Friday, December 5, 2014

Testing for Intelligence

With what I have learned in my previous Foundations of Early Childhood and in this class, I have formulated what I would do if I were to be a classroom teacher.

The American goal of an assessment seems to ensure that students are performing on par and on grade-level. And if a child is not performing grade-level, then the goal would be to seek the cause of the poor performance. This becomes the mindset of the teacher or the specialist doing the assessments.

If I were a teacher, I would sit down with each child and find out what makes the child tick. I would have a conversation with the child where I would ask questions such as “what is your favorite activity in school?” or “what do you like to do when you are home?” For some children, this could be the only time anyone ever pays undivided attention to them.

I would help them achieve their wishes, dreams, or goals. If a child expresses concern about an external issue, I would work with the school social worker to see if we could help with the child’s concern. I recall my son’s preschool teacher asking me if she could work with my son’s speech skills one-to-one after school because she intuitively thought his speech skills were causing him anxiety. She would discuss the class schedule for the next day, so my son didn’t struggle to understand.

For other students who might be struggling or bored or not performing, a teacher can find out what the student is passionate about and find ways to utilize the student’s passion in the classroom. It is also important that the teacher knows the child beyond the classroom. The teacher would know who lives in the child’s home; that both parents work hard and that the student is home alone a lot. Find out what the child is wanting to do and assist the child in achieving what he/she wants. For example, if a child wants to write a story but doesn’t know how, the teacher can help the child break down writing tasks. Likewise, the teacher can ask the child how the child feels about the subject that the child is not doing well. The answers they give can be revealing.

This kind of involvement during an assessment is holistic in that both the teacher and the child become aware of the child’s strengths and weaknesses. The teacher can then design individual-directed instruction to accommodate the child’s needs. The child learns to solve problems with guidance of the teacher. To have a conversation with each child and discuss their thoughts is one of the more holistic ways to assess them.

The Ministry of Education in Singapore has a website about holistic assessment. Their key focus when their children are in Primary 1 and 2 is building the children’s confidence and desire to learn. The parents would get assessments on the learning progress of the child and the strengths and weaknesses. They would also get suggestions on how to improve their children’s learning.

Googling for holistic assessment of children, I found articles on holistic assessment for children in Pakistan, Australia, and for DeafBlind children in London, but nothing for the United States. It is interesting to see the goals in Singapore of Primary 1 and 2 are to build children’s confidence and desire to learn. I remember my son’s Kindergarten teacher telling me that her job is to get her Kindergarten children ready to learn. Is that the same as having confidence and desire to learn? I have been thinking a lot about this question and wondering if the United States can adopt holistic approach to educating our children.

Our school district has a special K-6 program called Global Education where they have multi-grade classrooms – K-1; 1-2; 3-4; 5-6 grades and taught in English only and English & Spanish. It was set up as an alternative school by the parents in the early 1970’s (I picture them as hippie parents, but don’t know if that’s true!). The entire program is based on a developmental approach in individualized education.

This is also the program that prompted my daughter to proclaim her desire to become an Egyptologist during her 6th grade graduation. In her college essay, she wrote how she had wanted to study Archaeology ever since she as a third-grader participated in an archaeological dig as a part of their study of ancient civilizations. Incidentally, my daughter went on an archaeological dig in Israel last summer as part of her college graduation requirement.

The Global Education is a program for only 200 students within the traditional K-6 school district. Why did not the school district have Global Education program for all students? Would it be because it is not conventional or traditional American education?


Global Education Program (December 2014) Skyline School. Retrieved from:

Holistic assessment: More holistic assessment to support learning. (2014, December) Parents in Education. Retrieved from:


  1. Hi Marla, Thanks for sharing how you would do assessing in your classroom. I like the one on one approach. The examples you shared about your own children were perfect for this post. You have seen a good example of assessment done well. It was turned into action that changed your children's lives! The information about Singapore was also interesting and insightful.

  2. Great post! I had a difficult time finding countries that utilized a holistic assessment over a standardize written test method of assessment. I must have been using the wrong keywords =) I am glad you shared this information! It looks like we share some of the same opinions.

  3. Marla, great points! I admire your enthusiasm to keep children excited about learning. The fact is that school age teachers seem burned out with all the testing that they need some encouragement also. It would be great to be able to meet with the children on a one to one basis.

  4. Marla, I liked your approach for talking to children one-on-one, getting to know them outside the classroom, and figuring out ways that make them tick to understand why they may not be performing well on standardized tests. However, I feel that in schools today, there is little time for this, with class sizes expanding and so much focus put on standardized testing and curriculums that allow little leeway for teachers. Your approach, in a perfect world, sounds amazing. I just wish that it would be easier to implement it in classrooms where so much focus is on the grades students get, not on the students themselves.