The StudyScan Suite

Lee Allane, Projects Director, PICO Educational Systems Ltd

Computerised Dyslexia Screening & Assessment in the Workplace.

Computers are essentially anthropomorphic (i.e. designed in the image of their human creators), it has therefore always been theoretically possible to build a virtual Educational Psychologist (or other expert/specialist) into a computer programme. These Virtual EPs may lack some of the more intuitive or experiential qualities of their human counterparts, but they are cheap, objective, consistent, flexible and readily available.

Cost: Using the StudyScan Suite, for example, the external per capita cost of computerised assessments is the annual site licence fee (e.g. £1,000) divided by the number of people sitting the programme per year, which based on 250 people per annum works out at £4 per person compared to between £200 and £300 for each individual EP assessment.

Objectivity and Consistency: Computer programmes are not influenced by personal bias or external considerations. The 'same input' will always produce the 'same result' (regardless of where, when or by whom the programme was used) which provides a degree of consistency, both in the delivery of the tests and the criteria used in producing the diagnostic comments and reports that would be impossible to achieve using individual EP assessments.

Flexibility: Regular upgrades can ensure that new data or criteria can be easily incorporated into the programme, thus keeping the virtual expert up to date with current thinking and negating the expense and logistical difficulties involved in retraining hundreds, possibly thousands, of personnel. The StudyScan Suite, for example, was designed so that a minor adjustment to any of the numerical values in the programme mirrors to the same changes in the weight given by EPs to the corresponding criterion or criteria.

Availability: The only restriction on usage is the number of computers, or terminals, available and the provision of someone (who doesn't need to be an Educational Psychologist) who can supervise the people sitting the Programme.

Background to the StudyScan Suite.

The StudyScan Suite is the first fully operational computerised Dyslexia Screening, Assessment and Diagnostic programme. It was developed in 1997 as a practical solution to the (mainly economic and logistical) problems facing Special Needs Co-ordinators and Educational Psychologists in identifying indications of Dyslexia, preferred Learning Styles and providing detailed Cognitive Profiles.

Although designed specifically for use with students in Further, Higher and Adult Education, a growing number of commercial and non-commercial organisations have found the Programme to be extremely useful, both in assessing an individual's suitability for different types of employment and also for designing specifically targeted training/educational programmes.

The StudyScan Suite consists of three independent,

although closely interrelated programmes:

1) QuickScan: A questionnaire whose primarily function is as a Screener aimed at identifying indications of Dyslexia prior to sitting the StudyScan Tests or seeking a more detailed assessment from an Educational Psychologist. It also identifies preferred Learning Style and the possible need for Study Skills support.

2) StudyScan: A battery of 'Educational Attainment' (i.e. literacy, numeracy, etc.) and 'Underlying Ability' (i.e. memory, reasoning, speed of processing, etc.) tests, whose primary function is to supply the range of data required by the StatScan Diagnostic Programme.

3) StatScan: The unique Analysis and Diagnostic programme that 'marks' and 'interprets' the answers in QuickScan and StudyScan and then produces detailed reports which provide a diagnostic assessment of each individual's indications of Dyslexia and a comprehensive Cognitive Profile that can be used to identify specific areas of strength or weakness, both in specific disciplines (i.e. audio spelling, punctuation, numerical calculations, short-term visual memory, etc.) and groups of related disciplines (i.e. literacy, numeracy, cognitive ability, processing skills, etc.).

Using StudyScan as an Aid to Recruitment, Job Allocation & Training.

The development of a computerised Screening, Assessment and Diagnostic programme makes it possible, for the first time, for employers to establish cheap and efficient strategies for, not only identifying indications of Dyslexia, but also obtaining detailed Cognitive Profiles (including Learning Styles) on a scale that has hitherto been economically prohibitive and logistically impractical.

