Ethical Issues to Consider in Psychological Assessments

Testing is used in all aspects of education, but when it comes to psychological testing for students with disabilities, the process is subject to even more constraints and legal requirements. Psychologists who conduct assessments in schools must be able to navigate the ethical challenges presented in the academic setting.

Ethical Issues to Consider in Psychological Assessments

Informed Consent

Parents have a number of rights and protections during the special education process and its related evaluations. One of those is informed consent, where the school provides prior written notice of what they want to do and obtains the parent’s written consent. This authorization allows the parent to maintain the leading role in making decisions about their child’s education. Schools must obtain consent in the following situations:

  • Before a child’s initial evaluation or reevaluation
  • Before a child receives special education services for the first time
  • Before including non-school agencies to discuss a child’s IEP or related transitional goals

Projective Personality Assessment

Projective assessments can be used to enable school personnel to understand a child’s learning style. However, there are some ethical considerations and controversies regarding the use of projective tests in schools:

  • Informed consent causes an issue with projective tests if the results of the test go beyond the intended use. For example, if the test is used to identify a learning disability, the test may inadvertently reveal a personality disorder, which the parents did not consent to test for.
  • Projective tests may compromise the student’s privacy. These tests are not direct and are likely to contain data that does not apply to the student’s disability.
  • The interpreter’s competency is another area for ethical consideration. Many school psychologists are not trained in these types of assessments, resulting in questionable validity of their results.

Nondiscriminatory Assessment

Educational assessments are always subject to potentially biased content, which may cast doubts on the validity of the results. Psychologists are ethically obligated to administer and interpret nondiscriminatory assessments. To ensure the results of the test are valid, the following safeguards should be followed:

  • Assessments must be given in the primary language of the student.
  • A variety of strategies and tools are used to gather relevant information about the student’s academic and developmental information.
  • Tests should be administered without discriminating on a racial or cultural basis.
  • Multiple tests should be used.

Computerized Testing

The use of computers in recent years and the current reliance on telehealth and remote work has highlighted new applications for digital testing. However, there are some ethical implications in the use of computerized psychological assessments:

  • Assessment competence is an issue, as school psychologists are generally not trained in the specific use of online testing.
  • Implicit bias may exist from the use of technology for testing, as some students may be socioeconomically or culturally disadvantaged when using a computer.
  • .
  • Computerized testing can standardize some elements of the assessment, but the procedure lacks the human interaction that plays a role in the overall test results.
  • Confidentiality is an additional ethical concern with computerized testing.

School psychologists should be aware of the ethical considerations involved in testing—and parents should also know their rights and their children’s.

WPS, a leading publisher of educational and psychological assessments, can provide additional information on the ethics to be considered in the assessment process.

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