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Take a Look: Observation and Portfolio Assessment in Early Childhood (3rd ed.).

TAKE A LOOK: Observation and Portfolio Assessment in Early Childhood (3rd ed.). Sue Martin. Toronto, Canada: Addison Wesley Pub Ltd, 2004. 385 pp. Paperback, $50.95. Authentic assessment, as defined by Neisworth, Bagnato, and Stephen (2004), is the systematic collection of information about the naturally occurring behaviors of young children and families in their daily routines. The use of such authentic assessment as observations and portfolios provides firsthand information about a child's performances and so enables the development of appropriate programs to meet the child's physical, social, and intellectual needs. All early childhood professionals need quality literature and samples of appropriate authentic assessment tools that are user-friendly for collecting data on children as they engage in activities in a naturalistic environment. Take a Look: Observation and Portfolio Assessment in Early Childhood is an outstanding addition to such a collection.

Sue Martin, an accomplished kindergarten teacher and renowned author, provides a practical approach to early childhood assessment. She gives exclusive information on observation, sampling observations, checklists, charts, scales and pictorial representations, media techniques, portfolios, measuring outcomes, screening, and environmental observation and evaluation. Take a Look was written with such ingenuity that the reader will wish to absorb its content in its entirety.

Children spend a lot of time in family environments, child care centers, play groups, early learning settings, nursery schools, and the primary grades, and early childhood professionals need to be well-prepared on how to observe and record what is happening in these settings. Therefore, the revised edition of Take a Look provides a detailed explanation of how the early childhood professional can develop observation skills in seeing, recording, and understanding the development of young children.

The uniqueness of the book rests in its simple yet informative structure, which not only provides the reader with psychological and scientific information on the development of young children, but also explains how observations and portfolios can be used for assessment methodologies. Martin describes in a step-by-step approach how the early childhood professional can become a good observer, offering several carefully selected lists of what to observe. These lists include some important behaviors that are taken for granted by most people, but that are important indicators for understanding child development. The chapter on portfolios gives a particularly excellent description of the process.

Other outstanding features are the numerous graphic organizers and sample forms. If used as directed, the sample forms will generate a wealth of data that will be easy to interpret because of the variables that are included for observation. It is not often that we find methodological texts with such well-defined samples of assessment tools.

Throughout the book, Martin introduces each chapter with explicit descriptions of the focus questions and the learning outcomes for the reader and inserts several special features at strategic locations in the book, using the caption "Taking a Special Look." These sections offer succinct definitions or explanations of emerging concepts that need to be reinforced. Realizing that limitations are a factor of all methodological innovations, Martin includes possible advantages and disadvantages of using the assessment tools. This helps users or readers better understand the extent to which these assessment tools will meet their desired expectations while simultaneously providing the knowledge base that will educate the reader to better understand and use authentic assessment techniques.

Web links at the end of each chapter not only provide additional resources for the users but also highlight the technological aspects that are expected in modern professional texts. Martin also satisfies requests for additional content on a broad review of perspectives on child development, sexual development and its behavioral indicators, newer technologies for recording, a clearer explanation of the assessment cycle and its authenticity, and a wider perspective on what constitutes the child's environment and how to observe it.

Generally, the contents are a reflection of the kind of authentic assessment that is recommended by prominent organizations of early childhood education--for example, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Division for Early Childhood (DEC). The strengths of observation and portfolio assessment methodologies provided in Take a Look are found in the flexibility of using the ideas for identifying early interventions, monitoring the child's progress, and planning developmentally appropriate programs in early childhood education. Reviewed by Jennie Ricketts, Ph.D. student, Barry University, Miami Shores, FL
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Author:Ricketts, Jennie
Publication:Childhood Education
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2006
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