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Saturday, 22 August 2015

Inside the HELP Part 1: Assessment

Hi Everyone!  I wanted to continue discussing the HELP (Hawaii Early Learning Profile) today with a focus on how to use it as an assessment tool.  For the next few week, every Saturday, I will be posting about a different aspect of using the HELP.

“Assessment for learning is the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get there.”
Assessment Reform Group (2002)

The first step in using the Hawaii Early Learning Profile (HELP©) is the student assessment.  In the assessment phase, educators are establishing a baseline of skills the student has already acquired or mastered.  
It is important to note that only skills that are demonstrated by the student without assistance can be recorded as  mastered with a positive /+/ score.  If a student requires prompting to complete a task, or demonstrate the required response, it is not mastered.

Step 1:  Parent Interview

The first step in completing the HELP© Assessment is the parent interview.  This interview is an important piece of the assessment for two reasons:  
 1)  Parents know their children the best and will usually provide you with accurate information.                           
2)  Some areas of the HELP cannot be assessed at school, especially for some skills in the Self-Help domain.
Parent interviews are usually completed prior to the student entering the classroom.  Typically, these are done in August or September, before the start of the new school year and completed on an annual basis at this time.  The parent interview is usually  completed by the resource and/or the classroom teacher and can be completed in a one hour meeting.
To complete the parent interview, I like to use the Strands booklets.  The skills in the Strands booklets are grouped into strands within each domain and the skills within each strand are developmentally-sequenced.  For example, under the Self-Help domain, skills are grouped together under strands such as toileting, grooming, dressing, etc.  The organization of the booklet allows you to quickly and easily find the set of skills on which you would like to question the parents.  
As parents answers your questions about each skill, you would use the credit key to score the student’s ability in performing the skills.  Once the parent interview is completed, the next step in the assessment process is observation of the student.

Step 2:  Student Observation

The student observation can be completed by the classroom teacher, resource teacher or educational assistant who has been trained in using the HELP©.  Using the Strands booklet, the assigned observer watches the student throughout the day in all school environments and records his/her responses and behaviour using the credit key.
The observer can also be working with the student at the same time, however, I find it more efficient to have another person work with the student, so the observer can focus on recording the student’s scores.  I realize, however, that nine times out of ten this is not possible in a school setting.
The observation period should last at least a few days and may take up to two weeks to complete.  It is important that observations are completed over several days to ensure that the student has truly acquired a skill.  
It is probable that not all the skills you wish to asses the student upon will be observed during the observation period.  For those skills, direct assessment will be required.

Step 3:  Direct Assessment

In this portion of the HELP© assessment, the assessor continues to use the Strands booklet to score the student’s responses.  The classroom teacher, resource teacher or educational assistant works with the student one-on-one to complete tasks, or elicit identified responses from the student.
And like the observation period, the direct assessment may take up to two weeks to complete.  Unlike, the observation period, the direct assessment should be completed by at least two different people, in two different settings, with at least two different set of materials to ensure generalization and mastery of the skill.

Step 4:  Transferring the Data

The final step in completing the HELP© assessment is analyzing and transferring the data.  The student’s scores that were recorded in the Strands booklet are transferred to the HELP© charts for easy reference.
Skills or responses that have been consistently demonstrated by the student and scored as positive /+/ are highlighted on the student’s HELP chart.  
As the student masters more skills, the chart is updated and skills are highlighted using a different colour.  HELP charts should be updated at each reporting period throughout the school year.

Additional Instructions

It is important to note that you may not assess a student on some skills or strands in the HELP© as they may not be appropriate for the student due to age, disability or functional relevance.  These skills also wouldn’t be used in curriculum planning or in selecting IEP goals.
When determining which skills to assess the student on, take into consideration the student’s chronological age, as well as their developmental age based on diagnostic reports provided by psychologists, which can be found in the student’s OSR ( Ontario Student Record).  
For most students you will not bother to assess them on skills that are typically found in children from birth to six months, or on some skills in the Self-Help section as these are not skills that could be taught in a school setting.  There are skills, however, that are recommended in the strands booklet that should always be assessed.  These skills are highlighted by an asterisk* next to the skill number.
Starting the assessment with the parent interview will provide you with useful information on where you need to conduct additional assessment.  Part of your assessment following the parent interview should include observing the student performing certain skills to ensure generalization across people and environments.  This is particularly important for students with Autism who frequently demonstrate a poor ability to generalize skills.
Using the parent interview as a starting point, you can decide which skills to target for observation.  To ensure that you have targeted the most appropriate skills, the HELP© provides this guideline, “If a child displays two or more consecutive skills in a Strand with good quality, you can generally assume that he has achieved earlier skills due to their hierarchical relationship”.  (HELP Strands© Vort Corporation 1992-2007).
For determining when to stop assessment in a particular strand, the HELP© provides this general guideline which states, “after a child misses more than two consecutive skills or behaviours, you can generally assume he has not yet accomplished higher skills in that particular strand.” (HELP Strands© Vort Corporation 1992-2007).
Adhering to these guidelines, will assist you with determining if you have started assessing at an appropriate  age level and at what age level to stop the assessment, thus saving you time during the assessment phase.  

Do you use the HELP in your classroom?  How do you use the assessment tools?  i'd love to hear from you!  Thanks for stopping by and I hope you'll come back next week when I discuss how to use the HELP to write IEP goals.

Until then,

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