Is there a new GDO

Yes and no. The newly updated edition of the GDO, now known as the GDO-R (Revised) ©2011, is highly consistent with the GDO ©2007. Content and administration remain mainly the same, with minimal changes guided by current technical data from the national study for 3-6 year olds. The GDO-R has a more streamlined design, easier-to-use materials, and current developmental trends by task based on the new data.

In addition to the GDO-R, there is now a new and different product that requires no training. The Gesell Early Screener (GES) has been developed consisting of a selection of developmental tasks and a few academic items from the original GDO. This instrument will have objective scoring based on the new data and will be a true screener.

How has the GDO been improved?

The most significant improvement is that the GDO is now a multi-dimensional assessment system with updated baseline and normative data. The new Teacher and Parent Questionnaires enable the examiner to collect information from the multiple environments in which children are immersed. This system meets IDEA and Head Start requirements for assessing the whole child. While the content of the GDO tasks have not changed drastically, the new design is more complete, user-friendly, and streamlined for better understanding and interpretation.

The new professionally designed Examiner’s Script contains the same instructions, but in a more user-friendly “flip-book” format, complete with Copy Forms, Visual 1, and Color Forms tasks bound inside the flip-book. No more fussing with putting cards in order or fumbling in the bag!

The Child Recording Form has a bound (saddle-stitched) design so that pages stay put and include select perforated pages for the child. Additionally, examiners will notice user-friendly grids for more efficient tabulation and documenting of process and behaviors.


Do I need the new manual?

Yes, in order to administer and score the GDO-R in a valid manner based on the current technical data, the new Examiner’s Manual is required. You also must participate in one of our 3-day workshops to be trained in the GDO-R. A free Examiner’s Manual is included in the price of registration.



Can I still use my old GDO kit and forms?

Yes, the ©2007 GDO kit and Recording Forms can still be used, even with the new data.


How do these changes affect the 3-day workshops?

The core content of our 3-day training workshops is not changing, though of course, you will be now using the updated materials. The workshops will include how to score using the updated normative data collected in the 2010 study. Also included will be an overview of the proper application of the information obtained through the Teacher and Parent Questionnaires.


Will training workshops still be required in the future?

Yes and no. Our comprehensive 3-day training workshops will continue to be required for examiners of the GDO-R who want to obtain a Developmental Age for each child.

No training is needed however to administer the new Gesell Early Screener (GES), though it is helpful to have some professional training or background to properly administer the screener. The new manual includes some helpful tips and pointers for new examiners as well


Why does Gesell Institute require training in order to buy the GDO-R?

We believe that a child is “more than a score.” Dr. Gesell himself said, “The examiner who is truly imbued with a developmental point of view is keenly sensitive to the past history of the child, and looks upon the… examination, not as a series of proving tests, but as a device or stage for evoking the ways in which this particular child characteristically meets life situations.” Our in-depth 3-day training workshops provide the examiner with comprehensive information about child development and how to understand a child’s behavior in multiple contexts (home, school, assessment). Workshop participants observe live demonstrations and gain hands-on practice administering and scoring tasks and determining a Developmental Age.


What is Developmental Age?

Developmental Age (DA) is an interpreted score based on in-depth, systematic observation of the child during the GDO-R assessment. It is determined by a trained examiner, using accepted developmental patterns of behavior, language, and thinking associated with chronological age (child’s age in years and months.) Thus, a child’s Developmental Age reveals how far along a child is on the path of development (physically, intellectually, and socially), irrespective of their chronological age.

Many children do not experience consistent growth across the various areas of development, and few children exhibit behaviors that are entirely characteristic of any one Developmental Age. For example, a 4-year-old child may exhibit behaviors and cognitive responses more like a typical 3½-year-old, which can be completely normal.

Similarly, a child’s language skills may reflect an older Developmental Age, while his or her motor or social skills may be more characteristic of a younger age. A Developmental Age provides a unique profile for each child, and provides more information about what a child is capable of in various domains of development so that teachers can customize appropriate curricula for each child.



How do the GDO-R and the Gesell Screener differ?

