Fit for purpose assessment tools Roskos (2004) argues that assessment should be thoughtful, sensible and good – based on evidence over time ‘to see’ emerging skills and forming concepts, as children are often unable to talk about or write about what they know. Without a coordinated system of information gathering, assessment becomes fragmented and difficult to use. The notion of triangulation in qualitative research for cross checking sources of information is crucial for ensuring that a wide range of information is analysed and interpreted. Triangulation means gathering three or more different types of information so that any assumptions about a child’s learning can be cross checked.
NAEYC (2003) position statement on ‘fit for purpose’ assessment Ethical principles guide assessment practices Assessment instruments are used for their intended purposes Assessments are appropriate for ages and other characteristics of children being assessed Assessment instruments are in compliance with professional criteria for quality What is assessed is developmentally and educationally significant Assessment evidence is used to understand and improve learning Assessment evidence is gathered from realistic settings and situations that reflect children’s actual performance Assessments use multiple sources of evidence gathered over time Screening is always linked to follow-up Use of individually administered, norm-referenced tests is limited Staff and families are knowledgeable about assessment
Assessment tools in New Zealand The notion of ‘noticing, recognising and responding’ underpins the early childhood assessment exemplars, Kei tua o te pae (Ministry of Education, 2005, 2009) It is argued that as teachers work with children they notice a great deal, recognise what they notice as learning, and respond to some of what they recognise Drummond’s (1993) definition of assessment is used for shaping the ways in which early childhood educators are encouraged to assess children’s learning: (the) ways in which, in our everyday practice, we (children, families, teachers, and others) observe children’s learning (notice), strive to understand it (recognise) and then put our understanding to good use (respond) (cited in Ministry of Education, 2005, p. 6)
Assessment in ECE vs primary Learning stories (Carr 2001) are the most common method of assessment in ECE, although the effectiveness of their use is problematic (see ERO 2007) In primary, School Entry Assessment (SEA) is used by some schools The Ministry of Education provides a rich resource of tools for primary (see Formal assessment of children only begins at six years of age, when National Standards assessment starts
Assessment tools in Australia The Early Years Learning Framework curriculum document (DEEWR 2009) includes a section specifically on ‘Assessment for Learning’ (pp. 18– 19) which describes assessment as an on-going collaborative practice: Assessment for children’s learning refers to the process of gathering and analysing information as evidence about what children know, can do and understand. It is part of an ongoing cycle that includes planning, documenting and evaluating children’s learning. It is important because it enables educators in partnership with families, children and other professionals to: plan effectively for children’s current and future learning, communicate about children’s learning and progress, determine the extent to which all children are progressing toward realising learning outcomes and if not, what might be impeding their progress, identify children who may need additional support in order to achieve particular learning outcomes, providing that support or assisting families to access specialist help, evaluate the effectiveness of learning opportunities, environments and experiences offered and the approaches taken to enable children’s learning, and reflect on pedagogy that will suit this context and these children.
