At the ENKI centre we have made a commitment to provide psycho-educational assessments that are based on cutting edge, advanced methods of assessment. We are also committed to improving the quality of reporting, in particular making sure our reports are clear to parents and teachers and have relevant and helpful suggestions and recommendations.
Unfortunately, many psychologists tend to do what is often called ‘WISCing’ a child, which is basing their assessments on one test battery, the Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC). Our understanding of cognitive abilities has advanced well beyond this approach, but many psychology practices have not evolved to reflect these changes. The problem with this approach is that a full understanding of a child’s difficulties may not be able to be determined which means that appropriate interventions, that could really make a difference to a child, may be missed. At the ENKI centre we are committed to providing psychological assessments that are based on modern well-validated and accepted best practices, which to date is using CHC theory and cross-battery assessment (XBA). For those of you who are interested in understanding these methods, they are described below.
Cattell-Horn-Carroll (CHC) model of intelligence
CHC theory is regarded by many leaders in the field, such as Professor Alan Kaufman, as the most empirically well-validated structure of human cognitive abilities currently available and has been likened to the periodic table in chemistry (McGrew, 2009). It divides intelligence up into a number of specific cognitive abilities, with general overall cognitive ability at the top level, broad cognitive abilities at the next level, and narrower cognitive abilities at the next level (see the figure below)
A detailed description of the history of CHC, along with descriptions of abilities, can be found at www.iqscorner.com/2009/11/cattell-horn-carroll-chc-theory-key.html.
Several of the CHC broad abilities are of particular relevance to practitioners in school settings because they are key indicators of academic achievement. Thorough and comprehensive identification of students’ strengths and weaknesses in these key broad CHC abilities (such as fluid reasoning and long-term storage and retrieval) and narrow CHC abilities (such as phonetic coding, associative memory and working memory) can significantly add information from full scale IQs, and enable development and fine-tuning of interventions to address difficulties in academic achievement.
The Cattell-Horn-Carroll (CHC) model showing cognitive abilities of relevance to academic achievement
Many assessment tools that psychologists soley rely on are limited in the range of broad and narrow CHC abilities they cover. For example, the CHC broad ability long-term storage and retrieval, and one of its narrow abilities associative memory, have been identified as important to developing literacy skills, but are not measured by the cognitive assessment batteries most commonly used by psychologists. At the Enki centre we assess a much broader range of cognitive abilities than psychologists typically offer.
CHC theory offers psychologists understanding of a broader range of abilities that need to be tested to better inform appropriate and meaningful interventions. However, the difficulty for psychologists is that no one test battery adequately covers all the CHC abilities that can explain learning difficulties. To deal with this problem, a method called ‘cross-battery assessment’ (XBA) has been developed to allow a comprehensive cognitive assessment that validly combines the results from different test batteries.
The Cross-Battery approach to assessment
The XBA approach has long been part of neuropsychology’s assessment processes and only recently been applied in the field of Educational Psychology. CHC and the XBA approach provide psychologists with a significantly advanced, evidence-based model and methodology of cognitive ability assessment that is well supported by continuing detailed research and development. Many research developments take time to be translated into practice. With research continuing to improve guidelines for assessing the impact of these cognitive functions on learning, the capacity for practising psychologists to offer more tailored and effective interventions to children with learning difficulties has been significantly enhanced, particularly for diagnosing specific learning difficulties.
The psychologists at the Enki centre have extensive training in CHC, XBA assessment. Dr Cheree Murrihy currently lectures in these cutting edge advanced methods in the Masters in Educational and Developmental Psychology course at Monash University. She has an in-depth knowledge of these theories which her Doctoral thesis was based on in relation to reading achievement in children. Dr Cheree Murrihy and Maria Bailey are both actively involved in furthering research on CHC theory and Cross battery assessment as they relate to learning outcomes in children and are committed to staying up to date with the latest research findings.