The Gesell Developmental Observation-Revised (GDO-R) is an in-depth, multi-dimensional child assessment. Its purpose is to help educators, parents, and other professionals understand characteristics of child behavior in relation to typical growth patterns. The GDO-R is designed for use with 2½- to 9-year-olds and includes all original GDO ©2007 items with only a few minor edits. These changes include revised interview questions and the substitution of “mews” with “meows” in the Action Agent task. The GDO-R continues to provide a Developmental Age based on in-depth interpretation of the developmental items, just as before.

The Gesell Screener (GES) is an early screener, based on selected GDO-R items. It provides just a quick look at the child and is intended for use with 3 to 6-year-olds. It has fewer items than the GDO-R, takes less time, is scored objectively, and results in a simple, three-tiered scoring rubric.


What does the GES’s “three-tiered scoring rubric” mean?

Based on the national 2010 technical data sample, the simple scoring rubric for the Gesell Screener generates one of three levels for the child. Children scoring in one tier have responses that are essentially average or above average for their age level, indicating no concerns about development at the time of the screening.  Scores in a second tier indicate a pattern of incorrect responses relative to the child’s age level that prompts mild concern. A child scoring at this tier may need more attention or more individualized instruction, and it would be appropriate to watch the child more closely and retest. Children who score at the third tier exhibit responses well below average for their age level and may benefit from an in-depth assessment and observation.



Will the GDO-R or the GES give me a numerical score?

It is important for any test examiner to be able to interpret a child’s test performance in a meaningful way, in relation to some established criterion and/or in relation to his or her peers. Numerical scores can help teachers determine how a child performs compared to other students and can provide a way to aggregate children’s performance within or across groups of children.

Each child will receive a numerical score on each GDO-R task based on his or her performance of the items that comprise the task. To aid in the interpreting of the task scores, each task will have a benchmark that reflects the performance that can be expected of a child in each age band. In addition to the task score and benchmark, the technical data supporting the GDO-R—based on a large, diverse, national sample of children—provide the percent of children meeting the benchmark for each developmental task (cubes, copy forms, completing a drawing of a person, etc.) and the p-values for each item for each age band. These technical data provide information that aids in comparing an individual child’s performance to a sample of same-age peers.

The Gesell Screener (GES), which is a shorter screening instrument containing 10 developmental and academic tasks, will also have numerical scores and benchmarks. The same research sample and statistical data support the Gesell Screener, and the objective scoring rubric is intended to guide teachers toward further diagnostic testing, subsequent re-screening, or no concerns about development. For both the GDO-R and the Gesell Screener, the scores, benchmarks, and 2010 technical data help users interpret children’s responses by ages and stages, but these scores must be interpreted appropriately by experienced educators who know, as Dr. Arnold Gesell said, that ‘a child is more than a score.’



If the Gesell Early Screener (GES) is easier and shorter, why would I use the GDO-R?

The screener provides a quick, first look at children ages 3 to 6 year-olds. It can be completed in approximately 15-20 minutes and provides a broad picture of where the child is compared to other children of the same age. The GDO-R, for ages 2½ to 9, is a comprehensive observational assessment of the child, and when combined with information from the accompanying Teacher and Parent Questionnaires, provides a multi-dimensional assessment system.

The GDO-R provides in-depth information about the child and includes scoring and interpretation for a Developmental Age. Ideally, the Gesell Screener and GDO-R are used together in an early childhood setting. All children entering preschool or Kindergarten can be screened first using the Gesell Screener for a quick indicator of skills and behaviors, and then later given the complete GDO-R in order for the teacher to fully understand the child’s development and to plan appropriate curriculum.


Why would I use the Gesell Screener if the GDO-R is so much more in-depth?

Both the GDO-R and the GES provide knowledge about the child. However, the Screener does so in a much more quick and easy way for the 3-6-year-old child. It is truly a quick screener. As such, it does not provide the in-depth information that the GDO-R provides. The screener provides a quick look at the child with objective academic and developmental tasks, in approximately 15-20 minutes. The Screener also flags if further testing is necessary. What’s more, the GES meets federal mandates for Head Start and IDEA requirements as a quick screener. It not only helps obtain the information needed under these mandates but also helps to meet documentation requirements.


How can I be sure that the 2010 data sample is representative of the children in my school?

