Assessments are very important in determining how to teach our children and where they are in terms of development. There are many types of assessments that can be beneficial in helping determine how to approach the learning style of each child as an individual instead of as a whole group. While each assessment is structurally different, they can produce results which give us insight on where our children are during different stages of their lives. There are both formal and informal assessments that can be used. “Formal assessments are norm-referenced tests that have standardized, formal procedures for administering, timing and scoring.
They have been “normed” or administered to a representative sample of similar age or grade level students so that final test results can be compared to students of similar characteristics. Test results indicate a person’s relative performance in the group. These standardized tests must be administered as specified in the manual to ensure valid and reliable results”(ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation). There is another type of formal assessment called criterion-referenced test. These type of test measure what the person is able to do and indicate what skills have been mastered.
A CRT compares a person’s performance with their past performances. “In criterion-referenced measurement, the emphasis is on assessing specific and relevant behaviors that have been mastered rather than indicating the relative standing in the group”(ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation). Formal assessments can prove to be beneficial as far as comparing test scores over a period of time and how the child is developing over that same period. While formal assessments are useful they also have flaws in them. Standardized test can make a child feel like pressure and anxiety.
In a lot of situations when a child feels like this they will not do their best on any type of assessment. Another problem with these types of tests is that they use the same set of questions for all the children and are not sensitive to the situations that different children endure. Children who live in poor and underdeveloped environments may not be exposed to certain ways of life and may not have the same advantages of acquiring knowledge as the other children they go to school with. This will automatically put them at a disadvantage in school and on test they may take.
There is another way to do an assessment that is better suited for the child and does not make them feel so uncomfortable and that is an informal assessment. An informal assessment focuses on play and observation of the child and not a test of sorts. By observing the child in a certain situation you can record how they act and how they respond to different situations and stimuli that are presented to them. You can use check-list and rating scales to record your findings and document them and file them away in a portfolio. Another way to do an informal assessment is by parent interviews.
You can find out a lot of valuable information by asking the parents questions about their child. Over the past few years teachers have placed more emphasis informal testing than formal testing. “Some districts have increased the use of curriculum-based measurements(CBM). Several samples of a student’s performance are collected, using items drawn from the local curriculum, usually in basic skill subjects of reading, math, spelling and written expression. Such brief tests are called “probes”(ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation). One form of an informal assessment is the Battelle Developmental Inventory.
“The Battelle Developmental Inventory is an assessment for infants and children through age seven. It is a flexible, semi-structured 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). This type of assessment is used to make sure that infants and children are reaching their developmental milestones or showing early signs of learning disabilities or developmental delays. This assessment can also be used through examiner/child and parent/child interaction.
Examiners observe the child’s responses and score them based on standardized criteria. The parent caregiver input is also important in the assessment because it is used to gather information about the child’s history and interactions that take place beyond the testing session. When this assessment is used to observe the toddler through preschool development it is mostly done by tasks that involve testing the child with games, toys and tasks. They observe how the child follows directions, interacts with others, and how they perform certain tasks.
Parent information is used to assess areas that can’t be observed during the testing session. The performance scores are based on standardized criteria. The Battelle is used to assess five components of development. They are adaptive behavior, personal and social skills, communication including expressive and receptive language, gross and fine motor skills, and finally cognitive skills are included. The results of this assessment can be used to determine if there are delays and how significant they are based on the age group the child is in.
Another good assessment tool is play-based assessment. This is simply observing the child in their natural environment. By doing this the observer is able to see interactions between the child and their peers as well as how they speak, the language they use and their motor abilities. It is good to record all this information and keep it in an ongoing portfolio. By keeping a written record of what has been observed and any areas of concern you may suspect, you will have more information to share with the parents and find the proper method of dealing with the problems.
I feel there is a major advantage when you use an informal assessment as opposed to a formal one. With formal assessments you can never really tell how smart a child really is. These types of assessments are based on statistics of a large group of children not the children as individuals. Just because children do well on a test does not necessarily make them smarter than others, it simply means they have better test taking skills. There are lots of times that the smartest people do horrible on tests just because they suffer from anxiety and get nervous.
You can take the same kids that do poorly on a test and give them an informal assessment where they feel comfortable and you will get different results. Standardized tests are not a reliable means of assessing intelligence based on the fact stated above. These types of tests are often overused in this country and they do not take into account the comfort level or socioeconomic background of the child being tested. These play a more important role in test taking than the test itself.
This is the number one reason kids are misdiagnosed for having learning disabilities and other disorders such as ADHD. I also feel that a good relationship with the parents is essential in determining the educational needs of the child. No one knows their children better than the parents or caregivers. They are the ones who spend the most time with the children and can fill you in on patterns of behavior not seen during a certain test taking session. Parents are the most important resources you can obtain information from when dealing with children.
I would strive to keep the parents informed of everything that was going on with their child and how to help them with anything that raised a red flag. The parents should always be informed when an assessment is going to be used. A parent could be upset when their child is going to be tested for a development problem without their consent. If you explain the process and how it can help to determine if the child is developmentally behind it can ease the parent’s mind and make everyone more comfortable.
I feel that assessments can be beneficial if they are conducted in the proper manner. Making a child feel more comfortable in their environment is the best way to truly assess them and find out if they are lagging in certain areas of development. It is equally important to always keep the parents involved in all decisions affecting their child and the processes used to assess them. The information used by assessments can help make sure children are developmentally on track, just remember the most important factor is the comfort level of the child.
Without assessments a plan of action cannot be implemented or executed if the child is behind in any facet of development. Bibliography Logsdon Ann. Testing for Infant and Toddler Development. About. com Guide. http://learningdisabilities. about. com/od/intelligencetests/p/battelledevelop. htm. Accessed on December 10, 2012. ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation. Assessments for Young Children. 1999. http://www. 1donline. org/article /6040/ Accessed December 10, 2012. Sue C. Wortham (2012). Assessment in Early Childhood Education. 6th ed.