Assessment in Early Childhood
There are many reasons why children undergo assessments; among these is the desire to know how well children are learning, if they are making progress and meeting proficiency benchmarks, and if they are being taught effectively. Data from assessments provide valuable information for planning whole-group and individualized instruction, for determining program quality, and for communicating with others. Assessment practices encompass a range of instruments and techniques including structured one-on-one child assessments, standardized assessments, portfolios, rating scales, and observation. Comprehensive assessment is based on information from multiple sources, including measures that provide different types of information.
Progress monitoring is a term used to describe any of a number of activities or approaches to data collection that focus on a child’s learning over time and help to document and provide meaningful feedback on learning outcomes. Progress monitoring measures, provide information about the level of children’s growth in key skills, which helps to determine the support and services each child needs to be successful. Currently, the majority of progress monitoring tools target language and early literacy skills rather than all domains of development and learning.
When teachers observe children in the classroom, they are afforded unique opportunities to understand how to enhance classroom routines and instructional practices. Gathering student observation data provides teachers with opportunities to reflect on the classroom environment, curriculum, and teaching strategies and to determine which aspects of the classroom experience are working well for the children and which aspects might be adapted to better meet children’s needs. For example, if the teacher notices, through whole class observations, that many children seem to struggle with self-management during free time she may decide to teach specific routines to help children. These routines may be as simple as a guideline that you want children to do. Through systematic observation of the whole class the teacher becomes aware of patterns of needs and can respond appropriately.
Systematic observation is a promising method for screening children to recognize and respond to their needs. Observation allows teachers to record information about all areas of development and to identify areas of strength as well as areas of need. Additionally, because observation occurs in natural contexts and is meaningfully connected to the routines, activities, and curriculum of the classroom, teachers can identify children’s interests in order to adapt curriculum and incorporate skill building into activities that are of interest to the child.
Early Childhood Assistant Principal