Saturday, 27 October 2007

‘Outcome Measures/Recording Progress’

There has been an interesting thread running on the Conductive Education Discussion Forum, under the title of ‘Outcome Measures/Recording Progress’. This started with a posting from Julia Rashleigh on 11 October and has attracted 16 responses, not many by the standard of many message boards but a lot for ’professional’ questions posed in this particular context.

This is what Jules originally asked:

I am looking for an outcome measure style system (aren't we all!) to use for our kids. We are not (yet) going to be using it for research purposes but as a progress recording system for the kids. If anyone has any ideas/examples/info or experience then please, please, please, let me know.

A reasonable request, and it generated an interesting thread in reply, interesting to me for the further questions that it raised.

1. Her requirement as stated was remarkably broad and open-ended: 'outcome’, ‘progress’, in what? For what age rage (she specified simply ‘kids’). For what conditions and for what characteristics? Are the variables unquestionably within-child ones? What would count as 'a measure’ – and to whom? Etc. Jules wrote that she required something to record progress (or should that better be direct progress?), but the specification as stated is far too broad to operationalise as a concrete psychometric instrument.

2. Notwithstanding, the subsequent thread suggested that she has struck a chord amongst conductors. Other conductors experience the same need (but again no one specifies precisely what is required).. Rightly or wrongly, they work in contexts where they feel the need for such materials (possibly because they meet professionals in other fields who were introduced to simple measurement materials in their own basic training). Conductors’ professional background, however, be this initial training or ‘the literature’, does not apprear to include such professional tools. I note that the conductors who wrote to the Forum in had been trained both at NICE and the PAI.

3. There is a wider question around this: has the conductor profession as a whole been granted the apparatus criticus to explore the various developmental and other scales already available for different purposes and in various fields and to judge whether such things might be adapted specifically to their own purposes? Why should it?. Initially trained professional practitioners in any sector, be they teachers, nurses, therapists, whatever, cannot be expected also to have mastered further fields of specialist knowledge such as psychometrics. This extension of the professional role requires at the very least further postgraduate study (and some of the assessment that have popped up from such a pathway over the years testify eloquently to the danger of a little knowledge). There seems no option, however, that this must be one take that conductors will have to take.

4. There is of course another path, which is to collaborate with those who do have the necessary psychometric understandings.. Here there lies a rally exciting opportunity – and a terrible trap for the unwary! All that one has to do to succeed is to convey to the collaborator a clear understanding with the nature of conductive goals and te process involved in achieving them. Succeed in that and you will be both at the cutting edge of mental measurement, for you will have joined the ranks of ‘dynamic assessment’ and through that brought Conductive Education into the world of the cognitive education.

5. And the trap? Most existing developing scales, most psychometrics, most ‘measurement’, record the world as it is, not as how it might be made to be, they regard the object of measurement to lie within the child and like to separate out different traits, domains etc for separate attention. Not least emotional and social life. And they like everyone else to cleave to this view. The big danger, in collaborating with those who construct measures – or even in just using measures that others have already constructed – is the possibility of conduction’s being buried under the very ideology that its very existence opposes.

6. Interesting therefore that two conductors, Gábor Felner from PACES and László Szögecski from Stick’n’Step, came forward in this thread offering materials of their own. I do very much hope that they will follow up with publication, in whatever medium. László also mentioned something published by the Pető Institute, in 2000, called Altalanos szempontsor a konduktiv nevelesben resztvevo mozgasserult gyermekek fejlodesenek megfigyelesehez es a fejlodes regisztralasahoz. In English that would be something like ‘A general overview scale for observing motor-disordered children taking part in conductive upbringing and for recording development’. There’s a subsequent adult version too.

7. An experienced need – and three potential products. But no ‘market’. Why not? Not even the usual academic-professional mechanism of announcement, publication, review, research studies. True, László reported that he had announced his own materials at a meeting earlier this year, in Newcastle-upon Tyne,but this was not a conference in the sense that there were published materials and formal copies of presentations available. He says that the general overview was ‘published’ in 2000, but how would anyone know? This is not primarily a factor of publication being in Hungarian (why not?), since there seem to be Hungarian-speaking conductors enough who have not heard of it. Rather, the problem lies in the lack of appropriate and functioning academic-professional mechanisms.

8. My own minor contribution to the discussion was to urge publication of the materials. This could be done ‘open access’ so that anyone could use it – or the materials could be copyrighted. The latter possibility had been floated in this thread, rather coyly I thought, and I responded by saying that people should look seriously at doing so with the intellectual products of their labour. Here’s a good example. Conductor Amanda Elliott had seen a gap in her practice (follow-up activities for children not attending continuously – like so many children in the Western world). She developed some materials and approached a commercial publisher who saw a potential market and understood the production and marketing of a commercial product. That is how most psychological tests are produced (often with ‘registered-user’ conditions that might be most appropriate to the CE market). Here is a much more sensible approach to the whole ‘patent’ issue, one that the rest of the world would be happy to recognise as one of its own. Moreover, this enabled other things to happen. Many published a formal report on developing her materials and a report of a small-scale field test is now awaiting publication in the next issue of Recent Advances in Conductive Education. No big deal but all this in the space of a couple of years. Things now stand ready – should anyone wish to take it on – the possibility of a research and development area opening up on how far this approach is a satisfactory response to the needs of children unable to access continuous Conductive Education. All this and more could be done with respect to recording progress and outcome measures – one just has to grasp the nettle and publish!

So enough already. Jules not only expressed a commonly felt need amongst conductors – she also flushed out some possible ways forward from this position. Nice one. The thread on the Discussion Forum now seems to have run its course. And I really must learn how to spell 'copyright'…

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