My kindergarten teaching job in Hanoi was one of my favorite, if not it, jobs I have ever held since I began my teaching years. As much as I have loved the pay, the working hours, the local celebrity status I have enjoyed in our small suburban district (yes, teachers can be famous), I especially loved learning so much from my students. They have taught me more than I have taught them, and I love each one of their tiny selves in tidbits for making the part of the teacher I am today. Now when I say I loved learning about them and from them, the former meant learning about young students’ learning process, while the latter meant in the pedagogical sense. Looking back, I now understand that there is a name for the evaluation and endless
observations I performed on them (while of course, toying with hand paint and running around in the play ground)– that something is called informal assessment.
Let me name some of the methods I have used.
First, observation is key in child assessment. They reveal so much about what kinds of personalities they possess. Are they a sharers? Inquirers, curious and the like? Can they handle delaying gratification? Do they like singing, acting, writing, making pictures, talking? Are they the type to feign incompetence when trapped in an embarrassing situation? Do children even know the concept of embarrassment? I speak to all of them or have some type of individual interaction on a daily, as well as with their parents who pick them up or drop them off. Speaking to parents is a normal occurrence and these parents are the type who are very curious about how their children are outside their watch. I was happy to report new discoveries each day and this has also kept my record keeping for each of the students sharp, fresh and updated.
Running records are generously mentioned as a popular form of informal assessment, especially in preschool education, and for a good reason. My records are peppered with anecdotes and I am never short of them every day, and while entertaining to some, it served as basis data when a behavior is taking shape in a child. If one consistently displayed out of character behaviors in a certain span of time then it could be a sign of something else, perhaps toddler stress.
Having keenly observed and took notes on these behavior, I felt that I could contribute to how to prevent them in the future. I hoped to harbor positive energy in my classroom to be able to bring about learning: to better appreciate causalities and effects, among others.
Other informal (and indirect) methods that I used were interpreting their paper output such as doodles, pictures even speech. They all helped me assess where they are in terms of our school life activities, which all are consolidated in our semi annual reports.
Now that I have realized that these methods were actually a form of genuine assessments, it has been helping me in handling my current students. Back during the day when I thought of them as less than formal– but necessary and valuable– it has remained in me to make sure that I assess my students, young or old, in the same fashion I did before in that school in Vietnam: accurate and analytical.
Morrison, G.S. (2013). Informal Methods of Assessment. Retrieved from http://www.education.com/reference/article/informal-methods-assessment/