Assessment practices used by teachers in early childhood education centres in Lusaka, Zambia.

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Lungu, Stella
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The University of Zambia
Assessment in Early Childhood Education (ECE) plays a major role in child development, teaching and learning processes of young children. This study therefore sought to investigate “Assessment practices used by teachers in Early Childhood Education Centres in Lusaka, Zambia.” The objectives of the study were to: Establish assessment practices used by teachers' in ECE Centres; examine to what extent teachers were knowledgeable about principles that guide assessment in ECE and to establish challenges if any, experienced by teachers in early childhood assessment. The study employed a pragmatic world view which relies on mixed methods approaches. Thus, a mixed methods design was employed encompassing both qualitative and quantitative approaches. A concurrent triangulation design was used. Both probability and nonprobability sampling techniques were used to sample one hundred and two (102) teachers and ten (10) head teachers whilst a probability sampling technique was used to sample one hundred and twenty-five (125) parents drawn from Lusaka District. For data collection, the study used the following research instruments: Questionnaires were used to gather data from teachers and parents, Focus Group Discussion Guides (FGDs) were used to interview the teachers whilst Interview guides were used to interview head teachers. A documentary analysis guide and an observational checklist were used by the researcher to obtain additional data on assessment practices by teachers (from a documentary and observational point of view). Thereafter, quantitative data were analysed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 21, whilst thematic analysis was used to analyse qualitative data using a framework approach of qualitative data analysis. The study revealed that both assessment of learning (summative assessment) and assessment for learning (formative assessment) were common assessment practices employed by teachers in ECE Centres. However, most teachers did not adhere to the actual norms of formative assessment, and they exhibited little understanding of what was prescribed in the revised ECE curriculum on assessment. The assessment strategies frequently used by teachers in ECE Centres were homework, standardised tests, interview guides, paper and pencil-tests in which learners read questions and responded in writing. The use of standardised assessment tools was low although a minimal number of teachers used the Child Assessment Tool for Zambia (CDATZ) for assessment in some ECE Centres. Teachers were knowledgeable about the principles that guide assessment in early childhood assessment except, they were biased in the way they applied the principles when conducting assessment, hence compromising assessment results. Meanwhile, the challenges experienced by teachers in ECE Centres, among others were limited standardised assessment tools in ECE Centres: lack of sufficient time to conduct certain assessments due to inflexible timetables and limited supply of essential materials like play materials; and pressure from parents to conduct assessments that emphasised on grading of children in comparison with their peers. Recommendations on possible solutions were made based on the findings. Keywords: authentic assessment, early childhood education, early childhood curriculum, formative assessment, summative assessment.
Early childhood education--Government policy--Zambia. , Early childhood education--Curricula