Understanding a child’s developmental profile is an important step in understanding how to customize appropriate early school curricula and experiences. Demographic data collected from the 2008-2010 GDO Study approximates the US Census distribution at a national level. A sample of public, private, urban, and suburban schools, 55 sites spanning 23 US states participated in the study and collected child and family data for over 1,300 children ages 3-6. he Technical Report from the GDO Study includes additional details regarding sampling procedures and all related statistical analyses.


Why should I purchase the GDO-R or Gesell Early Screener (GES)?

The updated technical data and resulting child trends now qualify our assessments to meet the rigorous standards set by the federal government and the American Psychological Association for appropriately meeting the early learning needs of children. By choosing to purchase the GDO-R or the GES, you are endorsing not only a respect for child development but a method of child study that dates back to Arnold Gesell’s historic work at Yale University. Data from the 2010 national GDO study the Institute conducted backs each and every item on both instruments, including two sub-studies for scoring and interpretation of Developmental Age. The GDO-R and GES support Gesell Institute’s view that ‘a child is more than a score.’


How do the GDO-R and the Gesell Screener meet IDEA and Head Start mandates?

The GDO-R system and the Gesell Early Screener (GES) kit meet evaluation requirements for both Head Start (§ 1304.20) and Section 614 of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). Namely, both systems meet the following guidelines.

  • In collaboration with each child’s parent…obtain linguistically and age appropriate screening procedures to identify concerns regarding a child’s developmental, sensory (visual and auditory), behavioral, motor, language, social, cognitive, perceptual, and emotional skills.
  • Screening procedures are sensitive to the child’s cultural background.
  • (Assessment system) utilizes multiple sources of information on all aspects of each child’s development and behavior, including input from family members, teachers, and other relevant staff who are familiar with the child’s typical behavior.
  • Use technically sound instruments that may assess the relative contribution of cognitive and behavioral factors, in addition to physical or developmental factors.

Why should I include the GDO-R or Gesell Early Screener in my college or university assessment courses

Assessment courses typically involve exposing students to an array of measurement types and methodologies through currently used assessment tools. Gesell assessments have been widely used across the country for 70 years. The Psychological Corporation published the first version of the GDO in 1940. The current assessment system, titled the GDO-R, has been updated with technical data from a national sample of 3-6 year olds.

The Gesell Early Screener consists of a subset of GDO-R tasks and provides a quick developmental profile for the 3 to 6-year-old child. The GDO-R, a longer but more comprehensive developmental assessment, requires a 3-day training workshop for in-depth scoring and interpretation; the GES requires no training. Both measures are excellent additions to any assessment course.

What kind of validity and reliability do the GDO-R and Gesell Early Screener have?

Content validity was derived by asking experts in the early childhood field the following questions:

  • Does the content of the old GDO reflect the information teachers need/want to know?
  • Is the old GDO content age appropriate?
  • Is the method for soliciting the information appropriate for children?
  • Is the method for soliciting the information appropriate for teachers?
  • Is the method for soliciting the information appropriate for parents/guardians?
  • Is there any bias for gender, race, age, disability, or socio-economic status?

An online survey and a subsequent focus group of current users of the GDO ©2007 were asked similar questions.

Evidence of construct validity comes from the GDO-R and Gesell Early Screener (GES) being based on established theories of child development. Inter-item correlations of the GDO-R and GES also provide evidence of construct validity. Reliability was established by calculating internal consistency coefficients and conducting an inter-rater reliability study.


I teach developmental theory but I'm not that familiar with Dr. Arnold Gesell. Why is Gesell theory important?

Arnold Gesell, PhD, MD was a pioneer in child development, beginning his groundbreaking work in the early 20th century. He developed a set of norms illustrating sequential and predictable patterns of growth and development, used as the basis of the Gesell Developmental Observation. Dr. Gesell was the first director of the Yale University Clinic now known as the Yale Child Study Center, as well as the nation’s first school psychologist. He was also a founding member of the National Association for Nursing and Education, now known as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

Working at Yale from 1911 to 1948, Gesell used innovative methods of observation and cinematography to delineate the process of the ages and stages of normative development. Gesell was the first to recognize these stages, which have since become well established in modern day pediatrics and psychology. Gesell sought to document the process of growth for the whole child, believing, as we do today, that “a child is more than a score.” Additional details about Gesell’s maturational theory are provided in the updated GDO-R Examiner’s Manual, along with how this theory ties into the work of other well-known theorists such as Piaget and Vygotsky.