From the ERIC database
Measuring Kindergartners' Social Competence. ERIC Digest.
At different ages, children develop different competencies. The competence hallmark for kindergartners is the development of peer-interaction skills (Waters and Sroufe, 1983). Over time, these peer-interaction skills are transformed into other related competencies. For example, kindergarten children's social and dramatic play develops into traditional literacy (Pellegrini, 1985). Therefore, both social (for example, peer interaction) and cognitive (for example, reading achievement) measures should be used to assess kindergartners.
This digest advocates assessment of children's social competence, of which performance on achievement tests is only a small part. Social competence is the degree to which children adapt to their school and home environments. Social competence in young children is best assessed with a combination of measures--behavioral measures, peer nominations, teacher ratings, and standardized tests.
WHY ACADEMIC TESTS ARE NOT ENOUGH
ASSESSMENT OF SOCIAL COMPETENCE
The results indicated a number of important things. First, although kindergartners' MRT scores were a significant predictor of first grade achievement, they explained only 36% of the variance in children's first grade achievement scores. Therefore, 64% of first grade achievement was due to factors other than those measured by the MRT. When observed behavior, peer nomination, and teacher rating scales were included, 75% of first grade achievement was predicted.
The behavioral data present a clear picture: Passive children (those who are adult-directed and noninteractive) are less competent than peer- oriented children who engage in social games with rules. Games may predict achievement because the social interaction characteristic of games taps a number of linguistic, social, and cognitive dimensions that are incorporated into later achievement. For example, the ability to use reasoned arguments in games necessitates the use of language forms that characterize tests and school literacy lessons (Pellegrini, Galda, and Rubin, 1984).
The most reliable assessment contexts seem to be those in which children are comfortable and have opportunities to exhibit their competence. Measures taken in such contexts are more accurate predictors of first grade achievement than standardized achievement test scores.
We have tried to predict children's first grade social skills based on teacher-rated personality and peer-nominated popularity in kindergarten. These criteria for first graders' competence were included because of the often made, and valid, criticism that evaluation of primary school children does not include social and affective components (Haney, 1978). Too often only cognition is assessed. The job of schools is to develop good citizens. The ability to get along with peers and to act prosocially--as well as the ability to read--are important components of a democratic education.
We found that children's aggressive or passive interactive behavior in kindergarten predicted their antisocial personality in first grade. These predictors give us insight into behavioral dimensions of psychopathology in young children, because aggression may predict an antisocial personality, or other externalizing problems, and passive interaction may predict a neurotic personality, or other internalizing problems.
What a child does in games with rules predicts popularity. In games with rules, children must exhibit the social and cognitive skills necessary for popularity (Dodge, Petit, McClaskey, and Brown, 1986). In other words, they must possess and use the skills needed to analyze social interaction. Children who possess these skills are popular.
Second, we stress that tests provide limited data. Although kindergartners' test scores predict their first grade achievement, they do not tell most of the story. More of the story is told with more natural assessment techniques.
Third, if first grade success is to be successfully predicted from kindergarten experience, time and money will have to be invested. Granted, observations are expensive, but so are remedial programs. Observations of children should be conducted weekly for each child. We realize that teachers, administrators, and aides already have too much to do, and that the advocating of more assessment may frustrate them. These weekly observations, however, typically take less than one minute per child. Similarly, the personality scale done midway in the school year takes about 10 minutes per child.
Perhaps the time and money now spent on standardized tests should be spent differently--half as much on academic testing, with some money spent on social competence testing. It is probably cheaper to make the investment needed to spot potentially serious problems in kindergarten than to spend money later on juvenile detention homes and unemployment checks. No measurement of anything will cure society's ills, but assessment of kindergartners' social competence may be a step in the right direction.
This digest was adapted from an article titled, "Measuring Kindergartners' Social Competence," by A.D. Pellegrini and Carl D. Glickman, which appeared in YOUNG CHILDREN (May, 1990): 40-44.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Haney, W. ESEA Title I Early Childhood Education: Review of Literature on Evaluation and Instrumentation. Interim Report to the U.S. Office of Education, 1978.
National Association for the Education of Young Children. "NAEYC Position Statement on Standardized Testing of Young Children 3 through 8 Years of Age." Young Children, 43(3) (1988): 42-47.
Pellegrini, A. "Elementary School Children's Rough-and-Tumble Play and Social Competence." Developmental Psychology, 24 (1988): 802-806.
Pellegrini, A. "The Relations between Symbolic Play and Literate Behavior: A Review and Critique of the Empirical Literature." Review of Educational Research, 55 (1985): 207-221.
Pellegrini, A., Galda, L., and Rubin, D. "Context in Text: The Development of Oral and Written Language in Two Genres." Child Development, 55 (1984): 1549-1555.
Pellegrini, A.D. and Glickman, Carl D. "Measuring Kindergartners' Social Competence." Young Children (May, 1990): 40-44.
Waters, E. and Sroufe, L. "Social Competence as a Developmental Construct." Developmental Review, 3 (1983): 79-97.
Zigler, E., and Trickett, P. "I.Q., Social Competence, and Evaluation of Early Childhood Intervention Programs." American Psychologist, 33 (1978): 789-798.
This publication was prepared with funding from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, under OERI contract no. RI88062012. The opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OERI or the Department of Education
Title: Measuring Kindergartners' Social Competence. ERIC Digest.
Descriptors: Educational Practices; * Interpersonal Competence; * Kindergarten; * Kindergarten Children; * Measurement Techniques; Primary Education
Identifiers: ERIC Digests; Research Results
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