Informal assessment is a procedure for obtaining information that can be used to make judgements about children's learning behavior and characteristics or programs using means other than standardized instruments. Observations, checklists, and portfolios are just some of the informal methods of assessment available to early childhood educators. The table below outlines methods for informal assessment, their purposes, and guidelines for using them.

Method Purpose Guidelines

Observation Kid watching- looking at children in a systematic way

Enables teachers to identify children's behaviors, document performance, and make decisions Plan for observation and be clear about the purposes of the observation.

Anecdotal Record Gives a brief written description of student behavior at one time

Provides insight into a particular behavior and a basis for planning a specific teaching strategy Record only what is observed or heard; should deal with the facts and should include the setting (e.g., where the behavior occurs) and what was said and done.

Running Record Focuses on a sequence of events that occurs over time

Helps obtain a more detailed insight into behavior over a period of time Maintain objectivity and try to include as much detail as possible.

Event sampling Focuses on a particular behavior during a particular event (e.g., behavior at lunchtime, behavior in a reading group)

Helps identify behaviors during a particular event over time Identify a target behavior to be observed during particular times (e.g., fighting during transition activities).

Time sampling Record particular events or behaviors at specific time intervals (e.g., five minutes, ten minutes)

Helps identify when a particular child demonstrates a particular behavior; helps answer the question, "Does the child do something all the time or just at certain times and events?" Observe only during the time period specified.

Rating scale Contains a list of descriptors for a set of behaviors

Enables teachers to record data when they are observed Make sure that key descriptor and the rating scale are appropriate for what is being observed.

Checklist A list of behaviors identifying children's skills and knowledge

Enables teachers to observe and easily check off what children know and are able to do Make sure that the checklist includes behaviors that are important for the program and for learning (e.g., counts from 1 to 10, hops on one foot).

Work Sample Collection of children's work that demonstrates what they know and are able to do

Provides a concrete example of learning; can show growth and achievement over time Make sure that the work sample demonstrates what children know and are able to do. Let children help select the items they want to use as examples of their learning.

Portfolio Collection of children's work samples and other products

Provides documentation of a child's achievement in specific areas over time; can include test scores, writing work samples, videotapes, etc. Make sure the portfolio is not a dumpster but a thoughtful collection of materials that documents learning over time.

Interview Engaging children in discussion through questions

Allows children to explain behavior, work samples, or particular answers Ask questions at all levels of Bloom's taxonomy in order to gain insight into children's learning