Strategies for assessment must be related to the purposes of assessment. The following table (Hills, 1992, p. 48) associates purposes with both formal and informal types of assessment.
|To ascertain a child's preparedness to benefit from a particular planned program||Readiness tests (criterion referenced)||Observation; parents' reports|
|To identify children who may need specialized placement (e.g., special education) or a modified, individualized classroom program||Developmental screening tests (to be followed by developmental evaluation for those identified)||Error analysis; structured observation|
|To evaluate the appropriateness of teaching programs and teaching strategies||Appropriate criterion-referenced achievement tests||Teacher-made tests and procedures; observation; analysis of work samples|
|To evaluate a child's progress||Appropriate criterion-referenced achievement tests||Teacher-made tests and procedures; observation; analysis of work samples|
|For determining classification and placement||Developmental assessment tests (normative standardization) with high reliability and predictive validity.||Teacher-made tests and procedures; observation; analysis of work samples|
As the table shows, informal assessment strategies can fulfill all the major purposes of assessment except those that determine classification and placement, which include any placements different from those of age-mates (see Wolery, Strain, & Bailey, 1992).
The following graphic (Hills, 1992, p. 48) displays an assessment continuum:
Informal types of assessment are the most appropriate for young children: Such assessments are qualitative in nature, allowing children to demonstrate what they know, in situations that are familiar and comfortable to them, and permitting teachers to document their progress. Informal assessment uses two basic approaches for collecting information on children's performance: observation and recording and collection and analysis of representative samples of children's work.
Documenting children's progress requires the collection of large amounts of data, leading to problems of organizing the data and communicating conclusions about it to those who have a stake in the assessment of young children. Increasingly teachers are employing portfolios to organize and store assessment information for a profile of each student's learning.
Interpreting assessment information requires application of standards for evaluating children's work. After the teacher has collected, analyzed, and evaluated a child's work, he or she has the necessary information for informing parents. This information will result in changes in the ways teachers report to parents and administrators about the child's performance.