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HBEC4203

ASSESSMENT IN
EARLY CHILDHOOD
EDUCATION
Dr Olubiyi Adeniyi Adewale

Copyright Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Project Directors: Prof Dato Dr Mansor Fadzil
Prof Dr Widad Othman
Open University Malaysia

Module Writer: Dr Olubiyi Adeniyi Adewale


National Open University of Nigeria

Moderator: Dr Azhar Md Adnan


Open University Malaysia

Developed by: Centre for Instructional Design and Technology


Open University Malaysia

Printed by: Meteor Doc. Sdn. Bhd.


Lot 47-48, Jalan SR 1/9, Seksyen 9,
Jalan Serdang Raya, Taman Serdang Raya,
43300 Seri Kembangan, Selangor Darul Ehsan

First Edition, December 2013 August 2013


Copyright Open University Malaysia (OUM), December 2013, HBEC4203
All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form or by any means
without the written permission of the President, Open University Malaysia (OUM).

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Table of Contents
Course Guide ix-xiv

Topic 1 Early Childhood Assessment 1


1.1 What is Early Childhood Assessment? 2
1.1.1 Early Childhood 2
1.1.2 Assessment 2
1.2 Purpose of Assessment 3
1.2.1 Supporting and Guiding Learning and Development 4
1.2.2 Guiding Planning and Decision Making 7
1.2.3 Identification of Special Needs 7
1.2.4 Evaluation and Accountability 9
Summary 11
Key Terms 12
References 12

Topic 2 Child-Level Outcomes and Measures 15


2.1 Screening Young Children 16
2.1.1 Assessing Infants and Toddlers 16
2.1.2 Functions of Infant/Toddler Assessment 17
2.1.3 Challenges to Effective Infant Screening 17
2.1.4 Developmental Assessment 23
2.2 Assessing Learning and Development 23
2.2.1 Physical Well-being and Motor Development 24
2.2.2 Social and Emotional Development 25
2.2.3 Approaches to Learning 26
2.2.4 Language and Literacy 28
2.2.5 Cognitive Skills 29
Summary 30
Key Terms 31
References 31

Topic 3 The Role of Formal Assessment and Evaluation 33


3.1 Formal Assessment and Evaluation Instruments 34
3.2 Characteristics and Uses of Standardised Test Results 37
3.2.1 Characteristics of Standardised Test Results 37
3.2.2 Use of Standardised Test Results 43
3.3 Advantages and Disadvantages of Standardised Testing 44
3.3.1 The Advantages of Standardised Testing 44

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3.3.2 The Disadvantages of Standardised Testing 45


Summary 47
Key Terms 48
References 48

Topic 4 The Role of Informal Assessment and Evaluation 51


4.1 Advantages in Using Informal Assessment and Evaluation 52
4.2 Disadvantages in Using Informal Assessment 56
4.3 Methods of Informal Assessment 57
Summary 59
Key Terms 59
References 60

Topic 5 Classroom Assessment 62


5.1 Observation as the Main Method of Child Assessment 63
5.1.1 Validity of Teacher Observation 65
5.1.2 Strategies in Observational Procedure 66
5.2 Purpose of Observation 67
5.3 Types of Observation 69
5.3.1 Anecdotal Records 70
5.3.2 Running Records 73
5.3.3 Specimen Records 74
5.3.4 Time Sampling 75
5.3.5 Event Sampling 77
Summary 77
Key Terms 78
References 78

Topic 6 Classroom Assessment II 80


6.1 Checklists 81
6.1.1 The Purpose of Checklists 81
6.1.2 The Advantages of Checklists 82
6.1.3 The Disadvantages of Checklists 83
6.1.4 Steps in Designing Checklists 84
6.2 Rating Scales 86
6.2.1 Types of Rating Scales 86
6.2.2 Advantages of Rating Scales 88
6.2.3 Disadvantages of Rating Scales 89

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TABLE OF CONTENTS v

6.3 Rubrics 90
6.3.1 Types of Rubrics 91
6.3.2 Advantages of Using Rubrics 95
6.3.3 Disadvantages of Using Rubrics 96
Summary 97
Key Terms 97
References 97

Topic 7 Assessment Using Performance-based Strategies 99


7.1 Performance-based Assessment 100
7.1.1 Types of Performance-based Assessment 100
7.1.2 Advantages of Performance-based Assessments 103
7.1.3 Disadvantages of Performance-based Assessment 104
7.2 Curriculum-based Assessment 105
7.2.1 The Purpose Of Curriculum-based Assessment 106
7.2.2 The Advantages of Curriculum-based Assessment 107
7.3 Play-based Assessment 108
7.3.1 Types of Play-based Assessment 109
7.4 Project Assessment 112
Summary 112
Key Terms 112
References 113

Topic 8 Portfolio Assessment 115


8.1 Purposes for Portfolio Assessment 116
8.2 Types of Portfolios 117
8.3 Analysing Portfolio Assessment 119
8.4 Developing Quality Portfolios 121
Summary 124
Key Terms 124
References 124

Topic 9 Assessment and Evaluation of Children with Special Needs 126


9.1 Understanding Assessment and Evaluation for Children 128
with Special Needs
9.1.1 Using Assessment to Plan for Curriculum and 131
Instructional Needs for Special Needs Children
9.2 Children with Culturally and Linguistically Different 133
Backgrounds
9.2.1 Assessment Procedure for Children with Cultural 134
and Linguistic Differences
9.2.2 Nonbiased Assessment Instruments for Children 136
with Cultural and Linguistic Differences

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Summary 138
Key Terms 138
References 138

Topic 10 Collaboration and Communication between the Early Education 141


Team and Parents
10.1 Interpreting Observation and Assessment Data 141
10.1.1 Methods of Interpreting Assessment Data 141
10.2 Planning for Parents Conferences 143
10.2.1 The Purpose of Parents Conferences 143
10.2.2 The Types of Parents Conferences 144
10.2.3 Planning for Parents Conferences 145
10.3 Communicating with Parents about Childrens Progress 146
10.4 Parents Conferences 148
Summary 149
Key Terms 150
References 150

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COURSE GUIDE
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COURSE GUIDE ix

COURSE GUIDE DESCRIPTION


You must read this Course Guide carefully from the beginning to the end. It tells
you briefly what the course is about and how you can work your way through
the course material. It also suggests the amount of time you are likely to spend in
order to complete the course successfully. Please keep on referring to the Course
Guide as you go through the course material as it will help you to clarify
important study components or points that you might miss or overlook.

INTRODUCTION
HBEC4203 Assessment in Early Childhood Education is one of the courses
offered by the Faculty of Education and Languages at Open University Malaysia
(OUM). This course is worth 3 credit hours and should be covered over 8 to 15
weeks.

COURSE AUDIENCE
This course is offered to all students taking the Bachelor of Early Childhood
Education with Honours programme. This module aims to impart the
fundamentals of assessment in early childhood. This module should be able to
form a strong foundation for teachers to design and practice the tools for
assessment in early childhood programmes.

As an open and distance learner, you should be acquainted with learning


independently and able to optimise the learning modes and environment
available to you. Before you begin this course, please make sure you understand
the course material, the course requirements and how the course is conducted.

STUDY SCHEDULE
It is a standard OUM practice that learners accumulate 40 study hours for every
credit hour. As such, for a three-credit hour course, you are expected to spend 120
study hours. Table 1 gives an estimation of how the 120 study hours could be
accumulated.

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x COURSE GUIDE

Table 1: Estimation of Time Accumulation of Study Hours

Study
Study Activities
Hours
Briefly go through the course content and participate in initial discussions 3
Study the module 60
Attend 3 to 5 tutorial sessions 10
Online participation 12
Revision 15
Assignment(s), Test(s) and Examination(s) 20
Total Study Hours 120

COURSE OUTCOMES
By the end of this course, you should be able to:
1. Analyse the role of assessment in early childhood classroom and to design
and implement effective programme practices;
2. Identify key elements of assessment in early childhood and the terminology
used;
3. Describe the cycle and functions of observation and assessment in early
childhood settings;
4. Design a personal strategy for gathering information and keeping records in a
specific early childhood setting;
5. Develop formats for documenting, sharing, informing and planning for
parents conferences; and
6. Explain manipulative skills as psychomotor processes which are developed
through scientific investigation.

COURSE SYNOPSIS
This course is divided into 10 topics. The synopsis for each topic can be listed as
follows:

Topic 1 begins with a discussion on the definition of assessment and evaluation,


the general principles for guiding assessment and evaluation, and the purpose for
assessment and evaluation in early childhood.

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COURSE GUIDE xi

Topic 2 continues with the definition of authentic assessment alternative, identify


the developmental characteristics, and characteristics of learning environments
that are developmentally appropriate.

Topic 3 explores the role of formal assessment and evaluation, the instruments,
characteristics and uses of standardized test result, and finally discusses the
advantage and disadvantages of standardized testing.

Topic 4 also explores the role of informal assessment and evaluation in early
childhood education, discusses the advantages and disadvantages in using
informal assessment and evaluation, and also discusses methods of informal
assessment.

Topic 5 discusses observation as the main method of child assessment, purpose


and types of observation for classroom assessment.

Topic 6 continues with the discussion on checklists, rating scales, and rubrics.

Topic 7 explores assessment using performance- based strategies which include


curriculum based assessment, play-based assessment, and project assessment,
and finally explores strategies for implementing a performance-based assessment
programme.

Topic 8 discusses purposes for portfolio assessment, types of portfolio, analysing


portfolio assessment and finally discusses on how to develop a quality portfolio.

Topic 9 introduces assessment and evaluation with special needs children. It


begins with the understanding assessment and evaluation for children with
special needs and continues with discussing children with culturally and
linguistically different backgrounds.

Topic 10 discusses collaboration within early educational team and


communicating to parents. Discussion focuses on interpreting observation and
assessment data, planning for parent conferences, communicating with parents
about childrens progress and finally on parent conferences.

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xii COURSE GUIDE

TEXT ARRANGEMENT GUIDE


Before you go through this module, it is important that you note the text
arrangement. Understanding the text arrangement will help you to organise your
study of this course in a more objective and effective way. Generally, the text
arrangement for each topic is as follows:

Learning Outcomes: This section refers to what you should achieve after you
have completely covered a topic. As you go through each topic, you should
frequently refer to these learning outcomes. By doing this, you can continuously
gauge your understanding of the topic.

Self-Check: This component of the module is inserted at strategic locations


throughout the module. It may be inserted after one sub-section or a few sub-
sections. It usually comes in the form of a question. When you come across this
component, try to reflect on what you have already learnt thus far. By attempting
to answer the question, you should be able to gauge how well you have
understood the sub-section(s). Most of the time, the answers to the questions can
be found directly from the module itself.

Activity: Like Self-Check, the Activity component is also placed at various locations
or junctures throughout the module. This component may require you to solve
questions, explore short case studies, or conduct an observation or research. It may
even require you to evaluate a given scenario. When you come across an Activity,
you should try to reflect on what you have gathered from the module and apply it
to real situations. You should, at the same time, engage yourself in higher order
thinking where you might be required to analyse, synthesise and evaluate instead
of only having to recall and define.

Summary: You will find this component at the end of each topic. This component
helps you to recap the whole topic. By going through the summary, you should
be able to gauge your knowledge retention level. Should you find points in the
summary that you do not fully understand, it would be a good idea for you to
revisit the details in the module.

Key Terms: This component can be found at the end of each topic. You should go
through this component to remind yourself of important terms or jargon used
throughout the module. Should you find terms here that you are not able to
explain, you should look for the terms in the module.

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COURSE GUIDE xiii

References: The References section is where a list of relevant and useful


textbooks, journals, articles, electronic contents or sources can be found. The list
can appear in a few locations such as in the Course Guide (at the References
section), at the end of every topic or at the back of the module. You are
encouraged to read or refer to the suggested sources to obtain the additional
information needed and to enhance your overall understanding of the course.

PRIOR KNOWLEDGE
No prior knowledge is required.

ASSESSMENT METHOD
Please refer to myVLE.

REFERENCES
Billman, J., & Sherman, J. (1996). Observation and participation in early childhood
settings: A practicum guide (2nd ed., 2003). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Bredekamp, S., & Copple, C. (1997). Developmentally appropriate practice in
early childhood programs (rev. ed.). Washington, DC: National Association
for the Education of Young Children.
Dominic F. Gullo (2005). Understanding assessment and evaluation in early
childhood education (2nd ed., 2005).New York :Teachers College Press.
Lidz, S. Carol (2003). Early childhood assessment. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons
Inc.
Wortham, Sue Clark. (2008). Assessment in early childhood education (5th ed).
Ohio: Pearson
Wright, J. Robert (2010). Multifaceted assessment for early childhood education.
USA: Sage Publication Inc.

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xiv COURSE GUIDE

TAN SRI DR ABDULLAH SANUSI (TSDAS)


DIGITAL LIBRARY
The TSDAS Digital Library has a wide range of print and online resources for the
use of its learners. This comprehensive digital library, which is accessible through
the OUM portal, provides access to more than 30 online databases comprising
e-journals, e-theses, e-books and more. Examples of databases available are
EBSCOhost, ProQuest, SpringerLink, Books24x7, InfoSci Books, Emerald
Management Plus and Ebrary Electronic Books. As an OUM learner, you are
encouraged to make full use of the resources available through this library.

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Topic Early
1 Childhood
Assessment
LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Define early childhood assessment;
2. Discuss the purpose of early childhood assessment; and
3. Discuss the characteristics of screening assessments.

INTRODUCTION
Every one who sees this collapsed
building (Figure 1.1) would shake their
heads at the collosal waste the owners
has incured due to faulty or wrong
foundation. And this should be a lesson
to us all: let us lay our foundations
properly! Early childhood has been
described as the foundation of the
childs academic and social future, hence
Figure 1.1: Collapsed building
we all need to pay serious attention to
the issue of assessment in early
childhood so that we do not construct faulty foundations for the future homes,
societies and ultimately our countries. With this at the back of your mind, I
welcome you to this course: Early Childhood Assessment and I believe that you
will put in all you have into this course as you would not want a future country
without a solid foundation!

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2 TOPIC 1 EARLY CHILDHOOD ASSESSMENT

ACTIVITY 1.1

Why would you consider the early childhood learning as the


foundation of a childs future learning and development?

1.1 WHAT IS EARLY CHILDHOOD


ASSESSMENT?
Early Childhood Assessment is a term made up of two major terms, namely:
early childhood and assessment. These two terms would now be examined
individually.

1.1.1 Early Childhood


Wikipedia defines early childhood as the stage that follows infancy. It is
described as beginning from toddlerhood and ending around the ages of seven
or eight. It is important to note that toddlerhood is slated from age one to three
(Barker, 2001; Leiberman, 1993). In the same vein, Slentz (2008) states that most
people agree that early childhood includes the dynamic period from infancy until
eight years of age. This stage is crucial in the life of the child because it is a
unique period. Shepard, Kagan and Wurtz (1998) describes this stage as follows:

it is the period when young childrens rate of physical, motor, and linguistic
development outpace growth rates at all other stages. Growth is rapid, episodic,
and highly influenced by environmental supports: nurturing parents, quality
caregiving, and the learning setting.

1.1.2 Assessment
Defining assessment is very important because it is one of those words that have
variety of meanings. For example, assessment may be taken as a synonym of
testing, which in this case may not be entirely applicable. Snow and van Hemel
(2008) basing their affirmation on McAfee, Leong, and Bodrova (2004) define
assessment as information from multiple indicators and sources of evidence that
is organised and interpreted and then evaluated to make an appraisal.

When the meaning of assessment is applied to early childhood, the picture comes
out better. For example, Slentz (2008) states that early childhood assessment
involves a process of gathering information about children in an attempt to better
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TOPIC 1 EARLY CHILDHOOD ASSESSMENT 3

understand and support learning and development. This is why McAfee, Leong
and Bodrova (2004) define early childhood assessment as the process of
gathering information about children from several forms of evidence, then
organising and interpreting that information. This seems to be the most
acceptable definition of early childhood assessment as it exists in various forms
and has been quoted variously (Pelligrini, 1998; Lally & Hurst, 1992).

early childhood assessment is the process of gathering information


about children from several forms of evidence, then organizing and
interpreting that information
(McAfee, Leong & Bodrova, 2004)

SELF-CHECK 1.1
1. Identify the various age ranges within the early childhood period.
2. Attempt a definition of early childhood assessment.

1.2 PURPOSE OF ASSESSMENT


Before embarking on any assessment, it is very important to determine the
purpose for which the assessment is being made. This is because the purpose of
assessment should actually dictate what domains to assess, what assignment
procedures to adopt, and how to interpret and use the information derived from
the assessments (Snow & van Hemel, 2008). The purposes for which assessment
can be made classified into four broad categories:
(a) Supporting and guiding learning and development;
(b) Guiding planning and decision making;
(c) Identification of children who are at risk; and
(d) Evaluation and accountability.

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4 TOPIC 1 EARLY CHILDHOOD ASSESSMENT

1.2.1 Supporting and Guiding Learning and


Development
There is no doubt that early childhood assessment has the enormous capability
and potential to support learning and development (Dunphy, 2008) and in fact,
Slentz (2008) states that the ultimate purpose of all assessment in early childhood
programmes is to support growth, learning, and development of young children.
It is this potential that makes Drummond (1993) opines that:

We can use our assessments to shape and enrich our curriculum, our
interactions, our provisions as a whole: we can use our assessments as a way of
identifying what children will be able to learn next, so that we can support and
extend that learning. Assessment is part of our daily practice in striving for
quality.

Slentz (2008) defines assessment to guide learning and development as a


process that informs parents, child care providers, classroom personnel, and
specialists about what children already know and are able to do, what they are
expected to be learning next, and how quickly they are progressing.

Assessment to guide learning and development has been further categorised into
three, namely: assessment of learning and development; assessment for learning
and development and assessment as learning (Flottman, Stewart & Tayler, 2011)
and undoubtedly all these categories of assessment to guide learning and
development have their role to play. It would be important to discuss these
categories briefly.

(a) Assessment of learning and development


This type has been described as the most common form of assessment and
has been defined as the assessment of a childs learning at a particular point
in time which will take into consideration all the learning and development
that has preceded the assessment (Taras, 2005). Earl (2003) notes that there
are also two kinds of this assessment: the large scale assessment type
wherein an entire population of children would be assessed using a
uniform tool, and the small scale assessment within an individual early
childhood setting leading to report particular children to their families.
Examples of both are the National Assessment Programme-Literacy and
Numeracy (NAPLAN) and the Australian Early Development Index.

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TOPIC 1 EARLY CHILDHOOD ASSESSMENT 5

(b) Assessment for Learning and Development


Earl (2003) defines assessment for learning and development as the
formative assessment that takes place in order for decisions to be made to
inform the next stage of learning. Describing assessment for learning and
development, Stewart, Flottman and Tayler (2011) says that since it informs
programme planning decisions about individual children, it is taken
continuously and on individual basis. The data collected is used by
professionals in the field along with other data to make informed decisions.
The process is described as follows:

Within the formative assessment process, early childhood professionals


gather evidence of childrens learning and development, based on what
they write, draw, make, say and do. They analyse this evidence and make
inferences from it by applying their knowledge of child development
theory, the childs social and cultural background and their knowledge of
the five Learning and Development Outcomes in the curriculum (Stewart,
Flottman & Tayler, 2011).

Findings or inferences are usually discussed with the child, the childs
family and when appropriate with other professionals. The information,
Hattie (2009) asserted are later used by professionals to design effective
programmes for responsive children.

(c) Assessment as Learning


Stewart, Flottman and Tayler (2011) opine that assessment as learning
occurs when the child is involved in the assessment process. The
involvement of the children in the assessment process would then give
them the opportunity to monitor their own learning and also make use of
the feedback generated therein to adjust their understandings (Earl, 2003).
Scholars have agreed that this category of assessment is very useful as
evidence of childrens learning which is gathered via assessment can
graphically make childrens learning visible to the children (Carr, 2011).
Involving children in assessment can also promote childrens own self-
efficacy, because they can see the results of their learning efforts (Uszynska-
Jarmoc, 2007). It is also noted by Kozulin and Falik (1995) assessment as
learning makes the assessment process become a dynamic or a two-way
communication process making the professionals and the children to learn,
analyse and adapt.

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6 TOPIC 1 EARLY CHILDHOOD ASSESSMENT

ACTIVITY 1.2

1. Search the Internet, read more about and differentiate the following:
(a) Assessment of learning and development;
(b) Assessment for learning and development; and
(c) Assessment of learning.

2. Discuss the function of each domain of instructional technology.

Functions of Assessment to Support and Guide Learning and Development

When assessment is done for monitoring and guiding instruction, it can be used
for the following purposes as identified by Slentz (2008):

(a) Curriculum and Instructional Modification


As has been discussed above, assessment to support and guide learning
and development yields data on individual children that can be used by
professionals to review curriculum and by the teachers to modify their
instruction so that the children can learn more. In the words of Slentz
(2008), data on the child growth and learning outcomes provides the best
information for continual improvement of teaching, allowing teachers to
revise curriculum and modify instruction in response to childrens rate of
learning and needs for support.

(b) Immediate Relevant Information to Stakeholders


The stakeholders in early childhood education can be identified as the
child, parents, teachers, professionals and the government (at whatever
level). Data collected through this form of assessment can be immediately
useful to these stakeholders. Slentz (2008) says that classroom data can
likewise assist parents to understand their childrens progress over time in
the context of a programmes curriculum. As we have indicated earlier,
involving the child in the assessment would help the child to develop
his/her own self-efficacy. For the professionals, the data generated would
be used to undertake curriculum review and the teacher will use the same
data to modify instruction.

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TOPIC 1 EARLY CHILDHOOD ASSESSMENT 7

SELF-CHECK 1.2
1. List the three categories of assessment to support and guide
development and learning.
2. What are the functions of assessment to guide and support
development and learning?

1.2.2 Guiding Planning and Decision Making


Using ongoing assessment information to guide instructional decisions is a
primary purpose of early childhood assessment and should be a component of a
high-quality early childhood programme (Snow& van Hemel, 2008). The results
of the assessment are used to guide the planning of instruction and the various
decisions that would be made in the process. According to McAfee, Leong and
Bodrova (2004), the planning and decisions to be made include what books to
read; what activities, experiences, and materials to provide; what instructional
strategies to use. Apart from this, the decisions to be made from the assessment
data include the instructional and therapy services provided to the children that
receive early intervention and early childhood special education (Snow and van
Hemel, 2008).

1.2.3 Identification of Special Needs


In this form of assessment, efforts are made to identify and seek out children who
might be at risk for proper intervention. Consequently, it is also called diagnostic
assessment (Slentz, 2008; Snow & van Helem, 2008). Wortham (2008) gives an apt
graphical image for diagnostic assessment thus: just as a medical doctor conducts
a physical examination of a child to diagnose an illness, psychologists, teachers,
and other adults who work with children can conduct an informal or formal
assessment to diagnose a development delay or identify causes for poor
performance in learning.

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8 TOPIC 1 EARLY CHILDHOOD ASSESSMENT

What then is diagnostic assessment? Slentz (2008) defines diagnostic assessment as:

a comprehensive procedure that addresses specific questions about the


development, knowledge and skills of young children. A careful and
systematic process is used to diagnose problems in a particular area of
development or academics, and a relatively large amount of information is
used to build a fine-grained understanding of a childs problem.

Turnock (2009) describes diagnostic assessment as one that gives information on


childrens strengths and weaknesses and shows the things children can do
particularly well and the things they are struggling with. From these two
definitions, it can be concluded that diagnostic assessment is one that seeks to
determine what kind of problems particular children are having regarding their
learning and development so that they could be singled out for intervention
programmes that will address their problems.

Diagnostic assessment begins with screening. McAfee, Leong and Bodrova (2004)
defines screening as a brief, relatively inexpensive, standardised procedure
designed quickly to appraise a large number of children to find out which ones
should be referred for further assessment. Buttressing this position, Shepard,
Kagan and Wurtz (1998) also opine as follows:

Screening is the first step in the identification process. It involves a brief


assessment to determine whether referral for more in-depth assessment is
needed. Depending on the nature of the potential problem, the child is then
referred to a physician or child-study team for a more complete evaluation. For
mental retardation and other cognitive disabilities, the second-stage in-depth
assessment is referred to as a developmental assessment.

The importance of the screening lies not only in the identification of the children
needing interventions but also in the early detection as Appendix G states that it
has been clearly demonstrated that children with developmental delays who
receive early identification and intervention services require less intensive
services or no services at all when they are older.

Characteristics of Screening Assessments


Since the candidates are usually large in number and they are all to be screened
together, the screening test contains few items and only those that would allow
information on major indicators of development and learning to be gathered
(Slentz, 2008).

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TOPIC 1 EARLY CHILDHOOD ASSESSMENT 9

Comprehensive developmental screening instruments are thus norm-referenced,


that is a particular childs score in the various domains (physical, social, cognitive
and communication) can be compared to his or her peers.

It has to be noted that the results of screening assessments can only be used to
sort the children into various groups and categories in relation to the cut-off
scores. Therefore the quality of the screening instrument depends on the extent to
which it can sort the children (Slentz, 2008). Two elements make up the quality of
the instruments and these are: sensitivity and specificity. Sensitivity is the ability
of the screening test to identify all the children who might have been at risk
while specificity is the ability of the screening test to pick only those children that
are at risk. Crais (2011) says that measurement sensitivity means that children
who have a deficit in the target area are accurately identified as having a deficit.
Specificity means that children who do not have a deficit in the area are
accurately identified as not having a deficit.

After the screening test has selected the children that are supposed to be at risk,
further diagnostic assessment follows to determine what kind of intervention the
children would need. This stage would correspond to the Step 2 of the 10 Basic
Steps in Special Education. According to the National Dissemination Centre for
Children with Disabilities, this step includes the following:
(a) Determining if the child actually has a disability that requires intervention;
(b) Determining the actual type of intervention needed; and
(c) Determining the special education services that are appropriate in
addressing these needs.

the results of screening assessments can only be used to sort the children
into various groups and categories in relation to the cut-off scores (Slentz,
2008).

1.2.4 Evaluation and Accountability


As far as Downs and Strand (2006) are concerned, the most important purpose of
assessment in early childhood education is accountability. In fact they state that
since the passing of The No Child Left Behind Act of the United States in 2002
there has been tremendous pressure on preschools and early childhood
educators to document the effectiveness of their methods through assessments
such as the National Reporting System. It is important to note however that
Snow and van Hemel (2008) identifies three types of accountability and listed
them as programme effectiveness, programme impacts and social benchmarking.

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10 TOPIC 1 EARLY CHILDHOOD ASSESSMENT

(a) Programme Effectiveness


The first reason that makes programme accountability very important is the
fact that government expenditure on a programme calls for accountability
to justify the expenses on the programme. Again Snow and van Hemel
(2008) distinguish between monitoring assessment and evaluating
programme effectiveness though the two forms of assessment may use
identical tools. Below is a table differentiating between monitoring
assessment and evaluating programme based on Snow and van Hemel
(2008).

Table 1.1: Differentiating between Programme Effectiveness


and Monitoring Assessment

Programme Effectiveness Monitoring Assessment


This is useful for external people who are This is useful for internal staff running the
making decisions about funding, extending programme and is responsible for decision
or terminating programmes. making concerning curriculum and
pedagogy.
This may require sampling childrens data This requires data on all relevant domains
or using a matrix to sample different from all children in a programme.
abilities in different children.

It is also important to note that programme-level accountability requires


more than just data generated from childrens assessment alone because
there are some other factors that have to be examined alongside (Snow and
van Hemel, 2008).

(b) Programme Impacts


This is the determination of the effect of a particular programme on
children. To do this effectively, the programme has to be evaluated in
comparison to another programme. In this case, there is going to be two
groups of children, the experimental group (the group that will be exposed
to the programme whose impact is going to be measured) and the control
group (the group that will be exposed to the programme that is used as a
contrast).

