Assessing Young Children
This article answers the why, which and how questions about children’s assessments. Why Engage in Assessment? Whether it’s mandated or a choice, it’s a way to chart a child’s progress over time, to screen for disabilities; to evaluate kindergarten readiness; to assist in developing curriculum; to evaluate the effectiveness of a project or a program; and to provide feedback to parents. Which Measures Should I Select? Teachers have the option to use standardized tests, which compares children’s development to the standard norm, or informal methods, like observation or forms that are designed by the teachers, or a combination of both.
Standardized Tests: The benefits of standardized tests it compares children to the average child and its predictive validity. However, it’s not easy to interpret the results and compare them to similar children. Standardized tests usually come with information about their validity, which helps teachers know if the test is measures what’s intended measures and if it’s their best option, and about its reliability, which help teachers know how confident they should be about the results. The tests must be used and interpreted by trained and knowledgeable individuals.
Informal Methods: informal methods of assessment have many forms like a teacher’s made checklist, rating scales, interviews, and videotape or audiotape recordings. An assessment should include: frequency of the behavior observed, duration of the behavior or event, a complete heading describing when and where the observation occurred, and the date and time. Another way to do an assessment is collecting a portfolio of the child individual work and information collected from teachers, parent and others about the child, which can be used for reflection for children themselves or with adults. Before choosing an assessment, we should ask: why is it done? What kind of information needed? How often should it be done? And is it age and culturally appropriate? After asking all these information, objectivity is a key role in doing any assessment to report only facts and not feelings or attitudes.
Emerging and New Approaches to Assessment: more teachers now use new methods which focus on behaviors at natural settings or specifically at some sort of risk like poverty or disability. Those children are screened for fine and gross motor delays, speech and hearing difficulties, and atypical behavior and it can be done through play. How Should Assessment Information Be Used? Assessments should always be respectful to the child, made in confidentiality (in professional manner) and consent (with the permission of parents) and done only for the benefit of the child or the center. A new way of assessment is authentic assessment, which takes into account the particular circumstances surrounding the evaluation of individual children. Or, performance-based assessment, which refers to focusing on the daily activities and skills performed by the child.
Family Involvement: Although families’ input in assessments have not been considered important before, it’s thought to become more popular in the future since it is beneficial to both families and programs.
Recently, assessments have been looking at what children can do and not just at what they can’t do, which give a positive approach and attitude about children development.