Assessing infants and toddlers is commonly used to determine if children are meeting their developmental milestones or if they are showing any signs of developmental delays or disabilities. Many types of standardized tests are available for use with infants and young children; all are psychological tests, whether they measure abilities, achievements, aptitudes, interests, attitudes, values, or personality characteristics (Wortham, How Standardized Test Are Used with Infants and Young Children, 2012). There are many types of assessments and the key is using the proper one to answer the questions you need, assessment that involves observation of the child, interviews with parents and caregivers, developmental and social history, and interaction with the child using game-like materials, toys, questionnaires, and tasks (Logsdon, 2012). Teachers should be asking what methods should be used, which one should a teacher select from the children they are teaching, and how will the information be obtained? In this paper I will explore these questions and how that effects the ever fast changing pace of early childhood education.
A developmental assessment is a process designed to deepen understanding of a child’s competencies and resources, and of the caregiving and learning environments most likely to help a child make fullest use of his or her developmental potential, according to New Visions (Tips for Surviving Child Development Assessment, 2012). As a teacher you will consider why you should engage in assessment. For some programs it is part of their policies and procedures, for some it is state mandated, and for others it may be federally mandated. For some teachers the choice is theirs and they choose to for the best interest of the child. Through assessment the teacher can determine where the child is in development, show progress through ongoing assessment and have information to share with the child’s parents.
The main reason for assessment is to pinpoint any disabilities or developmental delays, to assess the child’s school readiness, to assist the teacher in planning their curriculum and lesson plans program, to provide feedback to parents and being able to show the effectiveness of the program. The first thing is choose the type of assessment that is appropriate for the children that you engage with daily. There are two types of assessments: formal and informal assessments. With formal assessments the teacher is comparing the child against developmental norms or to other children. Informal assessments are observations that can be obtained through observation in a methodical way and is usually not compared to others. The majority of standardized tests that are in use today are designed to be administered and interpreted by trained professionals.
Most programs use a combination of assessments when gathering information about the children they work with each day. The benefit of standardized tests is that the results can be compared to another child or children finding the common factors of developmental norms. A norm is an average result in a group of sample children within that age group or classroom. The second advantage is can be the ability to predict validity of the tests. Children whom do well on these assessments tend to do well in assessments as the move into the school readiness in Kindergarten. A common test used for preschoolers include the Battelle (Logsdon, 2012).
There are disadvantages when using standardized test as well and one of the major ones is how the data will be interpreted that is obtained. The results from the teachers and administrators must be considered and compared to similar children in similar circumstances. The comparison is not easy to achieve, for example the cultural bias of early developmental tests. Also the predictive validity of standardized tests can be a disadvantage for their ability to forecast the future achievement in kindergarten. There are other formal test that are being explored that can measure what is developmentally appropriate within their focus and approach.
Standardized tests have information regarding their validity and reliability that can give the teachers a way to evaluate if the test is appropriate and if it is being used for its intended use. The reliability information should be able to produce the same result when measuring the same thing with different groups of children. This will help the teacher to be able to determine information that will be obtained. It should be considered when using formal test that they should be used with trained professionals, although they are available for purchase openly they should not be used without training and experience. When using formal test they should be given in a controlled environment for the results to be valid. Even when the test are given properly the results can be interpreted inconsistently and the norms not valid.
For example the test could be for both boys and girls but could end up being used with a majority of one or the other or compared to just one variable due to the majority of whom is taking the tests. If that was confusing to you as it was to me then can you imagine the results you will get. When using informal methods to assess children the test as more teacher derived and the tools used are usually checklist, engagement and interaction and open-ended questions. Many teachers already use anecdotal records, a strategy that records actions of the children, in which short episodes of a child’s behavior are recorded and kept for comparing change in behavior over time, in the child’s portfolio and used when meeting with parents for a conference. One of the main reasons for this method is ease of use. Anecdotes can be recorded in virtually any environment at any time throughout the day with limited materials needed.
Other informal methods used in classrooms today are time sample, checklists, rating scales, interviews, and videotape or audiotape recordings. The teacher should include the following five key things when using anecdotes: frequency of the behavior, duration of the behavior, notes describing when and where the observation took place, and the date and time. Another form is the child’s portfolio which is any variety of works thought to be representative of the individual. With young children, this usually includes drawings and writings, photographs and stories dictated to an adult. A portfolio can also include information about the child contributed by teachers, and other professionals. A portfolio can be used as a springboard for reflection with children themselves, parents, or other professionals. Discussions with children around a portfolio could reflect on what the child drew (“tell me more about…,”). With parents and professionals the portfolio offers a variety of information about the child, in which they can use as a springboard for discussion at parent conferences.
