Saturday, September 3, 2011

Thoughts About Preschool

I have extended a lot about my understanding of preschool this week. Through the years, I have taken a deep interest in curriculum, instruction, and assessment. My work with writing curriculum-based measures taught me a lot about the bias that testing items may have. Bias in how an item is written can impact students' ability to demonstrate their knowledge about the actual concept that we want to measure. For example, if a math problem uses a a set of culturally specific terms, some students may not be able to demonstrate the math because they get lost in the context.

In preschool (and lower elementary) assessment, teasing out the metacognition from the behaviors we are assessing can be tricky. Asking students to, "Tell me about strangers," means students have to have two sets of skills to answer the question. First, they need to actually understand what a stranger is, and second,  they need the ability to articulate their thoughts about the concept of strangers.

As a preschool team, we are looking at the portion of the Creative Curriculum indicators which we have selected as end of the year 4-year-old behaviors. We are writing assessment tasks to use with all children in the 4-year-old class in the fall, and then again in the spring. It is a tricky thing. As with any assessment, we will probably use questions that provide unintended results. Sometimes though, unintended results can tell us a lot about what students know about a concept. For example, last spring I asked students, "What is a leader?" The younger students all talked about leading a line, leading a race, winning. It provided a lot of insight to me about students' development of the concept of a "leader." I'm sure that as we work on common assessments for our preschoolers, we will uncover insights about their thinking, as well as our ability to provide opportunities for students to demonstrate their abilities in the four domains.

This week our preschool team worked with the indicators in the four preschool domains - physical, social-emotional, cognitive, and language - some indicators are easy to design assessment items for, and others behaviors are difficult to stage to observe. The most important thing is, we still need to try to assess all if the indicators in some way. We made a lot of great progress this week!

Here are a few quick links related to this post:
Assessments for Young Children
Developmental Screenings with Emphasis on Social Emotional Development
Early Language and Literacy As Indicators of Future Academic Success

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