Friday, November 8, 2013

Saturday Soapbox: Just because they got it wrong on the test doesn't mean it needs to be a goal!

Last week I started talking about some of my pet peeves regarding goal and objective writing.  You can read about how I HATE it when goals are trying to measure too many things by clicking here.
A second pet peeve of mine is when people write goals that teach to the test.  Some tests do seem to lend themselves more easily to this.  For example, many Linguisystems assessments make goal writing really easy.  But I've even seen some instances where people have written goals from these assessments that aren't that functional.  I'm pretty sure I may have written a goal like, "Johnny will answer negative questions."  I know sometimes I've written goals and not even known WHAT I was trying to accomplish when report writing time came around.  

Here are a few more examples:
  • Johnny will repeat a series of 5 words or numbers in reverse order given one verbal cue within a one year period.  
  •  Given a word (or curriculum word), Johnny will create a sentence with 80% accuracy.    
  • Johnny will repeat sentences of increasing length and complexity.
  •  Johnny will complete analogies with 80% accuracy.  
On the surface these may not seem like horrible goals-but they are ALL teaching to the test.  I know that on the CELF assessment many of the CORE subtests were chosen to diagnose a language disorder, not to reflect actual functional tasks that we would use in daily life.

Johnny will repeat a series of 5 words or numbers in reverse order given one verbal cue within a one year period.  I can guess from the first goal that Johnny scored poorly on the numbers repetition portion of the CELF-4.  Here's the problem, that subtest is assessing working memory and I'm not sure that we can fix working memory by practicing it.  If I was to write a goal in this area, I would focus on teaching strategies so my goal might look something like this: Following direct instruction on 3 different memory strategies (chunking, auditory rehearsal and note taking), Johnny will improve from being able to list 3 items to 5 items on a list.  In this goal I know that my lessons are going to focus on teaching compensatory strategies.  I included a goal for note taking because I'm not sure that this student will be able to remember a list of 5 items even with memory strategies.  Another way I might address these areas is by changing the list items to steps or directions to an activity.  

Given a curriculum word, Johnny will create a sentence with 80% accuracy.  Formulated Sentences failure anyone?  This goal fails my solid goal writing test because it's too vague.  And really not functional.  Technically, Johnny could meet this goal by using the following 3 word sentence: I hate ______.  Try it! It works for a lot of curriculum words.  A better way to approach failure at the formulated sentence level is to do an error item analysis to determine what we can do to help Johnny get better at sentence construction.

If Johnny is not paying attention to relevant details in the picture but he is formulating grammatically correct, complex sentences, a syntax goal is not appropriate.  He might need a social thinking goal to focus on using your eyes to gain information, a topic maintenance goal or a goal for identifying main ideas within pictures.

If he is consistently producing incomplete sentences or sentences with word order errors, he may need specific instruction on HOW to create sentences.

Does he have more difficulty with sentences with conjunctions or clauses?  He may need more instruction in that area.

An awesome feature of the CELF-4 and CELF-5 is that it allows you to do item analysis to see if there are patterns in the student's errors.  The CELF-5 has these listed directly on their protocols which makes it really easy.  I don't have the scoring assistant, but I heard that it will also figure this out for you.  So if you have that sitting on a shelf somewhere collecting dust, bust it out and save yourself some time!

GOAL 3:  
Johnny will complete analogies with 80% accuracy.  Analogies are a great tool to work on vocabulary and higher level language skills.  Analogies require the student to identify word relationships between 2 pairs of words and then generate a new word using that same relationship.  However, if you just wrote that goal based on his performance on the CASL, we have a problem.  That assessment on the CASL is measuring their understanding of grammatical morphemes.  It's just using analogies as a way to do that.
On that subtest, I would look for patterns in errors and add goals specific to the error patterns that I see (ex. subject verb agreement, plurals, pronouns, progressive tense forms etc.)

