Criterion Referenced Assessment
Criterion referenced assessment: This type of assessment is a highly effective
means of obtaining information
about students' ability to perform specific language tasks. Criterion referenced assessment has an advantage
over norm referenced assessment in that it is precise in identifying what students can and cannot
do with daily oral and/or written language tasks.
This form of assessment is often naturalistic and allows clinician's to focus on a student's language
difficulty, which enables them to create accurate, targeted language intervention plans. For instance, a clinician may use
an age appropriate picture book to determine a student's reading fluency and devise a checklist of interpretive and
inferential questions to examine the same student's reading comprehension skills.
In the above example, though the information gleaned is not norm-referenced, it potentially provides a much greater insight
into a student's functional
language abilities than a widely used standardized assessment such as the CELF-4.
Let me explain.
A reading miscue and fluency analysis provides accurate information on how well and efficiently a student reads text
and how much attention and energy is directed to decoding unfamiliar words. If the student struggles with decoding
do they also struggle with comprehension of the text? Targeted inference questions can help determine this.
When a student
struggles with both reading fluency and reading comprehension on age appropriate books, the clinician will have a range
of potential intervention areas to target.
Why is a criterion referenced assessment potentially more useful than a norm referenced test?
Norm referenced assessments provide clinicians information about how a child's overall
language abilities compare to their typically developing peers. It provides a window into what a particular child is
able to do at that point in time. What norm referenced tests don't do particularly well is demonstrate how a child functions
in a natural setting (the classroom), or how they use oral and written language in a real life situations.
In contrast to norm referenced assessments, criterion referenced assessments don't compare students' standard scores
versus their peers scores. Usually the student's performance on a test is compiled into raw scores, which is a tally
of their correct responses. The tallied score provides a practical guide as to how well a student performed on a distinct
Criterion referenced assessments enable a clinician to plan meaningful and detailed intervention which focuses on
a student's difficulty, as it applies to their daily academic and social life.
Also, this type of assessment is generally
quick to deliver and can be used to retest a student's performance at the end of a therapy block, to establish whether
a student's targeted language skill has improved.
To gain a true insight into a student's language disorder, it's often recommended that both types of language assessments
are used: norm referenced and criterion referenced. The information provided by both forms of assessment tells us how well a student is performing
in contrast to their peers, but also what functional language areas are best to target in language intervention.
Kaderavek, J.N. (2011) Language Disorders in Children: Fundamental Concepts of Assessment and Intervention, Allyn & Bacon
Paul, R. (2006) Language Disorders from Infancy through Adolescence. Assessment and Intervention. Mosby
Content Updated 10/11
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