Assessment is process of ongoing observation, recording, and documentation of children’s growth and behavior. Information and data from assessment informs teachers about children’s developmental needs and identifying the strengths and weaknesses of a child. Ongoing assessment informs the approach needed to design and deliver developmentally appropriate instructional activities. Assessment is a way of keeping the teachers and the curriculum responsive to the needs of the children too. There are different types of assessment tools which are used in early childhood education. The assessment tools include observations checklists, anecdotal records, running records, portfolios, videotapes, work samples, learning story and etc.
Teachers in my centre use a variety of assessment methods for gathering information about the children. The assessment methods include observation checklists, anecdotal records, work samples and E-portfolios to observe, do recordings and document children’s learning and development. Since no one method is the most effective or reveals everything, therefore more complete information is obtained by using several types of assessment. Multiple sources of information also reduces the possibility of error when teachers are making evaluations.
Checklists are easy to use and are especially helpful when many different items need to be observed. They often include lists of specific behaviors to look for while observing. Checklists are designed for any developmental domain— physical, social, emotional, or cognitive. A checklist which is carefully designed can tell a lot about one child or the entire class. The advantage of a using checklist is that there are no time constraints in collecting the data. Informations and data can be quickly recorded anytime during program hours. Checklists are not difficult to use especially for the novice teachers; it is efficient, and can be used in many situations. Informations and data from checklists can be easily analyzed.
However, teachers can be overwhelmed with assessment and record keeping if there are too many listed objectives on the checklists. Teachers may also not consider assessments with checklists as valid measures because Checklists only indicate if a child accomplish the listed objectives and not about the quality of the child’s performance. Because of such a format, only particular behaviors are noted. Important aspects of behaviors may be missed, such as how a behavior is performed and for how long.
Teachers in my centre use the checklists as a guide and to plan learning activities based on the listed objectives on the checklists. Learning activities that are planned may and may not meet the learning goals for all the children under their care. For example, teacher A has planned a large motor activity for her class. Target goal: throwing a ball underhanded. During this activity, child B refuses to participate and is throwing tantrums. Hence, teacher A is not able to record a valid observation for child B for this activity. There are many possible reasons why child B refuses to participate. Child B is perhaps not feeling well; is not ready to participate in this activity confidently or the time when the activity was being carried out.
It is challenging for teachers to do their observations in situation like this. Ii is therefore important for teacher A to understand the needs of child B. She can always repeat this activity with her class throughout the week at different time of the day, or do this activity with Child B alone. Another alternative is to redesign the activity. Instead of using the ball, teacher A could make the activity more interesting by using a variety of objects like bean bags; colourful balls; rolled newspapers; balloons and etc. Teacher A will then make observation of child B when he/ she is ready.
There are various forms of assessment that early childhood educators can choose to adopt depending on the observations that they want to document. One of the method of assessment is running record (or Descriptive Narrative Record). Running record is a detailed narrative account of behavior recorded in a sequential manner as it happens; it is not limited to a particular incident like an anecdotal record. A running record is stream of continuous writing which captures the child’s activity as it happens. The observer writes down exactly what the child says and does as objectively as possible without interpretation. This type of observation is open- ended; meaning the observer watches everything the child does rather than giving direction to the child doing a certain activity. A running record has rich details as it focuses on all behaviours. It does not require a great deal of training for teachers to use this method of observation. Using running records help teachers to understand not only what behaviors occurred but also the context in which the behavior occurred. A well-written running record provides a detailed sample of a child’s behaviors, interests, development, activities, or interactions. They are useful for developmental assessments, sharing information with parents, planning learning activities for the child; and identifying the strengths of the child.
Teachers using running records as assessment to document children’s development may find it challenging as doing a running record is time consuming. This observation method can only be done for one individual child, and it is difficult for teachers to use running records when observing a group. As the teacher needs to be focused when doing this observation, she/he has to keep themselves apart from the rest of the children in the class and this would be difficult for Teachers.
Current technology (e.g., I-phones, I-pads, flip cameras,) allows us to record “replay” the observation, with a specific focus for detail that other methods do not provide. Video recordings of learning experiences are great form of documentation and can be very useful when assessing children’s learning. Video recordings may include pictures of a children at a block centre during the construction process, a recording of them talking with peers as they use materials at a discovery table, or a recording of a student reading a story with a friend at the Language and Literacy Centre.This method also supplies teachers with additional information that may be missed when observing and making anecdotal notes. While filming children’s play, their conversations can provide insight into children’s social and emotional skills. Teachers may also reflect on their involvement level in the play scenario and what they might do differently the next time when they engage in play scenarios with the children. Some ideas for planning could be to incorporate more “how” and “why” questions with the children, extending the children’s length of time in the play area by suggesting new roles, or changing out the materials in the center because children have lost interest.
Assessment should be authentic and It is therefore essential for teachers to decide what to observe, when to observe, and how often to observe, teachers will need to plan how to record their observations and the type of observation tools to use. The chosen assessment tools used should have the consistency of the beliefs about curriculum and classroom practices. Children’s progress towards the attainment of curriculum outcomes outlined in the kindergarten program should be clearly reflected.
Documentation from assessments pulls it all together for children, teachers, and the parents. Parents will be informed of their children’s developmental progress and learning achievements with all the documentation presented to them. It provides children with the opportunity to revisit their work which, in turn, provides teachers with the opportunity to discuss with them their interests, their ideas and their plans. Children become more reflective and more engaged in the learning that is happening all around them when they are involved in the documentation of their own learning experiences.