Adaptive behaviour assessment system
: Indigenous Australian adaptation model (ABAS: IAAM)

  • Susanna Magdalena Petra Du Plessis

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    The limited availability of culturally appropriate psychological tests for the educational and psychological assessment of Indigenous students is a crucial issue for school psychologists in Australia’s Northern Territory (NT). This has resulted in school psychologists and other educational practitioners relying primarily on mainstream assessment tools when evaluating Indigenous students’ learning and psychological needs.

    This study sought to culturally adapt and abbreviate the Adaptive Behavior Assessment System –Second Edition Teacher Form (ABAS-II) for use in NT schools with children ages 5 to 14 years (Harrison & Oakland, 2003). The cross-cultural adaptation process followed internationally recommended practice, including forward translation, back-translation, revision by an expert
    committee, and a pilot trial. This involved a multiphase mixed-method study design and included semi-structured interviews with educators, teachers and teacher aides as respondents, school observations, and psychometric analyses of existing and newly collected NT student data. The newly adapted instrument was named the Adaptive Behaviour Assessment System: Indigenous Australian Adaptation Model (ABAS: IAAM).

    Teachers were trained in the use of the ABAS: IAAM and supported to assess the adaptive behaviour of 270 students (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) in NT schools. Test data on these students and qualitative evaluation of interviews with 56 adult informants were analysed to reach the study findings. The new measure was found to have good internal consistency for each of the adaptive domains and the overall composite score (Social Adaptive Domain, alpha=0.92; Conceptual Adaptive
    Domain, alpha=0.94; Personal Adaptive Domain, alpha=0.78; and General Adaptive Composite, alpha=0.94). Content and construct validity were investigated through consultations with the teachers and other subject experts. Age standardisation and Receiver Operator Characteristic (ROC) analysis was used to establish age specific thresholds scores for the instrument. This enabled investigation of concurrent validity by assessing how well the age specific ABAS: IAAM threshold scores differentiated students with and without special education support needs.

    The overall study findings confirm the cross-cultural inclusiveness of the Adaptive Behaviour Assessment System: Indigenous Australian Adaptation Model (ABAS: IAAM) for use in NT schools. The psychometric properties of the new instrument were found to be satisfactory for its valid and reliable to use in assessing the adaptive behaviour of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students in the NT schools context.

    The study demonstrated that teachers and teacher aides were able to use ABAS: IAAM checklist and utilise its findings in designing individual learning plans for their students. Education Advisors were also able to use the ABAS: IAAM data in integrating culturally relevant information about the adaptive behaviour of their Indigenous clients and to identify students with specific education and social support needs, developing Education Adjustment Plans, and monitoring student progress. School psychologists were also able to use the ABAS: IAAM test results for additional assessment planning, diagnostic and referral purposes.

    While the ABAS: IAAM was developed, trialled and evaluated for use in the NT Indigenous schooling context, it is hoped to extend this in post-doctoral research using a larger sample more representative of the broader Australian Indigenous population. This will be necessary to establish the extent to which the study findings are more widely generalizable and to support the reliable and valid use of the instrument with students in other Australian states and territories.
    Date of AwardAug 2017
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorSven Silburn (Supervisor), Heather D'Antoine (Supervisor) & John Mckenzie (Supervisor)

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