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Eager to Learn: Educating our Preschoolers
of promising approaches to assessment to support learning—the clinical interview, dynamic assessment, performance assessment.
The fact is, however, that most early childhood educators are not trained in traditional testing and measurement, to say nothing of the newer kinds of assessment. Moreover, assessment in early childhood tends to be considered external and irrelevant to the teaching and learning process, rather than something that can complement educational programs and, indeed, is essential to making the program work for each child. If we are to use the important findings about human learning from the cognitive, neurological, and developmental sciences to improve early childhood pedagogy and instruction, it is important that early childhood educators and caregivers be trained to use assessments for purposes that will advance teaching and learning (Arter, 1999; Brookhart, 1999; Jones and Chittenden, 1995; Meisels, 1999; Sheingold et al., 1995; Stiggins, 1991, 1999).
Finally, we have emphasized the importance of using assessments and tests particularly carefully with young children. The first five years of human life are a time of incredible growth and learning. The rapid growth of the brain in the early years provides an opportunity for the environment to play an enormous role in development. But the course of development in young children is uneven and episodic, with great spurts in learning in one and lags in another. As a consequence, assessment results can easily be misinterpreted. Standardized tests are particularly vulnerable to misuse with this population, but any assessment procedures must be used intelligently and with care. The developmental characteristics of young children make it even more important that teachers and caregivers be trained to think about and use assessment well.