Analogies use expressive AND receptive language skills so I might break them into 2 separate goals that would read something like:  Given analogy tasks and a graphic organizer, Johnny will identify similarities or the relationship between 2 words with 80% accuracy.  The expressive goal might read, During analogy tasks using the following relationships: synonym, antonym, categorization, association, Johnny will generate a word to complete the analogy with 80% accuracy.  These goals could use some work-but they give me more information (I'm hoping to increase his understanding of synonyms, antonyms, categorization and association) which helps me to narrow down my teaching materials.  

GOAL 4:  
Johnny will complete sentences of increasing length and complexity.  This goal is very similar to the repeating numbers goal.  I tend to address failure in this area by choosing receptive language tasks.  So I may try to teach some of the grammatical forms that the student is not understanding.  We may work on some whole body listening tasks.  If they are keeping the meaning the same in sentences, I may not worry about this too much.

So let's go back to my negative question goal.  First, it just sounds weird.  Am I asking them disparaging questions?  Instead, I should have done more error analysis.  Is the student just missing the negative component in the question?  Then I am writing a syntax goal to teach comprehension of negatives within sentences/questions.  However, if they caught the negative but answered the question incorrectly, then I might write a goal such as "When given a social scenario with a negative outcome, Johnny will explain why an action was not the best choice with 80% accuracy."

Do you have a better way to write my super wordy analogy goals?  I hope so.  Do you find yourself writing to the test or getting goals that are written to the test?  I'd love to hear more below.  Next week's Saturday Soapbox is focusing on IEPS with 10,000 goals.  As always, if you enjoyed this post or found it informative, please consider sharing it on Pinterest or Facebook by clicking on the buttons below.


Mary said...

I think there are 2 problems here:
1) SLPs aren't getting good instruction in test analysis/interpretation in grad school.
2) Rushing. Not taking the time to actually analyzing the responses in order to write good objectives.

Speech2U said...

I completely agree! And sometimes we are so busy or caseloads are so high it makes it really difficult to take that time to figure out what is going on.

Patricia Rakovic said...

I love this blog! I am sending a link to my graduate students to assist them in understanding that sometimes even when you write a SMART goal it might not be a logical goal. I would also love to put a link on my wiki with your permission to alert some of my wiki followers. Thanks

Speech2U said...

Patricia Rakovic,
Thank you so much for your kind words. I would love for you to put a link on your wiki page. Thanks again for stopping by!

Unknown said...

Excellent post and I agree wholeheartedly! I have been practicing for almost 20 years and when I was in grad school, error analysis was IT. It formed the way that I think. I also teach 3 University courses and I am constantly trying to get my students to think in this way.

I use SALT to analyze language samples. I find that goal creation is much easier and more relevant when it comes from an actual contextual language sample, but compared to a database of the child's peers. My goals are relevant, functional, and aligned with the curriculum and standards.

SLP anonymous said...

This post is amazing. I've been writing goals and working from goals that are vague, difficult and possibly inappropriate. Please continue to post more on this topic.

Rachel QueenSpeech said...

Kelly! Thank you for posting this! :) I am currently writing goals and need to remind myself WHY the student didn't do well on a specific task, what exactly are they lacking that kept them from succeeding. I love the way you break it down into smaller chunks! So many goals are written vaguely "Will retell a story with 80% understanding from the listener" SERIOUSLY? Thank you for writing this!

Rachel QueenSpeech said...

I wrote a comment, but it disappeared! Thank you for writing this! :) I need to send it to my CF. I think we could all use the refresher. Why are we writing the goals we are writing? Are they measurable. I see so many that are not! Example: "Student will retell a story with 80% understanding by the listener" seriously? That is not measurable...thank Kelly!

Speech2U said...

Language samples are another great way to come up with functional goals-that's a great idea.

Kathy Grover said...

This is an EXCELLENT topic for you to have addressed. I am posting the link on my FB page. Very well done.

Susan Haseley said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you. I would love you to add: Following Direction Goals as I have never in 27 years, ever seen a student in a classroom during recess, lunch or afterschool as he was not able to follow directions. Students do follow directions, the why they don't is more important than the number of steps in the directions.

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