Dynamic Assessment and Non-word Repetition for School SLPs

Speech Language Pathologist assessing student
Cross Country Education
October 16, 2020 10:23 AM (GMT-04:00)
Educator Resources
Most school SLPs feel confident in determining eligibility for speech and language services using formal assessment. After all, formal assessments are designed to provide qualifying scores in a black-and-white way. When it comes to informal assessment, however, there are often swaths of gray. 
Informal assessments are useful and necessary, but it is sometimes difficult to know what type of informal assessment will best illuminate a student’s strengths and weaknesses. We know that caregiver/teacher interviews and observation in various settings are vital components of a comprehensive assessment. But there are two additional types of informal assessment that you may not be using. These are dynamic assessment and non-word repetition.

Dynamic Assessment

Dynamic assessment, based on the work of Dr. Elizabeth Peña, is an often-overlooked informal tool that can tell an SLP a great deal about how a student learns. Dynamic assessment consists of a test-teach-retest paradigm. For example, an SLP would:
  • Test: Ask a student to tell a story using sequencing cards or a wordless picture book
  • Teach: Teach specific vocabulary and narrative elements based on the student’s performance
  • Retest: Ask the student to tell the story again and note whether the student demonstrated an ability to incorporate what they’ve learned

Benefits of dynamic assessment

There are several benefits of dynamic assessment in speech-language therapy:
  • Unlike formal assessments, this informal assessment offers a valid way to detect language disorders in English learners or those for whom environmental factors are at play 
  • Dynamic assessment also gives an SLP an idea of how a student responds to intervention 
  • The process can provide an SLP with a language sample, effectively killing two birds with one stone.
  • When listening to a student produce a narrative (language sample), an SLP can use dynamic assessment to listen for elements like:
    • Maintaining a theme
    • Telling a story in sequence
    • Length of utterance
    • Presence of filler words
    • Number of vocabulary words


Non-word Repetition

Non-word repetition is another frequently overlooked informal speech-language therapy tool. During non-word repetition, a student is asked to repeat non-words of increasing length and complexity. The research of Dollaghan and Campbell suggests that non-word repetition can be a highly accurate way to determine whether a language disorder is present.

Benefits of Non-word Repetition

Non-word repetition is beneficial because it:
  • Requires no vocabulary knowledge, making it a wonderful tool for assessing English-language learners 
  • Can help SLPs detect deficits in working memory or information processing
  • Is a powerful tool since it taps into underlying skills such as:
    • speech perception
    • phonological encoding
    • phonological memory
    • phonological assembly
    • articulation

Dynamic Assessment and Non-Word Repetition Resources


School SLP Opportunities

Hopefully, these informal speech-language assessment strategies make a useful addition to your toolbox. Find out where your specialized skills as a school SLP are needed most with Cross Country Education today.

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