Assessment tools are important as they help an instructor to determine the learning needs of the learner. An appropriate assessment tool helps the teacher to determine the ability, state of knowledge, attitude or interest of a defined group of learners in a specific subject (Ackerman & Barnett, 2005). The teacher, therefore, has to have knowledge of the important issues that are faced by learners for them to design an effective learning program. Different types of assessment tools are specifically targeted for a particular group of learners. In schools, the assessment tools are developed depending on the age of the learner (Cole et al, 2000). The assessment tools used to evaluate the education needs of middle school learners will not be the same as the assessment tools designed for grade 1 or kindergarten children. In developing my assessment tool, I focused on grade and gender of the learners. My assessment tool was primarily meant to evaluate grade 1 learners of both sexes.
Teachers need to recognize that apart from grade and gender, there are other factors that may also influence the learning and achievements of kindergarten learners. The children, though of the same grade or age, may exhibit different ways of demonstrating what they know. Their level of success in demonstrating what they know may be influenced by factors such as the situation, the time of the day, the type of questions asked, the child’s willingness to perform and their familiarity with the content (Shepard, 2000). Therefore, as a teacher, one must give their learners ample time to demonstrate their achievements. The children should also be given varied learning opportunities that are appropriate to their development and are within the category of tasks that they can perform independently (Ackerman & Barnett, 2005). A teacher should understand that the depth and rate at which children at the kindergarten level will engage in the curriculum is varied from the beginning to the end.
The learning process in a kindergarten classroom involves activities that keep the learners active. Therefore, teachers should assess the learners during the actual process of learning rather than at the end of the learning process (Shepard, 2000). The ongoing assessment will inform the approach that the teacher will design. The design of the assessment must convey developmentally appropriate instructional activities. The teacher should take advantage of the natural classroom instructional encounters to assess the learning of the students. After identifying areas that need to be assessed, for example, visual discrimination, letter and number awareness and auditory processing, the teacher designs the assessment tools (Assessment Techniques and Tools for Documentation, n.d.). The teacher can then decide to engage the students individually, as a whole group or in small groups. The assessment should not be carried out only once; it should be frequent, well organized and well planned so that the teachers are in a position to aid each child in progressing towards matching the kindergarten curriculum outcomes.
As previously mentioned, various strategies and tools should be used in assessing learning progress of the children. This is a process that occurs in the context of daily classroom experiences. The main aim of the assessment tools should be to allow the children display what they know and what they can achieve (Cole at al, 2000). Assessment tools that seek to portray what the children do not know and cannot do should be avoided. In assessing the children, teachers need to focus on the children’s thinking rather than a specific answer or solution. Allowing the child an opportunity to think provides valuable information on the child’s learning progress. The thinking of the children can be observed when they are given tasks that require them to engage in a dialogue or it can be evident through their behaviors (Shepard, 2000). A kindergarten teacher should be preoccupied with continually observing and documenting the learning process. This is a great assessment tool since young children display their understanding by telling, doing and showing. Teachers should, therefore, make use of assessment strategies of listening, observing and asking probing questions in the evaluation of the children’s achievement. Apart from using documented observations, teachers can also use photographs, anecdotal records, tape recordings or videotapes, portfolios, checklists, work samples and conferencing (Cole et al, 2000).
The assessment tools designed by the teacher for use in the classroom need to be consistent with the requirements of the curriculum and classroom practices. They should clearly demonstrate the progress of the children towards the achievement of curriculum outcomes as spelled out in the kindergarten program. The most appropriate assessment practices are designed to occur frequently, and are organized well to fit throughout the planning of the kindergarten day.
In designing assessment tools, teachers should first identify the desired outcomes of the process. The outcomes will identify the knowledge or skills that need to be achieved (Shepard, 2000). The assessment tools strengths will be measures against the desired outcomes. Assessment tools should have complete, clear instructions that can be understood easily. An assessment should also be easy to integrate with the normal daily activities that are carried out in a kindergarten classroom.
In designing an assessment tool for kindergarten children, I chose three areas to be assessed. The areas included visual discrimination, letter and number awareness and auditory processing. In assessing visual discrimination, the activities designed would test the ability of the children to match images with their shadows and to tell the difference between different shapes that they would be given. In recognition of numbers and letters, the activities designed would test how well the children recognize letters and numbers (Reimer, 2012). In auditory processing, the teacher would establish how well the learners interpreted their words. The overall purpose of these activities would be to understand each child’s skills and strengths, areas that may require extra attention and to plan for activities that would match the skills and abilities of children.
At the end of the assessment, the teacher would design an evaluation table that would enable him/her to understand the skills and knowledge of the learners and areas that would require improvement. The strategies chosen for further development of learner skills and knowledge will depend on the evaluation of the teacher. The strategies could vary from teaching the learners’ mastery of numbers and alphabets through games, repetition of the content of lessons until the children master them and/or developing auditory processing games to sharpen the auditory processing of the learners (Reimer, 2012; Laura, 2009).
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Overall, designing effective assessment tools helps teachers to gather and analyze the achievement of the learners. The data gained from the process helps the teacher to set realistic, informed goals that are based on evidence. The teacher is, therefore, not only able to meet the curriculum needs, but is also able to understand their learners well and design learning strategies that improve their skills and knowledge.
Ackerman, D.J. & Barnett, W.S. (2005). Prepared for Kindergarten: What does “readiness” mean? New Burnswick, NJ: National Institute for Early Education Research.
Assessment Techniques and Tools for Documentation (n.d.) “Assessing the Kindergarten Students’ Learning.” In Completely Kindergarten: Kindergarten Curriculum Guide. 47-56.
Cole, D.J., Ryan, C.W., Kick, F. & Matahies B.K. (2000). Portfolios across the Curriculum and Beyond, (2nd ed.). California: Corwin Press, Inc.
Laura (2009). “Auditory Processing games for preschoolers.” Retrieved from http://teachmetotalk.com/2009/01/08/auditory-processing-games-for-preschoolers/
Reimer, J . (2012). “50 Incredible alphabet activities for preschoolers.” Retrieved from http://handsonaswegrow.com/50-alphabet-activities/
Shepard, L. A. (2000). “The Role of Assessment in a Learning Culture.” Educational Researcher 29: 4–14.