(c) Social Benchmarking


Pearsall (1999) defines benchmark as a standard or point of reference
against which things may be compared or assessed. Though writing from
the perspective of organisations and governance, de la Porte, Pochat and
Room (2001) opines that benchmarking is a tool by which an organisation
assesses how well it is meeting its objectives and how they could be met

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TOPIC 1 EARLY CHILDHOOD ASSESSMENT 11

even more effectively. More specifically, benchmarking involves comparing


how an organisation is doing relative to its peers.

Transferring this to the concept of early childhood assessment, children in


one state or country can then be compared to their peers in other states or
countries. The key word here is comparative to the peers. For example,
three-year-old children in Nigeria can be compared to three-year-old
children in America. For social benchmarking to then be effective, there has
to be profiles of expectable development that can be used for comparison
with data collected at a later time (Snow & van Hemel, 2008).

SELF-CHECK 1.3

1. List the three types of evaluation and accountability.


2. What is social benchmarking?

Early childhood assessment is the process of gathering information about


children from several forms of evidence, then organising and interpreting
that information.

There are four purposes for assessment, namely: supporting and guiding
learning and development, guiding planning and decision making,
identification of children who are at risk and evaluation and accountability.

Assessment to guide learning and development can be sub-divided into


three: assessment of learning and development; assessment for learning and
development and assessment as learning.

Diagnostic assessment is aimed at identifying and seeking out children who


might be at risk for proper intervention.

Screening is the first step in diagnostic assessment.

Evaluation and accountability is done on three planes: programme


effectiveness, programme impacts and social benchmarking.

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12 TOPIC 1 EARLY CHILDHOOD ASSESSMENT

Assessment Early childhood assessment


Early childhood Norm-referenced

Barker, Robin (2001). The mighty toddler: The essential guide to the toddler
years. Pan Macmillan: Australia.
BUILD (2005). Early childhood assessment for children from birth to age 8 (Grade
3).
Carr, M. (2001). Assessment in early childhood setting: Learning stories effective
early learning. London: Paul Rhapman Publishers.
Crais, E. R. (2011). Testing and beyond: Strategies and tools for evaluating and
assessing infants and toddlers. Language, speech, and hearing services in
schools, 42, 341-364.
Downs, A., & Strand, P. S. (2006). Using assessment to improve the effectiveness
of early childhood education. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 15, 671-
680.
Drummond, M. J. (1993). Assessing childrens learning. London: David Fulton
Publishers.
Dunphy, E. (2008). Supporting early learning and development through formative
assessment. A reserach paper commissioned by the National Council for
Curriculum and Assessment, Dublin.
Earl, L. (2003). Assessment as learning: Using classroom assessment to maximize
student learning. Corwin Press: Thousand Oaks, CA.
Flottman, R., Steward, L., & Tayler, C. (2011). Victorian early years learning and
development framework. Department of Education and Early Childhood
Development, The University of Melbourne.
Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning a synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to
achievement. Abingdon: Routledge.
Kagan, S. L., & Scott-Little, C. (2004). Early learning standards: Changing the
parlance and practice of early childhood education. Phi Delta Kappan, 85(5),
388-396.

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TOPIC 1 EARLY CHILDHOOD ASSESSMENT 13

Kozulin, A., & Falik, L. (1995). Dynamic cognitive assessment of the child. Current
Directions in Psychological Science, 4(1), 192-196.
Lally, M., & Hurst, V. (1992). Assessment in nursery education: A review of
approaches. In G. Blenkin & A. V. Kelly, (Eds.) Assessment in early childhood
education (pp. 46-68). London: Paul Chapman Publishing.
Leiberman, A. F. (1993). The emotional life of the toddler. Ney York: The Free
Press.
McAfee, O., Leong, D. J., & Bodvora, E. (2004). Basics of assessments: A primer for
early childhood education. National Association for the Education of Young
Children: Washington DC.
Mihayara, J., & Meyers, C. (2008). Early learning and development standards in
east Asia and the Pacific: Experiences from eight countries. International
Journal of Early Childhood, 40(2), 17-31.
Pearsall, J. (1999). The Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 10th edition, Oxford:
OUP.
Pellegrini, A. (1998). Play and the assessment of young children. In O. Saracho & B.
Spodek (Eds.) Multiple perspectives on play in early childhood (pp. 220-239).
New York: State University of New York Press.
de la Porte, C., Pochet, P., & Room, G. (2001). Social benchmarking, policy-making
and new governance in the European Union. Journal of European Social Policy,
11(4),
Shepard, L., Kagan, S. L., & Wurtz, E. (Eds.) (1995). Principles and
recommendations for early childhood assessments. The National Education
Goals Panel.
Slentz, K. L. (2008). Assessment in early childhood. In A guide to assessment in
early childhood: Infancy to age eight. Washington State Office of Supritendent
of Public Instruction.
Snow, C. E., & van Hemel, S. B. (Eds.) (2008). Early childhood assessment: Why,
what and how. Washington DC: National Academies Press.
Strand, P. S., Cerna, S., & Skucy, J. (2007). Assessment and decision making in early
childhood education and intervention. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 16:
209-218.
Taras, M. (2005). Assessment summative and formative some theoretical
reflections. British Journal of Educational Studies, 53(4), 466-478.

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14 TOPIC 1 EARLY CHILDHOOD ASSESSMENT

Turnock, K. (2009). Its a shift in thinking, a shift in practice: Moving to a new


assessment framework in early childhood education. A thesis submitted in
partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Teaching and
Learning in the University of Canterbury.
Uszynska-Jarmoc, (2007). Self-esteem and different forms of thinking in seven and
nine-year-olds. Early Child Development and Care, 177(4), 333-348.
Woodhead, M. (2006). Paper commissioned for the EFA Global Monitoring Report,
2007: UNESCO.
Wortham, S. C. (2008). Assessment in early childhood education. New Jersey:
Pearson.

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Topic Child-Level
2 Outcomes and
Measures
LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Identify the age ranges for the infant and toddler;
2. List the functions of infant/toddler assessment;
3. Discuss the challenges of infant screening;
4. Discuss the disorders considered as threats to normative
development;
5. List the five domains generally asseesed under learning and
development; and
6. Appraise each of the five domains emphasising their importance.

INTRODUCTION
In Topic 1, we have dealt exhaustively with the purpose of early childhood
assessment as well as the broad categories of the types of assessment. In this
Topic 2, we will be concerned with what domains are to be measured as well as
the outcomes. However, before we commence, it is important to note that
outcomes would vary in relation to the age of the child to be measured (Snow
and van Hemel, 2008). It is equally important to know that in selecting a domain
or a measure, it is crucial to start with a well-defined purpose and to explore
whether the outcomes and the measures chosen are well suited for that specific
purpose (Snow & van Hemel, 2008).

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16 TOPIC 2 CHILD-LEVEL OUTCOMES AND MEASURES

2.1 SCREENING YOUNG CHILDREN


Early Childhood Assessment is a term made up of two major terms, namely:
early childhood and assessment. These two terms would now be examined
individually.

2.1.1 Assessing Infants and Toddlers


Who is an infant? According to the
Wikipedia, the word infant (Figure 2.1) has its
origin in the Latin word infans, which
actually means unable to speak, and is used
to refer to a very young offspring. It is used to
describe young children from 1 month to 12
months. Toddlerhood (Figure 2.2) on the
other hand is slated from from age one to
three (Barker, 2001; Leiberman, 1993).
Consequently, this topic would be considered Figure 2.1: An example of an infant
primarily with the assessment of children
from birth to the age of three.

Before now, the assessment of infants had


been primarily for medical purposes.
According to Snow and van Hemel (2008), it
focuses on the normal physical and
neuromotor development. However, in the
five decades, behavioral development has
become an integral part of infant assessment.
Describing the scenario, Snow and van
Figure 2.2: An example of a toddler
Hemel (2008) has this to say:

Over the past half-century, behavioral development has become an integral part of
regular pediatric evaluation, and pediatricians routinely provide clinical information
on behavioral, cognitive, and psychosocial factors, thus providing a more
comprehensive picture of each childs overall growth and development (p. 62).

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TOPIC 2 CHILD-LEVEL OUTCOMES AND MEASURES 17

2.1.2 Functions of Infant/Toddler Assessment


Since the use and purpose of assessments help to determine the domains to be
assessed (Snow and van Hemel, 2008), as well as the type of instrument to be
used it is important to state the functions of infant/toddler assessment. Wyly
(1997) suggests four purposes, as listed below:
(a) To identify infants who may be at risk for developmental delay;
(b) To diagnose the presence and extent of development problems;
(c) To identify an infants specific abilities and skills; and
(d) To determine appropriate intervention strategies.

A cursory view of these purposes would show that assessment at this stage is
purely screening to identify potential problems and also follow-up for in-depth
screening.

2.1.3 Challenges to Effective Infant Screening


Despite the importance and the functions to which infant/toddler assessment
can be deployed, assessing infants and toddlers is very challenging. The
following are some of the reasons for this:

(a) Children are affected by Contextual Factors


Dichtelmiller and Ensler (2004) opine that children are strongly affected by
various contextual factors ranging from their physical health, mood, interest
and cultural background. Therefore, to accurately assess an infant or toddler,
all these have to be taken into consideration. In the same vein, McCauley (2004)
also says that:

Other factors that may affect a childs performance include cultural differences
and language barriers, parents not having books to read to their child and a
childs lack of interaction with other children. Consequently, assessment of
infants, toddlers, and young children requires sensitivity to the childs
background, and knowledge of testing limitations and procedures with young
children (p. 1).

(b) The Nature of Children


McMauley (2004) also points out that children at this stage are very active,
if not hyperactive and thus their attention span is very short as they can be
distracted at any moment. Apart from this, the emotions of a child at this
stage can change from one state to another in a matter of seconds. All these

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18 TOPIC 2 CHILD-LEVEL OUTCOMES AND MEASURES

are important in the interpretation of the assessment of the


infants/toddlers.

ACTIVITY 2.1

Search and read articles on the web and list various factors that can affect
effective screening of both infants and children.

(c) Genetic or Metabolic Screening


As the name implies, genetic disorders are disorders caused by
abnormalities in the genes or chromosomes and they may or may not be
inherited while metabolic disorders arise due to accumulation of
substances which are toxic or interfere with normal functions, or to the
effects of reduced ability to synthesise essential compounds. These inborn
errors of metabolism are referred to as congenital metabolic diseases or
inherited metabolic diseases. Since it has been asserted that 1 out of 1500
babies affected by these disorders can be detected through early screening,
it is becoming normal to screen infants for genetic or metabolic diseases
(Newborn Screening: Step One).

The importance of genetic/metabolic screening can be situated in Kugler's


(2007) position that though genetic and metabolic disorders do not present
any symptom until days or weeks after the child is born, the dangerous
issue lies in the fact that by the time these symptoms are seen or appear,
damage may have been done to the nervous system and other vital organs
of the body like the eyes, ears and the kidneys. Since early diagnosis of
these disorders can help reduce the risk or disabilities arising therefrom, it
is very important then that these screenings be done. This underlies the
legislation in the United States enforcing these screenings. The following
are the diseases that are screened at this level: phenylketonuria, congenital
hypothyroidism, galactosaemia and cystic fibrosis.

Metabolic disorders arise due to the accumulation of toxic substances which


interfere with normal functions or reduce ability to synthesise essential
compounds.

(d) Phenylketonuria
Phenylketonuria is also known as PKU and is noted as the most common
metabolic condition affecting newborns. It is caused by the absence of a
liver enzyme called phenylalanine hydroxylase which is responsible for the
conversion of amino acid phenylalanine to tyrosine. With the absence of
this enzyme, the amino acid would not be converted and it would find its
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TOPIC 2 CHILD-LEVEL OUTCOMES AND MEASURES 19

way into the blood and then into the tissues and finally it will damage the
brain. This disease is so dangerous because babies that are affected will not
have any symptoms. They are said to be asymptomatic. However, if left
untreated, PKU will lead to severe and progressive intellectual disability.

The screening for PKU is to determine the level of phenylalanine in the


blood using mass spectrometry. The treatment for those identified is a low
protein diet with special supplements to provide tyrosine and essential
amino acids to avoid further complications. This diet is to be continued for
life and must be strictly adhered to if the child is to reach maximum
potential (Australian Handbook, 2007).

(e) Congenital Hypothyroidism


Congenital hypothyroidism is the absence or malfunctioning of the thyroid
gland and is known to affect as many as 1 out of 4000 babies (Australian
Handbook, 2007). Apart from the absence or malfunctioning of a thyroid
gland, the other cause is known as dyshormonogenesis, which is a
collection of metabolic disorders affecting the production of the thyroid
hormone. At birth, congenital hypothyroidism presents no symptoms but
neonatal signs include prolonged jaundice, umbilical hernia, constipation,
macroglossia and hypotonia. If left untreated, it will lead to developmental
delay and retardation of growth. Note that one form of dyshormonogenesis
called pendred syndrome is associated with deafness.

To screen for congenital hypothyroidism, the thyroid stimulating hormone


(TSH) is analysed. High level of TSH is an indication of congenital
hypothyroidism. Further tests can use serum thyroid function or a thyroid
scan and an audiology test. For treatment, thyroxine is to be taken orally for
life and it is essential to monitor thyroxine and TSH levels regularly.

(f) Galactosaemia
Galactosaemia is caused by a deficiency in the enzyme called galactose-1-
phosphate uridyltransferase and thus results in the accumulation of
galactose and galactose-1-phosphate. Like the other metabolic conditions
mentioned above, it presents no symptoms at birth but after the first week,
it can lead to the following: failure to thrive, lethargy, vomiting, liver
disease, jaundice, cataracts, intellectual disability and septicaemia. It could
also lead to death. To screen for this condition, the level of the galactose and
galactose-1-phosphate would be measured. To treat, a diet free of galactose
is used so that the affected would avoid the complications of all forms of
galactosaemia.

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(g) Cystic Fibrosis


Cystic fibrosis is also identified by the symbol CF. It is a respiratory and
gastrointestinal condition that usually affects 1 out of 2500 babies. It is
caused by the reduction of the function of protein (CFTR) which is involved
in the transporting of chloride ions. This would then result in mucus
plugging, infection and neutrophil-dominated inflammation in the lungs
and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. Like all other metabolic conditions, it
presents no symptoms at birth. The clinical features include respiratory
tract infection, chronic sinopulmonary disease, malabsorption, failure to
gain weight, meconium ileus and male babies usually have azospermia.

The screening for this condition is a three-step process. The first step is a
screening for immunoreactive trypsinogen (IRT). If the IRT level is high, the
second step is to test for mutation in the gene responsible for CF, and the
third is a sweat test for those with heterozygous DNA results.

(h) Newborn Hearing Screening


Hearing is fundamental to most human activities and most especially to
educational development, thus it cannot be overlooked. The Baby Centre
Medical Advisory Board (2010) state that the ability to hear is the
foundation of your babys ability to learn. Screening the newborn for
hearing is important because it has been established that 2 to 3 out of 1000
babies are born with hearing loss, thus making it the most common birth
defect in the United States (Baby Centre Medical Advisory Board, 2010).
More importantly, it has been established by scholars that babies with
hearing loss or impairment who receive appropriate diagnosis early can
perform as well as those without hearing problems (Blake & Hall, 1990;
Moeller, 2000).

The screening for hearing problems can be done in two ways. The first one
is the Automated Auditory Brainstem Response (AABR) and the second is
Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE). When the AABR is used, a nurse places
sensors, connected to a computer, on the baby's scalp. These sensors
measure the baby's brainwave activity in response to little clicking sounds
that are transmitted through small earphones (Baby Centre Medical
Advisory Board, 2010). When the OAE is used, it measures sound waves
in the inner ear. The screener places a little device in your baby's ear that
makes soft clicking sounds, and a computer connected to the device records
the ear's response to the sounds (Baby Centre Medical Advisory Board,
2010).

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TOPIC 2 CHILD-LEVEL OUTCOMES AND MEASURES 21

(i) Vision Screening


Snow and van Hemel, (2008) state that:

Early assessment focus on ensuring that there is a clear pathway from the front of
the eye to the retina, where images are received; that the connection between the
retina and the relevant part of the brain is intact, indicated by pupillary
responses to light; and that the eyes move in a coordinated fashion.

Visual acuity is not done until between the ages of two and four (American
Academy of Paediatrics, 1996). Baxstorm (2006) opines that visual
assessment in infants has three components, namely; 1. Can the baby see? 2.
Are the eyes straight? 3. Are the eyes healthy? Baxstorm (2006) says further:
the concept of infant eye care should include developmental vision care
with an emphasis of its affect upon child development. This would include
the evaluation of visual acuity/refractive issues, eye alignment and the
health of the eyes. Doing this, amblyopia, strabismus and significant
refractive error which are the most prevalent vision disorders of childhood
(The Vision in Preschoolers Study Group, 2004) would be identified at an
early stage and intervention can commence early too as recent evidence
supports the effectiveness of intensive screening for reduction of amblyopia
and improved visual acuity (Snow and van Hemel, 2008).

(j) Iron Deficiency Screening


Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world
(Ulrich, et al., 2005) and it is said to be responsible for a staggering amount
of ill health, lost productivity, and premature death (Wu, Lesperance &
Bernstein, 2002). It has been established that the World Health Organisation
puts the population of the worlds iron deficient at approximately two
billion people (Wu, Lesperance & Bernstein, 2002). Iron performs vital
functions in the body, the most vital of which is the transportation of
oxygen. On the other functions, Wu, Lesperance and Bernstein (2002) have
this to say: most of the bodys iron is used to make heme groups within
the oxygen-carrying molecules Hgb and myoglobin. Iron is also essential
for the biological function of cytochromes and other enzymes involved in
cellular respiration (Wu, Lesperance & Bernstein, 2002).

Two types of iron deficiency have been identified, namely: iron-deficiency


anaemia and the iron-deficiency without anaemia. No matter what type of
iron deficiency, it is a killer. Ulrich et al. (2005) says, the relationship
between iron-deficiency anaemia in infants and the impairment of mental
and motor development occurring at this stage has been demonstrated in
the past. Iron deficiency without anaemia is also associated with adverse
effects on neurocognitive development. It is also clear that these two types

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22 TOPIC 2 CHILD-LEVEL OUTCOMES AND MEASURES

of iron deficiency actually are two different stages as the iron deficiency
without anaemia may progress to the iron deficiency anaemia stage.

Screening for iron deficiency at an early stage is thus very important as


detection and treatment of iron deficiency, before it progresses to anaemia,
may be crucial in the prevention of neurocognitive impairments (Ulrich, et
al., 2005). The screening methods to be used are mostly classified into two:
the hematologic and the biochemical tests. The hematologic tests are readily
available, less expensive but would only be able to identify iron deficiency
if the iron deficiency is severe enough to cause anaemia (Kazal, 2002).
Biochemical tests, though more expensive, are able to detect iron deficiency
before the occurrence of anaemia and are thus better to use.

For treatment, Kaal (2002) opts for a complete course of iron therapy:

Elemental iron, at a dosage of 3 mg per kg, is given orally (usually as ferrous


sulphate syrup, which is 20 percent elemental iron) once daily before breakfast.
Absorption is improved if it is ingested with a source of Vitamin C, such as
orange juice. Total length of treatment is three months, including the one-month
therapeutic trial of iron.

(k) Lead Screening


The importance of lead screening lies in the fact that lead is a potent,
pervasive neurotoxicant, and elevated blood lead levels (EBLLs) can result
in decreased IQ, academic failure, and behavioural problems in children
(Wengrovitz and Brown, 2009). High blood lead levels in children have
been pegged at as low as 10 micrograms per decilitre because blood lead at
that level have been associated with adverse effects on cognitive
development, growth, and behaviour among children aged 1 to 5 years
(Bloch & Rosenblum, 2000).

Apart from this, you should also know that because children with elevated
BLLs in the 10-25g/dL range do not develop clinical symptoms, screening
is necessary to identify children who need environmental or medical
intervention to reduce their BLLs (Bloch and Rosenblum, 2000).

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TOPIC 2 CHILD-LEVEL OUTCOMES AND MEASURES 23

SELF-CHECK 2.1

1. List the disorders associated with enzyme malfunction.


2. What is visual acuity?
3. List the disorders that do not present early symptoms.

2.1.4 Developmental Assessment


Let us begin by asking ourselves, what is developmental assessment? National
Centre for Infants, Toddlers and Families (2012) defines developmental
assessment as the process designed to deepen understanding of a childs
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.

From this definition, it is clear that the main purpose of assessment is to


understand the child so as to help the child develop normally. The next issue
then is when should the assessment take place? Campbell (2006) opines that it is
designed for children from birth to 5 years and 11 months. The importance of this
assessment lies in the statement by National Infant and Toddler Child Care
Initiative (2010) that the development that occurs from birth to 3 years provides
the foundation for subsequent development across domains.

Developmental assessment is the process designed to deepen understanding of


a childs 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.
(Toddlers and Families, 2012).

2.2 ASSESSING LEARNING AND


DEVELOPMENT
These are the forms of assessment that has to do primarily with the educational
setting unlike those that have been treated above that are mainly for screening
and diagnosis and are thus health related. Because of the role of education in
these assessments, the range of the domain to be covered has to be expanded.
Snow and van Hemel (2008) identified the five domains to be assessed as follows:

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24 TOPIC 2 CHILD-LEVEL OUTCOMES AND MEASURES

(a) Physical well-being and motor development;


(b) Social and emotional development;
(c) Approaches to learning;
(d) Language and literacy; and
(e) Cognitive skills, including mathematics as a particular case.

2.2.1 Physical Well-being and Motor Development


For Snow and van Hemel (2008), this domain includes the issues of health,
sensory systems, growth, fitness and motor development. The relationship
between physical well-being and motor development lies in the fact that motor
development is dependent primarily on overall physical maturation (Blythe,
2011). What then is motor development? Motor development is the acquisition of
control and the use of the large and small muscles of the body (Williams &
Monsma). This domain is very important because:

A childs motor abilities are therefore essential tools for learning, and motor skills
at different stages in development provide a reflection of maturity in the
functioning of the central nervous system the relationship between the brain
and body which provides the foundation for learning (Blythe, 2011).

Dewey, Kaplan and Wilson (2002) point out that motor development is an
important aspect of child development and it is being used globally to assess the
overall rate of child development during the early years.

As a result of the importance of physical and motor development domain, all


children are supposed to be screened before enrolment in the pre-school
programme. Initial screening can use simple tools such as Denver Developmental
Screening test or the Williams Preschool Checklist coupled with child
observation in a natural play setting. These two will help to determine children
that need closer attention, which then calls for formal screening instruments. If a
child is assessed for motor dysfunction, it is sure that the childs physical, mental,
social and emotional development can be impeded. Such children can then be
identified for developmental enrichment rather than deciding to place them in
schools where they may feel frustrated (Williams & Monsma).

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TOPIC 2 CHILD-LEVEL OUTCOMES AND MEASURES 25

2.2.2 Social and Emotional Development


Social and emotional development can be defined as that which encompasses the
childs ability to interact effectively with adults and peers. This is said to include
the childs experience, expression, management of emotions and the
establishment of positive and rewarding relationships with others as well as
intra/interpersonal processes (Cohen and others, 2005).

Figure 2.3: A picture which shows a child's social development

This aspect of a childs development is also crucial. Reinsberg opines that


childrens social-emotional development influences all other areas of
development: cognitive, motor, and language development are all greatly
affected by how a child feels about herself and how she is able to express ideas
and emotions.

It is thus important to screen children for problems in this area because: early
identification of social and emotional problems in young children is critical for
improving developmental outcomes. Early identification and intervention with
social and emotional problems can have a lasting impact on the developing child
in three major areas. These three areas are further identified as quality brain
development, avoiding change resistant social/emotional development and the
cost of anti-social and criminal behaviours.

The following are the features of a healthy social-emotional development:


(a) Ability to identify and understand personal feelings;
(b) Ability to accurately read and comprehend emotional states in other
people;
(c) Ability to manage strong emotions and their expressions constructively;
(d) Ability to regulate personal behaviour;
(e) Ability to develop empathy for others, and
(f) Ability to establish and maintain relationships.

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26 TOPIC 2 CHILD-LEVEL OUTCOMES AND MEASURES

These abilities that are supposed to be developed via social and emotional
development are very important as they are strongly related to school readiness
and future school success (Henderson and Strain, 2009).

As a result of the importance of this domain, all children are expected to be


screened for it. It is also important to ensure that the screening and assessment
tools are expected to adhere to psychometric standards. Commenting on these
standards, Squires (2003) has this to say:

Screening tests should have adequate validity, including adequate sensitivity at


.80 or above. Sensitivity is the ability of the test to identify true positives, or those
children who are in need of further social/emotional evaluation. Specificity the
ability of the test to identify true negatives, or those children who appear to be
developing without problems should be at .80 or above. Reliability is the
consistency of a test or the ability of multiple examiners (i.e., interobserver
reliability) to arrive at the same or similar test results; and of children to achieve a
similar score, if they take the test more than one time (i.e., test-retest reliability).

The following screening tools have been suggested to be used for social and
emotional development screening: The Ages and Stages Questionnaires: Social-
Emotional (ASQ:SE), the Devereux Early Childhood Assessment Program
(DECA) and the Brief Infant-Toddler Social and Emotional Assessment (BITSEA).

2.2.3 Approaches to Learning


Approaches to learning is one of five key dimensions of childrens school
readiness as identified by the National Education Goals Panel (Conn-Powers,
2006) of the United States. Snow and van Hemel (2008) define approaches to
learning as distinct, observable behaviours that indicate ways children become
engaged in classroom interactions and learning activities. There are six key
skills or learning dispositions that reflect this important domain as reflected in
Table 2.1:

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Table 2.1: Approaches to Learning: Important Learning Outcomes

S/N Key Skills Demonstration of Skills


The child chooses to engage and participate in a variety
1. Curiosity/Initiative
of new and challenging activities.
The child is able to persist and complete a variety of
2. Persistence
tasks and activities.
The child demonstrates increased attentiveness during
3. Attention
teacher-directed activities.
The child is able to set goals, make choices, and
4. Self-direction
manage time and effort with increased independence.
The child is able to solve problems in a number of
5. Problem-solving ways, including finding more than one solution,
exploration, and interaction with peers.
The child is able to approach tasks with increased
6. Creativity
flexibility, imagination, and inventiveness.

Source: Conn-Powers, (2006)

Most of these skills listed above are important to academic success. Snow and
van Hemel (2008) say that several studies have found significant associations
between young childrens learning-related behaviour and their academic
performance. To ensure that children develop these necessary skills, Conn-
Powers, (2006) suggests the following:
(a) Approaches to learning are to be included in the programmes curriculum:
making approaches to learning a goal of early education will make teachers
work towards children developing these key skills.
(b) Providing opportunities that elicit these skills: early childhood educators
should provide multiple activities from which the children can choose on a
daily basis to explore their activities of interest.
(c) Challenge children with moderately difficult tasks: doing this will
encourage childrens curiosity and initiative, persistence and problem
solving skills early.
(d) Directly teach and support children to use these approaches: through this,
the teachers would prompt, guide, support, and reinforce the child to
engage in the desired approaches to learning.

This domain is mostly assessed through the use of questionnaires that are to be
completed by the teacher. Examples are The Preschool Learning Behaviour Scale
and the Teacher Rating Scale.

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2.2.4 Language and Literacy


This is another important domain in early childhood development. Zero-to-Three
(2011) in describing this domain says that, positive early language and literacy
development can give children a window to the world, helping to ensure that
each child can seize his or her potential for future success. It has been well
researched and documented that the level language and literacy development of
early childhood years serve as an important foundation for subsequent literacy
development (Green, Peterson & Lewis, 2006). It has been further asserted by
Snow, Burns and Griffin (1998) that the level of the needed literacy skills
acquired by a child during the early childhood that would determine the childs
future academic success as well as having long-term social and economic
implications for the family and the society as a whole. It is not surprising
therefore that this is a domain that has long been researched thus producing
many assessment procedures for theoretical, clinical and educational functions
(Snow & van Hemel, 2008).

