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Posted 24th January, 2011 by June Page

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Pearson have recently released Dash 17+, a test that can be used as part of dyslexia assessment to give insights into hand eye coordination and fine motor control.

Here is June Page’s review of it. Please add a comment to say what you think.

Dash 17+

The Pearson website notes that this assessment ‘can identify students with slow handwriting and may assist in providing evidence for extra support, such as Access Arrangements in examinations’

‘It consists of five subtests, each testing a different aspect of handwriting speed. The subtests examine fine motor and precision skills, the speed of producing well known symbolic material, the ability to alter speed of performance on two tasks with identical content and free writing competency.’

I tried this with a number of people age 17 to 50+ (including the Level 5 Literacy Subject Specialists group who I teach on Wednesday evening.  This is what I found:

The five subtests are as follows:

Four ‘core’ tests

  • Copying a sentence in ‘best’ handwriting for two minutes
  • Writing the alphabet in lower case for 1 minute
  • Copying the same sentence fast for two minutes
  • Completing a piece of free writing about ‘my life’ for ten minutes  prompted by a ‘my life’ mind-map

There is 1 additional sub-test

  • A test of graphic speed (essentially putting crosses in circles) for one minute

The sub-tests were relatively quick to administer and the instructions were easy to follow. No-one objected to any of the sub-tests although several people noted that their hand ached after writing sentences in their best writing! This is because they very rarely write more than a few words (such as on greetings cards) in their ‘best’ handwriting.

Scoring the test is simple (basically counting up legible words, letters or symbols depending on the sub-test and then dividing by the time allowed). Raw scores for each subtest are then translated to standard scores. To gain an overall standard score/percentile the standard scores from the four core subtests are added together.

You also subtract the total best copying score from fast copying score to indicate if people can increase their speed and still remain legible. This is apparently difficult for some people and would be useful as ‘back-up’ information for exam concessions.

The standard score for graphic speed is considered ‘additional information’ and I’m guessing indicates ‘fine motor and precision skills’. One person who allowed themselves to be tested wrote reasonably quickly and legibly in the four core sub-tests but had a very low score in this sub-test. I would have liked a bit more information in the manual about what this means.

Some concerns

The sentence to be copied is ‘the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’ which is familiar to some people. They were able to write out sentences without looking at the card I gave them with the sentence on.  Others were clearly looking and copying and I felt that this could ‘skew’ the results.

Results are only for students age 17-25

Most people found the ‘mind-map’ for ‘my life’ a bit childish!

Advantages are that it does give a standard score for the different subtests as well as the overall score so it is possible to identify if there is a significant difference between copying and free writing speed or, as above, if people find it very difficult to speed up their writing. Also it is quick and easy to administer. There is also a timer in the kit, which would be useful for timing other tests. (I didn’t use it though as I have a timer on my phone which is accurate).

You can order Dash 17+ from the publisher’s website.

  • stephanie higgs

    Thanks for the review of DASH 17+. A standardised Test is most welcome and hopefully the 25 yrs ceiling will be acceptable as an indicator of most mature adult’s speed in an FE context.

    Meanwhile I have checked with JCQ and it seems that JCQ Online only accepts standardised scores and acts on them; this, in spite a section to include speeds in wpm. True they will review unusual Arrangement requests ie if it does not match with the standardised score but may still defer to the standardised score.
    I feel this clearly distorts the picture for many students. A learner whose spelling is painstakingly accurate may well labour longer over words, struggle with composing sentences etc.

    Also Congratulations on the Dyslexia Positive and the web site launch

  • Sue Partridge

    I am now using Dash 17+ regularly to generate a standard score for writing speed when assessing for exam consideration. Although I wish there was more flexibility on the topic for free writing, this is a small price to pay to get a score that exam boards will acknowledge. For more diagnostic assessments, I will continue to ask for a piece of free writing that is appropriate to the learner’s needs and interests.

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