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Getting to know young children: Alternative assessments in early childhood education


Assessments provide teachers with essential information regarding children’s learning. Alternative education systems offer insight into ways that assessments can be redesigned to be developmentally appropriate to particular ages, including unique stances on what defines assessment, who should assess, and what should be assessed. We examined themes of early childhood assessment through a review of Reggio Emilia, Montessori, and Waldorf (also called Steiner). Each of these three alternative systems emphasize assessments designed to understand every child’s learning as unique. Many of the practices used align with the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s (NAEYC) current recommendations regarding developmentally appropriate assessment. There is a clear acknowledgement that engagement, not just specific knowledge, is particularly important to assess. To assess engagement, classrooms must be carefully constructed learning environments that implement individualized assessment techniques, such as observation. As children engage in developmentally appropriate experiences, teachers assess their individual learning patterns. Specific components of each system contribute to effective and informative assessment, for example collected artifacts and documentation from children’s work (Reggio), activities and materials designed to show children when an error is made (Montessori), and participation in classic stories (Waldorf). The increased focus these systems place on assessing during interactive learning experiences answered NAEYC’s current recommendations regarding assessment as well as on-going calls in education reform for a child-centered approach to learning. (author abstract)

Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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