The assessment of this domain in early childhood has been singled out to be
functional:

The assessment of emergent literacy skills can serve to identify children who may
be at risk for later reading difficulties. Furthermore, assessment can guide the
content and delivery of early literacy instruction. Failure to identify children
early and provide appropriate intervention to promote emergent literacy skills is
likely to have serious repercussions for later development of conventional
reading skills (Spencer, Spencer, Goldstein & Schneider, 2013).

The following set of language and literacy skills have been identified as germane
to later literacy achievement by the National Early Literacy Panel as culled from
Spencer et al., (2013):
(a) Alphabet Knowledge: knowledge of letter names and sounds;
(b) Phonological Awareness: the ability to detect, manipulate, or analyse
spoken words independent of meaning, including syllable and phoneme-
level tasks;
(c) Rapid Automatised Naming: the ability to rapidly name a repeating
sequence of random sets of letters, numbers, colours, or pictures;
(d) Early Writing or Name Writing: the ability to write letters in isolation or
write ones own name;
(e) Phonological Memory: the ability to remember spoken information for a
short time;

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(f) Concepts about Print: knowledge of print conventions and concepts, such
as reading from left to right;
(g) Print Knowledge: combination of alphabet knowledge, concepts about print
and early decoding ability;
(h) Oral Language: the ability to produce and comprehend spoken language,
including semantics and syntax;
(i) Visual Processing: the ability to match or discriminate symbols; and
(j) Reading Readiness: combination of alphabet knowledge, concepts about
print, vocabulary, memory and phonological awareness.

It is important to know that there is a correlation between the language and the
literacy environment of the childs home as well as economic status.

In identifying children for developmental delay in this domain, the screening is


done first and further assessment if followed with children with potential delays.
One of the most popular language tests is the Diagnostic Evaluation of Language
Variation (DELV) which has been designed to cope with the problem of dialectal
differences.

2.2.5 Cognitive Skills


Describing this domain, Snow and van Hemel (2008) write thus, this wide-
ranging domain encompasses general intellectual functioning; knowledge of
specific topics, such as mathematics, science, and social studies; and more
specific cognitive skills, such as executive function, attention, and memory.
Defining this domain, Encyclopaedia of Childrens Health says it is the
construction of thought processes, including remembering, problem solving and
decision making.

The centrality of cognitive development in assessing the overall development of


the child is mentioned by Lichtenberger (2005):

Comprehensive measures of cognitive ability are useful in assessing young


children with developmental disabilities, because these measures yield
information about multiple domains of functioning that are comparable with one
another (intraindividual differences) as well as normative group of typically
developing children (interindividual differences).

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Thus, it is always good to conduct comprehensive measures rather than using


instruments that are developed to target selective cognitive abilities. Five
measures that could be used are:
(a) Bayley Scales of Infant Development, 2nd edition (BSID-II);
(b) Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children, 2nd edition (KABC-II);
(c) Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence, 3rd edition (WPPSI-
III);
(d) Standford-Binet Intelligence Scale, 5th edition (SB5); and
(e) Differential Abilities Scales (DAS).

SELF-CHECK 2.2
1. List the five domains to be assessed when a child is to be assessed
for development and learning.
2. When assessing language and literacy, list all the areas to be
assessed.

ACTIVITY 2.2

In all the domains to be assessed as develpoment and learning, name the


one you consider the most important and state reasons for your chice.

Infants are children from one month to twelve months old while toddlers
range from one year to three years old.

Infant/toddler assessment is useful for the following: identifying infants for


developmental delay; diagnose the presence and extent of developmental
problems; identifying an infants specific abilities and skills; and determine
appropriate intervention strategy where necessary.

Contextual factors and nature of children are two major factors that pose
challenge to effective infant/toddler screening.

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Threats to normative development are: genetic/metabolic disorders,


phenylketonuria, congenital hypothyroidism, galactosaemia, cystic
fibrosis, hearing impairment, vision impairment, iron deficiency and high
blood lead level.

In assessing learning and development, the five domains to be assessed are:


physical well-being and motor development; social and emotional development;
approaches to learning; language and literacy; and cognitive skills.

Approaches to learning Language and literacy


Cognitive skills Lead screening
Congenital hypothyroidism Newborn hearing screening
Cystic fibrosis Phenylketonuria
Galactosaemia Physical well-being and motor development
Genetic or metabolic screening Social and emotional development
Iron deficiency screening Vision screening

Blythe, S. G. (2012). Assessing neuro-motor readiness for learning. The INPP


developmental screening test and school intervention programme.
Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
Conn-Powers, M. (2006). All children ready for school: Approaches to learning.
Early Childhood Briefing Papers Series: Indiana University. Available online
at www.iidc.indiana.edu/ecc.
Green, S. D., Peterson, R., & Lewis, J. R. (2006). Language and literacy promotion
in early childhood settings: A survey of center-based practices. Early
Childhood Reaserch and Practice, 8(1), 1-16.
Henderson, J., & Strain, P. (2009). Screening for delays and problem behavior
(Roadmap to Effective Intervention Practices). Tampa, Florida: University of
South Florida, Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Intervention
for Young Children.

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32 TOPIC 2 CHILD-LEVEL OUTCOMES AND MEASURES

BUILD (2005). Early childhood assessment for children from birth to age 8 (Grade
3).
Carr, M. (2001). Assessment in early childhood setting: Learning stories effective
early learning. London: Paul Rhapman Publishers.
Lichtenberger, E. O. (2005). General measures of cognition for the preschool
child. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews,
11: 197-208.
Reinsberg, K. (n.d.) What is social-emotional development? An internet article
available on www.abilitypath.org/areas-of-development/social--emotional/
what-is-social-emotional.html
Snow, C. E., Burns, M., & Griffin, P. (eds.). (1998). Preventing reading difficulties
in young children. Washington: National Academy Press.
Spencer, E. J., Spencer, T. D., Goldstein, H., & Schneider, N. (2013). Identifying
early literacy leraning needs: Implications for child outcome standards and
assessment systems. In Shanahan, T. & Lonigan, C. J. (eds.). Early Childhood
Literacy: The National Early Literacy Panel and Beyond. Baltimore: Brookes
Publishing.
Squires, Jane. (2003). The importance of early identification of social and
emotional difficulties in preschool children. A paper presented for the Center
for International Rehabilitation.

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Topic The Role of
3 Formal
Assessment
and
Evaluation
LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Define formal assessment;
2. List the advantages and disadvantages of standardised tests;
3. Discuss the types of standardised tests used during early childhood;
4. Explain psychometric characterisitics of tests;
5. Differentiate between norm and criterion-referenced tests; and
6. Compare the types of standardised tests.

INTRODUCTION
In Topic 2, we have examined the foundations of authentic assessment. In the bid
to do this, we have closely examined developmental characteristics as well as the
charateristics of learning environments that have roles to play in the childs
development. In this topic, we are going to examine the role of formal assessment
and evaluation. We are going to look at the formal assessment and evaluation
instruments, the characteristics and use of standardised test results as well as the

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advantages and the disadvantages of standardised testing. You are welcome on


board.

For a starter, it will be good to begin by defining formal assessment. Fischer


(1985) says the term formal assessment has often been used to refer to the
traditional inclusion of tests. The online Glossary of Education defines formal
assessment as standardised tests or other examinationss that are administered
under regulated or controlled test-taking conditions. From this statement and
several other scholars, formal assessment has come to stand for standardised test
or any other examinations taken under regulated conditions.

3.1 FORMAL ASSESSMENT AND EVALUATION


INSTRUMENTS
By formal assessment (Figure 3.1) and
evaluation instruments, we refer to
standardised tests, which allow
educators to compare an individual
childs performance on the test to the
performance of other children who have
similar characteristics (Gullo, 2005). This
position is also reinforced by Wortham
Figure 3.1: An example of (2008) when he opines that standardised
a formal assessment tests can be described as measuring
instruments.

The standardised tests that are referred to here as the formal assessment and
evaluation instruments are of various types. Of these, only four used during
early childhood education, namely: developmental screening tests, diagnostic
tests, readiness tests and achievement tests. These would be discussed briefly
below.

(a) Developmental Screening Tests


Meisels and Atkins-Burnett (1994) define developmental screening tests as a
brief assessment procedure designed to identify children, who because of
risk of possible learning problem...would proceed to a more intensive level
of diagnostic assessment.

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According to Gullo (2005) developmental screening tests has been said to be


used mainly for measuring childrens potential for learning. Two primary
purposes have been identified for developmental screening tests and these are:
(i) To identify children who might need special educational services; and
(ii) To identify children who might need specialised educational plan
within the regular classroom.

Developmental screening tests are usually norm-referenced assessment


instruments as they are used to compare an individuals score with others
who are of his or her age. Most of the test items on the screening
instruments can be grouped as follows:

(i) Visual-Motor Adaptive Skills


Items included here would be designed to examine the following:
control of fine motor development, eye-hand coordination, ability to
recall sequences using visual stimuli, copying forms from two-
dimensional representation of the form and reproducing forms from a
three-dimensional model (Gullo, 2005).

(ii) Language/Communication and Thinking


Tasks here include language comprehension and expression,
reasoning, counting and recalling sequences from auditory stimuli.

(iii) Gross-Motor Skills and Body Awareness


Issues like balance, coordination of large muscular movements and
body position awareness are the focus at this level.

It is pertinent to note that the data gathered from developmental screening


tests should not be seen as sacrosanct but as a preliminary investigation. It
has to be followed up with diagnostic assessment before a concrete decision
can be reached.

(b) Diagnostic Tests


Gullo (2005) identifies a diagnostic test as one used to identify the
existence of a disability or specific area of academic weakness in a child.
Because of their nature, diagnostic tests are usually administered by
professionals like clinical psychologists, speech pathologists, social
workers, guidance counsellors and teachers. The results of diagnostic tests
can be used to suggest possible causes of the disability as well as suggest
possible remedies.

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Unlike developmental screening tests, diagnostic tests are comprehensive in


scope. You also need to know that some diagnostic tests are specialised,
that is, they are focused on a specific disability or weakness. For example
Gullo (2005) mentions diagnostic articulation test (which is used for a child
with unintelligible language) and an IQ test (which is used for a child
demonstrating cognitive delays).

(c) Readiness Tests


As the name implies, readiness tests are used in early childhood education
to assess the degree to which children are prepared for an academic or
preacademic programme (NAEYC, 1988a).

Though similar in outlook to the achievement tests, readiness tests are not
as comprehensive as the achievement tests either in depth or breadth. This
is because readiness tests are designed only to assess content that has been
mastered by the children in order to determine their readiness for the next
stage of learning. By their nature then, readiness tests describe childrens
current level of academic knowledge and skills (Gullo, 2005).

According to Meisels (1987), most readiness tests are criterion referenced


with the items focusing on general knowledge and skills achievement and
performance. Because of what readiness tests measures, they can be used
for child placement and curriculum planning (Gullo, 2005).

(d) Achievement Tests


Achievement tests are used mostly to assess the childrens mastery level
and progress in learning. Wortham (2001) states that achievement tests
measures the extent an individual child has achieved certain information or
attained skills that have been set out in the objectives.

Developmental screening tests, diagnostic tests, readiness tests and


achievement tests are the only types of standardised tests used during early
childhood education.

ACTIVITY 3.1

Compare the types of standardised tests above noting the differences


between them.

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3.2 CHARACTERISTICS AND USES OF


STANDARDISED TEST RESULTS
Two issues are to be addressed in this sub-unit, namely: the characteristics and
the use of standardised test results.

3.2.1 Characteristics of Standardised Test Results


Gullo (2005) opines that there are certain characteristics that must be considered
when tests are being designed. It is these characteristics that would be discussed
in this sub-section.

(a) Standard References


When we are talking in terms of standard references, only two types are
available: the norm-referenced tests and the criterion-referenced tests.

(i) Norm-Referenced Tests


Goodwin and Goodwin (1996) assert that norm-referenced tests must
have norms, sets of scores obtained from one or more samples of
respondents. As indicated earlier, norm-referenced tests are used
when a childs performance is to be compared with those of a
representative group of children (Boehm, 1992: Wortham, 1990).
When this is to be done, the child must be compared with children of
similar age or grade level.

The main purpose of use of norm-referenced tests is making


educational decisions that are related to selection and classification
(Boehm, 1992). A larger percentage of intelligence and achievement
tests are norm-referenced tests.

Cryan (1986) states three reasons for using norm-referenced tests and
they are as follows:
They are to assess individuals on non-sequential information and
where no specific level of competency is essential for making
educational determinations.
They are also used where there is the need to choose an individual
from among a group. An example is the selection for admission to
higher educational level. Norm-referenced tests are suitable here
because they would give the teacher selection information
concerning the childs relative performance.

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It is also used when there is an imperative to examine individual


differences.

The following are manners in which scores on standardised norm-


referenced tests are reported:

Standard Scores
This is also called derived scores because it is derived statistically
using the childs actual performance score (also called raw scores)
and comparing it to the average score and theoretical range of
scores to be expected for the population (Gullo, 2005) (brackets
mine).

Percentile Scores
Percentile score is an indication of the ranking of an individual
child in the distribution of scores indicated by the comparison
group. This score would be able to tell what percentage of the
comparison group scored either above or below the target childs
score. Explaining this further, Gullo (2005) opines that if a child
receives a percentile score of 72, it would indicate that this
particular child scored better than 72% of the children that he or
she was being compared to and lower than 28%.

Age-Equivalent Scores
The age-equivalent scores indicate the average chronological age
of children achieving a particular score on a test. For example, if a
child of 5 years and 6 months receives a raw score on a test that
translates to an age-equivalent score of 6 years, it means that the
score was 6 months above the score expected of a child of his or
her age (Gullo, 2005).

Grade-Equivalent Scores
This is similar to the age-equivalent scores except that the
comparison is made by grade rather than by chronological age.
Gullo (2005) explains this further when he said that a grade-
equivalent score of 2-6 means that the score attained would be one
that would be expected from the average child in the sixth month
of second grade.

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SELF-CHECK 3.1
1. Define a norm-referenced test.
2. Without looking at this material, list the manners in which the
test scores of a norm referenced test may be reported.

(ii) Criterion-Referenced Tests


Unlike the norm-referenced test, criterion-referenced tests are not
concerned with comparing a childs score with any other. It only
attempts to measure the degree to which a child has attained a
certain level of accomplishment according to a specified performance
standard (Gullo, 2005). Hashway (1998) says criterion referenced
tests have emerged as instruments that provide data via which
mastery decisions can be made, as opposed to providing the mastery
decision itself. According to Swezey (1981), a test is criterion-
referenced if the scoring is based on absolute rather than relative
standards, its primary use is to measure mastery of specific skills or
tasks, and the test items are based on known performance objectives
associated with the tasks of interest.

Two major advantages have been advanced for the use of criterion-
referenced tests. Firstly, it does not concern itself with the comparison
of the child with another but with the childs mastery of instructional
skills, knowledge or processes (Gullo, 2005). Secondly, the results of
criterion-referenced tests can be translated into instructional goals
easily. This is possible because criterion-referenced tests are related
directly to instructional objectives, are based on task analysis, and are
designed to measure changes in successive performances of an
individual (Montgomery & Connolly, 1987:1873). As a result of this,
criterion-referenced tests can facilitate individualised instruction.

(iii) Comparing and Contrasting Norm and Criterion Referenced Tests


Having gone through the two major types of tests that make up the
standardised tests, it is important to compare and contrast the two of
them.

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Table 3.1: Comparative Analysis of Norm and Criterion-Referenced Tests

Quality Norm-referenced Tests Criterion-Referenced Tests


Purpose 1. To examine individual 1. To examine individual
performance in relation to a performance in relation to a
representative group. criterion or external standard.
2. Can be used to establish 2. Cannot be used to establish age-
age-levels. levels, except normed.
3. Can be used for diagnosis 3. Used for programme planning
and placement. because items are sensitive to
effects of instruction.
Test 1. Items are not usually 1. Items are developed from task
Construction developed from task analysis.
analysis. 2. Items are related to instructional
2. Items may or may not be objectives.
related to instructional 3. Require specification of the
objectives. achievement domain to be
3. Require specification of the measured.
achievement domain to be
measured.
Administration 1. Must be administered in a 1. May or may not be administered
standard manner. in a standard manner.
Scoring 1. Based on standards relative 1. Based on absolute standards.
to a group. 2. Variability of scores not obtained
2. Variability of scores is because perfect or near-perfect
desired with normal scores are desired.
distribution.
Psychometric 1. Test should demonstrate 1. Test should demonstrate
Properties reliability and validity. reliability and validity.

Source: Notar, Herring, & Restauri, 2008; Montgomery & Connolly, 1987

ACTIVITY 3.2
Go through the above table carefully then list the similarities and the
differences between norm and criterion-referenced tests on separate
sheets.

(b) Psychometric Characteristics


Before any test can be used, it is always proper to check on the
psychometric properties. Three of them are important and they are:
validity, reliability and assessment practicality.

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(i) Test Validity


Test validity is the degree to which an instrument assesses what it
purports to assess (Gullo, 2005). The validity of an instrument will
determine the usefulness of information derived from the instrument.
The following are the different types of validity which may often be
seen in the test manual.

Content Validity
This measures the relationship between the tests contents and the
intended purpose of the test. Explaining this further, Wortham
(1990) opines that if a test is supposed to measure reading
readiness, the content would be the curriculum content,
instructional strategies and curriculum and instruction goals.
Content validity is the extent to which the items in the test assess
the objectives outlined in the test.

Criterion-related Validity
Criterion-related validity provides evidence that the resulting
scores on a particular assessment instrument are related to one or
more outcome criteria (Gullo, 2005). Two types of criterion-
related validity are usually mentioned, and they are the
concurrent validity and the predictive validity.

Concurrent validity is the degree to which the score on a test is


related to the score on a different but similar test. For example, the
scores of a particular child in one achievement score may be
compared with the score on another achievement score. If both
scores are highly correlated, this may be used to establish
concurrent validity.

Predictive validity deals with the stability of the test score for a
period of time. A test with good predictive validity can be used to
indicate the future scores of a particular child.

(ii) Test Reliability


This is a measure of the consistency of the test. It shows the
dependability and repeatability of the scores on a particular test. In
describing a reliable test, Gullo (2005) says that the higher the
reliability coefficient, the greater likelihood that differences in an
individuals score over repeated test administration is due to test-
taker performance, rather than to test error of measurement. There
are three common types of reliability: test-retest, split-half and
alternate-form reliability.

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Test-retest Reliability
In establishing the test-retest reliability of a test, the same test is
administered to the same group of children gathered for the
purpose twice. A short interval is allowed between the two test
administrations. The test scores from the two administrations are
compared. If the two scores are close, it is likely the correlation
coefficient is high and positive. This would indicate that the test
was consistent in measuring its objectives.

Split-half Reliability
In using split-half reliability, the experimental group will be
administered the test only once. Then the test scores on one half of
the test would be correlated with that of the second half. If the
correlation coefficient is high and positive, then the test is
internally consistent in measuring the same objectives.

Alternate-form Reliability
This is used when two different forms of a test are designed to
measure the same characteristics. These two forms of tests are
administered to the same group of children with short intervals in
between. The scores on the two forms are then correlated. If the
correlation coefficient is high and positive, then it is an indication
that both test forms can be used interchangeably.

(iii) Assessment Practicality


Assessment practicality is the degree to which the teacher or others
can utilise the information derived from the assessment instrument to
make decisions about children or curriculum and instruction (Gullo,
2005).

In considering the assessment practicality, the following questions are


raised:
Does the objectives of the test match the curriculum and
instructional strategies used in the early childhood setting?
Does the test content and procedure match the developmental
characteristics of the children expected to take the test?

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ACTIVITY 3.3
1. Read more on how to determine the validity of a test.
2. Read more on how to determine the reliability of a test.
3. Set some questions and try to validate it.

3.2.2 Use of Standardised Test Results


There are two major uses of the standardised test results. These are reporting to
the families and programme accountability.

(a) Reporting to Families


Despite the fact that the standardised test is a snapshot of a childs ability, it
is right of parents to know the result of their childs performance at any
given assessment measure (Gullo, 2005). Giving the childs standardised
test scores to parents, according to Wortham (1990) would give the parents
the opportunity to understand the following:
(i) Their childs performance in comparison to the national norms that
are established for the test.
(ii) Their childs progress in the classroom in comparison to the other
children in the same grade.
(iii) Their childs strength and needs with regards to individual
curriculum objectives.

Reporting test scores to the parents however comes with some


responsibility, at least on the part of the teacher. Firstly, it is the
responsibility of the teacher to explain the meaning of the test score to the
parents (Gullo, 2005). Explaining what to do further, Gullo (2005) has this
to say:

What is important here is that the teachers also provides descriptions of actual
classroom behaviours to go along with the test score so that the parents have a
better understanding of the meaning and implication of their childs score. It
would also be helpful to provide the parents with examples of actual classroom
work that would also amplify the meaning of the score.

This way, parents would not be thrown into confusion if their children
happen to be a bad test taker and have low grades in the test but have
excellent classroom work grades. The teacher also needs to let the parents

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know how the test scores would be used for their childs future curriculum
plan and also let the parents know that the score is just a reflection of a
moment in time and may not be an actual performance indicator for their
child.

(b) Programme Accountability


It has been argued that when childrens progress is measured regularly,
information about accountability would be given. This information in turn
would be used to identify the strengths and the weaknesses in the system.
From the reports that would be sent, all schools are going to be held
accountable to ensure that all children learn at appropriate rates. When
these are also communicated to all stakeholders in the system (families,
communities, policy-makers, school boards and schools) everybody would
be held accountable for their roles.

3.3 ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF


STANDARDISED TESTING
The use of standardised testing has both advantages and disadvantages like all
human endeavours. This section would thus examine the advantages and the
disadvantages of standardised testing.

3.3.1 The Advantages of Standardised Testing


(a) Uniformity in Test Administration
By uniformity in test administration, we mean that the test content is
equivalent across administrations and that the conditions under which the
test is administered are the same for all test takers (Sireci, 2005). Thus,
through this uniformity, standardised tests ensures that all those taking the
tests are on a level playing ground because they are all given the test under
the same conditions no matter where the test is being taken. Commenting
further on this, Gullo (2005) says that in this way, standard administration
makes it easier to compare the results of the assessment across various
children or from one test time to the next with a specific child.

(b) Numerical or Quantifiable Scores


All standardised tests are surely to yield numerical scores and these
numerical scores make the scores quantifiable (Gullo, 2005; Wortham,
2008). When the test has been marked, a childs correct answers are totalled
to give what is known as the raw score. The raw scores are then statistically
transformed into standard scores or derived scores. From these standard

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TOPIC 3 THE ROLE OF FORMAL ASSESSMENT AND EVALUATION 45

scores, it becomes possible to compare a childs score to other test takers or


even across different types of tests. Apart from this, standard scores also
make interpretation of the score more useful for developing teaching
strategies or learning environments that may be beneficial to the child
(Gullo, 2005).

(c) Norm Referencing


Wortham (2008) defines norm referencing as the process of developing a
standard for interpreting test scores on a standardised test. Unless norm
referencing is done it is practically impossible to compare an individual
performance with that of others. To get this done, a norm group is usually
selected and the scores of the children in this group are used to determine
the normal performance in that test. The deviations from the normal
performance either up or down, will produce a range of scores with which
the individual childs score can be compared. According to Gullo (2005),
this process can produce what is known as national, state, local and even
classroom averages.

(d) Valid Results


It is taken for granted that the standardised tests would yield valid results.
By validity, we mean that a test actually measures the characteristic it was
designed to measure. For example, if a test was designed to measure the
intelligence quotient of a child, it would remain valid as long as it is
measuring the intelligence quotient. If however, the test seems to be
measuring the language proficiency of the child, it would no longer be
valid. Standardised tests are usually validated during the process of
standardisation. As a result of this, standardised assessments usually
report a measure of validity within the test manual (Gullo, 2005). The
score from valid tests are always dependable (Wortham, 2008).

(e) Reliable Results


The other arm of validity is reliability. Reliability is the tests ability to
measure the childs characteristics accurately under different conditions
(Wortham, 2008). If the test is reliable, the score of a particular child will
remain consistent if the child was to retake the test many times (Gullo, 2005;
Wortham, 2008). This quality is important as it gives confidence to report
on a childs performance in whatever area the test is measuring.

3.3.2 The Disadvantages of Standardised Testing


Despite the seemingly wonderful advantages listed above, the use of
standardised tests has several limitations. As a result of these limitations, there
have been calls on the sole use of standardised tests to make educational related
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decisions. The following are the disadvantages that go along with standardised
tests.

(a) Administration
Though the administration of standardised tests has been listed as a
strength, it is also a weakness in some regards. We need to note that more
often than not, children in the early childhood group are usually very
diverse. We have children with vast differences in developmental levels,
prior experiences, approaches to learning, motivation and individual
needs (Gullo, 2005). Apart from this, every country has begun to
experience constant increase in the number of children who are not
proficient in the dominant language. Unfortunately, standardised tests do
not take this class of children into consideration.

When standardised tests are to be taken, the instructions must be followed


strictly and the same procedures are observed for all the children regardless
of their special or language needs. In most cases, there is no room for
modification (Bagnato, Neisworth & Munson, 1989). Consequently, the test
would not be fair on these groups of children.

(b) Bias
Gullo (2005) notes that the bias in standardised tests mostly has been
committed during the test design stage. This is because during the
composition of the sample group that would be used to create the norm
scores, children from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds as well
as children with developmental delays or special needs are usually
excluded.

This being the case, it is then not surprising if a larger percentage of those
failing the standardised tests are from the groups that have been excluded
from the sample group. Yet, it has always been stated that all children must
be assessed using the standardised tests regardless of their special needs
(Wortham, 2008).

(c) Influence on the Curriculum


Many scholars have argued consistently that standardised test do not
reflect curriculum sensitivity (Fuchs & Deno, 1981; Cohen & Spenciner,
1994). Standardised tests, according to Gullo (2005) have neglected
contemporary approaches to curriculum and instruction as they are often
biased on skill development approaches and reflect a theoretical
perspective that is more behavioural than constructivist. They assess
specific skills or knowledge learned rather than the process of learning.
Consequently, instructions become focused on what will be tested and

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limits the balance of curriculum that is desired for young children


(Wortham, 2008:104).

(d) High-Stakes Testing


Wortham (2008) defines high-stakes testing as the dependence on
standardised tests as the primary measure of a childs progress and
achievement. This has led to the use of the results of standardised tests to
admit children in schools; place them in programmes such as special
education, ELL and bilingual programmes; promote or retain students; or
determine whether they can graduate from high school. The dependence
of one single test to make future educational decisions about students is
highly unfair to the children themselves.

Formal assessment and evaluation instruments usually refer to standardised


tests.

Developmental screening tests, diagnostic tests, readiness tests and


achievement tests are the only types of standardised tests used during early
childhood education.

Norm-referenced tests are tests whose scores are used to compare an


individuals score with others who are of his or her age.

Criterion-referenced tests measure the degree to which a child has attained a


certain level of accomplishment according to a specified performance
standard.

Standard scores are derived statistically using the childs actual performance
score.

Percentile scores is an indication of the ranking of an individual child in the


distribution of scores indicated by the comparison group.

Psychometric characteristics of tests are validity, reliability and assessment


practicality.

