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Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA)

Author(s): Paul A. LeBuffe, Valerie B. Shapiro and Jack A. Naglieri
Publisher: Devereux Center for Resilient Children


Purpose: To assess the social-emotional competencies that serve as protective factors for children.

Age: K-8

Format: Paper; Online

The Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) is a 72-item, standardised, norm-referenced behaviour rating scale that assesses the social-emotional competencies that serve as protective factors for children in kindergarten through to year eight.

The DESSA can identify children at risk of developing social-emotional problems, assess skills related to social-emotional competence, resilience and academic success and identify social-emotional strengths and needs for individualised education programs. The assessment is entirely strength-based, meaning that the items query positive behaviours (e.g., get along with others) rather than maladaptive ones (e.g., annoy others).

The DESSA can be completed by parents or guardians, teachers and staff at schools and child-serving agencies (including after-school, social service, and mental health programs). It is recommended that raters have contact with the child for at least 3 weeks.

The DESSA measures eight key social-emotional competencies identified as essential to a child’s success in school and life:

  1. Self-awareness: A child’s realistic understanding of his/her strengths and limitations, and consistent desire for self-improvement.
  2. Social awareness: A child’s capacity to interact with others in ways that show respect, tolerance, and cooperation.
  3. Self-management: A child’s success in controlling his/her emotions and behaviours, especially in new and challenging situations.
  4. Relationship skills: A child’s skill at promoting and maintaining positive connections with others.
  5. Goal-directed behaviour: A child’s initiation of, and persistence in completing, difficult tasks.
  6. Personal responsibility: A child’s tendency to be careful and reliable in his/her actions and to contribute to group efforts.
  7. Decision making: A child’s approach to problem-solving, learning from experience, using values to guide behaviour and accepting responsibility.
  8. Optimistic thinking: A child’s attitude of confidence, hopefulness, and positive thinking

Uses of the DESSA

The DESSA has been developed for use in a variety of ways including:

  • Providing a psychometrically sound, strength-based measure of social-emotional competence in children and youth.
  • Identifying children and youth at risk of developing social-emotional problems before those problems emerge.
  • Identifying the unique strengths and needs of individual children and youth who have already been identified as having social, emotional and behavioural concerns.
  • Providing meaningful information on child strengths for inclusion in individualised programs,
  • Providing an objective means of comparing ratings on the same child to identify similarities and meaningful differences.
  • Facilitating progress monitoring for individual children by evaluating change over time at the individual scale level.

The DESSA can be used as a comprehensive system by utilising two rating scales (the DESSA & DESSA-Mini). Used together, the DESSA and DESSA-mini provide a comprehensive system that supports universal screening, assessment, intervention planning, progress monitoring, and outcome evaluation in the social-emotional domain.

DESSA/DESSA Mini Online - A Comprehensive Assessment & Intervention System

Contact us for a customised quote for orders over 500 credits!

Online administration, scoring and reporting is available for the DESSA & DESSA-Mini, with access to PDF copies of the Manuals. Also included in the web based platform are access to intervention strategies that can be implemented.

The online platform offers a balanced approach of individual, group and whole school level reports to help promote the healthy social-emotional development of all students. Understanding the whole child is essential to student performance and success. Academic achievement is proven to be influenced by social-emotional resiliency, maximising opportunities for accomplishment.

Benefits of Testing Online

•    Cloud-based – access results, reporting and analysis tools anytime, anywhere.
•    In-depth and intuitive reporting that provides real insight
•    Assessment tools that create dynamic and interactive testing experiences
•    Easy collaboration with staff and administration
•    Digital platforms reduce workload and administrative tasks

View sample DESSA report

View Site Sample report

View Individual Comparison report

View Sample Group Profile Report

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Author(s): Paul A. LeBuffe, Valerie B. Shapiro and Jack A. Naglieri