The problem with this type of assessment it can leave the parents confused with the information that comes from it and how it related to their child. When a teacher is choosing which method to use they have to consider what purpose will it serve? The teacher should ask themselves why is this information needed, what is the purpose, and what information will be helpful for the teacher, child and parent, when and how will this information be obtained and how am I as the teacher going to ensure that the information gather is accurate and valid? Also, if this method is choose is it appropriate for the children I work with? Two things that I feel the teacher should ask themselves are: is this age and developmentally appropriate for the children I work with and is relevant to the background and daily circumstances of the child that I work with? When considering the choices you must also consider am I as the teacher able to administer this test properly.
When considering this I must consider the how the test will observe a child and how will this be done without pre-formed ideas about outcome. When we are able to be objective then the teacher reports only the facts, and then interpret those facts by what is observed, rather than feelings or attitudes about the child. In today’s society more and more teachers are moving away from traditional methods of assessments and moving towards methods that are relying instead on techniques thought to be more holistic and developmentally appropriate. This could include innovative approaches that observe more on behavior that happens in natural settings and assessments that reflect the complete set of circumstances surrounding the child. While conducting an assessment the teacher should make every effort to use the information in ways that are respectful of the child.
In any case the teacher must remember to pay attention to issues such as consent and always remaining confidential. Confidentiality means that it will only be discussed in professional settings, and the information will conceal identities and results are revealed only to the intended audience. Consent means that the teacher obtained the permission from the parent to observe, evaluate and assessed a child. A lot of times parents give such consent at the time of the program enrollment if they sign a form indicating that they realize such activities will be occurring. Otherwise, you should always obtain permission prior to engaging in ongoing assessment projects, even if informal measures are being used. One practice to avoid is the temptation to label children based on assessment results, such as “this child is special” or “this child is challenged.”
Children placed in these categories very early on have difficulty overcoming them later. In the 21st century, assessment practices are likely to become more holistic and innovative in their approach. For example, we are beginning to hear more of the term “authentic assessment.” Authentic assessments are when the environment is taken into account surrounding the evaluation of individual children. Another term being used more today is “performance-based assessment.” Performance-based assessment is when the teacher is focusing on the daily activities and skills already being performed in the classroom setting. Family involvement in assessment, such as parent reports and observations or even them being present, has not been really considered in mainstream early childhood settings. These strategies will gain popularity in the coming years.
Although assessment holds great potential to help caregivers understand the children they care for, it can be challenging to assess infants and toddlers, especially if one views assessment as a one-on-one testing interaction (Ditchtelmiller, 2012). In the past assessments have been more of what the child cannot do and today they are becoming more of what the child can do now and has accomplished. This approach to assessment will benefit the child as an individual and abilities rather than disabilities. As a teacher, such approaches will help us maintain positive attitudes concerning the child development.
Besides identifying and correcting developmental problems, assessment of very young children is conducted for other purposes. One purpose is research. Researchers study young children to better understand their behavior or to measure the appropriateness of the experiences that are provided for them (Wortham, Assesment in Early Childhood Education (6th Edition), 2012). “Teachers and child-care providers want children to feel a sense of accomplishment while in their care. The more a child-care provider knows about a child’s academic, social, and emotional development, the more they’re able to meet the child’s needs.
Teachers and child care providers may use this resource for developing strategies to track a child’s progress” (Checking Children’s Progress, 2012). We know that rather the assessment is formal or informal early childhood professionals are going to perform them. Through assessment we can screen for disabilities, assess kindergarten readiness, help the teacher developing curriculum and lesson plans, evaluate the effectiveness of a program, and aide the teachers when conferencing with the parents. Both parents and teachers want to know that their child is obtaining goals, showing progress and gaining new skills and what other way to know this other than assessment.
Checking Children’s Progress. (2012, April 25). Retrieved September 26, 2012, from Head Start – ECLKC: eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/tta-
system/teachingllecd/assessment/ongoing%20assessment/edudev_art_00409_060906.html Tips for Surviving Child Development Assessment. (2012). Retrieved September 26, 2012, from Zero to Three : www.zerotothree.org/child-development/mental-health-screening- assessment/tips-for-surviving-child-development-assessment.html Ditchtelmiller, M. L. (2012). One Program’s Experience. Retrieved September 27, 2012, from Infant/Toddler Assessment: www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/200401/ditchtel.pdf Logsdon, A. (2012). Infant and Toddler Development Tests – Learning Disabilities. Retrieved September 26, 2012, from Testing for Infant and Toddler Development: http://learningdisabilities.acout.com/od/intelligencetests/p/battelledevelop.html Wortham, S. (2012). Assesment in Early Childhood Education (6th Edition). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson.
Wortham, S. (2012). How Standardized Test Are Used with Infants and Young Children. Retrieved September 27, 2012, from Education.com:
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