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Criterion-referenced tests Standard score


Norm-referenced tests Standardised tests
Raw score Validity
Reliability

Bagnato, S. J. , Neisworth, J. T., & Munson, S. M. (1989). Linking developmental


assessment and early intervention: Curriculum-based prescriptions.
Rockville, MD: Aspen.
Boehm, A. E. (1992). Glossary of assessment terms. In L. R. Williams & D. P.
Fromberg (Eds.), Encyclopaedia of early childhood education. New York:
Garland.
Cohen, L. G., & Spenciner, L. J. (1994). Assessment of young children. New York:
Longman Press.
Cryan, J. R. (1986). Evaluation: Plague or promise? Childhood Education, 62(5),
344-350.
Fischer, C. T. (1985). Individualizing Psychological Assessment. Hillsdale, NJ:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Fuchs, L., & Deno, S. (1981). The relationship between curriculum-based mastery
measures and standardized achievement tests in reading. (Research Report
No. 57). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Institute for Research on
Learning Disabilities. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED212662).
Goodwin, W. L., & Goodwin, L. D. (1996). Understanding quantitative and
qualitative research in early childhood education. New York: Teachers College
Press.
Gullo, D. F. (2005). Understanding assessment and evaluation in early childhood
education. 2nd ed. New York: Teachers College Press.
Hashway, R. M. (1998). Assessment and evaluation of developmental learning:
Qualitative individual assessment and evaluation models. London: Praeger
Publishers.

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TOPIC 3 THE ROLE OF FORMAL ASSESSMENT AND EVALUATION 49

Meisels, S. J., & Atkins-Burnett, S. (1994). Developmental screening in early


childhood: A guide. Washington DC: National Association for the Education
of Young Children.
Meisels, S. J. (1987). Uses and abuses of developmental screening and school
readiness testing. Young Children, 42(4-6), 68-73.
National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). (1988).
Position statement on standardized testing of young children 3 through 8
years of age. Young Children, 43(3), 42-47.
Montgomery, P. C., & Connolly, B. H. (1987). Norm-referenced and criterion-
referenced tests: Use in paediatrics and application to task analysis of motor
skills. Physical Therapy, 67, 1873-1876.
Notar, C. E., Herring, D. F., & Restauri, S. L. (2008). A web-based teaching aid for
presenting the concepts of norm referenced and criterion referenced testing.
Education, 129(1).
Sireci, S. G. (2005). The most frequently unasked questions about testing. In R. P.
Phelps, Defending standardized testing. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum
Associates.
Swezy, R. W. (1981). Individual performance assessment: An approach to
criterion-referenced test development. Reston, VA: Reston.
Wortham, S. C. (1990). Tests and measurement in early childhood education.
Columbus: Merrill.
Wortham, S. C. (2001). Assessment in early childhood education. Upper Saddle
River: Merrill/Prentice Hall.
Wortham, S. C. (2008). Assessment in early childhood education. 5th ed. Ohio:
Pearson.

Copyright Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Topic The Role of
4 Informal
Assessment
and
Evaluation in
Early
Childhood
Education
LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Define informal assessment;
2. List the advantages and disadvantages of informal assessment;
3. List the various methods of informal assessment;
4. Contrast formal and informal assessments; and
5. Appraise formal and informal assessment.

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IN EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

INTRODUCTION
In Topic 3, we have examined the role of formal assessment in early childhood.
Specifically, we examined standardised tests and the four types of standardised
tests that are related to early childhood education (developmental screening
tests, diagnostic tests, readiness tests and achievement tests). We also looked at
the characteritsitcs of these tests among others.

As in Topic 3, we will also start by defining informal assessment. Dunlap (2008)


quoting the Council of Chief (2007) defines informal assessment as a procedure
for obtaining information that can be used to make judgments about
characteristics of children or programmes using means other than standardised
instruments. It can also be defined as a naturalistic assessment type because it
takes place in the classroom, the natural habitat of the children during their
school hours. Becasuse the assessment is taking place in the room the children
are naturally used to, it seems to be a more authentic measurement unlike the
standardised testing that takes place in a controlled setting outside the classroom.

From this definition and the ensuing explanation, it is obvious that informal
assessment unlike formal assessment takes place within the classroom and is not
the standardised type of tests/assessments that is based on the right or wrong
answers or predetermined criteria. This major difference from the formal
assessment is the reason for it being called authentic assessment as it is seen as
being more authentic in result than formal assessment.

The birth of informal assessment came as a result of the perceived inadequacies


of the formal methods of assessment. Bracken (2004) admits that the technical
inadequacies observed in using most of the preschool instruments led to the
argument that standardised norm-based assessments should be replaced with a
wide range of methods that would be more suitable for the purposes of early
childhood assessment. These wide range of assessments used as alternative to the
traditional methods of assessments are referred to as informal or authentic
assessment.

Informal assessment unlike formal assessment takes place within the classroom
and is not the standardised type of tests/assessments that is based on the right or
wrong answers or predetermined criteria.

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52 TOPIC 4 THE ROLE OF INFORMAL ASSESSMENT AND EVALUATION
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ACTIVITY 4.1
Read more about the differences between formal and informal assessments
and list your findings. These would be discussed later through the
myVLE.

4.1 ADVANTAGES IN USING INFORMAL


ASSESSMENT AND EVALUATION
Since there has been a sustained clamor for the use of informal assessment
methods in assessing young children, one can conclude that there would be
several advantages in doing so. In fact, Wortham (2008) asserts that informal
assessment has measurement opportunities that standardised tests cannot
provide. Thus, in this sub-section, we will be examining the advantages of
informal assessment.

(a) They derive directly from the curriculum


Unlike the formal assessment that is dependent upon what the test
publisher thinks is important, informal assessment derives directly from the
curriculum and the teachers instructional objectives (Gullo, 2005;
Wortham, 2008). Explaining the origin and the construction of informal
assessment measures, Wortham (2008) says that with informal assessments,
individual teachers or group of teachers design both the curriculum and
the measures to assess childrens knowledge of the curriculum. This being
the case, it means that the assessment measures in informal assessment are
within the control of the teachers. Gullo (2005) also confirms this by saying
that teachers are able to choose and assess processes, skills, and
knowledge that they deem appropriate and important within the context of
the curriculum and instructional goals and objectives.

(b) They are Suitable to Assess Emergent Literacy


Literacy has been one of the core areas to focus on during the assessment of
the development of children and in this regard, literacy is said to include
the development of language, listening, writing and reading. Most scholars
have concluded that the use of standardised tests to assessment literacy
development in young children is a misnomer. For example, Teale, Hiebert
and Chittenden (1987) opine that the use of standardised tests to assess
literacy development is not congruent with the educational goals,
curriculum and practices. This is explained further by Wortham (2011):

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assessment of literacy occurs through emergent writing samples, emergent


reading of books, and oral discussions founded on the philosophy that the childs
emerging skills reflects the childs ability to construct literacy through
experiences with literacy over time Likewise, stages of emergent literacy that
are skills related, such as knowledge of letter-sound correspondence and
encoding and decoding words, are assessed through learning activities and
instructional events.

As pointed above, you will also agree that skills such as reading,
comprehension of passages read, listening and the like are best assessed
during the classroom activities rather than with a standardised test. For
example, a teacher can ask a child to read a passage in the class to know
how well the child can identify the alphabets. Asking a child to summarise
a book read would also reveal the childs level of comprehension of the
book read.

(c) They are Suitable to Assess Development in Mathematics


Commenting on the use of standardised tests to assess the childs
understanding of mathematics, Kamii (1985) has asserted that the test
emphasised knowledge of numerals apart from the fact that such tests
would concentrate on lower-order thinking rather than higher-order
thinking. Attempts to reverse this trend to date has not yielded much as
Wortham (2011) also states that, newer standardised tests, particularly
achievement tests, developed at the state level, have included more
performance questions, particularly in writing, in general, they are still
multiple-choice tests with the same limitations.

As a result of the inadequacies of standardised tests in assessing childrens


understanding of mathematics properly, scholars have rooted for the use of
alternative assessments, such as interviews, projects, games and
observations mainly because the nature of learning in mathematics is
constructivist in outlook (Kamii & Kamii, 1990). You will agree that all
these alternative assessment methods listed are under the classroom
assessment, thus giving it an edge over the traditional assessment.

(d) They are Current


In comparison, informal assessments are more current than formal
assessment. This is becasue the procedure and the process of standardising
a test takes a long time. Wortham (2008) says because standardised tests
are developed over a period of time, there may be a lag of two years or
more between test design and implementation. Coupled with the fact that
a standardised test may not be easily updated or modified, it means that by

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the time of usage, the test may already be two years obsolete especially
where there has been a change in curriculum. Informal assessment however
can be easily altered because most of the time, they are in the control of the
teachers. As Wortham (2011) says, teacher-designed evaluation measures,
however, can be altered when necessary. If instructional materials are
changed or learning objectives modified, the teacher can keep classroom
measures current by redesigning assessment strategies to reflect changes.
The ability to reflect immediate changes gives the classroom assessment an
edge over the standardised assessment procedures.

(e) They are constructivist in approach


The learning theory that is in vogue today is constructivism. This theory is
also more applicable to young children. As Gullo (2005) observes, informal
assessment are appropriate for assessing how children learn and how they
use the knowledge and skills that they have acquired within the context of
the activities embedded in the curriculum. Formal assessment, on the
other hand, will only focus on knowing if a child has acquired particular
skills without assessing these skills within the context of use.

(f) They can be correlated with diagnostic needs


Gullo (2005) says that if teachers are looking for a means to individualise
the curriculum to meet individual childrens need, the informal assessment
is more useful. You may wonder what the use of criterion-referenced
standardised tests then are? Wortham (2008) opines that although
criterion-referenced standardised tests also serve diagnostic purposes, they
are generally a starting point for effective teachers. The teacher must follow
criterion-referenced results with classroom strategies that provide
additional diagnostic information.

It is however also important for you to know that in cases of younger


children, especially those that are not in the age range to take standardised
tests, the informal assessment may be their first step in diagnostic
assessment and they wait for the criterion-referenced standardised tests
when they have the developmental skills to take them.

(g) They are flexible


Unlike the standardised tests that has been set quite early and the objectives
of the test has been used to determine the items on the test, classroom
assessment has the ability to be tailor-made for any purpose. In other
words, the objectives of the standardised test are fixed and they may not fit
all the purposes that a classroom assessment can be made for. For example,
a teacher can always determine the items of his assessment based on the
objectives he has in mind. These items can also be changed as the objectives

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IN EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

are changed. In Worthams (2011) words, the objectives to be evaluated on


a standardised test are established early in the test development process.
Thereafter, objectives are not changed. Commenting on this flexibility,
Gullo (2005) says that:

Informal assessment approaches can be used to determine mastery as well as to


determine at what level the child is performing on his or her way to mastery. In
this manner, informal assessments will yield information that the teacher can use
to design and implement curriculum activities on the way to mastery.

As a teacher does this, he or she can change his instructional strategies and
also his/her objectives and the test methods as well. This is only possible in
informal assessment.

(h) Family Involvement


Before now, the involvement of families of children in their assessment has
been seriously overlooked (Bowers, 2007). Nevertheless, with researches
showing that information from parents can be an important and valid part
of the assessment process (Wolfendal, 1998) this would soon be the trend
and gain popularity. In fact, including parents in assessment would not just
enrich the assessment process; it would also enrich the parents
understanding of their children. For example, Honig (1996) suggests that
parents involved in the assessment of their children gained good
knowledge of their childrens behavior as well as the roles they can play in
facilitating their developmental growth.

(i) Shifting Focus on the Positive


Traditional assessment, all along, has put emphasis on whether a child has
passed or failed the standardised test that has been used for the assessment,
thereby focusing on the negative side of assessment, that is, what the child
cannot do. However, with the coming of informal assessment, attention is
now focusing on what the child can do. Summarising the implication of
this, Bowers (2007) has this to say:

Finally, after decades of assessing what children cannot do, there has been a shift
towards focusing instead on what children can do. Such positive approaches to
assessment are thought to be helpful in viewing the child as an individual with
unique characteristics and abilities rather than disabilities.

This trend, if maintained would help in actualising every childs potential.

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SELF-CHECK 4.1

List the advantages of informal assessment.

4.2 DISADVANTAGES IN USING INFORMAL


ASSESSMENT
Despite the numerous advantages discussed above, informal assessment also has
limitations that serve as the disadvantages of using them for assessment. These
are to be discussed here.

(a) Improper Development and Implementation


The greatest argument against informal assessment is that they are not
properly developed. Wortham (2008) identifies the problem here as being
threefold: lack of validity, lack of reliability and inappropriate use. Informal
assessments lack these qualities that have been identified as the strongest
point for the formal assessment because they are mostly teacher-made tests.
It is true that there is no clear and certain technical standards that the
informal assessment instruments should adhere to and consequently, this
may lead to invalid and unreliable results. The lack of validity, the lack of
reliability can also subject the informal assessment to the whims and
caprices of the teacher. They can therefore become subjective rather than be
an objective, unbiased assessment procedure.

(b) Misuse of Information Generated


The primary reason for assessing children is to determine their curricular
needs and to measure progress (Gullo, 2005). Consequently, any attempt
to make use of the data or information generated from this assessment
procedure for comparing children or determining the eligibility for
placement, informal assessment would become what it is out to
authenticate: high stakes. Gullo (2005) also opines that if this happens,
then there is a double jeopardy in that firstly, the assessment instrument
lacks validity and reliability and now it has been turned to use for serious
educational decision making about the children.

(c) Lack of Trained Teachers


Another problem facing informal assessment is that most teachers are not
trained in the art of designing good informal assessment instruments.
Unfortunately, before teachers can comfortably use any of the informal

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IN EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

assessment procedures, they need to be trained extensively. Using


observation as an example, Wortham (2008) states that, observation, like
other teacher strategies, requires an informed, well-prepared teacher who
will use it effectively.

The training is necessary because most of these techniques are novel and
the teachers need retraining and recertification before they can use these
techniques with confidence. There is thus the need for all tiers of
government to organise trainings for the teachers they are directly
responsible to, so that they can use the classroom assessment strategies in
an informed manner.

(d) Apathy on the part of the Teachers


Wortham (2008) states categorically that the major disadvantage of
classroom assessments seems to be that teachers are not prepared to
develop and use them. This apathetic attitude may however not be
unconnected with the demands of using informal assessment. Wortham
(2008) also states that the amount of time needed to conduct the newer
measures and to keep records is a concern.

If one considers the amount of time needed by the teacher to for example,
observe and document his or her observation of all the children in the class,
this apathy to use the informal assessment then would be real.

SELF-CHECK 4.2

List the disadvantages of informal assessment.

ACTIVITY 4.2
Compare and contrast formal and informal assessments through the
advantages and disadvantages and suggest the better form for your
school with reasons.

4.3 METHODS OF INFORMAL ASSESSMENT


Having examined the advantages and disadvantages of infromal assessment, the
next thing to do logically is to examine the various methods or procedures
through which informal assessment can be done. However, because these

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methods would be examined in the subsequent topics in detail, what we will do


here is just take a brief look at these methods.

(a) Observation
Gullo (2005) describes observation as the most basic of all informal
assessment techniques. This is an informal assessment method that requires
active participation on the teachers part during daily classroom routines
when children are engaged in curricular activities (Gullo, 2005). This
method can be used to assess certain behaviors in children that formal
assessment may not be able to do (Wortham, 2008).

Though this would be discussed in detail in Topic 5, it is enough for you to


know that observation can also be in many forms such as anecdotal records,
running records, time sampling, event sampling, checklists and rating
scales. The pervasiveness of observation in most of the informal assessment
methods makes it qualifies as the most basic informal assessment.

(b) Samples of Childrens Work


This procedure calls for the collection of samples of the actual work the
children have done in the class. Scholars have argued that doing this gives
the teachers real and direct evidence of the progress of the children.

(c) Rubrics
Rubrics are defined as the quantitative measure applied to the actual work
of the children with the purpose of assessment. Wiggins (1996) sees it as
guidelines that would be used to distinguish performances. They are said to
be of three types, namely: holistic, analytic and developmental rubrics.

(d) Others
Apart from these listed methods, other assessment procedures that would fall
under the class of informal assessment are performance based strategies and
portfolios. These would also be discussed in detail later in topics 7 and 8.

Gullo (2005) describes observation as the most basic of all informal assessment
techniques.

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IN EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

SELF-CHECK 4.3

1. List the various methods of informal assessment.


2. Observation is the most basic of all informal assessment.
Discuss.

Informal assessment came as a result of the perceived inadequacies of formal


assessment.

Informal assessments derive directly from the curriculum.

Informal assessment is more suitable to measure literacy skills such as


listening, writing and reading.

Informal assessments can assess both the lower-order and the higher-order
thinking skills.

Informal assessment can be used as a follow up for diagnostic testing for


further probing.

Informal assessment has successfully shifted attention to the positive side of


assessment, that is, what the children can do.

Informal assessment must be used properly to give desired results.

Constructivism Informal Assessment


Emergent Literacy

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Bowers, S. (2007). Assessing young children: Whats old, whats new, and where
are we headed? An internet article available at www.earlychildhoodnews.
com accessed 26/02/2013.
Bracken, B. A. (2004). The psychoeducational assessment of preschool children.
Mahweh, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Council of Chief State School Officers. (2007). Early childhood glossary: Informal
assessment. An internet report avaibale from www.ccsso.org/projects/
early_childhood_education_assessment_consortium/publications_and_prod
ucts/2873.cfm accessed February 20, 2007.
Dossey, J. A., Mullis, I. V. S., Lindquist, M. M., & Chambers, D. L. (1988). The
mathematics report card: Are we measuring up? Princeton: Educational
Testing Service.
Dunlap, K. (2008). How to compare formal and informal student assessment. An
internet article available on http://voices.yahoo.com/how-compare-formal-
informal-student-assessments-1745703.html accessed 26/02/2013
Goodwin, W. L., & Goodwin, L. D. (1993). Young children and measurement:
Standardized and nonstandardized instruments in early childhood
education. In B. Spodek (Ed.), Handbook of research on the education of
young children. New York: Macmillan.
Gullo, D. F. (2005). Understanding assessment and evaluation in early childhood
education. 2nd ed. New York: Teachers College Press.
Kamii, C., & Kamii, M. (1990). Negative effects of achievement testing in
mathematics. In C. Kamii (Ed.), Achievement testing in the early grades: The
games grown-ups play. Washington DC: National Association for the
Education of Young Children.
Sulzby, E. (1990). Assessment of writing and childrens language when writing.
In L. M. Morrow & J. K. Smith (Eds.), Assessment for instruction in early
literacy. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.
Teale, W. H. (1988). Developmentally appropriate assessment of reading and
writing in the early childhood classroom. Elementary School Journal, 89, 173-
183.

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Wiggins, G. (1996). What is a rubric? A dialogue on design and use. In R. E.


Blum & J. A. Arter (Eds.), Student performance assessment in an era of
restructuring. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Development.
Wortham, S. C. (2008). Assessment in early childhood education. 5th ed. Ohio:
Pearson.

Copyright Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Topic Classroom
5 Assessment

LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Define classroom assessment;
2. Define classroom observation;
3. List the advantages of observation;
4. Identify the purposes of observation;
5. Appraise the weaknesses of observation; and
6. Construct any of the types of observation.

INTRODUCTION
In the previous topics, we have covered the theoretical issues related to formal
and informal assessment. From this topic, we will be concentrating on the
various types of informal assessment, also known as alternative or authentic
assessment, beginning from classroom assessment.

The British Columbias Education Ministry in its website defines classroom


assessment as the process of gathering evidence of what a student knows,
understands, and is able to do. Classroom assessment is also called classroom-
based assessment or teacher assessment. An online glossary of education defines
classroom-based assessment as:

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A method of assessing student performance by measuring academic and/or


behavioural progress while the student participates in a typical school learning
situation. Classroom-based assessments can give the rater (teacher) the
opportunity to assess performance while the student is in a comfortable learning
environment.

5.1 OBSERVATION AS THE MAIN METHOD OF


CHILD ASSESSMENT
Classroom observation is the major method through which children are assessed.
It can be defined as a quantitative method of measuring classroom behaviours
from direct observations that specifies both the events and behaviours that are to
be observed and how they are to be recorded. Volpe, DiPerna, Hintze and
Shapiro (2005) admit that systematic observation of student behaviour is the
most common assessment methodology and is viewed as one of the most
objective and direct measurement tools available for assessment of child
behaviour. This is also reiterated by Merrell (1999) when he says that
behavioural observation has the capacity, if done with great care, of being the
most ecologically valid assessment method. Anderson (2003) also confirms that
the primary method of assessing student classroom behaviour and effort is
observation. The importance of observation in assessment is well captured in
Connecticut State Board of Education (2007): observation is essential in the
teaching profession because childrens activity and thinking provide a window
into their skills, knowledge and dispositions. However, the observation done by
the classroom teacher has come under severe criticism for varied and sundry
reasons. Maxwell (2001) has summarised these arguments into a table as reflected
in Table 5.1:

Table 5.1: Arguments and Rebuttals of arguments against teacher observations

Arguments against teacher observations Rebuttal of those arguments


Lack of representativeness Learning outcomes that have not been
Students may not demonstrate all relevant demonstrated can be deliberately
learning outcomes in natural settings. They prompted. Assessment should be planned
may know or know how but the context as well as incidental. Teachers can ensure
may not prompt them to demonstrate this. that assessment is comprehensive.

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Lack of observation Over time, teachers have many


Teachers may not observe the opportunities for observation. It is not
demonstration of a learning outcome when critical if particular opportunities for
it occurs, either because their attention is observation are missed. Some observation
elsewhere or because they fail to recognise it. is deliberate and focused.
Lack of control of influences No single occasion is sufficient for judging
The student can derive unintended cues a students demonstration of learning
and prompts from the setting, even from outcomes. Multiple opportunities and a
the teacher, and these can be unnoticed by variety of contexts allow cross-checking
the teacher. Student performance may then the robustness of the students
be misinterpreted. performance.
Lack of standardisation Quality requirements for teacher
All students do not undertake the same judgments are evidence-based and
tasks under the same conditions. Teacher defensible. Tailoring and adaptation
judgments of student demonstrations of allow optimum student performance and
learning outcomes are therefore holistic interpretation of the evidence
undependable. (taking contextual factors into
consideration).
Lack of objectivity All assessment involves sequences of
Teacher judgments are subjective and subjective decisions; mechanistic marking
prone to inconsistencies. Too much is left to schemes reflect earlier design decisions.
the discretion of the teacher. Procedures to strengthen and verify
teacher judgments can be introduced.
Possibility of stereotyping Stereotyping is not inevitable. Each
Subjective judgments allow the possibility assessment occasion can be approached as
of stereotyping of students in terms of other a fresh opportunity to test hypotheses
performances or characteristics. derived from prior impressions.
Possibility of bias Conscious bias is unethical. Unconscious
Subjective judgments allow the possibility bias requires constant vigilance. It is
of conscious or unconscious bias for or difficult for bias to survive evidence-based
against particular individuals or groups. justification to students and their parents
(a form of accountability).

... observation is essential in the teaching profession because childrens activity


and thinking provide a window into their skills, knowledge and dispositions
(Connecticut State Board of Education, 2007).

Despite all these reasons deduced against the use of teacher observation in
assessing children, the fact that these teachers have access to this rich and diverse
range of evidence on students learning outcomes from the observation of their
students cannot and should not be ignored. For Maxwell (2001), the use of
teacher observation assessment can be justified by the fact that teacher

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observation assessment can also enhance assessment validity. He argues that


teacher observation allows assessment to be more comprehensive, more
connected, more contextualised, more authentic and more holistic (Maxwell,
2001).

5.1.1 Validity of Teacher Observation


The validity of teacher observation is based on accuracy (that is, the recorded
evidence actually represents the observed students performance) and
interpretation (that is, the judgment inferred from the evidence is justified). Some
factors however, would affect the validity of teacher observation assessment, and
these need to be highlighted so that teachers could avoid them if they want to use
teacher observation assessment. Some of these are discussed in Maxwell (2001).

(a) Prejudgments and Prejudices


Prejudgments are opinions or judgments that have been formed before the
actual observation assessment, usually based on prior information or initial
impressions. There are times when the teacher allows these prior
information which may have come from other teachers or the teachers
familiarity with the student to influence their judgment to the extent that
the teacher does not actually see the true nature of the students current
performance (Maxwell, 2001). It has also been called halo effect or
masking effect. The effect of prejudgment can be both positive and
negative. When it is positive, it makes the teacher think that students have
shown a learning outcome that they have not. When it is negative, it makes
the teacher think that a student has not demonstrated an outcome when the
student has.

Prejudices, on the other hand, is an attitude directed against an individual,


a group, a race and makes the teacher to assume that the person, group or
members of a race would behave in certain ways. Like prejudgment, the
effect is both positive and negative. For example, if an Asian girl is in the
same class with an American boy and they have an American teacher; it is
easy for the teacher to feel that the Asian girl cannot be as intelligent as the
American boy. Thus, the observation result may be positive towards the
American and negative towards the Asian.

(b) Selective Perception


Selective perception has been defined as seeing and hearing what we are
predisposed to see and hear (Maxwell, 2001). Usually not a conscious
choice, selective perception arises from intuitive expectations and
psychological preconceptions. It is described by Maxwell (2001) as follows:

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Psychological research shows that sometimes these (selective perception) can


produce very powerful distortions of our perceptions. For example, we can so
strongly anticipate that the student will say or do something that we imagine that
they have said or done it when in fact they have said or done something quite
different. Or we can so strongly anticipate that the student will not be able to say
or do something that we fail to notice when they do.

(c) Inappropriate Inference


Inappropriate inference means drawing wrong conclusions and usually
occurs at the judgment phase of assessment. The judgment phase is the
point where conclusions are made from the evidences gathered.
Inappropriate inferences would occur through focusing on wrong features
of the students performance or categorising the performance under wrong
learning outcomes. Ensuring appropriate inferences requires constant
vigilance and clarity of understanding of the learning outcomes.

(d) Inconsistency
In assessment judgment, inconsistency means that evidence is interpreted
differently in different circumstances like different occasions, outcomes or
students (in the case of the same teacher), different teachers (within the
same school) and different schools. Of all these, the worst level of
inconsistency is that which occurs by the same teacher. It has to be noted
that inconsistencies by the same teacher are usually the consequences of
prejudgment or prejudice, selective perception or inappropriate inference
(Maxwell, 2001). The limitation of the above listed errors would reduce the
level of inconsistency in the case of the same teacher.

5.1.2 Strategies in Observational Procedure


Conner (1991) suggests that strategies to be used in observation can be
described along a continuum from open, unstructured situations where there is
no clear purposeto highly structured, systematic observation-procedures
where clear and specific criteria are identified to base the observation upon.
These strategies would now be examined one after the other.

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(a) Open-Non-specific Procedure


This occurs when one has an opportunity to look and see what is
happening in the classroom without having a prior plan for observation. If
something then strikes the person, it can lead the person to look again with
focus.

(b) Focused Observation


Focused observation is a procedure that is used when the teacher desires to
know more about a child. It is an intensive form of observation that can be
very tiring and difficult to sustain.

(c) Systematic Observation Procedure


Conner (1991) says that systematic observation procedures draw upon
criteria that are carefully designed and highly specific, so that it is
absolutely clear how the observations are to be undertaken and individual
bias in perception to be eradicated. Croll (1986) lists the characteristics of
systematic observation procedures as follows:
(i) Purpose or purposes of the observation is worked out explicitly before
data collection is undertaken;
(ii) Definition of categories is explicit and rigorous along with the criteria
for classifying phenomena into categories;
(iii) The data produced from systematic observation can be presented
quantitatively and can be summarised and relate to other data using
statistical techniques; and
(iv) The observer follows the instruction for observation to the letter once
the procedures for recording have been arrived at, so that all
recording would be uniformed.

5.2 PURPOSE OF OBSERVATION


Assessment by observation is tied to the purpose for which the observation is
done. The following are the purposes of classroom observation assessment.

(a) Observation can be used to Understand Childrens Behaviour


It has been proven by scholars that because of the inability of children to
use language, either in the written or the oral form, they cannot express
themselves as the older children and adults, so their behaviour is the way
through which they express themselves. For example, Cohen, Stern and
Balaban (1997) have this to say:

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Children communicate with us through their eyes, the quality of their voices,
their body postures, their gestures, their mannerisms, their smiles, their jumping
up and down, and their listlessness. They show us, by the way they do things as
well as by what they do, what is going on inside them. When we come to see
childrens behaviour through the eyes of its meaning to them, from the inside
out, we shall be well on our way to understanding them. Recording their ways of
communicating helps us to see them as they are.

