Early Childhood Education can be called an extension of home, with the teachers as caregivers. The home is the first school of a child but the child at age 3 /4 needs to move out of his/her home and get accustomed to the “outside world”. This is where the ECE teacher plays a big role. The teacher needs to maintain the atmosphere of the home and reach out to the children more as an affectionate caregiver. A young learner, who is just picking up concepts and probably, does not even know his/her alphabets and numbers cannot be given an intimidating worksheet as an assessment.
But since the child has entered a formal system of education assessment is important. There are several reasons why assessment is important . Primarily to record the growth and development of the young learner and to judge whether the learner is actually picking up concepts in accordance to age. It may happen in a few cases that the child is a little slow on the pickup and does not grasp concepts easily then maybe the child can be given extra attention to bring him/her up to grade level.
So now we come back to the main question how does one assess such a young learner? The answer to this is documentation. According to American Heritage Dictionary (1994)”to document is to support an assertion or a claim with evidence or decisive information” Documentation is not really an assessment. The two differ in their very nature. Assessment is generally conducted after the completion of a lesson, mostly to gauge student comprehension, assimilation and application. An assessment also helps the teacher to decipher the recall capability of the students.
Whereas documentation is just evidence collected by the teacher in the form of worksheets, photographs, video/audio cds and Art/Craft materials. This is treated as a record of the child’s development and growth of motor skills and it helps the school to understand whether the child has developed enough to cope up with requirements of the next grade. A progress report is generated bearing these aspects in mind and a discussion is held between the parents and the teachers on the open house day.
Documentation at ECE level is based on the growth of the child and development of his/her motor skills. It is generally in the form of collection of evidences- like photographs, worksheets, and Art/Craft material and video/audio cds. The documentation at this level is different from documentation done in an Elementary school. For an Elementary student documentation is based on capability to grasp matter taught, which includes reading, writing and mathematical capabilities of the students. At end of it I would like to conclude that at ECE level documentation is the most important tool (Wayne).
Constant documentation of the child’s progress of his motor skills and reflexes is very vital. It is also very important to record children’s language, feelings, projects and daily happenings (Mitchell 1950) At times the transcripts with the child’s answers, spoken by him can also be recorded. This will convey to the teacher about the language skills of the young learner. All this growth process which the teacher is constantly observing can be shown to the principal and parents only if documented properly and systematically. (Source-Early Childhood Education by Rebecca Staples)