Children show their understanding by doing, showing, and telling. Teachers use assessment strategies of observing, listening, and asking probing questions in order to assess and evaluate children’s achievement.
Assessment in Balsam is the gathering of information through observable evidence of what a child can do, say, and apply. Evaluation involves the judging and interpreting of the assessment data to determine the child’s progress in achieving the overall learning expectations.
Observation is the most important aspect of assessment in the classroom and is an integral part of all other assessment strategies. The assessment of a child’s achievement is intended to improve the child’s learning. Teachers continually observe, monitor, document, and assess children’s learning, and regularly report on children’s progress towards the achievement of the expectations to parents and the children themselves.
Teachers recognize that, because of the many factors that influence both learning and assessment, the degree of success with which children will achieve the learning expectations will vary widely from child to child. Not only will children enter school with varied social realities and experiences, but they will also leave it demonstrating a range of achievement of the learning expectations both in the formative and summative years. All program expectations are accounted for instruction, but evaluation will focus on children’s achievement of the overall expectations. A child’s achievement of the overall expectations is evaluated on the basis of his or her achievement of related specific expectations.
The overall expectations are broad in nature, and the specific expectations define the particular content or scope of the knowledge and skills referred to in the overall expectations. The specific expectations assist teachers in describing the range of behaviours, skills, and strategies that children demonstrate as they work towards achieving the overall expectations. Teachers use their professional judgement to determine which specific expectations should be used to evaluate achievement of the overall expectations and which ones will be the focus for instruction and assessment (e.g., assessment through direct observation) but not necessarily evaluated.
Balsam's Assessment strategies encourage children to show what they know and can do, rather than focus on what they do not know or cannot do. An assessment that focuses on what children can do takes into account the developmental stage of the child. Assessment enables teachers to determine how well their planned activities and teaching strategies are working, and to make any changes needed to enable children to achieve the learning expectations. Some children may need differentiated instruction to meet their individual needs.
We believe that observation, as well as the documentation of observations, is the most important method for gaining assessment information about a child as he or she works and interacts in the classroom. Observation is the primary assessment strategy used in Kindergarten. Teachers focus their observations on specific skills, concepts, or characteristics, as described in the learning expectations, and record their observations. Daily observation includes both planned observations and on-the-spot observations. For the Graders, there are various ways of documenting observations, such as using anecdotal notes, checklists, and rating scales. Assessment strategies and tools might include the following:
Communication with children and their parents throughout the assessment and evaluation process is critical to successful learning. Teachers provide information for parents to assist them in understanding the assessment and evaluation process, including the ways in which assessment helps identify a child’s strengths and needs and the next steps for program planning.
We strongly believe that it is especially important in the early years for parents to be involved in discussions regarding their child’s progress. The teacher gathers as much information as possible from the parents and consults with them when assessing the child’s adjustment to school and progress towards achievement of the learning expectations. Parents are invited to observe their child in the classroom setting and to discuss their observations with teachers. Also, since parents are familiar with their child’s knowledge and skills in the home setting, teachers invite parents to share their observations of their child informally throughout the school year. Other professionals who may be involved with the child also participate in program decisions, provided that the appropriate permission has been granted.
Teachers communicate assessment and evaluation of achievement to the parents, the child, and others involved in the child’s learning. When reporting on what children have achieved, teachers include the assessment and evaluation methods used, the expectations on which achievement was assessed, and the purpose of the assessment. Reporting always indicate the child’s growth and achievement in relation to the learning expectations for the year. Reporting reflects achievement in the skills and strategies that the children are developing as they progress through the years.
The reports reflect evaluation of achievement in all six areas of learning. Reports include anecdotal comments on the child’s achievement in relation to the overall expectations and the next steps for the teacher, as well as next steps for the parents to assist them in supporting their child’s learning. Reporting is ongoing and includes a variety of formal and informal means, ranging from formal written reports and discussions with parents and the child to informal notes to parents and conversations with them.