In the same vein, Conner (1991), quoting Harlen (1977) says that children
are showing their attitudes and abilities all the time in their normal work;
they are telling us all we need to know about their characteristics if only we
can receive and interpret their messages (p. 50). Consequently, through
observation, teachers can understand the behaviour of the children in their
class. It is however important to note that to observe with the purpose of
understanding childrens behaviour, we cannot just use casual observation.
As Wortham (2008) notes, skilled observation is important to correctly
determine what is behind a childs classroom behaviour. Misinterpretation
leads to difficulties for both teacher and child stemming from the teacher
thinking that one cause has led to the childs behaviour, while the truth
may be quite different.

The relationship between childrens behaviour and the communication of


their feelings makes it important to observe the development of the childs
social behaviour. This aspect is best seen at play or interaction within the
classroom (Wortham, 2008).

(b) Observation can be used to Evaluate Childrens Development


When the purpose of observation is to evaluate the development of a child,
the purpose of the observer is to determine the progress of the child in the
following areas: physical, cognitive, social and emotional development
(Wortham, 2008). Observing children development helps teachers to
understand the sequences of development as well as give awareness of the
growth of individual child and also to give assistance to children with
developmental delays (Wortham, 2008).

Unlike other forms of observation, observation of development is


systematic because there are specific purposes for observing and particular
methods for collecting and recording observation data (Wortham, 2008).
This systematic observation and recording of the development of young
children is based on eight reasons according to Beaty (1997):

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(i) To make initial assessment of the childs abilities;


(ii) To determine a childs areas of strength and areas that need
strengthening;
(iii) To make individual plans based on observed needs;
(iv) To conduct an ongoing check on the childs progress;
(v) To learn more about child development in particular areas;
(vi) To resolve a particular problem involving the child;
(vii) To report to parents or to specialists in health, speech, and mental
health; and
(viii) To gather information for the childs folder, for use in guidance and
placement.

(c) Observation can be used to Evaluate Learning Progress


As long as children have started any formal schooling, it becomes not only
important but also imperative, to gather information on what the children
have learned from the instructions and learning activities.

SELF-CHECK 5.1
1. What are the elements that make observation systematic?
2. List the purposes of observation.

ACTIVITY 5.1
What can make an observer become "skilled" since skilled observation is
important? Read up widely on this and discuss your answers with your
colleagues.

5.3 TYPES OF OBSERVATION


Before the commencement of observation, the observer must have determined
the following:
(a) The purpose of the observation;
(b) The time to be spent studying the child or children;

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(c) The form to conduct the observation; and


(d) The form of recording what is observed.

The following are the types of observation that can be used:


(a) Anecdotal Records
(b) Running Records
(c) Specimen Records
(d) Time Sampling
(e) Event Sampling
(f) Checklists
(g) Rating Scales

5.3.1 Anecdotal Records


An anecdotal record is a written description of a childs behaviour or a brief
narrative description of specific events (Wortham, 2008; Gullo, 2005). They can be
used to track development in infants or young children or used to explain
unusual behaviour. Boehm and Weinberg (1997) suggest that anecdotal records
are to be used to understand behaviours such as attitude towards learning,
emotional development, peer relationship or effects of health on childrens
adaptation to school setting, especially when they could not be evaluated directly
by any other means.

Cartwright and Cartwright (1984) and Goodwin and Driscoll (1980) listed the
characteristics of anecdotal records (Figure 5.1) and the procedures to be
followed in using them as follows:
(a) They are supposed to be the result of direct observation of behaviour and
the recording must be done immediately after the event (obviously to avoid
forgetting the behaviour).
(b) An anecdotal record should include the description of a single event.
(c) It should also include contextual and supportive information because it
would later assist in the interpretation.
(d) The interpretation of the behaviour should be done separately from the
recording of the behaviours and the events recorded.

Anecdotal records can be used by various workers with the young children like
the teacher and the caregiver.
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Figure 5.1: A sample of an anecdotal record document sheet


Source: Shared by George Washington Elementary School at para.unl.edu

(a) Advantages of Anecdotal Records


Conner (1991) listed the following as the advantages of using the anecdotal
records:
(i) The child is monitored in his/her own terms and the procedure offers
a way of improving our understanding of each child.
(ii) Evidence can be gathered about a wide variety of behaviour.
(iii) The records are very simple to keep and require no outside help.
(iv) They provide a useful, on-going, continuous record.
(v) They may be used by individual teachers, groups, or the whole school
as an in-service training device.
(vi) They offer an opportunity to learn through participation.
(vii) They require no special training and may be suited to the approach of
each individual teacher.

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(viii) The teacher can increase accuracy and recognise her own bias by
checking against the viewpoints of others.
(ix) The teacher learns to convert impressions and judgments into
accurate data, which can be used as a growing body of evidence to
understand why a child behaves as he does, and report assessments
fairly and reliably.
(x) The teacher may learn to reserve judgment and attain greater
objectivity about situations which are difficult to interpret.
(xi) The experience encourages the teachers to gain respect for the
childrens ability and for their own skills of thinking, reflection and
observation.
(xii) Experience with anecdotal records may encourage a teacher to have
closer relations with children, both personally and professionally

(b) Disadvantages of Anecdotal Records


Conner (1991) also listed some of the disadvantages of using anecdotal
records in pages 80 81. They are as follows:
(i) The initial development of an appropriate means of keeping anecdotal
records can be time-consuming.
(ii) The recordings often include interpretations and evaluations of the
incident rather than accurate description.
(iii) It often contains the bias of the observer which can swing either
positively or negatively.

It should be noted however that the possibility of superseding these


disadvantages are high. And if they are superseded, anecdotal records can
provide a powerful source of evidence to support classroom assessment.

An anecdotal record is a written description of a childs behaviour or a brief


narrative description of specific events (Wortham, 2008; Gullo, 2005 ).

ACTIVITY 5.2
1. List step by step the procedures to be followed in using anecdotal
records.
2. Using the example above, construct anecdotal record for your use.

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5.3.2 Running Records


The running record (Figure 5.2) is similar to the anecdotal record. However,
unlike the anecdotal record that records a single event, the running record
includes everything that occurred over a period of time that is, all behaviour
observed rather than the particular incidents that are used for the anecdotal
records (Wortham, 2008).

Before using the running record, the observer has to decide when to observe the
child. This may be at a particularly time or during a particular activity.
According to Corrie (2002), the observation shall not be less than five minutes at
any one observation. However, Wortham (2008) suggests that running records
may be recorded from a few minutes to a few weeks or months. As such, running
records provide a rich description of a chunk of a childs life or a situation. In
addition, running records describe relationships and interactions that children
have in the school day (Corrie, 2002).

(a) Advantages of Running Records


(i) Running records are adaptable to different purposes.
(ii) It has more information than the anecdotal records.
(iii) It has the ability to give a snapshot of what has happened over a
period of time.
(iv) It is possible for other staff members to use the information to
understand the child better.

(b) Disadvantages of Running Records


(i) It is usually scheduled and time designated.
(ii) It is usually difficult to manage running records observation.

The running record includes everything that occurred over a period of time
that is, all behaviour observed rather than the particular incidents that are used
for the anecdotal records (Wortham, 2008).

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Figure 5.2: A sample of a running record


Source: http://www.readinga-z.com/guided/runrecord.html

5.3.3 Specimen Records


Pellegrini (1996:155) defines specimen records as continuous, sequential
recordings that occur in specific situations. Wright (1960) opines that the beauty
of this approach is that the observer can record everything that is relevant to the
purpose of the observation.

Discussing the procedure of use for the specimen records, Pellegrini (1996) says
that to use specimen records, the observer should first describe the scene of the
observation, the participants, their actions as well as language. He comments
further:

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Descriptions are recorded in narrative form and should be objective to the extent
that physical actions, such as twitching, and exact verbalizations of participants
are recorded. Observers should record everything relevant to the question that is
done by and to the focal participant. A time dimension should also be recorded.
When separate narratives are cobbled together, they should form a diary-like
collection, albeit a diary specific to a certain location, for a specific child; this
record is the specimen record for the child.

ACTIVITY 5.3

Compare and contrast the anecdotal records with the running records.

5.3.4 Time Sampling


Time sampling is used mostly when a particular behaviour is focused and there
is an interest in the frequency of its occurrence. Gullo (2005) opines that in a
time sampling procedure, children are observed for a predetermined period
during which the specified behaviour is recorded each time it occurs. In using
time sampling (Figure 5.3), Wortham (2008) explains that:

The observer decodes ahead of time what behaviours will be observed, what the
time interval will be, and how the behaviours will be recorded. The observer
observes these behaviours and records how many times they occur during
preset, uniform time periods.

(a) Advantages of Using Time Sampling


(i) Clear Purpose
The major advantage of time sampling is that it has a clear purpose.
This is because; the choice of a single behaviour has given the
observation a focus. As Wortham (2008) observes, this gives the
observer the opportunity to focus on what is going on without being
distracted by any other event. Since the teacher is only concerned
about the target behaviour, all other behaviours are not of interest as
only the target behaviour is recorded.

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(ii) Useful for Children Exhibiting Negative Behaviour


This is particularly useful as the negative behaviour can be the target
and then the observer can be able to note how many times the
negative behaviour is exhibited within the pre-determined timeframe.
As Gullo (2005) notes, it might be important to determine how many
times a child exhibits aggression or withdrawal during a specific time
period, to better plan for their educational needs.

(b) Disadvantages of Using Time Sampling


(i) Difficult to Manage
(ii) It is a Skill that has to be learned
(iii) Contextual Issues

... in a time sampling procedure, children are observed for a predetermined


period during which the specified behaviour is recorded each time it occurs
Gullo (2005).

Figure 5.3: A sample of a time sampling recording sheet


Source: http://paraelink.org/bmk3k4/bmk3k4_3c.html

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5.3.5 Event Sampling


The only difference between time sampling and event sampling is the focus of
interest. Explaining when event sampling is used, Wortham (2008) opines that
event sampling is used when a behaviour tends to occur in a particular setting,
rather than during a predictable time period. Wortham (2008) also describes
event sampling as a cause and effect type of observation that has the ability to
allow the observer determine the cause of the behaviour being observed.

(a) Advantages of Event Sampling


(i) It has clear purpose;
(ii) It can locate the cause of a behaviour; and
(iii) It can provide useful environmental information.

(b) Disadvantages of Event Sampling

(i) Targeted behaviour may be difficult to anticipate.

Classroom assessment is the process of gathering evidence of what a student


knows, understands, and is able to do.

Classroom observation is the major method through which students are


assessed.

Prejudgment and prejudice are major elements that affect the validity of
observation.

Anecdotal record is a written description of a childs behaviour or a brief


narrative description of specific events.

In running records, all behaviours that occur within a specific time is


recorded.

Time sampling is used when a particular behaviour is focused.

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Open-non specific procedure Systematic observation


Selective perception

Anderson, L. W. (2003). Classroom assessment: Enhancing the quality of teacher


decision making. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Beaty, L. (1997). Developing your teaching through reflective practice.
Birmingham: SEDA.
Boehm, A. E., & Weinberg, R. A. (1997). The classroom observer: Developing
observation skills in early childhood settings (3rd ed.). New York: Teachers
College Press.
Cartwright, G. A., & Cartwright, G. P. (1984). Developing observational skills.
New York: McGraw-Hill.
Cohen, D. H., Stern, V., & Balaban, N. (1997). Observing and recording the
behavior of young children (4th ed.). New York: Teachers College Press.
Connecticut State Board of Education (2007). Carl D. Perkins Annual Report.
Retrieved from www.cte.ed.gov/Docs?CARNarrative/CT_narrative_2006-
2007.pdf
Conner, C. (1991). Assessment and testing in the primary school. London: Falmer
Press.
Corrie, L. (2002). Investigating troublesome classroom behavior: Practical tools
for teachers. London: Routledge Falmer.
Croll, P. (1986) Systematic Classroom Observation, Basingstoke, Falmer Press.
Goodwin, W. L., & Driscoll, L. A. (1980). Handbook for measurement and
evaluation in early childhood education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Gullo, D. F. (2005). Understanding assessment and evaluation in early childhood
education (2nd ed.). New York: Teachers College Press.
Harlen, W. (1977) Match and Mismatch. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd.
Merrell, K. W. (1999). Behavioral, social, and emotional assessment of children
and adolescents. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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Pellegrini, A. D. (1996). Observing children in the natural worlds: A


methodological primer. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Volpe, R., DiPerna, J., Hintze, J., & Shapiro, E. (2005). Observing students in
classroom settings: A review of seven coding schemes. School Psychology
Review. 34, 454-474.
Wortham, S. C. (2008). Assessment in early childhood education (5th ed.). Ohio:
Pearson.
Wright, J. R. (2010). Multifaceted assessment for early childhood education. USA:
Sage Publication Inc.

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Topic Classroom
6 Assessment II
LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Define checklists, rating scales and rubrics;
2. List the types of rating scales and rubrics;
3. List the advantages and disadvantages of the three instruments;
4. Compare the checklist, the rating scale and the rubric; and
5. Construct any of the three instruments.

INTRODUCTION
This is the continuation of Topic 5. In Topic 5, we started looking at classroom
assessment. In the first part, we examined the advantages and the disadvantages
of classroom assessment and the purposes of classroom assessment before we
began to examine observation as the major type of classroom assessment,
especially in the early childhood era. We have also looked at the advantages and
disadvantages of observation as well as the various types of classroom
observation such as anecdotal records, running records, specimen records, time
sampling and event sampling. In this topic, we will complete our examination of
classroom assessment by looking at checklists, rating scales and rubrics.

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6.1 CHECKLISTS
Wortham (2008) identifies a checklist as a list of sequential behaviours arranged
in a system of categories. Gullo (2005) defines checklist as an instrument of
recording and examining sequenced series of behaviours usually directly related
to educational or developmental goals.

6.1.1 The Purpose of Checklists


Though there are many purposes for using the checklist. But because this course
is limited to early childhood assessment, the purposes are also going to be
limited to that scope.

(a) Checklists are Guides to Understand Development


Checklists developed for this purpose are called developmental checklists
and they are used specially to monitor infant and toddler development. In
developing the developmental checklist, all the developments expected of
infants and toddlers are used as indicators. Thus, when teachers,
caregivers and parents look at the checklists, they can trace the sequence of
development and also be realistic in their expectation for children
(Wortham, 2008).

(b) Checklists are Guides to Curriculum Development


Developmental checklists are also used as guides to the curriculum. At this
stage, curriculum does not refer to subject content areas but the
experiences and opportunities that young children should have in the early
childhood years (Wortham, 2008). It is said that the objectives on the
checklists can be used as guides for the learning activities that are
appropriate for the children.

Wortham (2008) also states that the organisation of the checklists by


developmental level or age gives them the ability to become a guide for
sequencing learning. Discussing how this could be done, Wortham (2008)
says that:

Teachers can match the experiences they wish to use with the checklist to
determine whether they are using the correct level of complexity or difficulty.
They can determine what came before in learning or development and what
should come next.

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(c) Checklists are Guides to Assess Learning and Development


Developmental checklists are also valuable for the assessment of learning
and development. This is because checklists are good in providing
information about children's progress. Thus with the use of checklists,
teachers would be able to know the development of the children and
measure the progress of their learning and give information to necessary
users like parents and the other teachers (Wortham, 2008). Using checklists
would make teachers understand the children better and would enable
them to discuss learning development with the parents of the children. As
Gullo (2005) states, checklists also are helpful in providing information to
parents regarding their childs progress.

6.1.2 The Advantages of Checklists


Let us look at some of the advantages of checklists.

(a) They are easy to use


Normally checklists are just either checked or ticked so using them is not
difficult to any teacher or caregiver. Wortham (2008) states that checklists
are easy to use because they require little instruction or training, teachers
can quickly learn to use them.

(b) They provide a method for Assessing Individual Children


In using checklists, a separate checklist can be kept for each child in the
classroom. From this then, each child can be monitored and their progress
can also be tracked.

(c) They provide Visual Images


Checklists can provide a visual image of a childs progress. As Gullo (2005)
states, by coding or dating the observations, it is easy to determine how
children are progressing in the specific areas described on the checklists.
By just casting a glance at the checklist, the teacher can always have a visual
image representing the developmental or learning progress of each child in
the class.

(d) Checklists are Flexible


The flexibility of checklists makes them usable with a variety of assessment
strategies. For example, it can be used with observation; it can be used with
classroom tests and assignments. The flexibility thus makes it a great
assessment instrument. It also gives the opportunity to do evaluation using
a convenient strategy and also a combination of assessment strategies
(Wortham, 2008).

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(e) Availability
Because the checklist is always available to the teacher, new behaviours or
developmental traits can always be recorded anytime they show up. In
other words, checklists can be updated easily. As Wortham (2008) opines
unlike paper-and-pencil tests or formal tests, the teacher does not have to
wait for a testing opportunity to determine whether the child has mastered
an objective.

6.1.3 The Disadvantages of Checklists


Now, let us look at the disadvantages.

(a) Mismatching
According to Gullo (2005), if the sequence of skills or concepts do not
match the curriculum goals, then the information collected would be
useless at best and somewhat damaging to the curriculum at worse. Thus,
it is important that the sequence of skills or concept and the curriculum
goals are balanced during the construction of the checklist.

(b) Using Checklists may be Time-consuming


Usually for beginners, using checklists may be time consuming. Wortham
(2008) reports that some teachers that have just started to use checklists
think that it eats so much time that it led to the reduction of time spent with
the children.

(c) Teachers find it Difficult to start Using Checklists


As Wortham (2008) opines, teachers that are used to teaching without the
use of checklists, the teachers would have a difficult time adapting their
teaching to evaluation behaviours. On the other hand, the need for
individual assessment with checklists would make the teachers have many
checklists in their hands. This would then lead to frustration as the teachers
become overwhelmed by the many checklists.

(d) Checklists are not indicators of Child Performance


It is known that a paper-and-pencil test can be used to determine a childs
level of mastery. However, checklists can only indicate whether a child can
perform adequately or not. When it comes to the issue of using assessments
to give grades or levels of performance, checklists cannot be used (Irwin &
Bushnell, 1980).

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84 TOPIC 6 CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT II

(e) Checklists are not Assessment Instruments


A checklist is not an assessment instrument on its own, but an organising
mechanism for describing curriculum or developmental sequences (Gullo,
2005). It is the teachers use of an evaluation strategy that makes the
checklist a tool for evaluation (Wortham, 2008). Therefore, the main
purpose of a checklist is not the recording of the developmental skills but
what the teacher does with the information derived from the use of the
checklist.

6.1.4 Steps in Designing Checklists


To develop a checklist, Wortham (2008) identifies four steps to be taken and these
would be treated here.

(a) Identification of the Skills to be Included


The first thing the teacher has to do is to examine the various categories on
the checklist and then determine the specific objectives or the skills that are
to be included in the checklist. When this is done, with the aid of the
developmental norms or learning objectives, the teacher decides how to
adapt the skills to his or her needs.

(b) Separate Listing of Target Behaviours


Irwin and Bushnell (1980) opines that if there is any item that has multiple
or series of behaviours in the objective, then the target behaviours are to be
listed separately so that each one of the behaviours would have the
opportunity to be recorded separately. An example given by Wortham
(2008) becomes appropriate here. He opines that if the objective is the
identification of coins, then the various coins would be listed one after the
other.

(c) Sequential Organisation of the Checklist


Organising checklists sequentially means arranging the items in order of
difficulty or complexity. If this is properly done, then the sequencing and the
order of difficulty would be very obvious. As Wortham explains (2008) the
first time the ability to count may feature, it may be listed as Counts by rote
from 1 to 10 but the next higher order, it might be Counts by rote from 1 to
50. Thus it is sequenced from the lower to the higher, since counting from 1
to 50 is more difficult than counting from 1 to 10.

(d) Record Keeping


Finally, a system of record keeping for the checklist must be devised. This
becomes necessary because the checklist as an indicator of the objectives of

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the curriculum or of developmental characteristics, must have a means


through which the items must be measured.

Wortham (2008) indicates that usually, two types of indicators are usually used.
The first one is a simple Yes/No. The second one is Mastery/Nonmastery.
Another approach is to indicate the date the concept was introduced and when it
was mastered and the columns become Introduced/Mastered. Three columns
have been suggested so as to accommodate intermediate position. Examples are:
Introduced/Progress/Mastery or Not Yet/In Process/Proficient. Table 6.1 shows
an example of a checklist.

Figure 6.1: An example of a two-column checklist


Source: an internet image available at
openi.nlm.nih.gov/imgs/rescaled512/2837024_1472-6920-10-7-1.png

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ACTIVITY 6.1

Using the above example of a checklist, develop a checklist for your


subject area.

6.2 RATING SCALES


Rating scales and checklists are very similar. The difference lies in the modality
of measurement. Unlike checklists that document the existence or non-existence
of traits or skills, rating scales are used to describe the degree to which those
behaviours or traits are believed to be present in the individual (Gullo, 2005). A
rating scale consists of a set of characteristics or qualities to be judged by using a
systematic procedure (Wortham, 2008). In most cases, rating scales are used to
measure traits that cannot be easily measured by using other assessment
procedures.

Rating scales are used mostly to report personal characteristics as well as social
development on the report card. Wortham (2008) observes that such attributes
as work habits, classroom conduct, neatness and citizenship commonly appear
on elementary school report cards.

6.2.1 Types of Rating Scales


The rating scale has many types, but the ones that are used most frequently are
the numerical rating scales and the graphic rating scale.

(a) Numerical Rating Scales


These are the rating scales that are said to be the easier to use. In this case,
the rater is expected to use a number to indicate the degree to which a
characteristic is present. This is because a number is assigned to describe
the categories. This is an example of a numerical rating scale:
1 Unsatisfactory
2 Below Average
3 Average
4 Above Average
5 Outstanding

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In the body of the rating scale, the quality or skill to be measured is stated
and the numbers are listed below for the rater to pick the most applicable.
The example below is taken from Wortham (2008):

1. To what extent does the student complete assigned work?

1 2 3 4 5

2. To what extent does the student cooperate with group activities?

1 2 3 4 5

(b) Graphic Rating Scale


Descrbing graphic rating scales, Wortham (2008) has this to say:

Graphic rating scales function as continuums. A set of categories is described at


certain points along the line, but the rater can mark his or her judgment at any
location on the line. In addition, a graphic rating scale provides a visual
continuum that helps locate the correct position.

The following are the commonly used descriptors for graphic rating scales:

Never
Seldom
Occasionally
Frequently
Always

The example of a graphic rating scale below is also taken from Wortham
(2008):

1. To what extent does the student complete assigned work?

Never Seldom Occasionally Frequently Always

2. To what extent does the student cooperate with group activities?

Never Seldom Occasionally Frequently Always

According to Wortham (2008), graphic rating scales are easier to use than
numerical descriptors because the descriptors are more specific, raters can
be more objective and accurate when judging student behaviours.

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Unlike checklists that document the existence or non-existence of traits or skills,


rating scales are used to describe the degree to which those behaviours or traits
are believed to be present in the individual (Gullo, 2005).

6.2.2 Advantages of Rating Scales


(a) Rating scales can Capture Behaviours other Measurements Cannot Capture
There are certain behaviours that are not easily measured by other forms of
assessment strategies. An example is social development. It is difficult for
teachers to use a checklist to measure a childs ability to work with peers
and adults because checklists give a simple Yes or No response
category. The area of social development might not be easily captured also
by other forms of observation because their inputs more often than not are
open-ended. However, the continuum style of the rating scale makes such
assessment possible.

(b) Rating Scales are quick to Complete


Usually, rating scales come with descriptors of the childs behaviour. As a
result of this, raters can easily complete the rating scale using the
descriptors as guide. The presence of the descriptors on the rating scale also
gives the rater the opportunity to complete the scale sometimes after the
observation (Jablon, Dombro & Dichtelmiller, 2007).

(c) Rating Scales are easy to Understand


The use of the scales indicators makes it easy for people to easily
understand how to use the rating scale. Consequently, only minimal
training is required for a beginner to use the rating scale. Thus,
professionals as well as students can complete the rating scale without
stress (Wortham, 2008).

(d) Rating Scales are easy to Develop


The use of descriptors also makes it easy for anyone to design and develop
a rating scale easily. As Wortham (2008) says:

because descriptors remain consistent on some rating scales, teachers find


them easy to design. When using rating indicators such as always, sometimes,
rarely and never, the teacher can add the statements for rating without having to
think of rating categories for each one.

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(e) Rating Scales are Useful in Assessing Childs Progress


This is made possible as a rating scale permits the teacher to describe the
childs steps toward understanding or mastery, instead of whether the child
has achieved a predetermined level, as in the case of checklists (Wortham,
2008).

6.2.3 Disadvantages of Rating Scales


(a) Rating Scales are Highly Subjective
Since the use of rating scales depends on the judgment of only one person,
it is usually subjective in nature. Consequently, rater error and bias are the
most common problems. Sometimes, teachers rate children on the basis of
prior information or interaction or emotion rather than on an objective
basis. On the same vein, Linn and Miller (2005) opine that rating scales
often reflect the attitude of the teacher towards the child.

(b) Ambiguity of Descriptors


If any ambiguous term is used as a descriptor, it means that raters will not
agree on the precise meaning of the term. Consequently, the reliability of
the information derived would fall. A good example is the use of terms
such as sometimes or rarely. In these two terms, what constitutes
sometimes for teacher A may not be at the same level for teacher B.

(c) Rating Scales do not Give Cause of Behaviour


Rating scales seems to lay emphasis on the extent of the presence or absence
of a behaviour and not the cause of the behaviour. Consequently, rating
scales do not provide any additional information on the circumstances in
which the behaviour occurs.

SELF-CHECK 6.1
1. List the advantages of rating scales.
2. List the disadvantages of rating scales.
3. Differentiate a numerical rating scale from a graphic rating scale.

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Before this sub-section on rating scales is closed, it is important that you have a
graphic idea of what a rating scale looks like (Figure 6.2).

Rating Scale for Evaluating Play Performance


___________________________________________________________________
Directions: Rate the performance in terms of each of the following criteria. Circle
a 5 if the performance rates excellent in this area and a 1 if it was very poor
in this area. Use the numbers in between as necessary and appropriate. Write a
brief reason for giving either a 1 or 2 on any criterion.

1. Actors use appropriate volume, pitch, rate, and tone 5 4 3 2 1


Comments:

2. Actors use proper gestures, eye contact, facial expression 5 4 3 2 1


and posture.
Comments:

3. Actors express ideas orally with fluency, elaboration, and 5 4 3 2 1


Confidence.
Comments:

4. Actors used props and other visual aids to enhance the 5 4 3 2 1


Performance.
Comments:

5. Overall evaluation of performance 5 4 3 2 1


Comments (required):
______________________________________________________________________
Figure 6.2: A sample of a rating scale
Source: Anderson, L. W. (2003). Classroom assessment: Enhancing the quality of teacher
decision making. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

6.3 RUBRICS
Rubrics are similar to rating scales because they are also qualitative instruments.
However, unlike other classroom assessments strategies, rubrics can be used to
assess students progress as well as score students works (Wortham, 2008).
Quoting Wiggins (1996), Wortham (2008) defines rubric as follows:

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A rubric is a printed set of guidelines that distinguishes performances or


products of different quality A rubric has descriptors that define what to
look for at each level of performance Rubrics also often have indicators
providing specific examples or tell-tale signs of things to look for in work.

Gullo (2005) defines rubrics simply as a quantitative measure applied to


childrens actual work for the purpose of assessment. In his description of
rubrics, Wright (2010) says:

Rubrics provide benchmarks for optimal performance based on standards for


learning; they also provide a series of qualifying terms describing various levels
of quality for each possible level of performance. The qualifying terms are
abbreviated by using a number representing the ordinal level.

From this, it is clear that the benchmarks are to be followed in classifying the
work and allocating the scores. This is also corroborated by Wortham (2008) that
rubrics are related to performance assessments. They provide guidelines to
distinguish performance from one level to another.

