The purpose of assessment of young children is to collect information necessary to make important decisions about their developmental needs. Assessment must always serve in ways that enhance opportunities for optimal growth, development, and learning. Assessment should be a process of ongoing observation, recording, and documentation of children’s growth and behaviour. Information and data from assessment informs teachers as well as parents about children’s developmental needs and identifying both strengths and weaknesses of a child. Assessment is an efficient way of evaluating a preschool curriculum program and can be a good tool for teachers to reflect on their practices; review on their instructional activities and make necessary changes to their instructional activities.
Authenticity is an important feature to consider for early childhood assessments. Authentic assessment includes tasks or observations that occur in the context of regular play or activities, in settings typical to the child. Each assessment method, whether an observational tool or a test, may incorporate features of authenticity.
Checklist is one of the assessment tool which is easy to use and especially helpful when many different items need to be observed. This tool covers a broad spectrum of content, but the majority used by educators can be considered to focus on developmental issues primarily. Skills are classified in different developmental domains, principally consisting of cognition, language, physical, socio-emotional, self-help, and general well-being. A checklist which is designed carefully tells a lot about one child or a group of children in the class. The advantage of a using checklist is that there are no time constraints in collecting the data. Information and data can be quickly and effectively recorded anytime during the curriculum hours. Checklists are not difficult to use and even for the novice teachers; it is efficient and can be used in many situations. Information and data obtained from checklists can be easily analysed.
The disadvantages of using checklist will be the lack of comprehensive evidence of a child’s development. Teachers can be overwhelmed with the number of items listed in the checklist. 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. Only specific behaviors are noted because of such format. Other important aspects of behaviors may have been missed out, such as how a behavior is performed and for how long.
Teachers in my centre use observation checklists to observe, do recordings and document children’s learning and development. Checklist is a form of guide for teachers 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.
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 teacher A to do her observations in a scenario like this. It 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.
Using a variety of observation methods can help teachers in observing a child’s interest, skills, abilities, and needs. It provides a foundation for a child’s individual assessment and planning. Collecting a series of observations before interpreting and planning will provide a well-rounded and holistic picture of the child.
Research on various Assessment Tools
There are different types of assessment tools which are used in Early Childhood Industry. One of the assessment tool is Anecdotal Record.
An anecdotal record is a descriptive narrative recorded after a specific behaviour or interaction occurs. Anecdotal records inform teachers as they plan learning experiences, provide information to families, and give insights into identifying possible developmental delays.
The advantages of this assessment tool is that it is open-ended; meaning the teacher watches everything the child does rather than giving direction to the child doing a certain activity. An anecdotal 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 anecdotal records help teachers to understand not only what behaviours occurred but also the context in which the behaviour occurred. A well-written anecdotal record provides a detailed sample of a child’s behaviours, interests, development, activities, or interactions. They are useful for developmental assessments, sharing information with parents during Parent-Teacher Conference. Aids in planning learning activities for the child; and identifying the strengths of the child.
There are also disadvantages with using anecdotal records. Teacher using anecdotal records may have difficulties in remembering the details if she decides to write down the incident at the end of the day and important information may have been misses. The incident observed could be based on the interest of the teacher, therefore not a complete picture is provided.