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Complete and meaningful assessment in early childhood necessitates an understanding of family context, including getting to know family language and culture, gathering developmental information from parents, and conducting home visits with parent approval. This principle applies to all youngsters and families, but is especially critical for children whose families may not share the language or some of the economic advantages of the dominant culture.
Understanding family expectations and experience places a child’s behavior in context and can prevent harmful decisions that result from misinterpretation of assessment data.Younger children present some complex challenges and require flexible procedures for gathering meaningful and useful assessment information. Constitutional variables such as fatigue, hunger, illness, and temperament can easily overshadow the abilities of a young child. Time of day, setting, testing materials and other situational factors also affect performance. The younger a child, the more likely he or she is to fall asleep, become distressed, refuse to comply with directions, or be distracted from assessment activities.
Professionals should be prepared to modify activities, explore alternative procedures, and/or reschedule rather than risk gathering faulty information that compromises assessment results.Young children learn by doing, and demonstrate knowledge and skills through action-oriented activities. Authentic assessment of youngsters as they participate in daily activities, routines, and interactions generally produces the most valuable information for assessment.To the extent possible, assessment methods should allow for observation of young children engaged in spontaneous behaviors in familiar settings and with familiar people.More assessments and increased data do not necessarily result in better assessment information.
Early childhood professionals should only gather information they need, and know ahead of time how they will use all the information collected. It is generally most desirable to identify a set of appropriate methods and instruments that provide necessary information, and refine the use of those procedures over time.Some assessment instruments and procedures are better than others. Factors such as purpose, content, reliability and validity, effi ciency, cost, and availability of professional development are all more important than appealing packaging and effective advertising. Of primary importance is the quality of information gathered and the decisions made as a result of assessment. Ultimately, whatever assessments we conduct should benefi t the children, families, and programs we serve.
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