Rubrics can simply be defined as a quantitative measure applied to


childrens actual work for the purpose of assessment (Gullo, 2005).

6.3.1 Types of Rubrics


Three types of rubrics are common, and these are: holistic, analytic and
developmental.

(a) Holistic Rubric


According to Wortham (2008), this type of rubrics assigns a single score to
students overall performance. These rubrics usually have competency
labels that define the level of performance. A number of indicators describe
the quality of work or performance at each level. Figure 6.3 shows an
example of a holistic rubric.

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92 TOPIC 6 CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT II

1. Inexperienced Writer
Uses scribble writing or letter-like marks. Uses pictures. May dictate a sentence to the
teacher.

2. Beginning Writer
Attempts to write words on paper, but is very limited. May copy words or sentences.
Can write familiar words from memory.

3. Developing Writer
May show understanding of conventions of print. Uses spacing for word boundaries.
Attempts to sequence thoughts. Uses inventive spelling.

4. Mature Writer
Writing is on topic; confident, developing fluency. May write multiple sentences.
There is a beginning, middle, and end. Shows some accuracy in punctualisation and
capitalisation. Still makes errors.

Figure 6.3: A sample of a holistic rubric


Source: Winbury, J., & Evans, C. S. (1996). Poway portfolio project. In R. E. Blum & J. A.
Arter (Eds.), A handbook for student performance assessment in an era of restructuring
(pp. VII-2:1 to VII-2:6). Portland, Oregon: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory.

This holistic rubric has four levels of competence that is rated from the
inexperienced writer to mature writer.

(b) Analytic Rubric


Weiner and Cohen (1997) describes analytic rubric as follows: an analytic
rubric describes and scores each of the task attributes separately, uses
limited descriptors for each attribute, uses a scale that can be both narrow
and broad, and allows for specific diagnostic feedback. By their nature,
analytic rubrics are more specific than the holistic rubrics and more suitable
for diagnostic purposes as well as grading purposes. Figure 6.4 shows an
example of an analytic rubric.

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Analytic Scale for Problem Solving

Understanding the Problem

0 No attempt
1 Completely misinterprets the problem
2 Misinterprets major part of the problem
3 Misinterprets minor parts of the problem
4 Complete understanding of the problem

Solving the Problem

0 No attempt
1 Totally inappropriate plan
2 Partially correct procedure but with major fault
3 Substantially correct procedure with major omission or procedural errors
4 A plan that could lead to a correct solution with no arithmetic errors

Answering the Problem

0 No answer or wrong answer based upon an inappropriate plan


1 Copying error, computational error, partial answer for problem with multiple
answers; no answer statement; answer labelled incorrectly.
2 Correct solution
Figure 6.4: A sample of an analytic rubric
Source: Kubiszyn, T., & Borich, G. (1996). Educational testing and measurement:
Classroom application and practice (5th ed.). London: John Wiley & Sons

This example of an analytic rubric, is tackling the student work from three
dimensions, namely: the students understanding of the problem, the
procedure taken by the students to solve the problem and the answer the
students arrived at. Each of the dimensions has descriptors and each of the
descriptors have a numerical scale. Following this rubric would lead the
teacher to arrive at the score for each of the students and can also help the
teacher to give necessary feedback to the students.

(c) Developmental Rubrics


According to Wortham (2008) developmental rubrics are designed to serve
a multiage group of students or to span several grade levels. The intention
is to overlook skill mastery at a particular grade level. The students are then
assessed on a continuum that would show developmental progress.

Having gone through a study of the three types of rubrics, it is important


for you to know that rubrics are used naturally with performance and
portfolio assessment. The holistic rubric is used when general judgment

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94 TOPIC 6 CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT II

about performance is to be made. An analytic rubric is used when the task


is broken down to various necessary parts and the developmental rubric is
used to measure evolving competencies over a span of grade levels
(Wortham, 2008). Figure 6.5 shows an example of a developmental rubric.

Figure 6.5: An example of a developmental rubric


Source: an internet image available at
www.udlcenter.org/sites/udlcenter.org/files/rubrics.jpg

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TOPIC 6 CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT II 95

6.3.2 Advantages of Using Rubrics


(a) Rubrics can lead to Objectivity
As you would have observed from the examples given, rubrics usually
have guidelines for the teacher to use in scoring and assessing the students
work. If these guidelines are followed strictly, the scoring and assessment
are expected to be objective. All the students are scored and assessed with
the same descriptors and the same score parameters. The presence of
guidelines in rubrics is thus a strong quality.

(b) Rubrics are Flexible


As a result of its flexibility, rubrics can be designed for many uses and
ability levels. As Wortham (2008) opines, Although teachers conduct most
of the assessments using rubrics with very young children, student self-
assessment increases as students mature. As part of its flexibility, rubrics
can be used even at the graduate level work in higher institutions and can
also be used at the infant and toddler assessment level too.

(c) Rubrics are Adaptable


Discussing the adaptability of rubrics, Wortham (2008) opines that they
are dynamic and subject to revision and refinement. Because they are easily
modified and changed, they can meet changing classroom and student
needs. Apart from this, a teacher can continue to adapt his rubric to
changing goals and objectives on the curriculum.

(d) Rubrics can be used by both Teacher and Student


In most cases, where rubrics are to be used, it serves as a guide to both the
teacher and the student in guiding the students effort to complete the task.
For example, the student can consistently look at the rubric as he progresses
in his work to ensure the level he would be attaining while the teacher can
also use the rubrics formatively as he makes suggestions to the students
before the completion of the task.

(e) Rubrics can be translated into Grades


Through the rubrics, especially, the analytic rubrics, the scores of the
students can be easily given and also translated into grades. If we use the
analytic rubric above, as an example, the total mark obtainable is 10. In the
first dimension, maximum mark obtainable is 4; the same goes for
dimension two and the third dimension is 2.

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96 TOPIC 6 CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT II

6.3.3 Disadvantages of Using Rubrics


(a) New users may have difficulty developing criteria
As a result of the nature of the rubric, teachers who are just trying to use
rubrics would have a lot of difficulty in determining the assessment or
scoring criteria. Wortham (2008) comments further on this: Teachers may
focus on excessively general or inappropriate criteria for a rubric. In a
similar fashion, a teacher may use predetermined criteria for rubric design
rather than basing rubrics on examples of student work or modifying them
as needed.

The development of rubrics becomes more difficult if the analytic rubric is


to be used. This is because using analytic rubrics would involve the
determination of the various dimensions that would make up the whole
before the determination of the criteria of each dimension and their
corresponding scores.

(b) Users may focus on the Quantity


Wortham (2008) says that a common mistake in designing and using
rubrics is to inappropriately focus on the quantity of characteristics found,
rather than the indicators of quality work. It is usually common for
teachers to mistakenly grade students on the volume of work done rather
than on quality of the work. When this happens, the teacher has focused on
wrong characteristics of student work.

(c) Holistic Rubrics may Lack Validity and Reliability


By their very nature, holistic rubrics lack validity and reliability because
the descriptors for the holistic rubric can be too general and lack
specificity (Wortham, 2008). Thus, it is important to use the analytic rubric
if the purpose for the rubric is assessment and scoring rather than the too
general holistic rubric.

SELF-CHECK 6.2

1. List the advantages and the disadvantages of rating scales.


2. Compare the structure and the use of the three types of rating scales.

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TOPIC 6 CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT II 97

ACTIVITY 6.2
1. Read more of the checklists, the rating scales and the rubrics and then
compare and contrast them as effective assessment strategies.
2. Search the web for five samples of rubrics. Study them and then
write the type of rubric they are on them.

A checklist is an instrument of recording and examining sequenced series of


behaviour that are related to educational developmental goals.

There are four steps leading to the design of a checklist.

Except for the modality of measurement, rating scales and checklists are
similar.

There are two types of rating scales: the numerical and the graphical rating
scales.

There are three types of rubrics: the holistic, analytic and developmental
rubrics.

Graphical rating scale Rubrics


Numerical rating scale

Anderson, L. W. (2003). Classroom assessment: Enhancing the quality of teacher


decision making. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Gullo, D. F. (2005). Understanding assessment and evaluation in early childhood
education (2nd ed.). New York: Teachers College Press.
Irwin, D. M., & Bushnell, M. M. (1980). Observational strategies for child study.
New York: Rineheart & Winston.

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98 TOPIC 6 CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT II

Jablon, J. R., Dombro, A. L., Dichtemiller, M. L. (2007). The power of observation


for birth through eight. (2nd ed.). Washington DC: Teaching Strategies &
NAEYC
Kubiszyn, T., & Borich, G. (1996). Educational testing and measurement:
Classroom application and practice (5th ed.). London: John Wiley & Sons.
Linn, R. L., & Miller, M. D. (2005). Measurement and assessment in teaching (9th
ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill.
Weiner,R. B., & Cohen, J. H. (1997). Literacy portfolios: Using assessment to
guide instruction. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.
Wiggins, G. (1996). What is a rubric? A dialogue on design and use. In R. E. Blum
& J. A. Arter (Eds.), Student performance assessment in an era of
restructuring. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Development.
Winbury, J., & Evans, C. S. (1996). Poway portfolio project. In R. E. Blum & J. A.
Arter (Eds.), A handbook for student performance assessment in an era of
restructuring (pp. VII-2:1 to VII-2:6). Portland, Oregon: Northwest Regional
Educational Laboratory.
Wortham, S. C. (2008). Assessment in early childhood education (5th ed.). Ohio:
Pearson.
Wright, J. R. (2010). Multifaceted assessment for early childhood education. USA:
Sage Publication Inc.

Copyright Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Topic Assessment
7 Using
Performance-
Based
Strategies
LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Define performance-based assessment;
2. List the advantages and disadvantages of all forms of performance
based assessment;
3. Compare the three types of play-based assessment instruments; and
4. Appraise each of the forms of performance-based assessment
mentioned and pick the one you will want to use stating reasons.

INTRODUCTION
In Topic 6, we have examined other types of classroom assessment. We have
looked at checklists, rating scales and the use of rubrics. With that, we have
closed the discussion on classroom assessment. This will now lead us to another
type of alternative assessment, called performance-based assessment.

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100 TOPIC 7 ASSESSMENT USING PERFORMANCE-BASED STRATEGIES

7.1 PERFORMANCE-BASED ASSESSMENT


Performance-based strategy is another alternative that has grown in the bid to
reduce the use of traditional assessment for children assessment. The main
grouse against the use of traditional assessment, especially for children, is that
they do not actually address students learning. Chen and Martins (2000) define
performance-based assessment as tasks which require children to demonstrate
their knowledge and skills in response to authentic activities. Describing
performance assessment further, Chen and Martins (2000), say:

This form of assessment requires the classroom teacher to observe the behaviour
of the children or to examine the product that is reflective of that behaviour, and
to apply clearly articulated performance criteria in order to make a judgement
regarding the level of proficiency demonstrated.

Commenting on the desirability of performance-based assessment to traditional


assessment, Wortham (2008) says that performance assessment requires more in
that they measure what the child can do or apply, in addition to what the child
knows. In other words, rather than examine the cognitive domain alone, which
is a low-order skill, performance assessment would be able to examine the
affective and application skills, which are higher-order skills.

7.1.1 Types of Performance-Based Assessment


Many strategies can be used to conduct performance-based assessments and
most of these have been in use for a long time (Wortham, 2008). The following
are however suitable with young children: interviews, contracts, direct
assignments, games, work samples, projects and portfolios.

(a) Interviews
Interviews can be used to find out students understanding about concepts.
It can be particularly suitable for young children who are just beginning to
develop literacy skills and cannot yet express themselves with a paper-and-
pencil activity (Wortham, 2008). Interviews can also be of three types:
unstructured, structured and diagnostic (Table 7.1).

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Table 7.1: Differences between Unstructured, Structured and Diagnostic Interviews

Unstructured Structured Diagnostic


Occurs when children It is conducted to acquire It is used to determine
are playing, working in specific understanding about the childs instructional
centres or engaged in the child. needs.
classroom activities.
It is unplanned. It is planned. It may be structured or
unstructured.
Teacher just realises he It can be used to unravel
could use few minutes a childs difficulty in
to question the child. understanding concepts
or skills.

The following are tips to help in conducting good interviews:


(i) Whatever the type of interview used, it has to be of short duration.
For example, Engel (1990) suggests a maximum duration of 10
minutes for an interview.
(ii) Questioning should continue after the childs initial response to
determine the correctness of the initial response.
(iii) Give the child ample time to think and respond to the question as the
child needs to be comfortable if necessary and relevant responses are
desired.

(b) Contracts
Contracts are a form of agreement between the teacher and the children as
to what activities the teacher is expecting of the child. According to
Wortham (2008), contracts serve a dual purpose. They provide a plan
between the teacher and the child and a record of the childs progress. This
contract can be in durations of one day to one week.

On their use as a record of accomplishment for a child, Wortham (2008) also


says that the teacher and the child can use the contract as a guide for
conferences and interviews or as a recording system for the teacher to
indicate when a child has completed an objective or needs more
opportunities to interact with a concept. As a result of this nature,
contracts can provide information on the childs progress and
accomplishments.

(c) Direct Assignments


Direct assignments are an extension of teacher-designed assignment. It is
similar to the interview except that a specific task is used instead of an

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102 TOPIC 7 ASSESSMENT USING PERFORMANCE-BASED STRATEGIES

interview. The core of this method is that the teacher gives a specific
assignment or task for assessment purposes. According to Hills (1992)
when this type is used, the childs ability to undertake the assignment is the
focus, though interviews and discussions may be used as part of the
process.

(d) Games
Through the use of observation, while games are in progress, it is possible
for a teacher to assess a childs abilities and thinking systematically (Kamii
& Rosenblum, 1990). Games are particularly good in assessing concepts and
skills.

(e) Work Samples


Work samples are the examples of all types of a childs work that can be
used to demonstrate developmental progress and accomplishments. In the
collection of these work samples, Grace and Shores (1991) opine that the use
of audio-visual media such as photographs, videotapes as well as
audiotapes can be used. The work samples can also be included later in the
portfolio. Meisels (1993) however advices that before work samples are
used, it is important to establish a criteria for selection and organisation of
the samples.

(f) Projects
Wortham (2008) defines a project as an activity conducted by a student or
a group of students that is lengthier than a classroom activity conducted
during a single class period. A product of some type is always the result of
a project. For example, an extended essay may be the result of courses like
literature and collection of nature may be the result of the natural sciences.

(g) Portfolios
Portfolio assessment is the process whereby artefacts from the student's
performances in his or her work are stored, graded and interpreted. They
might be paper folders containing examples of assignments the student has
completed, checklists, anecdotal records, summary reports for a grading
period and any other material that the teacher and the child feel are
relevant to demonstrate the performance of the child (Wortham, 2008). This
would be discussed in detail in next topic.

...rather than examine the cognitive domain alone, which is a low-order skill,
performance assessment would be able to examine the affective and
application skills, which are higher-order skills.

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7.1.2 Advantages of Performance-Based Assessments


Without mincing words, performance-based assessments are of great advantage
to the assessment of young children. Despite the fact that it is in use for children
of all ages (including students in higher education), performance-based
assessment is particularly suitable for children in preoperational and concrete
operational stages of development (Wortham, 2008) because they can be very
motivating for child development. The following are the advantages of
performance-based assessment.

(a) Performance Assessment is Context Based


Performance assessment is conducted in the context of what the children
are experiencing in the classroom. This is because normally, performance
assessment is conducted as part of a lesson, during centre activities...
(Wortham, 2008). As a result of this, it makes performance assessment
meaningful and timely.

(b) Performance Assessment is the Evidence of a Childs Abilities


Performance assessments provide a variety of means that can be used to
demonstrate what the child can do or understands. As Wortham (2008)
rightly observes, the childs ongoing work examples, are products, play,
conversation, emergent writing, and dictated stories are a few examples of
ways that children can perform.

(c) Performance Assessment is Continuous or Ongoing


Unlike the traditional assessment where tests mostly provide only a
snapshot assessment opportunity, performance assessments provide
opportunity for daily collection of artefacts for the purpose of assessment.
This is a great advantage over the snapshot tests that cannot give room for
developmental assessment.

(d) Performance Assessments provide Meaningful Information to Parents


With performance assessments, parents have visual or graphic information
about their childs progress and accomplishments at their disposal. This is
because teachers can give adequate information to the parents during
parents visit to the schools. Apart from this, performance assessments give
opportunity to parents to participate in the assessment process. The
importance of parents participation in the assessment process is captured
by Wortham (2008) when he says that once parents understand the
significance of the childs activities and their relationship to development
and learning, they can be partners with the teacher and the child in
facilitating opportunities for the child.

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(e) Performance Assessment focuses on Child Performance


With performance assessment, opportunities abound for the teacher to
focus his or her attention on the performance of the child. Thus, the focus
here is on child performances and not on whether the child is responding to
the teacher or not. It can also, as a result of this, be able to serve some
diagnostic purpose because as Hills (1992) indicates, the teacher would be
able to determine when the child is unable to demonstrate some skills or
abilities, when the child needs assistance to perform some tasks and when
the child can perform independently.

(f) Performance Assessment gives Chances of Observing and Documenting


With the use of performance assessment, it is easy for the teacher to observe
the learning progress of the students as well as document the samples for
work that shows the childs learning. This also gives the teacher the
opportunity to know when a child needs help and when the child is not
able to show the desired traits so that such a child would be helped.

7.1.3 Disadvantages of Performance-Based


Assessment
Like all other elements of human endeavour, the advantages notwithstanding,
performance-based assessment also has disadvantages. Some of these are listed
below.

(a) Performance Assessment are Time Consuming


All the types of performance assessments require extensive involvement of
the teacher. Conduction of observation, recording of data and interpretation
of data all require the attention and the time of the teacher (Wortham, 2008).
All these activities take a lot of time and effort on the part of the teacher and
this could be frustrating or lead to the teacher taking out of the time meant
for other classroom activities for the assessment task.

(b) Authentic Assessment is more Complex than Traditional Assessment


Because this type of assessment is integrated into the curriculum, it is a little
bit more complex. Firstly, the teacher needs to determine the objectives
clearly and also determine an explicit standard of performance. In other
words, he must be able to determine what level of performance would be
assessed as excellent and what level would be assessed as below average.
Consequently, as Bergen (1994) says, the level of complexity and integration
of the curriculum would determine the difficulty to be involved in assessing
the child and interpreting same in terms of the childs progress.

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(c) Neglect of Progress Assessment


Wortham (2008) has indicated that the proper use of performance-based
assessment is such that it takes along the assessment of achievement as well
as the assessment of progress. However, those using the methods currently
mostly focus on the assessment of achievement. The cause of this, as Bergen
(1994) indicates is that teachers are not actually skilful in how they can
appropriately use performance assessment to determine progress
assessment.

(d) Concerns about Psychometric Issues


Like all alternative assessments, because they are mostly teacher-made
assessments, there are always issues about their validity and reliability.
Though, it is not impossible to begin to move in the direction of validating
these assessment instruments as these concerns have been raised by a
number of scholars (Goodwin & Goodwin, 1993; Schweinhart, 1993). The
possibility of translating this into action is an issue as the process may be
complex.

(e) Parental Involvement


If performance-based assessment is to be used optimally and effectively, the
parent must be involved in this form of assessment. Unfortunately, unlike
the traditional assessment, most parents are not familiar with performance-
based assessment. There is thus the need even for the training of parents
before performance-based assessment can be optimally used, and this is
going to be a herculean task.

SELF-CHECK 7.1
1. List the advantages of performance-based assessment.
2. List the disadvantages of performance-based assessment.

7.2 CURRICULUM-BASED ASSESSMENT


McCauley (2001) defines curriculum-based assessment as assessment aimed at
examining a childs skills and challenges in relation to curricular demands for
purposes of planning intervention that may occur within and outside the
classroom. Prelock (1997) defined curriculum-based assessment as evaluation
of a students ability to meet curriculum objectives so that school success can be
achieved. Another scholar defined curriculum-based assessments as strategies
that use direct and repeated assessment of student academic performance in the

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curriculum to obtain information for educational decision making (Fagan &


Warden, 1996).

From the above definitions, it is clear that curriculum-based assessment is


expected to measure the students progress in the curriculum. As a result of this,
the assessment is based on what the student can do based on what the course
content details.

7.2.1 The Purpose of Curriculum-Based Assessment


Cohen and Spenciner (1994) listed three purposes for curriculum-based
assessment, namely: determination of a childs eligibility for participating in
specific curriculum and learning experience; development of specific curriculum
and instructional goals for a child based on the childs performance in the
classroom context; and assessment of a childs progress during the execution of
the curriculum.

(a) Determination of a Child's Eligibility for Participating in Specific


Curriculum
It might be used to determine the eligibility of a child in participating in
specific curriculum. For example, if the child has not mastered the
necessary skills at the lower level, taking such a child through the
curriculum of a higher level might not be advised.

(b) Development of Specific Curriculum and Instructional Goals for a Child


With the use of curriculum-based assessment, information can be gathered
to develop specific curriculum and instructional goals for the child based
on the childs performance in the classroom context. Discussing this further,
Gullo (2005) says that:

One of the primary findings is that curriculum-based assessment when applied


appropriately, leads to educators being able to amend and align their instruction
to meet the individual needs of students in their classrooms.

(c) Assessment of a Childs Progress


Curriculum-based assessment would reveal the progress of any individual
within the curriculum. Therefore, in order to assess the progress of
individual children as they go through the curriculum, curriculum-based
assessment is used.

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7.2.2 The Advantages of Curriculum-Based


Assessment
Let us now look at the advantages of curriculum-based assessment.

(a) Direct Testing of Student


With curriculum-based assessment, students would be tested based on the
materials he or she is expected to learn. This would take away the burden
and the fear of test/text overlap (Shapiro, 2007). In this case then, failure to
master particular skills, as evidenced on the assessment measures, reflect
real deficit in performance. Failure cannot be attributed to peer item
sampling or lack of exposure to tested materials (Shapiro, 1987).

(b) Direct Link between Results and Instruction


As a result of the link between curriculum-based assessment and the
instruction, any instructor can through the result of this assessment
determine the skills that has not been mastered and where to begin
instruction. This could become particularly useful as children move from
one grade to another. The instructor in the next grade can use curriculum-
based instruction so that he or she can decide whether to go back few steps
to begin instruction or not.

(c) Assessments can be Repeated Frequently


In using standardised tests, there is always the fear of exposure of questions
giving an undue advantage to some students. In the case of curriculum-
based assessment, this fear may no longer hold. The methodology gives
room for on-going assessment as repetition of test can be conducted safely
without fear of practice effect.

(d) Can be used to make Instructional Decisions


Coulter (1985) and Germann and Tindal (1985) has demonstrated that
curriculum-based assessment has been used to make instructional and
classification decisions in a large scale programme.

(e) Suitable for Instructional Planning


Hooper, Hynd and Mattison (1992) opine that curriculum-based assessment
can provide assistance with diagnosis. This is because it can give an actual
performance of individual children, thereby showing those with
developmental or learning deficits. It can also be used for the development
of individual educational plan and it can also offer immediate remedies of
difficulties.

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SELF-CHECK 7.2

1. List the advantages of curriculum-based assessment.


2. List the disadvantages of curriculum-based assessment.

7.3 PLAY-BASED ASSESSMENT


Before defining play-based assessment, the first thing to do is to take a look at
play. Mastrangelo (2009) says that play is a complex phenomenon that occurs
naturally for most children; they move through the various stages of play
development and are able to add complexity, imagination, and creativity to their
thought processes and actions (p. 34). Gullo (2005) in the vein states that for
young children, play is voluntary and intrinsically motivating (p. 97-98). In his
analysis of play, Bracken identifies the following characteristics:
(a) Play is intrinsically motivated, that is, playing does not depend on rewards
or other forms of external motivation.
(b) Play is freely chosen.
(c) Play is pleasurable. It is something enjoyable and usually elicits a positive
effect.
(d) It involves some element of pretending though there is some play that does
not involve pretending.
(e) Play involves active engagement. A child is usually more attentive to the
play than any other stimuli.

All these qualities of play make it very applicable to children. This is why the
core of early childhood curriculum consists of play, especially from infanthood to
toddlerhood (Gullo, 2005). Kelly-Vance and Ryalls (2005) assert that play is
enjoyable and motivating for children, and it is how they spend much of their
time.

Having examined play, we can now define play-based assessment. Kelly-Vance


and Ryalls (2005) define play-based assessment as when play is used as the
context for evaluating a childs current level of functioning and determining
whether there are areas that require intervention. Crais (2011) describes play-
based assessment as when play serves as the primary context for observation and
documentation of a childs behaviour as he or she interacts with toys and
people.

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From these two definitions, we can say that play-based assessment is when play
is used as the means through which a child is assessed. The rationale for play-
based assessment is given by Kelly-Vance and Ryalls (2005) when he opines that,
not only is play an important part of childrens daily routine, it is also a window
into their developmental levels and a context where valuable teaching and
learning can occur. It is because of these two reasons, that play provides a
window to determine the childs development as well as a context for the
assessment and this is why play-based assessment is a rapidly growing means
of evaluating preschool children in a nonthreatening, naturalistic fashion (Fagan
& Warden, 1996).

ACTIVITY 7.1
Considering the nature of play in children, would you recommend play-
based assessment for children?

7.3.1 Types of Play-Based Assessment


On the types of play-based assessment, Kelly-Vance and Ryalls (2005) state that,
unlike other forms of early childhood assessment, relatively little activity has
occurred in the development of play assessment techniques. Of the existing ones,
only three have been described in enough detail to use in practice. It is these
three approaches that will be our focus in this section:

(a) Play-Assessment Scale (PAS)


Athanasion (2007) defines Play-Assessment Scale as a scale designed to
evaluate the developing skills of children from 2 to 36 months. Kelly-
Vance and Ryalls (2005), describe PAS as follows:

This 45-item scale is developmentally sequenced and is organised into


eight age ranges and toy sets so that only a portion of the items are rated for
each child. Children are first observed in spontaneous play followed by a
facilitated play session, and their play behaviours are coded according to
the scale so that a play age can be determined. The play age is composed
only of those behaviours observed in spontaneous play. A basal/ceiling
approach is used and a conversion chart allows the rater to convert the raw
score to the childs play age.

From this description, the following can be said about PAS:


(i) PAS is similar to the Likert scale with items to be rated.

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(ii) It is divided into age-ranges


(iii) To use, there are going to be two sessions: the spontaneous play and
the facilitated play session
(iv) Play behaviours observed are coded according to the scale.
(v) A basal/ceiling approach is used for calculation
(vi) A conversion chart is used to determine the childs play age.

(b) Transdisciplinary Play-Based Assessment (TPBA)


TPBA has been described as the most thoroughly described play
assessment technique (Kelly-Vance & Ryalls, 2005). In using the TPBA,
individuals from various disciplines observe the child in free play and
document their play behaviours. These individuals share their findings to
arrive at a shared perspective on the childs skill level. TPBA has detailed
coding for cognitive, social-emotional, communication and language and
sensorimotor development applicable to children from 5 to 6 years. The
following are the steps to follow if TPBA is to be used:

(i) Pre-Play Session


Professionals contact the childs caregiver to determine their
concerns and preliminary information about the childs
functioning.
Information is also obtained from parents.
Observation team is set up. This consists of play facilitator (the
one who will engage with the child); a parent facilitator (who will
discuss process with parents); evaluators and video camera
operator.

(ii) Play Session


Large play area with variety of toys can be used
Session 1: child plays alone
Session 2: play facilitator attempts to engage child in activities not
displayed by childs free play. This is a testing phase.
Session 3: child plays with another child
Session 4: child interacts with parents
Session 5: a phase of motor play follows

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(iii) Post-Play Session


Codlings are used to describe the childs strengths and
weaknesses.
Specific intervention guidelines may be derived from the result.

