calculate MLU. I remember I can grab these other things from a language sample." And you just have all this information, and it's like, okay, now I got to figure out what to do with it.
Kallie: Whereas kind of like you said, if you can back up and remember I'm looking for functional impact, you find the functional impact, then you know exactly what you're looking for, and you're not just getting a lot of random values and then trying to make something of fit. That's another time saving thing. And that also comes, I think, with experience. That's not something that I'm like, you're going to listen to this podcast and be like, tomorrow I'm going to save so much time and be so much more efficient. It takes practice. But I think the intentionality behind it is really helpful.
Marisha: And we maybe should have talked about this in the formal assessment episode. Actually, we'll talk about it next week when we're talking about making recommendations and pulling all of the results together. Making recommendations and, just as user, not writing goals based off of a formal assessment, like just that test. The formal assessment, they're a piece of information, but we will not write a goal to the test.
Kallie: I mean, if your ultimate goal was for them to just magically do better on the self every time, then by all means, write that goal. But I think at the end of the day, when we, again, zoom out, that's not our goal. I'm sure there's people who are not school-based SLPs listening to this. So I mean, in general, whatever your end goal is, but at school-based SLPs, the end goal being accessing the curriculum, writing a goal based on a sub test isn't going to get you there.
Marisha: Yeah. So on that note, I think we can wrap up our discussion on informal assessment. Or is there anything else you wanted to add?
Kallie: No, I think anything that I would say is going to end up bleeding into making recommendations anyway. Anything that we've forgotten will come out in the last episode.
Marisha: So we'll tie it all together. And I think we've just gotten a good overview. I'll do a quick recap of the options or some tools that we might use in informal assessments. So case history, parent input, teacher input, work samples, present levels, assessments, standards based assessments. Kind of looking at what's expected in the curriculum and seeing how the students do there. Language samples, classroom observations, and dynamic assessment. And we didn't chat a lot about dynamic assessment, but Kallie did an epic episode, 117, so go check that out for the most beautiful overview of all things dynamic assessment in less than 15 minutes.
Kallie: I think we framed that episode in the context of culturally and linguistically diverse students. But that information is applicable to all students. Just in case someone's thinking, "but you said that was a series on culturally and linguistically diverse students." That episode applies to everyone. We just talked about it in the context of a certain population.
Marisha: But the principles still apply beautifully.
Kallie: They do.
Marisha: Okay, so that's a wrap on this episode, and we'll see you next week to wrap it all up.
Marisha: Thanks for listening to the SLP Now Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please share with your SLP friends, and don't forget to subscribe to the podcast to get the latest episode sent directly to you. See you next time.
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