Assessment of cognitive and motor functions is fundamental for developmental and neuropsychological profiling. Assessments are usually conducted on an individual basis, with a trained examiner, using standardized paper and pencil tests, and can take up to an hour or more to complete, depending on the nature of the test. This makes traditional standardized assessments of child development largely unsuitable for use in low-income countries. Touch screen tablets afford the opportunity to assess cognitive functions in groups of participants, with untrained administrators, with precision recording of responses, thus automating the assessment process. In turn, this enables cognitive profiling to be conducted in contexts where access to qualified examiners and standardized assessments are rarely available. As such, touch screen assessments could provide a means of assessing child development in both low- and high-income countries, which would afford cross-cultural comparisons to be made with the same assessment tool. However, before touch screen tablet assessments can be used for cognitive profiling in low-to-high-income countries they need to be shown to provide reliable and valid measures of performance. We report the development of a new touch screen tablet assessment of basic cognitive and motor functions for use with early years primary school children in low- and high-income countries. Measures of spatial intelligence, visual attention, short-term memory, working memory, manual processing speed, and manual coordination are included as well as mathematical knowledge. To investigate if this new touch screen assessment tool can be used for cross-cultural comparisons we administered it to a sample of children (N = 283) spanning standards 1-3 in a low-income country, Malawi, and a smaller sample of children (N = 70) from first year of formal schooling from a high-income country, the UK. Split-half reliability, test-retest reliability, face validity, convergent construct validity, predictive criterion validity, and concurrent criterion validity were investigated. Results demonstrate "proof of concept" that touch screen tablet technology can provide reliable and valid psychometric measures of performance in the early years, highlighting its potential to be used in cross-cultural comparisons and research.
Pitchford, N. J., & Outhwaite, L. A. (2016). Can touch screen tablets be used to assess cognitive and motor skills in early years primary school children? A cross-cultural study. Frontiers in Psychology, 7(OCT). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01666