(c) Play in Early Childhood Evaluation System (PIECES)


PIECES has been described as the most recently developed and extensively
investigated approach to play assessment (Kelly-Vance & Ryalls, 2005). It
grew out of empirical research on TPBAs cognitive development
assessment guidelines. As a result of this, it has some similarities with TPBA.
Table 7.2 shows the differences between PIECES and TPBA:

Table 7.2: Differences between PIECES and TPBA

PIECES TPBA
It is an observation of a child engaged in It is an observation of a child engaged in
free play. free as well as structured play.
Can be conducted in any setting with large Can be conducted in any setting with large
and varied number toys. and varied number toys.
It can be video-taped Video cameraman is always part of team
Child play is done without facilitator Allows play facilitator to lead or initiate
intervention play
Multidisciplinary team of observers is not Multidisciplinary team of observers is used
necessary. for the observation process.
Guidelines are broken down into multiple Guidelines are broken down into multiple
scales examining different domains of scales but the domains to be examined are
cognitive development. different.
Items are not drawn from Linder but on Items are drawn from Linder.
literature on development of play.

ACTIVITY 7.2
Compare the three types of play-based assessment instruments and
decide on the one to propose for your institution.

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7.4 PROJECT ASSESSMENT


Describing project assessment, Gullo (2005) says, project assessment is another
type of alternative assessment that is used to assess childrens academic progress
through the assessment of their knowledge and problem-solving skills by
observing them in an actual problem-solving situation. In using the project
assessment, the problem to be solved has to be actual activities that are part of
the childs curriculum.

Using this form of assessment can again give the children another opportunity to
interact with the curriculum in another avenue which will lead to the
development of understanding and competence rather than just cognitive
development (Gardner, 1999).

Performance-based assessment would be able to examine the affective and


application skills, which are higher order thinking skills.

Performance-based assessment is particularly useful for young children.

Curriculum-based assessment attempts to evaluate students ability to meet


curriculum objectives.

Play-based assessment occurs when play is used as the means through which
a child is assessed.

Project assessment attempts to assess childrens academic progress through


an assessment of their knowledge and problem solving skills.

Affective skills Higher-order thinking skills


Application skills Low-order thinking skills

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Athanasiou, M. S. (2007). Play-based approaches to preschool assessment. In B.


A. Bracken & R. J. Nagle (Eds.), The psychoeducational assessment of
preschool children. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Bergen, D. (1994). Authentic performance assessment. Childhood education, 70,
99-102.
Cohen, L. G., & Spenciner, L. J. (1994). Assessment of young children. New York:
Longman Press.
Coulter W. A. (1985). "Implementing curriculum-based assessment:
Considerations for pupil appraisal professionals". Exceptional children, 52,
277-281.
Crais, E. R. (2011). Testing and beyond: Strategies and tools for evaluating and
assessing infants and toddlers. Language, speech, and hearing services in
school, 42, 341-346.
Engel, B. (1990). An approach to assessment in early literacy. In C. Kamii (Ed.),
Achievement testing in the early grades: The games grown-ups play.
Washington DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Fagan, T. K., & Warden, P. G. (Eds.). (1996). Historical encyclopedia of school
psychology. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. Retrieved from
http://www.questia.com
Gardner, H. (1999). The disciplined mind: What all students should understand.
New York: Basic Books.
Germann G., & Tindal G. (1985). "An application of curriculum-based
assessment: The use of direct and repeated measurement". Exceptional
children, 52, 244-265.
Goodwin, W. L., & Goodwin, L. D. (1993). Young children and measurement:
Standardized and nonstandardized instruments in early childhood
education. In B. Spodek (Ed.), Handbook of research on the education of
young children. New York: Macmillan.
Grace, C., & Shores, E. F. (1991). The portfolio and its use. Little Rock, AR:
Southern Association on Children Under Six.
Gullo, D. F. (2005). Understanding assessment and evaluation in early childhood
education. (2nd ed.). New York: Teachers College Press.

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Hills, T. W. (1992). Reaching potentials through appropriate assessment. In S.


Bredekamp & T. Rosegrant (Eds.), Reaching potentials: Appropriate
curriculum and assessment for young children. Washington, DC: National
Association for the Education of Young Children.
Hooper, S. R., Hynd, G. W., & Mattison, R. E. (Eds.). (1992). Developmental
disorders: Diagnostic criteria and clinical assessment. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence
Erlbaum Associates. Retrieved from http://www.questia.com
Kamii, C., & Rosenblum, V. (1990). An approach to assessment in mathematics.
In C. Kamii (Ed.), Achievement testing in the early grades: The games grown-
ups play. Washington DC: National Association for the Education of Young
Children.
Kelly-Vance, L., & Ryalls, B. O. 2005). A systematic, reliable approach to play
assessment in preschoolers. School psychology international, 26, 398-412.
Mastrangelo, S. (2009). Harnessing the power of play: Opportunities for children
with autism spectrum disorders. Teaching exceptional children, 42 (1), 34-44.
McCauley, R. J. (2001). Assessment of language disorders in children. Mahwah,
NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Retrieved from http://www.questia.com
Meisels, S. J. (2000). On the side of the child. Young children, 55, 16-19.
Prelock, P. A. (1997). Language-based curriculum analysis: A collaborative
assessment and intervention process. Journal of children's communication
development,19, 3542.
Schweinhart, L. J. (1993). Observing young children in action: The key to early
childhood assessment. Young children, 48, 29-33.
Shapiro, E. S. (1987). Behavioural assessment in school psychology. Hillsdale, NJ:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Retrieved from http://www.questia.com
Wortham, S. C. (2008). Assessment in early childhood education. (5th ed.). Ohio:
Pearson.
Wright, J. R. (2010). Multifaceted assessment for early childhood education. USA:
Sage Publication Inc.

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Topic Portfolio
8 Assessment

LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Define a portfolio;
2. List the purpose of portfolio assessment;
3. Discuss the methods of assessing portfolios;
4. Discuss the steps to take in producing quality portfolios;
5. Differentiate between the types of portfolios; and
6. Develop rubrics to assess artefacts in portfolios.

INTRODUCTION
In Topic 7, we have dealt with the performance-based assessments. We have
talked about curriculum-based assessment, play-based assessment and project
assessment. You will also recall that we mentioned the portfolio as one of the
types of performance-based assessment. In this topic, we are going to deal with
the last of the alternative assessments, and this is the portfolio assessment.

Wortham (2008) defines a portfolio as a collection of a childs work and teacher


data from informal and performance assessments to evaluate development and
learning. Gullo (2005) says portfolios are a systematic and organised collection
of the work that children do as they are engaged in classroom activities. Gullo
(2005) further opines that the childs work that makes up the portfolio must
reflect the curriculum goals, contents and strategies.

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Paulson, Paulson, and Meyer (1991) define and describe portfolio as follows:

A portfolio is a purposeful collection of student work that exhibits the


student's efforts, progress, and achievements in one or more areas. The
collection must include student participation in selecting contents, the
criteria for selection, the criteria for judging merit, and evidence of student
reflection.

From the above definitions of a portfolio, portfolio assessment can then be


defined as a form of assessment that makes use of the means of a portfolio. The
portfolio, itself, being a collection of various works of the students, usually called
artefacts.

8.1 PURPOSES FOR PORTFOLIO ASSESSMENT


As you would have read above, the portfolio exists independent of an
assessment. Therefore, portfolios are not used solely for the purpose of
assessment. As Wortham (2008) also opines, how the contents of a portfolio are
used depends on the purpose. The following are the purposes that portfolios
can be used for.

(a) Using Portfolios for Assessment and Evaluation


In using portfolio for assessment and evaluation, the collection in the
portfolio would be made to give a holistic picture of the students activities
over a long period of time. Wortham (2008) says that in using portfolio for
the purpose of assessment:

The portfolio should include many examples of a students work that will
provide multiple assessments of concepts, skills, and projects that result in an
accurate picture of what the student understands and is able to use in a
meaningful context.

From the above quotation based on Valencia (1990) and Micklo (1997), the
students work to be included in the portfolio, if it is meant for assessment
and evaluation must represent a wide spectrum of the curriculum moving
from concepts (that may reflect the low order thinking skills) to skills and
projects (that may reflect the higher order thinking skills). You should also
note that assessment here can be seen on the two fronts: student assessment
and teacher assessment. In other words, using the portfolio, the teacher can
assess the children and the children can also assess the teacher.

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(b) Using Portfolios for Self-Assessment and Reflection


Like every other portfolio, even at the young children level, they can be
used for self-assessment and reflection. Children have the opportunity to
observe their growth and progress through the use of the portfolio. This is
because they have the opportunity to compare their work samples
themselves over a period of time. For example, at the beginning of a term,
children can be made to write alphabets and at the end they could be made
to write other alphabets. They would then be given the two letters so that
they can compare the two writings. This can lead to self-reflection on the
part of the children. Herbert and Schultz (1996) also admit this when they
report that the portfolio makes it possible for the children to compare their
work samples longitudinally (that is, in a lengthwise dimension).

(c) Using Portfolios for Reporting Progress


Portfolios have been regarded as a comprehensive alternative to the use of
report cards (Wortham, 2008). Through the use of portfolios, parents can
collaborate with the teacher and their child in the selection and review of
the students artefacts and the parents would be able to assess their
childrens progress. Portfolios can also be graded if need be.

(d) Using Portfolio for Teacher Documentation


Carpenter, Ray and Bloom (1995) add that for teachers, portfolios are used for
documenting their classroom and community activities, monitoring the quality
and forms of their instruction, evaluating their program's strengths and
weaknesses, and fostering professionalism. This is also an important purpose
in that it can serve as reflection for the teacher and improve the teachers skills.

A portfolio is a collection of students work that can graphically show


students learning and development for the purpose of assessment,
reflection, reportage and showcasing.

8.2 TYPES OF PORTFOLIOS


As the contents of a portfolio is determined by the purpose, so does the purpose
of a portfolio determines the type of the portfolio. As Wortham (2008) opines, the
users of the portfolio must decide the type of portfolio that best serves their
purpose. The following are the types of portfolios as identified by Wortham
(2008):

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(a) Working Portfolio


Wortham (2008) describes a working portfolio as one that is used to collect
examples of student work for future evaluation. He opines that during the
interval period, sample works are collected without a final decision about
them as to what will be discarded or kept. The samples here would be
collected by both the child and the teacher. Gronlund (1998) indicates that
progress notes and planning for subsequent work are important
components of the working portfolio. The working portfolio seems to be
like what Gullo (2005) calls works-in-progress portfolio as he indicates that
the portfolio contains the samples of what the children are working on
currently.

(b) Evaluative Portfolio


When we talk of a portfolio, this is the type that comes to peoples mind
readily. Using an evaluative portfolio, the teacher can assess any childs
progress, either formatively or summatively. On this type, Wortham (2008)
says, the teacher uses the materials included to evaluate the students
developmental advances and needs for future growth and learning. This
type of portfolio is also used for reporting to parents and administrators
and also for planning curriculum and instruction (Barbour & Desjean-
Perrotta, 1998). This is what Gullo (2005) christened current-year portfolio
which he described as follows:

These are the curriculum products that are then scrutinised by teachers in
order to elucidate the childrens level of accomplishments. This particular
type of portfolio also gives teachers a better understanding of how to
structure or restructure the curriculum for the childs next step.

If you compare this function with what Wortham describes above as


evaluative portfolio, you will discover that they are the same and one type.

(c) Showcase Portfolio


According to Wortham (2008), the showcase portfolio is used to exhibit the
childs best works. He went on to say that these are also shared with the
parents to discuss the childs accomplishments and also for the open-house
events when children from different classes can share their works among
themselves.

(d) Archival Portfolio


This is the type of portfolio according to Wortham (2008) that follows
students from one year to the other. This is why some scholars refer to it as
pass-along portfolio (Puckett & Black, 2000) as it has the ability to give the

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teacher in the next grade accurate information about the child. This is the
type of portfolio that Gullo (2005) refers to as permanent portfolio.

ACTIVITY 8.1
Read further on the web or undertake a library search to determine if
there are other types of portfolios. If there are, compare with the above
list and harmonise your list or findings.

8.3 ANALYSING PORTFOLIO ASSESSMENT


It should be pointed out from the beginning that there is no exact way or
method for the assessment of portfolios (Birgin & Baki, 2007). Again as in the
determination of content and type, the purpose of the assessment influences the
assessment of portfolio (Birgin & Baki, 2007; Wortham, 2008). For example, Birgin
and Baki (2007) identify both the formative and the summative assessment. This
is also true of Wortham (2008) who describes formative assessment as follows:
periodically the teacher, child, and parent review portfolio contents to
determine the childs progress and how appropriate experiences could be
planned for future growth and development.

Whichever way the assessment goes, each item in the portfolio is very important
in the process of the assessment. The teacher is expected to use an established
criteria to develop a profile of the childs strength and weaknesses as well as
interests and creative expressions (Wortham, 2008).

Kuh (1994) identifies three basic approaches to portfolio assessment:


(a) Each piece of item in the portfolio can be evaluated and the average grade
is then used as the portfolio grade.
(b) To use an analytic scheme which separates grades for the different
performances. Please note that even with this, individual artefacts are
graded analytically.
(c) This is called the focused-holistic approach wherein a single score is
determined by the teacher. This is after the teacher might have focused on
the several dimensions of the performance.

Cole, Ryan and Kick (1995) also identify two steps in the process of assessment of
portfolios.

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Step 1: This is what they termed as process portfolio and is expected to


document growth for a period of time towards a particular goal. This portfolio
must include a baseline information. The baseline information is the childs
mastery level before the programme. Other artefacts in the portfolio would be
collected at several intervals to demonstrate the steps the child has taken to
mastery. Please note that the baseline information becomes the standard from
which development is measured.

Step 2: This is what they termed product portfolio that includes final evidences
that demonstrate goal attainment. The most important element here is the criteria
for judging merits.

To aid the analysing of artefacts in the portfolio, Wortham (2008) demonstrated


the following checklists which are to be used by the teacher and the children.
Two examples are given in Tables 8.1 and 8.2.

Children

Behaviours
Makes groups
consistently when
given a basis for
classification.
Names basis for
classifying.
Devises basis for
classifying.
Makes
subclassifications
Other
Figure 8.1: A checklist for classifying skills
Source: Wortham, S.C. (2008).
Assessment in early childhood education (5th ed.). Ohio: Pearson

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Children

Qualities
Applies
Information
Conveys
information clearly
Represents creative
work
Neatly made
Clearly explained
(as applicable)
For group projects,
was project work
shared?
Was work
cooperative?
Other
Figure 8.2: A checklist for classifying skills
Source: Wortham, S.C. (2008).
Assessment in early childhood education (5th ed.). Ohio: Pearson

ACTIVITY 8.2

Develop a rubric that would assist you in assessing and grading portfolio
artefacts for young children in a subject of your choice.

8.4 DEVELOPING QUALITY PORTFOLIOS


Having come this far on the discussion on portfolio assessment, it is time to ask
the question, how do we help build qualitative portfolios. If it is decided that you
need to use portfolio assessment, the following are the steps you need to follow
to develop quality portfolios.

(a) Determine the Purpose of the Portfolio


As you have read within this topic, the purpose of a portfolio is central to
its establishment. This is because the purpose of the portfolio will
determine both the type and the contents of the portfolio. On the issue of
purpose, Wortham (2008) has this to say:

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The purpose of the portfolio is determined by the teachers objectives for


assessment. If the purpose is to assess development for a reporting period, an
evaluative portfolio with a developmental format is chosen. If the purpose is for
the student to initiate learning objectives and engage in reflection and self-
evaluation, a working portfolio may be the obvious choice. If portfolios are
implemented for parent conferences and are not the major source of assessment,
a showcase portfolio might be indicated.

It is important also to note that a multipurpose portfolio is a possibility. A good


example is to use a portfolio for assessment as well as showcasing.

(b) Organising the Contents


After the purpose has been clearly identified, there is the need to decide on
the methods of organising the contents. There are six ways in which this
may be done: topic, genre, difficulty level, chronology, preferences and
multiple-level organisation. You need to be aware of the link between
purpose and organisation of the portfolio. For example, if the purpose of a
portfolio is to evaluate a preschooler, the best approach would be
chronological organisation (Wortham, 2008). The relevance of chronological
organisation is that the development of the child would be seen as a
continuum.

After the format, Wortham (2008) advocates the use of a table of contents
and suggests the following:
(i) A table of contents
(ii) Title Page (this identifies the student, purpose of portfolio and its
contents)
(iii) Dividers with labels (to identify contents by section)
(iv) Dates on all entries
(v) A review or assessment section (containing teacher and self-
assessment with teachers comments).

(c) Storage
It is also important to note that the purpose of the portfolio as well as likely
contents would determine type of storage containers to use. Boxes may be
used where project works and or video/audio tapes may be part of content.
Other suggestions include expendable file folders, x-ray folders, pizza
boxes and paper briefcases among others (Wortham, 2008).

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(d) Decision on Contents


There are many possibilities on what to do here. In anything you do
however, ensure that there is a balance between process and product
portfolios (Barbour & Desjean-Perrotta, 1988). It must however include
traditional assessment measures, performance assessment and observation
results (Wortham, 2008).

Above all the teacher must ensure that:


(i) The artefacts enclosed are representative of the childs achievements.
(ii) Artefacts are classified based on level of support or independence.
(iii) Evaluation criteria for each artefact and the portfolio as a whole is
relevant to the students work.
(iv) The artefacts included are related to the instructional objectives.
(v) Portfolios are reviewed regularly with the application of correct
criteria.
(vi) Some of the tasks given to the students should require extraneous
abilities.

Hanson and Gilkerson (1999) also warn that for a portfolio to be


meaningful, it must:
(i) Be purposeful.
(ii) Be linked with instructional objectives.
(iii) Be an on-going assessment.
(iv) Do not become a teacher-manufactured document.
(v) Be performance based and its context must include the home, school
and the community.

SELF-CHECK 8.1
1. Define a portfolio.
2. Describe the types of portfolio.
3. What is the link between purpose, content and organisation?

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There are four types of portfolios: working, evaluative, showcase and


archival.

The purpose of assessment influences the type and contents of the portfolio.

The purpose of the portfolio is central to its establishment.

A multipurpose portfolio may combine two or three purposes of assessment.

Contents of a portfolio may be organised by topic, genre, difficulty level,


chronology, preferences and multiple-level.

Archival portfolio Showcase portfolio


Artefacts Working portfolio
Evaluative portfolio

Barbour, A., & Desjean-Perrotta, B. (1998). The basics of portfolio assessment. In


S. C. Wortham, A. Barbour, and B. Desjean-Perrotta (Eds.), Portfolio
assessment: A handbook for preschool and elementary educators. Olney, MD:
Association for Childhood Education International.
Birgin, O., & Baki, A. (2007). The use of portfolio to assess students performance.
Journal of Turkish Science Educatio, 4(2), 75-90.
Carpenter, D., Ray, M., & Bloom, L. (1995). Portfolio assessment: Opportunities
and challenges. Intervention in School and Clinic, 31(1), 34-41.
Cole, D. J., Ryan, C. W., & Kick, F. (1995). Portfolios across the curriculum and
beyond. Thousands Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Gronlund, N. E. (1998). Portfolio as an assessment tool: Is collection of work
enough? Young Children, 53, 4-10.
Gullo, D. F. (2005). Understanding assessment and evaluation in early childhood
education. (2nd ed.). New York: Teachers College Press.

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TOPIC 8 PORTFOLIO ASSESSMENT 125

Hanson, M. F., & Gilkerson, D. (1999). Portfolio assessment: More than ABCs and
123s. Early Childhood Education Journal, 27, 81-86.
Hebert, E., & Schultz, L. (1996). The Power of Portfolios. Educational Leadership,
53(7), 7071.
Kuhs, T. (1994). Portfolio Assessment: Making it Work for the First Time. The
Mathematics Teachers, 87 (5), 332-335.
Micklo, S. K. (1997). Math portfolio in the primary grades. Childhood Education,
73, 194-199.
Paulson, F. L., Paulson, P., & Meyer, C. (1991). What makes a portfolio?
Educational Leadership, 49(5), 60-63.
Puckett, M. B., & Black, J. K. (2000). Authentic assessment of the young child:
Celebrating development and learning (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River:
Merrill/Prentice Hall.
Valencia, S. (1990). A portfolio approach to classroom reading assessment.
Reading Teacher, 43, 338-340.
Wortham, S. C. (2008). Assessment in early childhood education. (5th ed.). Ohio:
Pearson.

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Topic Assessment
9 and Evaluation
of Special
Needs
Children
LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. List the goals of assessment of special needs children;
2. List the decisions to be taken when dealing with special needs
children;
3. Discuss five characteristics of assessment of special needs children;
4. Discuss the importance of assessment procedures for culturally and
linguistically different children; and
5. Evaluate any assessment instrument for cultural and linguistic bias.

INTRODUCTION
In the last four topics, that is, Topics 5 through 8, we have examined the various
types of assessments. Our work however will not be complete without taking a
look at the assessment of children with special needs, and this is the focus of this
topic.

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Everything that has been discussed about the assessment of young children so far
is equally applicable to special needs children though there are going to be some
differences (Gullo, 2005). Cases of special needs vary both in types as well as in
severity. Gullo (2005) opines that special needs type can range from a minor
speech or language problem to something more debilitating such as a severe
physical condition or cognitive delay.

Sometimes, there are cases where individual children can suffer from multiple
special needs areas. These are all part of the factors that are put into
consideration in determining the type or types of assessments that are used, the
types of specialists that will become involved in the assessment process , and
ultimately the kind or kinds of intervention programming that is suggested
(Gullo, 2005:133). Gullo (2005) suggested four goals as the focus of assessment
and evaluation of special needs children.

(a) Amelioration of the Disability


The first goal of the assessment and evaluation of children with special
needs is the amelioration of the disability. It is important for you to know
that this first goal may not be realised with every child, especially when it
comes to cases of children with congenital condition. On this, Gullo (2005)
has this to say:

... if a child is identified as having a speech or language problem, the speech


pathologist may, through speech/language therapy, improve the childs capacity
in speech and language so that he or she may no longer require special services.
However, if a child is identified as having a physical or cognitive problem that is
congenital, such a child will probably continue with special services throughout
his or her schooling.

Through assessment, it would be known how to ameliorate the childs


condition or work with the child to live with the condition.

(b) Prevention of Secondary Disabling Conditions


There are some special needs cases that have the ability to lead to secondary
disabling conditions, especially in cases that has to do with the physical
domain. Discussing this situation further, Gullo (2005) says:

If, for example, a childs primary disability is in the physical domain, this could
lead to cognitive or language delays if appropriate intervention is not pursued.
This may also be true among children who have sensorial disabilities, such as
deafness or blindness. It should be noted that some of these primary conditions
might also lead to emotional or social problems as well.

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In assessing these children with special needs then, the goal would be to
identify the extent of the childs needs so that the secondary disabling
condition could be reduced or avoided altogether.

(c) Support Family Needs


When children are identified as having special needs, the next goal is the
support for the needs of the childs family. The needs of the family would
also vary in proportion to the needs of the child. Two things are of
importance here. The first is information. The family would need
information about their childs needs if the curriculum modification is such
that departs from a regular education programme. As Gullo (2005) says,
families need to be kept appraised of what kinds of modification will be
made and the reasons for doing these modifications. The second is the
kind of family support required by the child as many children with special
needs require continued support at home to maximise the benefits of the
school programme (Gullo, 2005).

(d) Design and Implementation of Unique Curriculum and Instructional


Strategies
The information derived from the assessment of children with special needs
are what the professionals need to determine the kind of modifications that
are needed in the curriculum so that the child would benefit from the
curriculum.

9.1 UNDERSTANDING ASSESSMENT AND


EVALUATION FOR CHILDREN WITH
SPECIAL NEEDS
Wolery, Strain and Bailey (1992) identify seven decision points that are germane
to the process of assessment and evaluation of children with special needs. These
seven points would give us the required understanding of the assessment and
evaluation process of these children with special needs. These seven decision
points would be discussed here.

(a) The Decision for Referral


As Gullo (2005) states, the first decision point in the assessment process is to
determine whether or not the child needs to be referred to special needs
services or additional assessment. The kind of instrument to be used at this
level is a screening assessment tool. Pertinent questions to be asked at this
level are three as identified by Wolery, Strain and Bailey (1992):

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(i) Does the developmental screening indicate potential for


developmental delay or disability?
(ii) Does hearing or visual screening indicate potential sensory
impairments or losses?
(iii) Does health screening and physical examination indicate need for
medical attention?

The answers to these questions would help to determine if the child needs to
be referred as any of these impairments could affect the childs education.

(b) Decision on State of the Child


This is the level at which the decision has to be taken whether the referred
child has a developmental delay, sensory disability or health-related
problems. At this level, the diagnostic assessment instrument would be
used. Two questions are pertinent at this level and they are:
(i) Does a developmental delay or disability exist?
(ii) If yes, what is the nature and extent of the delay or disability?

The aim at this level is to determine the presence of the condition as well as
its severity if it exists. It is also important to note that it is at this level that
children with multiple conditions would be identified.

(c) Decision as to Eligibility for Special Education Services


The reports from the diagnostic assessment would be of help in deciding
whether the child is eligible or not for special education services. This
would be done by matching the childs diagnosis with the stated eligible
conditions for receiving special education services. Only one question is
pertinent here:
(i) Does the child meet the criteria specified to receive specialised
services?

The determination of the childs eligibility leads to the next decision point.

(d) Instructional Decision Point


After the childs eligibility to receive special services has been determined, the
next decision is to determine how the child would be taught within the
programme. This is called the instructional programme planning segment
(Gullo, 2005). Four pertinent questions are to be asked at this point:
(i) What is the childs current level of developmental functioning?

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(ii) What does the child need to be independent in the classroom, home,
and community?
(iii) What are the effects of adaptation and assistance on the childs
performance?
(iv) What usual patterns of responding and what relationships with
environmental variables appear to influence the childs performance?

(e) Decision on Special Education Services


The decision here includes the specific special education the child should
receive and the place the child would receive the services. The assessment
results are used to make decisions on these issues and the following are the
pertinent questions to be answered:
(i) What does the child need?
(ii) Which of the possible placement options could best meet the childs
needs?
(iii) Does the child need specialised services such as speech/language
therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, or dietary therapy?

Please note that it could be that multiple services are needed if the child has
multiple special needs as discussed earlier.

(f) Decision on Childs Progress


The sixth point is the determination of the childs progress. It is to know
whether or not the child is making appropriate progress in the skills that
are indicated on their individual educational plan (IEP). The formative
assessment is used here because it is to determine if modification of plan is
needed or not. This kind of assessment is done at regular intervals. Only
one question is pertinent at this point:
(i) What is the childs usual performance of important skills?

(g) Decision on the Educational Outcomes


This is the point where decision is made on whether or not the child is
achieving the educational objectives and to what extent these objectives are
being achieved. Evaluation at this point is summative in nature. Two
questions are pertinent at this point:
(i) Is the child using the important skills outside the classroom?
(ii) Did the child make expected progress?

Gullo's (2005) information derived from assessment and evaluation of


children with special needs are used to make the following decisions:
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(i) Does the child have special educational needs?


(ii) Is the child eligible for special services?
(iii) What type of educational services are best suited for the childs
educational need?
(iv) The effectiveness of the services provided in the short run and on the
overall effectiveness of the programme towards meeting the IEP goals.

ACTIVITY 9.1
1. Why are the above listed decisions important in the case of special
needs children?
2. Which type of instrument do you need to make the relevant
decisions?

9.1.1 Using Assessment to Plan for Curriculum and


Instructional Needs for Special Needs Children
Apart from using assessment and evaluation information to make the above
outlined decisions, they can also be used to plan the curriculum and instruction
for children with special needs. As with the decision making process above, the
use of assessment for instructional planning is a little bit different with children
with special needs than general use.

When assessment is used to plan for instruction, five characteristics of


assessment are important and these have been listed by Wolery, Strain and Bailey
(1992).

