structured activities. Effective teachers also organize the classroom environment and plan ways to pursue educational goals for each child as opportunities arise in child-initiated activities and in activities planned and initiated by the teacher.
This panoply of strategies provides a tool kit from which the teacher can select the right tool for the right task at the right time. Children need opportunities to initiate activities and follow their interests, but teachers are not passive during these initiated and directed activities. Similarly children should be actively engaged and responsive during teacher-initiated and directed activities. Good teachers help support the child’s learning in both types of activities. They also recognize that children learn from each other and from interactions with the physical environment. Since preschool programs serve so many ends simultaneously multiple pedagogical approaches should be expected.
If the trend of increasing enrollments in early childhood education programs continues in this country, the use of assessments and tests as instruments of education policy and practice is also likely to increase. There is great potential in the use of assessment to support learning. The importance of building new learning on prior knowledge, the episodic course of development in any given child, and the enormous variability among children in background and development all mean that assessment and instruction are inseparable parts of effective pedagogy. What preschool teachers do to guide and promote learning needs to be based on what each child brings to the interaction, cognitively culturally, and developmentally. Careful assessment is even more critical to effective strategies for working with children with disabilities and special needs.
The growing sense of public responsibility for the quality of early childhood programs means that there are also external pressures to use tests and assessments for program evaluation and monitoring and for school accountability. Such high-stakes uses of assessment data for purposes external to the classroom increase the requirement for measurement validity and heighten the need for caution in interpreting results.