The early childhood measurement has been the primary theme for discussions among practitioners and psychologists during last few decades. The assessment of children’s intellectual and psychological processes has gained many forms and approaches, but the questions of context and content remain disputable. Conventional methods of testing and assessing children’s abilities receive much criticism due to their ineffectiveness and faulty results in such fields as screening, eligibility determination and progress monitoring. Modern measurement and assessment practices strive to take assessing process out of clinical settings and conduct testing and assessment of children’s behavior in natural for a child environment.
Authentic assessment is becoming more popular due to its structural and contextual flexibility. Its fundamental difference from conventional assessment can be seen in how the information about children’s natural behavior is received. Authentic assessment does not neglect the setting, individual and cultural peculiarities of a child, which makes its results more valuable and practically applicable. Furthermore, it may modify and supplement standardized procedures that treat all children without considering certain impairments and psychological peculiarities.
Cooperation with a child’s parents is a basic principle of alternative assessment as it allows a researcher to obtain necessary information that may not be available during assessment in a child’s natural setting. This element of the authentic assessment proves to be extremely effective as the information received from parents often help to rectify data inconsistencies and reveal new insights into the issue. It also resonates with Public Law 107-15 adopted in 1997 that enhanced the role of parents in education of their children.
Another element of alternative assessment that deserves special attention is the appropriateness of context, content and procedures (Neisworth & Bagnato, 2004). Taking into consideration children’s developmental and behavioral peculiarities along with the setting makes the analysis more precise. It should be dynamic and many-sided, conducted by a team of specialists. Moreover, it is crucial to understand that standardized instruments of assessment prove useless in the assessment of pre-school children and special attention should be paid to such instruments of assessments as interviews, checklists and observation. The observation of child’s daily routines and playing habits may give more information necessary for evaluation of behavioral and psychological processes than conventional testing.
The context of assessment is crucial factor as it ensures the validity of data received during interaction with a child. Authentic assessment relies mainly on natural context, which is the best and most appropriate for conducting evaluation. However, analog context may be quite suitable as well. It consists in arranging circumstances and situations, which are similar to child’s natural settings and daily activities. This can be done by means of using materials and toys that will encourage child’s natural behavior. Transdisciplinary Play-Based assessment is one of the tools for creating analog context, but it does not create natural environment for a child. Sometimes the combination of different contexts may be useful for comparing and validating the information about child’s development and behavior. In fact, the combination of analog and natural practices is the best choice, whereas clinical and stimulated practices are less effective.
Context is one of the most important factors in assessment of a child, but it is also mandatory to follow proper timing to receive relevant results. The assessment can be repeated over a 15- or 30-day period for different children for the purpose of eligibility determination (Neisworth & Bagnato, 2004). Observers and practitioners can use the same or different set of materials and situations to verify previously received information and check their assumptions. Thus, it will be easier to receive valid information that will help in planning and implementing the results in future.
Another point that requires consideration is collaborative efforts during assessment. The teamwork is a key factor that determines success of assessment. Interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary and multidisciplinary styles of teamwork were discussed in class. However, every case may require different type of teamwork and it is a team’s obligation to choose the most suitable style. In that vein, it is necessary to cooperate with parents and incorporate their observations since practitioners do not have a chance to observe certain playing and interactional habits of children. Moreover, interdisciplinary experts working together need to choose one common instrument and measure of assessment they will use to complete their evaluation.
In addition to the techniques and practices of team work mentioned in the Mismeasure of Young Children (2004) the factor of role release should not be neglected since practitioners are obliged to have multiple skills necessary for adequate assessment. The most important segments of role release are role enrichment, role expansion and role exchange. All these segments determine professionals’ readiness to enrich their sphere of knowledge and challenge their abilities and skills to better serve the needs of children and their families. Thus, every expert in a team will have expertise to help, substitute and consult his/her colleague if needed.
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Apart from relying on parents’ judgments and observations, it may also be a good idea to hold a family assessment. That will be beneficial in terms of discovering priorities, concerns, wishes of the family in order to boost development of a child as well as determining and meeting parents’ expectations. This is a vital step to embrace all possible methods and practices to receive objective results of assessment that can be used for planning and determining child’s progress and eligibility.
To conclude, Neisworth and Bagnato’s philosophy presented in The Mismeasure of Young Children is highly appealing and practical. It accentuates the proper choice of contexts that connects their research to the class discussions and stresses the role of parents’ observations and judgments that are to be considered in the course of assessment. However, Neisworth and Bagnato’s theory of authentic assessment lacks consistent and thorough analysis of the styles of teamwork and detailed periods for conducting assessments. These moments were stressed in the classroom discussions.
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