Source: Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, Vol. 34, Issue 3, p. 231-248. (2013)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study investigated the current practices and training needs of early childhood professionals in conducting assessment with young children with and at-risk of disabilities.
Specifically, a survey was used to identify the assessment tools and processes early childhood professionals use to assess young children, what training needs professionals view as necessary and important in order to conduct assessments, and challenges they face when assessing young children.
The participants were 534 early childhood professionals, who responded to the survey.
The findings reveal that the participants reported that they used a wide range of standardized tools and nonstandardized methods to assess children’s development in the developmental domains.
Three of the top five tools most frequently used by professionals to assess children’s skills are curriculum-based assessment methods that are developmentally based and that take into consideration the child’s experiences and background (i.e., Hawaii Early Learning Profile, Creative Curriculum for Preschool, and Assessment, Evaluation, and Programming System for Infants and Children).
Additionally, participants reported using multiple methods of data collection such as observation in natural environments during typical occurring routines and using play-based assessments.
Most participants reported that they shared the assessment results with families and used the assessment results to plan goals.
Furthermore, while many professionals responded that they adhered to the recommendations for accommodations and modifications provided in the test manuals, it is noteworthy that 17% indicated that they never provided accommodations, 39% reported never providing modifications and 10% were not sure if they provided either accommodations or modifications.
The specific identified training needs include selecting appropriate assessment tools and/or processes and gainingmore knowledge on developmentally appropriate assessments. Additionally, need was expressed in learning about appropriate modifications and accommodations when using available tools for specific groups of children such as children with disabilities and children from culturally or linguistically diverse backgrounds while maintaining the reliability and validity of the tools.
These data have important implications for professional development, particularly preservice and in-service professional development for early childhood professionals.
As recommended by the participants, preservice teacher preparation programs must include numerous targeted field assignments that provide teacher candidates with opportunities to observe experienced teachers conducting assessments, working in multidisciplinary teams, such that they can observe the link between assessment, program planning, and progress monitoring.
More audio and visual tools may be necessary to give teacher candidates the “real” experience.
Additionally, teacher candidates must receive opportunities for handson practice in conducting assessments for a variety of purposes, with children with diverse needs, and using the assessment results to plan goals and design instruction and services.
Furthermore, preservice teachers must receive instruction in how to use a few of the most commonly used tools and assessment methods.
Evolving practices and instruments in early childhood require that there is ongoing professional development for educators to stay current with the latest issues and trends in assessment practices.
The authors recommend that there is also a need for establishing a clearinghouse or national resource center that would allow for the dissemination of background information regarding the standardized tools and nonstandardized methods in assessment that are most frequently used with young children and their families.
This study provides information on the challenges faced by professionals in assessment and recommendations for professional development.
It highlights the need for additional research and dissemination of research-based practices for assessing infants and toddlers as well as children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.