This is a very lively debate with loads of opinions. What are THE most effective way to measure children’s minds and abilities? Most schools use standardized tests to measure children’s academic achievement. Yet, contemporary child development scientists, as well as many other professionals in the early childhood field, recognize that understanding the whole child requires a wider perspective. Research, in the area of multiple bits of intelligence, supports such a perspective.
There are many challenges:
The assessment of young children is very different from the assessment of older children and adults in several ways. It’s all about the way that young children learn. They construct knowledge in experiential, interactive, concrete, and hands-on ways (Bredekamp and Rosegrant, 1992, 1995) rather than through abstract reasoning and paper and pencil activities alone. To learn, young children must touch and manipulate objects, build and create in many media, listen and act out stories and everyday roles, talk, and sing, and move and play in various ways and environments.
While early childhood educators demand developmentally appropriate assessments for children, they often complain about the time it takes to administer them and the resulting loss of instructional time in the classroom. However, when quality tests mirror quality instruction, assessment and teaching become almost seamless, complementing and informing one another (Neuman, Copple, and Bredekamp, 2000).
Teachers and parents are uniquely positioned to obtain information about how children function within different natural (e.g., classroom, community) environments or settings. The key word here: Systematic OBSERVATION!!!! Thus, conclusions or interpretations are based on observations of the child over time rather than a one-time assessment of a child’s skills and abilities. Successful observations allow teachers, parents, and other adults to capture and record meaningful details while children are engaged in a variety of activities and take into account children’s development, interests, and needs across domains of development and learning, allowing for a more complete view of the:”whole child”. A very important point – when conducting observation’s, teachers must take particular care to avoid allowing any preconceptions or biases color their impressions. When conducting systematic observations, teachers should be using their understanding of child development as a filter to identify expected behavior as well as pick up on red flags that indicate a child might be struggling with learning.
Systematic observation should:
- Occur multiple times over a period of time (e.g., every day for a week)
- Collect information from multiple sources (e.g., teachers, parents), and
- Collect information from multiple contexts (e.g., classroom, playground, home)
Assessment around the world!
The world is changing at seemingly breakneck speed. Around the globe, a wide-ranging debate is taking place about what knowledge and skills are most important for the increasingly diverse, interconnected, and innovation-oriented societies of the 21st century.
The cities in Asia Society’s Global Cities Education Network all agree that the goals of education can no longer simply be to provide basic literacy skills for the majority of students and higher order skills only for a small elite. The skills that are easiest to teach and easiest to test are now also the skills that are easiest to automate, digitize, and outsource. Instead, cities are directing their attention to developing so-called 21st-century skills and competencies for all students. Cities differ in exactly how they define and prioritize these skills and competencies, but they generally include:
- Cognitive skills: critical thinking, problem-solving and knowledge application, creativity
- Interpersonal skills: communication and collaboration, leadership, global and cross-cultural awareness
- Intrapersonal skills: self-direction, motivation, learning how to learn
A case study done by Vivian Steward (n.d), showed a new report, How do teachers assess things like creativity and collaboration, or cross-cultural skills? Our new report, Measuring 21st Century Competencies, focuses on just that question. The report grew out of the Global Cities Education Network, which is comprised of urban school systems working together on overcoming common education challenges.
Cities in the network are experimenting with different ways of measuring 21st-century skills. For example, Hong Kong is one of a number of cities that are introducing project-based assessments, which require students to apply their knowledge to new problems.
In Australia, a new national curriculum, designed jointly by states and the federal government, includes disciplinary and cross-disciplinary areas and general capabilities. To implement this curriculum, Melbourne educators are helping to develop an online assessment platform that will include indices of creativity and critical thinking skills and are experimenting with self- assessment and peer assessment tools as part of their approach.
Shanghai does not have an overarching framework for measuring 21st-century skills but is using PISA-type tests of problem-solving as a way to shift schools in the direction of modern skills and pedagogy.
Toronto’s curriculum standards are explicit about the need to assess learning skills and work habits as well as content knowledge. Both Toronto and Seattle are interested in ways to assess student’s global competence & mdash; whether they can apply 21st-century skills in a global context. And, in Houston, a laptop initiative is designed to engage students in more self-directed learning.