Temporary Guidelines for Virtual GDO-R Administration

Temporary Guidelines for Administration and Interpretation of the 
Gesell Developmental Observation Assessment System
During the Covid-19 Pandemic Only
Released March 24, 2020
Valid through June 1, 2020

While we always knew teachers were the unsung heroes of our world, now the world knows it. We are so grateful to all who press on each day transforming their classrooms into Google Hangouts and running morning meetings from their front porch. We want you to know we are grateful, and we are here for you.

We understand that in the midst of this public health crisis, many schools were in the process of using the GDO-R and the GES as part of their school entry and placement protocols. We are deeply motivated to think outside the box in supporting you to proceed in these unprecedented circumstances. 

Extreme circumstances call for an extreme response. We are here to help. We want to make it possible for you to move forward with assessments, even in less than ideal circumstances.  

The GDO-R Assessment System uses direct observation to evaluate a child’s cognitive, language, motor and social-emotional responses. It is far from ideal but possible for a highly experienced GDO-R examiner to administer the GDO-R or GES using  a web camera in real time. Should you choose to do so during this crisis, we urge you to abide by the Temporary Covid-19 Administration Guidelines

We expect that all examiners will resume normal assessment protocols once the crisis is resolved. Just as online schooling is not ideal, this is not the best approach to assessing children. However, it is the best we can do at this time and we believe we must try. To be clear, these guidelines, while making every attempt to uphold the integrity of the GDO-R, will undoubtedly compromise the validity of the assessment in a number of ways. Results must be reviewed with this caveat and should be considered provisional. However, we believe that even by video camera, a highly experienced GDO-R examiner can learn a great deal of information about a child.

Administration Recommendations:

#1 Recommendation: Consult with a Gesell NLS Examiner  

Our goal is to ensure that your school can proceed with the assessment process while best mitigating the impact a video assessment may have on the results or validity. Exclusively for our host schools and for GDO-R examiners trained in the last 5 years we offer a consulting package that gives you access to a Gesell National Lecture Staff (NLS) Level 4 examiner to ensure your 2020 assessment needs are met with the utmost integrity. 

Use their time to administer web assessments, review Child Recording Forms from web assessments your examiners administered, manage the parent end of the process or to help you design a plan for web administration. They are eager to serve you in any way that would bring some ease to your assessment process. 

$500 for 10 hours

$1,000 for 20 hours

$2,000 for 50 hours

$3,000 for 100 hours

Contact office@gesellinstitute.org to arrange a plan.

(If costs are prohibitive, please reach out. No host school or valid examiner will be turned away.)

#2 Recommendation: Web Assessment by Your Staff using the GDO-R

If your staff have been trained in the last 5 years, and are well practiced in GDO-R administration, you may choose to proceed to administer and interpret the GDO-R by web camera using the Temporary Covid-19 Administration Guidelines. Because the camera will be less revealing than a live administration we strongly recommend using only highly experienced examiners.

#3 Recommendation: Web Assessment by Your Staff Using the GES

If you choose to use the GES, we strongly recommend that only assessors that have been trained in the last 5 years in GDO-R administration undertake the GES under web conditions and that you follow the Temporary Covid-19 Administration Guidelines as applicable to GES tasks.

Temporary Covid-19 Administration Guidelines

1. Prepare families. All families should watch the Gesell Web Administration video which will explain the administration, the limitations of the emergency web version and ask them to prepare materials for the at home assessment. Gesell recommends asking families to sign and submit a consent form, like this example, to confirm they have the materials needed, can support the administration as requested and understand the limitations of a web administration.  


2. Record. If possible record the assessment for possible review during interpretation.

3. Use a large screen. Find as large a screen as you can. Attempting an administration on your phone is insufficient. A system like Zoom or Google Hangouts on a computer or laptop is recommended.

4. Stay consistent to GDO and GES script/instructions unless otherwise stated. Understanding it will be impossible for most families to access Gesell materials used in the GDO-R and GES, Gesell suggests the following set of adaptations under these extreme circumstances. Aside from these few adaptations, proceed with the administration as you were trained. No other items should be or dropped or amended.

    • Tasks to Drop in Web Administration: Unless the family has access to Gesell materials relevant for these tasks, you may drop them from web administration. Using substitute materials will result in an invalid assessment. Note that this will impact strand scoring.
        • Cubes
        • Color Forms
        • Three Hole Form Board
        • Pellets
      • Tasks to Amend in Web Administration: Unless the family has access to Gesell materials relevant for these tasks, you may amend classic assessment protocols as follows: 
          • Copy Forms: Use an 8.5 X 11 sheet of plain white paper. If the child is viewing on a tablet, place the tablet flat on the table.
          • Incomplete Man: Print and administer on an 8.5 X 11 sheet of plain white paper. Do not use other colors or lined paper.
          • Visual 1: Print and administer on an 8.5 X 11 sheet of plain white paper. Do not use other colors or lined paper.
          • Visual 3: Print and administer on an 8.5 X 11 sheet of plain white paper. Do not use other colors or lined paper.
          • Identifying Letters and Numbers: Print and administer on an 8.5 X 11 sheet of plain white paper. Do not use other colors or lined paper.
          • Beanbag Throw: Use a beanbag or substitute a small stuffed animal/beanie baby.
        • Tasks to Allow Parent/Guardian Proxy for Examiner in Web Administration: Certain tasks will require the assistance of a parent/guardian that is proximal to the child.  

      5. Identify Child Recording Form and Strand Scoring Worksheet as Provisional. Mark all material clearly as taking place under Temporary Covid-19 Administration Guidelines. This will be important when referring back, in the future. 


      6. Seek Additional Sources. As always, Gesell recommends the GDO-R and the GES as one part of the admissions and placement process. Additional information should be gathered from other sources, such as interviews with the child and parents/guardians, child observations during a classroom visit, input from prior year teachers or a home visit.   

      7. Repeat the Assessment in 4 - 8 Months: Nothing can replace the authenticity of a live administration. When school resumes, reassess children and potentially reconsider your placement for 3 and 4-year-olds if necessary in the fall.


      Gesell partnered with Enrollment Management Association (enrollment.org) to share best practices for enrollment and assessment in the time of Covid-19 social distancing. 
      All enrollment seasons are hectic; 2020 is extraordinary. Aside from the complexities posed by quarantines, students are stressed and families are overtaxed. We may receive less data than ever to make the same important decisions. How then do we proceed, as we must, with our enrollment and admissions process in these overwhelming circumstances? In this webinar we will discuss steps to take to do more with less. We will identify best practice for lower school and early childhood assessment in the time of Covid-19 for an enrollment protocol that respects the gravity of the process in the reality of the moment.
      To watch the video: 
      covid 19 emergency protocol gdo-r ges

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      • Gesell Team – Thank you for being so proactive about this! Flint Hill School, Oakton, VA is continuing to use GDO and we are excited to use this temporary version.


        Holly Harrge on

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