Assessing, Teaming, and Reflecting: Student Outcomes From Participating in a Play-Based Assessment

From Section:
Assessment & Evaluation
Dec. 15, 2010

Source: Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 31(4):344–359, 2010.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This paper describes the logistics and process to conduct a play-based assessment (PBA) within the context of an early childhood special education (ECSE) assessment course required for early childhood education (ECE) and ECSE students.

Since October 2006, a PBA has been integrated into the ECSE assessment course each semester with approximately 18–25 students completing the course each term.

Most students are traditional preservice juniors or seniors in ECE or Special Education (SPED). In addition, one to four graduate students majoring in ECSE and a few nontraditional students (e.g., changing careers, over the age of 35) take the course.
PBA Mentors are bachelor’s and master’s level students who have completed the course and agree to return to assist with the PBA during a subsequent semester.

PBA Children and Families
Children who participate in the PBA are recruited from the university’s two on-campus child care centers and a community center. Participating families represent a range of educational level, socioeconomic status and age. Parents of these children vary in marital status and family composition. Efforts are made to recruit one child with a disability (e.g., speech and language delay, autism) for each PBA.

PBA Process

Through preparing, conducting, and writing up a PBA, students are introduced to a form of holistic assessment that can be used with young children who are typically developing, at-risk for developmental delays, and with diagnosed disabilities (Linder, 2008).

Students have four methods of assessment illustrated by the following PBA assignments:
(a) Parent and Provider Interview – this interview is completed to prepare for the PBA. Students compile information about the child’s development and interests.
(b) Developmental Checklists - The checklist is utilized as the main data collection instrument during the PBA session. Checklist items cover a 6-month span, encompassing the child’s current developmental level in four domains (Cognitive, Social-emotional, Communication and Language, and Sensorimotor).
(c) Roles &Responsibilities and Play Activities Matrix – this matrix provides students with a visual means of compiling activities and materials for the PBA session. Each student on a team selects a role from the following choices: Child Facilitator, Parent Facilitator, and Observer.
and (d) behavioral observations during the PBA session - Observers assist the Child Facilitator with preparing materials for activities and also complete the Developmental Checklists.

Finally, one team member takes on the role of Team Leader. This student coordinates communication among team members, reviews and compiles completed assignments, and is the primary contact with the Instructor and Teaching Assistant.
During the PBA session, students collect assessment data utilizing the above documents.

Throughout the course, preservice students have opportunities to practice communication strategies, joint decision making, collaboration, and conflict resolution (Kaczmarek, Pennington, & Goldstein, 2000). Each team includes four to five students are randomly assigned.
Team members are required to communicate with each other and with their PBA Mentor, and the parent and child care provider of the young child their team will work with during the PBA.

Students are encouraged to reflect on their strengths, skills, and needs in the areas of PBA content, being part of a team, and interacting with their peers, the child, and his parent.

This article also describes three difficulties along with possible solutions for each of the three components of the PBA process.

The PBA experience provides a holistic model of assessment to utilize with young children with and without disabilities as well as an extended opportunity to work with a team (Linder, 2008; Losardo & Notari-Syverson, 2001).

Kaczmarek, L., Pennington, R., & Goldstein, H. (2000). Transdisciplinary consultation: A centerbased team functioning model. Education and Treatment of Children, 23, 1–17.
Linder, T. W. (2008). Transdisciplinary play-based assessment (2nd ed.). Baltimore, MD: Brookes.
Losardo, A., & Notari-Syverson, A. (2001). Alternative approaches to assessing young children. Baltimore, MD: Brookes.

Updated: Jan. 17, 2017
Child development | Disabilities | Early childhood education | Evaluation methods | Parents | Special education teachers | Student teachers | Team work