(a) Assessment should include a variety of measures and settings


Explaining further on the inclusion of a variety of measures and settings
Gullo (2005) says that:

Different assessment should be used, such as criterion-referenced, curriculum-


based, teacher-made tests, and the child should be assessed in different settings
including at school and at home. In addition, interviews with people who know
the child should also be conducted as part of the assessment process.

From this variety of assessment in variety of settings, a holistic picture of


the childs actual stand would have emerged. This is because there are

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times when the setting can affect a childs performance as well as the mode
of assessment can also affect it.

(b) Assessment should be detailed


The results of the assessment should provide a detailed description of the
childs functioning. Certain information must be derived from the data
resulting from the assessment. Gullo (2005) lists some of these as follow:
(i) Developmental levels among all areas that are relevant for that child
and for his or her particular situation.
(ii) Indications of what the child is capable of doing and also what the
child is not capable of doing, generally and within an educational
setting.
(iii) Whether or not there are any external or internal factors that might
affect or influence the childs skills or abilities.

Such a detailed description would be helpful to the child as well as the


professionals that would be working with the child as these records would
always be available to them in future decision makings.

(c) Childs Family Involvement


Several cases have always been made for the inclusion of the family of the
children with special needs for optimum utilisation of the benefits of the
intervention programme. Gullo (2005) lists some ways in which the family
could be involved:
(i) Receiving assessment information from those professionals that are
appropriate to interpret the information to them.
(ii) Having opportunities to observe their child while he or she is being
assessed so that they can better understand the assessment process
and so that they will have first hand observational knowledge about
their childs performance on the assessments.
(iii) Being provided with information regarding their childs levels of
development and resulting educational or health needs.
(iv) Having opportunities to gather additional information in order to
validate the findings of the assessment process.

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(d) Assessment should be conducted by Multidisciplinary Professionals


The nature of the suspected special need as well as the frequency of
reassessment will determine the number and the kinds of professionals
required to assess the child. As Gullo (2005) suggests that a speech and
language pathologist, physical therapist, social worker, medical
professional, psychologist, and special education and regular education
teacher may be the professionals needed.

(e) Assessment should lead to High-priority Objectives


This is particularly important with children with multiple special needs.
The importance of this lies in the planning for effective instruction. Gullo
(2005) also opines that in some situations, one particular special need will
have to improve or be ameliorated before others will benefit from
intervention. He later draws an example that if a child is having attention
deficit disorder and auditory processing difficulty, the attention deficit
would need to be tackled first before proceeding with the auditory
processing.

Gullo (2005) also opines that in some situations, one particular special need will
have to improve or be ameliorated before others will benefit from intervention
in cases of children with multiple special needs.

9.2 CHILDREN WITH CULTURALLY AND


LINGUISTICALLY DIFFERENT
BACKGROUNDS
Let us begin by defining who the children with cultural and linguistically
different backgrounds are. Sattler (1992) says that these are children from an
ethnic group having sociocultural patterns that differ from those of the
predominant society. In the American society, these groups will include the
Blacks, Hispanic-Americans, American Indians and Asian-Americans. For the
Asian society, all non-Asians would fall into the group. People with different
cultural backgrounds are always classed along with those who are linguistically
different because language and culture usually go hand-in-hand.

The large and increasing population of children from other backgrounds in our
societies makes the assessment of these groups an issue. For example, it has been
asserted that public school enrolment in the United States has a population of
17% non-Hispanic blacks; 14.4% Hispanics; 3.9% Asians/Pacific Islanders and
1.2% American Indians/Alaskan natives (National Centre for Education Statistics
(2002).

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The major issue in this case is that cultural differences effect the way learning
occurs as well as the type of information that is learned. For example, Bracken
(2004) says that individuals of different culture will recall and understand those
aspects of a lesson that are most relevant to their own culture.

Under normal conditions, assessment is a complicated process. However,


assessing individuals from culturally diverse or non-English or limited-English
speaking background becomes more complex (Barona and Santos de Barona,
1987). Consequently, preschool assessment should take note of social, cultural
and linguistic factors that can influence test performance and thus make
assessment inaccurate.

Let us take a look at an example of these factors in assessment. Huynh (1988)


when describing Asian children says that a well-mannered Vietnamese will not
speak when not spoken to because voluntary response may be considered
showing off or being rude. He even stated that verbal expression of thankfulness
may even be considered a lack of modesty. Gaber and Slater (1983) opine that
Chinese children are usually passive in a classroom setting. In fact, Tikunoft
(1987) says that Chinese children may not even proceed to another task after the
completion of one task. Now if a teacher is not aware of all these cultural
differences, any child showing these characteristics could be termed dull, sullen,
unmotivated, or even developmentally delayed (Bracken, 2004:285).

The realisation of the issues raised has made scholars to assert that using the
same assessment instruments for these categories of children is inappropriate
(Neisworth & Bagnato, 1996). This made McLean (1998) suggest that the
achievement of valid and reliable assessment results begin with the selection of
assessment instruments and the procedure used for the assessment. In fact, Gullo
(2005) asserts that the assessment procedures for this population of young
children need to be different.

Sattler (1992) identifies children with cultural and linguistically different


backgrounds as children from an ethnic group having sociocultural patterns
that differ from those of the predominant society.

9.2.1 Assessment Procedure for Children with Cultural


and Linguistic Differences
As a result of the effects of the differences in culture and language for these
groups of children, the process for their assessment may have to be tilted to
favour them. The following are the suggested assessment procedures for them.

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(a) Instrumentation
As asserted above, the instrument that can be used with these groups of
children must be carefully selected. For valid and reliable results, the
instrument to be used must be sensitive to cultural differences. Explaining
sensitivity to cultural differences, Gullo (2005) states that it has to do with
built-in safe guards that would be able to distinguish between the impact of
cultural and linguistic diversity on the childs development and the
existence of developmental delay.

(b) Procedure
The issue of sensitivity of the instrument to be used is also true for the
procedure. That is, the procedure to be used should also be able to
distinguish between the impact of cultural and linguistic diversity on the
childs development and the existence of developmental delay.

It is in the light of this that The Division of Early Childhood of the Council
for Exceptional Children recommends three additional practices to be
added to the procedure. These are reported in McLean (2000):
(i) Before the assessment takes place, professionals should gather
information that would aid them in deciding if a child should be
referred for special education assessment or if the developmental
pattern can be explained by cultural and/or linguistic differences.
(ii) Appropriate procedures should be followed to determine the
language to be used for the assessment and also to understand the
impact the acquisition of a second language would have on the childs
development and performance in the early childhood setting.
(iii) In the event that culturally appropriate and nonbiased instruments
cannot be identified appropriate assessment strategies are tailored to
the individual child and family.

The following suggestion is also given by Gullo (2005):


(i) The childs familys dominant language and proficiency needs to be
understood. If this is not English, a translator may be used to carry the
family along.
(ii) A good understanding of the language dominance and proficiency of
the caregivers and other young children that these children relate to is
also of importance. Understanding these influences may be useful in
understanding the assessment results or suggest additional other
assessment procedures.

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(iii) The childs family should be involved in the assessment procedure.


The family should be interviewed for first hand information about the
childs development. The ways in which their peculiar culture use
language is also of importance and the information can be taken from
the family too.
(iv) Other people apart from the family that the child relates to should be
contacted for their impression on the childs development as children
may exhibit different behaviours in different contexts.
(v) When those who take decisions regarding the educational services for
the child are from a different cultural background, a cultural guide
should be contacted to interpret the childs behaviour.
(vi) Before development screening is done, the child should be assessed
for language dominance and proficiency. The developmental
assessment for all other domains should then be done in the language
of proficiency if possible.
(vii) Before a child is assessed, he/she should be given enough time to
acclimatise to the linguistic and cultural environment. This is
necessary because to obtain useful and valid data, the child needs to
be comfortable in the environment where the assessment is taking
place.
(viii) The background of the teacher and other professionals working with
the child is also of importance. If they are not from the childs cultural
and linguistic background, it is possible for them to rate the child
from their cultural perspective. If this is the case, a child may be
referred for special needs when there is no need.

9.2.2 Nonbiased Assessment Instruments for Children


with Cultural and Linguistic Differences
Let me state from the beginning that developing assessment instruments that are
ominiculture may be a mirage (Goodwin & Goodwin, 1993). The best assessment
instrument developers have been able to do is to include items in the test that
do not favour one cultural group over another, do not favor one geographic area
over another, and are not offensive or meaningless to particular groups (Gullo,
2005).

Moving away from the test design, issues will also arise over scoring and
standardisation. Gullo (2005) rightly points out that if the scoring and
standardisation procedures of an assessment instrument have been based on a
limited population, then the results would not be applicable to children from

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culturally and linguistically different backgrounds. Translation to the childs


predominant language would not even also be of help.

To help assessors decide on the right type of assessment instrument that would
be valid and reliable for such groups of children, the Early Childhood Research
Institute for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) has given
four guidelines. These are treated below as presented by Gullo (2005).

(a) Scoring Procedure


If the assessment instrument has a scoring or rating scale, the types of
cultural or linguistic group initially included in the development has to be
noted. Any assessment instrument that does not have separate scoring
scales for the different cultural and linguistic group should not be used.

(b) Incorporation of Information from the Culture into the Assessment


Procedures
If any assessment instrument claims to be appropriate for a particular
cultural or linguistic group, you need to check if information about
parenting practices and child development is typical for the cultural group
taken into account in the design and implementation of the assessment.

(c) Modification of the Assessment


It is necessary for most standardised assessment instruments to come with
instructions for the modification of the instrument when used for children
from different culturally and linguistically backgrounds. Modification is
important because there are different cultural beliefs that would determine
the responses and or behaviours of the children.

(d) Interpretation of the Findings


The professionals that are to assess the children should determine if specific
recommendations for interpreting the behaviour of children from different
cultural and linguistic backgrounds exist. These are to be sought out and
used.

ACTIVITY 9.2
Check the web to locate three or four assessments and determine if the
instruments are free of cultural and linguistic bias.

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138 TOPIC 9 ASSESSMENT AND EVALUATION OF SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN

The first goal of assessment of children with special needs is the amelioration
of the disability.

The second goal of assessment of children with special needs is the


prevention of secondary disabling conditions.

Assessment of children with special needs should include a variety of


measures as well as settings.

In cases of children with multiple special needs, high-priority objectives must


be established.

Children from culturally and linguistically different background are children


from ethnic groups having different sociocultural patterns from the
predominant society.

Instruments to be used with children from different cultural and linguistic


backgrounds must be sensitive to cultural differences.

Cultural guide Omniculture


Multidisciplinary professionals Secondary disabling conditions

Barona, A., & Santos de Barona, M. (1987). A model for the assessment of limited
English proficient students referred for special education services. In S. H.
Fradd & W. J. Tikunoff (Eds.), Bilingual education and bilingual special
education (pp. 183210). Boston: College Hill Press.
Bracken, B. A. (Ed.). (2004). The psychoeducational assessment of preschool
children (3rd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Goodwin, W. L., & Goodwin, L. D. (1993). Young children and measurement:
Standardized and nonstandardized instruments in early childhood
education. In B. Spodek (Ed.), Handbook of research on the education of
young children. New York: Macmillan.

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TOPIC 9 ASSESSMENT AND EVALUATION OF SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN 139

Gullo, D. F. (2005). Understanding assessment and evaluation in early childhood


education. (2nd ed.). New York: Teachers College Press.
McLean, M. (1998). Assessing children for whom English is a second language.
McLean, M. (1998). Assessing children for whom English is a second language.
Young Exceptional Children, 1(3), 20-25.
Neisworth, J., & Bagnato, S. (1996). Assessment. In S. Odom & M. McLean (Eds.),
Early intervention/early childhood special education: Recommended practices.
Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.
Sattler, J. M. (1992). Assessment of children: Revised and updated third edition.
San Diego: Author.
Wolery, M., Strain, P. S., & Bailey, D. B. (1992). Reaching potentials of children with
special needs. In S. Bredekamp & T. Rosegrant (Eds.), Reaching potentials:
Appropriate curriculum and assessment for young children. Washington, DC:
National Association for the Education of Young Children.

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Topic Collaboration
10 and
Communication
between the
Early
Educational
Team and
Parents
LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. List the ways through which assessment scores can be interpreted;
2. List various types of parents' conferences;
3. Identify the purposes of parents' conferences;
4. Discuss the things a teacher needs to get ready for a parents'
conference; and
5. Interpret scores of some formal assessment measures.

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THE EARLY EDUCATIONAL TEAM AND PARENTS

INTRODUCTION
Congratulations as we have come to the last topic in this course. You may count
yourself lucky that you have come this far as some might have dropped out on
the way. In this final topic, we are concerned with carrying the major
stakeholders, especially, the parents along in the process of sharing assessment
reports.

10.1 INTERPRETING OBSERVATION AND


ASSESSMENT DATA
All the forms of informal assessment that we have explored are surely going to
yield some form of data, be it quantitative or qualitative data. However, without
interpretation, the data remains unused and is as good as having wasted time
and effort to get the data in the first instance. Therefore, it is important and
necessary to then interpret the assessment data. Describing the situation parents
might be, when provided with the informal assessment data, Wortham (2008)
says that:

When parents encounter a collection of student work and teacher assessments


that form the basis of the childs evaluation, they may feel a bit overwhelmed
when they compare this type of reporting with a report card. If the teacher and
school have prepared the parents for the use of portfolio and performance
assessment, they will appreciate understanding how the materials they are seeing
form a picture of what the child has learned...

Interpreting the data derived from the informal assessment data is the key to
getting parents and other users to make meaning out of the assessment materials.
Apart from making parents and other stakeholders understand the assessment
records, it is also important to interpret the assessment data before any
educational decisions are made concerning the children. Having seen the
importance of interpreting the assessment data, we can then go on to examine
how these data are to be interpreted.

10.1.1 Methods of Interpreting Assessment Data


Three methods in which assessment data can be interpreted have been identified.
These are: by making comparisons with an underlying continuum, by making
comparisons with other students, and by making comparisons with some preset
standard(s). It is important for you to note that all the methods listed above has

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to do with some kind of comparison but it does not work the same way the
norm-referenced comparison of standardised testing.

(a) Making Comparisons with an Underlying Continuum


Some assessment instruments like rating scales and rubrics actually constitute
a continuum, in that they require judgments of degree to be made (Anderson,
2003). Apart from these ones, the affective assessment tasks too are on scales
which usually range from strongly disagree to strongly agree. Before students
performances can be interpreted in terms of an underlying continuum, the
assessment tasks and the responses of the students must be placed on the same
scale.

In using this continuum, Anderson (2003) suggests that students'


assessment scores can be reduced to a continuum of 1 to 5, with 3 coming in
as the neutral number. Anderson (2003) opines that regardless of the
number of tasks included, you can always return to this scale by dividing
each students total score by the number of tasks. He gave an example of
an assessment containing 6 tasks with a total of 23 points. In this case, the
students score is divided by the number of the tasks, which will result in
3.83, thus returning to the scale of 1 to 5. Table 10.1 shows an example of
the table to be used in interpreting the students score, which is based on
portfolio assessment:

Table 10.1: Interpretation of Student's Scores

Students Scores Interpretation


3 or more correct Student understands the concept of portfolio
7 or more correct Student understands the concept of portfolio and relevant artefacts
were selected
14 or more correct Student understands the concept of portfolio; relevant artefacts
were selected and reflections are fair.
18 or more correct Student understandss the concept of portfolio; relevant artefacts
were selected and reflections there are minimal reflections.
20 correct Student understands the concept of portfolio; relevant artefacts
were selected; reflections show learning development and the
element of unity runs through the portfolio.

With this, you would know that a student who has a total score of 5 would
be placed at the positive end of the continuum and the student with a score
of 1 would be placed at the negative end (Anderson, 2003).

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(b) Making Comparisons with other Students


The problem with using this form of interpretation for the students score is
that it boils down to the criterion-referenced assessment, which had been
rejected under the traditional assessment.

(c) Comparison with Preset Standards


The third alternative is to reduce all the scores of the students assessments
to the percentile scores and used the notion of preset standards to round it
up. That is, we follow the historical grading standards that according to
Anderson (2003) a minority of people (e.g., a school board) who have been
given authority to make decisions for the majority.

In this case, the student with the score of 90 and above will fall into the A
range, until we get to the failure range which would be from 39
downwards.

In all, the most suitable for informal assessment is the comparison with an
underlying continuum.

10.2 PLANNING FOR PARENTS CONFERENCES


No matter what the negative feelings any worker within the preschool or
primary grade system may have towards parents' conferences, there is no
alternative to it, if parents must be carried along in the assessment process of
their children. Wright (2010) asserts that though parents conferences takes a
great amount of time and can become very tedious for the teacher, they are
critically important. The importance of the parents' conferences is also reflected
in the frequency with which it comes. Within one academic session, it is expected
that at least two formal parent-teacher conferences are to be held. These two
meetings are however supplemented with frequent informal meetings.

10.2.1 The Purpose of Parents Conferences


Wright (2010) identifies two purposes for parents' conferences, namely:
facilitation of two-way communication and mutual sharing of information.

(a) Facilitation of Two-Way Communication


If you would recall, we have said that the context or setting can have
tremendous influence on young children and thus affect the way they
behave and consequently, the results of their assessment. It is on the

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strength of this, that it was said that it is important to know what the child
is on the home front which would be their natural habitat.

One way in which we can have an ever flowing information from the home
to the school and from the school to the home is to reach out to the parents
through the parents conference. Once parents have attended the parents'
conference, it is most likely that relationship would be facilitated between
the teacher and the parents that would keep the two-way communication
open and alive. And if this starts, the parents do not need to stay until the
next conference before discussing anything with the teacher.

(b) Mutual Sharing of Information


For the good of the student, there is the need for the mutual sharing of
information between the parents and the school.

10.2.2 The Types of Parents Conferences


As part of planning for parents conferences, it is important to know the type of
parents' conferences that is going to be held for this will go a long way to
determine the teachers preparation for the conference. Wortham (2008) identifies
three types of parents' conferences that would be discussed here.

(a) Three-Way Conference


This is the type of parents' conference that brings the student, the parents
and the teacher together as participants. Describing the activities expected
of a three-way parents conference, Wortham (2008) says:

The student has an opportunity to present and discuss his or her work
through a portfolio, the parents have an opportunity to introduce relevant
information about the childs progress, and the teacher has the opportunity
to summarise what has been accomplished during the time period. All
participants plan together for future goals, projects and general learning (p.
284).

(b) Student-Led Conferences


Wortham (2008) identifies the student-led conference as one in which the
students use the portfolio to conduct a conference with the family. This he
said is best done using a showcase or evaluative portfolio whereby the
student and parent study portfolio content and discuss the students work.
Talk on the same vein, Stiggins (2005) suggests that the teacher can later
come up in the conference to answer the questions that the parents might
have and at the same time try to get from the family, the area they want
their child to progress.
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(c) Parent Group Meeting Conferences


This form of parent conference can only be used when the situation does
not favour having time with individual families. This is then a group
conference for all the parents. Describing the parent group meeting
conference, Wortham (2008) explains that:

In this type of conference, the teacher spends time explaining to all parents the
assessments that have been used, the nature of those assessments, and
information on projects or thematic study topics. Classroom documentation in
various forms is explained and parents are invited to spend time looking at them.

To conclude the conference, arrangement can be made for further contact


through the telephone or the electronic mails.

10.2.3 Planning for Parents Conferences


Whichever the form of the parents conference to be used, there are certain things
that must be done before the day of the conference to ensure readiness. Some of
these that are considered very important would be discussed here.

(a) Selection of Information to be Shared


If all assessment materials are to be shared with the parents, then the whole
lot of time allocated for meeting each parent (in cases of individualised
parents conferences) or the group meeting would be taken all up and yet
would not be sufficient. Consequently, the information that the teacher
deems necessary to share must be prepared before the conference day so
that the teacher would be very well equipped for the conference.

(b) Selecting Options for Reporting Progress


The type of assessment used would go a long way to determine the option
to be used for reporting the childs progress. For example, as Wortham
(2008) explains, if the teacher uses portfolio assessment, the process of
preparing the portfolio contents for the childs evaluation becomes the
vehicle for reporting. If a portfolio is not used, the teacher gathers and
organises examples of the childs works....

It is however important that whatever the option the teacher has picked for
his/her report, he or she must be confident and feel at home in presenting
the report.

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(c) Developing a Profile for the Child Using Assessment Results


A portfolio, Wortham (2008) describes, include the assessments and
evidences of the childs work that permit an evaluation to take place, which
when combined with a narrative report would provide a progress profile.
Harrington, Meisels, MacMahon, Dichtelmitter, and Jablon (1997) suggest
that materials that make up the progress profile include checklist
assessments, samples of the childs work, and a summary report.
Schweinhart (1993) also suggests the inclusion of the anecdotal records.
These are to be organised in a systematic manner that would facilitate the
presentation to the parents.

(d) Considering Individual Family Backgrounds and Needs


Wortham (2008) opines that because of the need to make all parents feel at
ease during the conference, he or she must put the individual family
backgrounds and needs into consideration. The following are part of what
should be prepared for in this regard:
(i) A translator must be provided in case the family is from a
linguistically different group.
(ii) The teacher must be sensitive to religious and cultural diversity of the
parents and therefore must be careful not to do anything that will
cause offence.
(iii) Teacher should also be sensitive to the parental lack of understanding
or misunderstanding of the informal assessment procedures since
most of them are more used to the traditional assessment system.
Teacher may need to patiently take time to explain all these
assessment procedures.
(iv) Some parents may be intimidated and uncomfortable to have a
meeting at the school. Those in this category are to be helped to feel
welcome and appreciated.

10.3 COMMUNICATING WITH PARENTS


ABOUT CHILDRENS PROGRESS
Danielson (2007) defines communication with parents as keeping the parents
informed about how the class that their child is in is run. The importance of
communicating with parents has been underscored by the American government
as most states have legislated for enhanced communication between the school
and the parents. Epstein (1995) also opines that communication with parents as
one of the six major types of parents' involvement practices critical to
establishing strong working relationship between teacher and parents.

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Apart from communicating with body language, there are three forms of
expressed language, and these are one-way communication and two-ways
communication. It has been recommended that teachers and schools should
employ these two ways of communication.

(a) One-Way Communication


One-way communication according to Graham-Clay (2005) occurs when
teachers seek to inform parents about events, activities, or student progress
through a variety of sources, such as an introductory letter at the beginning
of the school year, classroom or school newsletters, report cards,
communication books, radio announcements, school Web sites, and so
on(p.118). From this definition, it is clear that one-way communication has
to do more with written publication.

Graham-Clay (2005) goes on to classify written communication as a


permanent product that requires careful consideration regarding format
and content. The goal is to organise concise, accurate information so that
parents will read and understand it. Williams and Cartledge (1997) also
opine that written communication is probably the most efficient and
effective way we can provide valuable ongoing correspondence between
school and home. The following are the types of written communication
format identified by Graham-Clay (2005).

(i) School-to-home Notebooks


This is a technique that has been used to share information with the
parents about their children. In using this technique, authors like
Davern (2004); have asserted that it is important to establish which
information would be communicated and the person as well as the
regularity of the communication.

(ii) Report Cards


This is the traditional form of conveying assessment information to
parents. To properly use the report cards, they should be clear and
easy for the parents to understand. They must also contain
information about the students strengths and learning styles, an
assessment of the childs social development, specific goals for the
student to work on as well as suggestions on how the parent can aid
their childs development and learning (Aronson, 1995).

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(b) Two-Way Communication


The importance and the strength of the two-way communication is that it
engenders dialogue between the teacher and the parents. The following are
the various ways through which two-way communication can be used:

(i) Phone Conversation


Teachers can make use of telephone calls to discuss with the parents
of their class children or to answer questions. Gustafon (1998)
confirms that as a class teacher she uses to do this and that it was
partly responsible for the good performances of the children. Ramirez
(2002) developed an efficient way, during school hours, to contact all
of his 160 high school students parents. He notes that these initial
positive phone calls set the stage for more collaborative interactions
later if needed, because parents were already an ally. If this would
work for high school students, it would be much more effective for
infants and toddlers.

(ii) Parents Conferences


The parents' conferences that we have already hinted at is the major
form of two-way communication. This would be discussed later
below in detail. Note however, that we have already examined the
preparing for the parents conference above.

Danielson (2002) also opines that communication with families about


individual students is best when it is two-way: parents should feel that they
are invited, indeed encouraged, to contact the teacher at any time

(c) Technology Communication


The current state of the art technology has ushered in a new era that allows
communication to take place through new technologies. This would include
the use of electronic mails, tele-conferencing and video-conferencing among
a host of others. The earlier schools and teachers begin to take initiative and
become creative in using communication technology to reach out to
parents, the better.

10.4 PARENTS CONFERENCES


At the commencement of the parents' conference, the teacher, according to
Wortham (2008) must keep three guidelines in mind:
(a) The teacher has the role of helping the parents understand the evaluation
information;

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(b) The teacher is also to help the parents accurately interpret the evaluation
information; and
(c) The teacher is to solicit for parental and child input for assessment and
planning for the child.

He goes further to recommend the following strategies to make teachers conduct


successful conferences:
(a) Start and end on a positive note. This means the teacher has to start by
sharing the strengths and the good experiences the child has had in school.
(b) Encourage parents to share information about their child, this may include
questions on how the child and the family interact at home. The objective is
that the parents should be led to open up and discuss their child as the
teacher may have clues that may help the child better.
(c) Discuss relevant information about the childs progress. This can be done
using portfolios and samples of the childs work and other forms of
assessment, both formal and informal. Parents should be encouraged to
actively take part and their misunderstandings should be clarified.
(d) Discuss the childs needs or issues about progress. This involves objective
discussion on the childs difficulties and the teacher needs to ask the
parents to help in addressing the issue. If the issue cannot be resolved, a
follow-up conference may be fixed.
(e) End the conference on a positive note. The teacher would again close the
conference by concentrating on the childs strengths and thank the parents
for attending the conference.

There are three methods through which assessment data can be interpreted.

Parents' conferences are critically important and there are no alternatives for
the conference.

Parents' conferences facilitate two-way communication with parents.

One-way communication takes place when parents are communicated


through written communication only.

Two-way communication engenders dialogue between the teacher and


parents.

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Continuum Preset standards


One-way communication Two-way communication

Anderson, L. W. (2003). Classroom assessment: Enhancing the quality of teacher


decision making. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Aronson, M. M. (1995). Building communication partnerships with parents.
Westminster, CA: Teacher Created Materials, Inc.
Danielson, C. (2002). Enhancing student achievement: A framework for school
improvement. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Development.
Davern, L. (2004). School-to-home notebooks: What parents have to say. Council
for Exceptional Children, 36(5), 22-27.
Epstein, J. (1995). School/family/community partnerships: Caring for the
children we share. Phi Delta Kappan, 72(5), 701-712.
Graham-Clay, S. (2005). Communicating with parents: Strategies for teachers.
School Community Journal 16(1), 117-129.
Gustafson, C. (1998). Phone home. Educational Leadership, 56(2), 31-32.
Harrington, H. L., Meisels, S. J., MacMahon, P., Dichtelmitter, M. L., & Jablon, J.
R. (1997). Observing, documenting, and assessing learning: The work
sampling system handbook for teacher education. Ann Arbor, MI: Rebus.
Ramirez, A. Y. (2002). How parents are portrayed among educators. The School
Community Journal, 12(2), 51-61.
Schweinhart, L. J. (1993). Observing young children in action: The key to early
childhood assessment. Young Children, 48, 29-33.
Stiggins, R. J. (2005). Student-involved assessment for learning (4th ed.). Upper
Saddle River: Merrill Prentice Hall.
Williams, V. I., & Cartledge, G. (1997). Passing notesto parents. Teaching
Exceptional Children, 30(1), 30-34.

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Wortham, S. C. (2008). Assessment in early childhood education (5th ed.). Ohio:


Pearson.
Wright, J. R. (2010). Multifaceted assessment for early childhood education. USA:
Sage Publication Inc.

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