For example, the British Army has recently installed the StudyScan Suite in 35 bases throughout the world and are currently undertaking the largest screening, assessment and diagnostic programme ever undertaken in the United Kingdom. In common with an increasing number of organisations, the British Army recognises that its most important resource is a skilled, well-trained and correctly allocated workforce. Consequently, the ability to identify indications of Dyslexia, Learning Styles, general aptitude and specific areas of strength and weakness is paramount in ensuring an efficient recruitment, training and task allocation programme.

Dyslexia: Identifying Dyslexia is vital, not only because literacy and numeracy are becoming increasingly important (soldiers who can't read their orders, for example, can be a liability), but also, from an educational/training perspective, illiterate dyslexics and illiterate non-dyslexics often respond better to different remedial regimes. In addition there is a growing recognition that dyslexics, while disadvantaged in tasks that require reading, writing and sequential skills, often excel in jobs that demand more creative and intuitive thought processes, often including visuospatial awareness (e.g. computer programmers, architects, etc.). Consequently, a dyslexic recruit may be a liability in a task that requires the accurate relaying of artillery co-ordinates, but a valuable asset in computing or vehicle maintenance operations.

Learning Styles: Similarly, the ability to identify a preferred Learning Style (i.e. visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, etc.) is valuable in designing more targeted training programmes and directing people to the most suitable range of jobs. For example, radio operators who are auditory, rather than visually, dominant are general less likely to 'mishear' information; and VDU operators whose preferred Learning Style is visual generally show a greater capacity to focus on visual information.

Cognitive Profiles: Access to a detailed Cognitive Profile enables recruiters and trainers to identify general aptitudes (e.g. an ability to deal accurately with factual information but a weakness at extending this into logical extrapolations or overviews) as well as specific areas of strength and weakness (e.g. visual memory, co-ordinating skills, comprehension, spelling, numerical calculations, etc.). This information can then be used to channel individuals towards tasks for which their particular combination of skills, aptitudes and reasoning processes are best suited. For example, a good visual memory, manual dexterity and the ability to work under time pressure may be essential to a bomb disposal operative, but much less important to someone in the intelligence services than highly developed powers of comprehension, reasoning ability and the capacity to make logical inferences.

Future Developments.

The Army is not alone in recognising that a skilled, motivated and correctly allocated workforce is the most important asset of any commercial or non-commercial organisation and that this can only be achieved if the skills required to do each specific job are matched to the skills of the person doing the job.

The days of trying to fit square pegs into round holes are over for organisations hoping to compete effectively in the 21st Century. Success will increasingly be influenced by their ability to identify each employee's particular raft of strengths and weaknesses prior to task allocation or the implementation of targeted training or remedial programmes. Enlightened employers also recognise that strengths and weaknesses exist only in the context of the task or tasks that need to be achieved (e.g. Dyslexia is not a hindrance to designing computer programmes).

Formal qualifications may be a useful first stage in assessing potential, but the modular nature of many courses means that they are often too broad based to supply the detailed cognitive profile that an employer may require. For example, two university graduates, with exactly the same degree, may display different levels of literacy and numeracy, favour opposing learning styles and present diverse cognitive profiles. Consequently, the onus will increasingly be on the employer to develop their own targeted testing, assessment and training regime.

Using computer programmes is the only way that large scale, cost effective assessments can be implemented. They will never totally replace the need for human intervention, but they can generate the bulk of the information required cheaply and quickly, freeing human expertise to focus on more difficult or unusual areas. Many companies already use computer programmes to identify the component skills necessary to complete specific tasks, it is only a short step to using programmes to identify the people with the requisite skills to undertake those tasks.

The StudyScan Suite is one of the few programme designed specifically to provide this broad range of information, not only on each individual's current attainment levels across a range of disciplines, but also on their underlying strengths and weaknesses and optimum method of learning. The next stage is to incorporate a raft of 'bolt on' remedial/training programmes so that 'clicking on' on a specific error type or area of weakness will take them straight into a targeted remedial/training package.

More Information on the StudyScan Suite Can be Obtained from:

PICO Educational Systems Ltd., 11 Steep Hill, London SW16 1UL

Tel. 0208 674 7786  (+44 208 674 7786)


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