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Learning Stories: Assessment Through Play

by Michael Reisman
March/April 2011
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Article Link: http://www.childcareexchange.com/article/learning-stories-assessment-through-play/5019890/

Why do we assess children in the early childhood center?

• What is the goal?
• Who is it for?
• Do we have an ethical responsibility to children when we assess their learning?

Many teachers operate under the assumption that assessment is the list of information gathered on children’s skills and abilities, according to developmental benchmarks organized into categories that are similar to curriculum goals. As a preschool teacher for six years, I have always struggled with the kinds of conversations these checklists provoke. When parents come in for a conference to see the list, they tend to focus on whatever boxes have not been checked off and, regardless of explanation, conclude that the empty boxes must be what ‘we’ need to work on. They assume that the unchecked boxes imply deficit. A conversation about abilities and successes quickly changes to what the child is not doing at school and how they can improve.

I found this process completely impractical from day to day. Checklists are rearranged for use: David is playing pretend with Hillary and they are negotiating roles. Check the box in the social-emotional category. In our small group counting game Chad counted to 18, Michael to 12, Daniel ...

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