Assessment in ECE vs primary The primary source of information on assessment in ECE is the Early Years Learning Framework (DEEWR 2009) and its interpretations in different states A primary source for information about assessment in Australian primary schools, from foundation year to year 10 is ACARA (2012) – the Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority website (see Teachers are encouraged to use the Australian Curriculum content and achievement standards first to identify current levels of learning and achievement and then to select the most appropriate content to teach individual students and/or groups of students This is said to take into account that in each class there will be students with above and below expected year level achievement and that teachers need to plan to build on children’s current levels of learning, rather than simply teaching to year level
Assessing achievement in the Australian curriculum According to ACARA, assessment of the Australian Curriculum takes place in different levels and for different purposes, including: ongoing formative assessment within classrooms for the purposes of monitoring learning and providing feedback, to teachers to inform their teaching, and for students to inform their learning summative assessment for the purposes of twice-yearly reporting by schools to parents and carers on the progress and achievement of students Annual testing of Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 students’ levels of achievement in aspects of literacy and numeracy, conducted as part of the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) periodic sample testing of specific learning areas within the Australian Curriculum as part of the National Assessment Program (NAP) The National Assessment Program includes NAPLAN, the national assessment of literacy and numeracy at years 3, 5, 7 and 9. It is not a test of content. Instead, it tests skills in literacy and numeracy that are developed over time through the school curriculum, so excessive test preparation using previous tests is not advised as being useful. Examples of the tests are available at
Moving beyond observation in ECE There are groups of children who need special attention when it comes to assessment, particularly those who are learning in more than one language Observation is not the only method that can be used for assessing children in early childhood For many children, especially those with particular or special learning needs, teachers will need to use a range of assessment tools and strategies to gain a complete picture of the child’s learning McCaffrey et al. (2006) and May (2007) found that a whole school focus on effective teaching and assessment strategies to support learning in more than one language was required Espinosa (2005) argues that a robust assessment system is needed when teachers are dealing with children who are culturally and linguistically diverse She cautions against the use of standardised assessments, but proposes that assessment should improve instruction and improve learning, identify children who need specialist help, and enable evaluation and decision making about programmes
When to use assessment McMillan (2007) argues that to promote learning best, assessment needs to occur before, during and after new learning is introduced Brookhart (2008) goes further, suggesting a range of types of assessment that teachers could use before, during and after new learning is introduced to children Bagnato (2007) suggests that assessment should occur at major points of transition, such as when children start school. He argues any assessment should include a comprehensive assessment of developmental functioning and family contextual factors, as well as the competencies that predict early school success, such as basic academic skills, social and self-regulatory skills and approaches to learning
Long, medium and short term planning for assessment Long term planning for assessment looks at procedures for the whole group of children and usually over a whole year; it will include the annual review of procedures, methods, topics studied and the use of resources utilised for tracking children’s progress Medium term planning bridges the gap between long and short term planning and involves reflecting every six to eight weeks on whether your short and long term plans are being achieved and children are making progress Short term planning involves the day to day collection of observations, sticky notes, photographs and examples of children’s work that are collected as part of daily activities Collectively this information may be used immediately for assessing ‘where to next’ for children’s learning and later used for the more formal preparation of learning stories or other artefacts for inclusion in a child’s learning portfolio
Norm referenced, criterion referenced and ipsative assessment Norm referenced assessment is based on comparing the relative performances of children, by comparison with other children in class or with performance of children of similar age, experience or background Criterion referenced assessment involves assessment against pre- determined criteria, without reference to other children’s achievement. This usually involves checking if children can complete specific activities to a set minimum standard Ipsative assessment involves assessing a child’s performance against their own performance, checking improvement. The benchmark measured is the child's own performance, not the performance of other people
Feed up, feed forward and feedback Feed up: clarify the goal – Establish a clear purpose so children understand the goal Establishing a purpose is also crucial to a feedback system because when teachers have a clear overall purpose, they can align their various assessments. Feed back: respond to student work – Responses should directly relate to the learning goal The best feedback gives children information about their progress toward goals and suggests actions they can take to get to the expected standard. Ideally, teachers give feedback as children complete smaller parts of a larger project so they can use teachers' suggestions to better master content and improve their performance on the larger project. Feed forward: modify instruction – As teachers look at children’s work, they use what they learn to modify their teaching It is particularly useful in early childhood, where teachers are more likely to use emergent or more spontaneous curriculum planning. It relates to Fleer’s notion of ‘potentive assessment’.
Assessment on the run: Dynamic assessment Observing children through planned and informal activities Tracking children and activities Taking photos and other recordings Talking with children as they play and work, asking and answering questions Collecting copies of children’s work Listening to children as they talk, read and sing Eavesdropping on and watching children at play Talking with parents about children’s achievements Getting children to help collect artefacts for their portfolio Listening to children as they report back to the whole group of children Talking to children about what you are finding out about their learning
Key terms Fit for purpose assessment – using the right assessment tool to assess children’s learning Formative assessment - used to provide feedback to students and teachers to promote further learning Summative assessment - contributes to the judgement of student learning for reporting and certification purposes Norm referenced assessment - assessment that is based on comparing the relative performances of children Criterion referenced assessment - involves assessment against pre- determined criteria, without reference to other children’s achievement Ipsative assessment - involves assessing a child’s performance against their own earlier performance, with a view to determining whether any improvement has been made