Psychological assessment and evaluation of learners by the Free State child guidance clinics.
Radebe, Sibusiso Phumulani.
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This study explores the aims of psychological assessment and evaluation of learners by Free State child guidance clinics so as to realise the goals of Inclusive Education. A systematic and scientific study examined the psychological assessment practices used by the Free State child guidance clinics. The study agitates for the eco-systemic theory as its theoretical framework to psychological assessment and evaluation of learners as opposed to the medical positivistic approach. The advent of democracy in 1994 led to the transformation of the South African education system. Education changes included the review of the use of psychological assessment and evaluation of learners in schools. Such changes in psychological evaluation were necessitated by the fact that traditional psychological evaluation methods were used to perpetuate apartheid policies. Psychological tools and techniques used were biased towards certain learners. Quantitative and qualitative research approaches were used to complement each other as part of triangulation. Five child guidance clinics were targeted as the research population for this study. These were: Child Guidance Clinic1, Child Guidance Clinic 2, Child Guidance Clinic 3, Child Guidance Clinic 4 and Child Guidance Clinic 5. Participants for the study were selected from all these clinics as they had all the characteristics needed to be part of the study. Purposive sampling then became the appropriate sampling style for the study. Not all members of the child guidance clinics were reached to be participants in the research study. Ultimately, 33 members of the child guidance clinics formed the research sample. Data production techniques used were structured questionnaires, clinical interviews and file analysis. A total number of 12 interviews were conducted, 25 questionnaires administered and 50 files audited. The literature survey provided a theoretical base to look at previous studies conducted on this topic and to provide a theoretical lens through which this study was conducted. Data produced were presented and qualitatively and quantitatively analysed. It became evident in this study that psychological assessment and evaluation of learners was culturally biased against certain learners. Many psychological tests used to assess learners had a content bias and were not standardised for the culturally diverse South African society. The general picture that emerged from the study about the assessment of learners was that many learners who were referred to child guidance clinics for psychological intervention were eventually placed in the special education programme. A majority of the assessors were white and speak Afrikaans. This created problems as they assess black Southern Sotho or Xhosa speaking learners because they are not conversant with learners’ language. They then had to use interpreters to help them. Tools and techniques that they used were influenced by the medical model as its theoretical base. In this study, it is argued that the medical model needs to be revisited as it does not help learners to realise their full potential. Instead, the eco-systemic model is foregrounded as the assessment model which is compatible with the principles of inclusive education. It then became evident that the aims of psychological assessment and evaluation of learners especially in an inclusive education context must be revisited. On the basis of the findings of this study, it is concluded that; • The total number of specialists working at the Free State child guidance clinics is too limited; • Most of the therapists, especially psychologists, still maintain that psychometric tests can play a role in inclusive education; • The aims of psychological evaluation should aim at the learner’s needs and for support; • Placement of learners in special settings should be discouraged and those who need moderate to high levels of support should be assisted at the full service school or resource centre. It was not the intention of this study to discuss psychological assessment and evaluation in depth as this is a very wide concept. Time constraints could not allow that. Further research is required on other aspects of psychological evaluation. Recommendations relating to how assessment in an inclusive education setting should be conducted and suggestions for future relevant research on psychological assessment and evaluation of learners are made.