Preschool and Kindergarten Teachers’ Conceptions of Standardized Norm-Referenced Assessment

Niek Frans, Wendy Post, Ineke Oenema-Mostert, Alexander Minnaert

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic


The Dutch inspectorate of education mandates that primary schools assess their pupils on a regular basis with a standardized measure to monitor the development of children in pre-primary education. Although schools are free to decide which method they use a vast majority of schools (between 80% and 95%, Van der Lubbe, 2009; Veldhuis et al., 2013; Vlug, 1997) use a pupil monitoring system developed by the National Institute for Educational Measurement (Cito) to monitor language and mathematics development. This monitoring system consists of a series of standardized norm-referenced paper-and-pencil tests that are administered biannually by the teacher. The tests provide teachers with a norm score that shows the child’s ability relative to the rest of the population and compares the performance of children on several sub-categories to their achieved total score.

Although the vast majority of schools use these instruments the validity of standardized paper-and-pencil tests in preschool and kindergarten is a much debated subject both nationally and internationally (Minicozzi, 2016). Research by Veldhuis and Van den Heuvel-Panhuizen (2014) indicated that although 80.4% of Dutch kindergarten teachers administer the tests of the pupil monitoring system at least yearly, they generally found the outcomes to be less relevant compared to other assessment methods. Seemingly in contrast to this finding a study by Gelderblom, Schildkamp, Pieters, and Ehren (2016) shows that (pre-)K teachers frequently use the data from the pupil monitoring system. However, although most teachers said they use assessment data with the intention of improving learning and instruction, their interpretation of data from the monitoring system was often superficial and failed to lead to new and in-depth knowledge that could improve student teaching and learning (Gelderblom et al., 2016).

While the tests in the pupil monitoring system are primarily designed as an instrument for improvement of teaching and learning (Vlug, 1997), the before mentioned studies appear to suggest that many (pre-)K teachers do not use the results as such. It is possible that these instruments are viewed primarily as an accountability device and a means to certify the students’ and/or the teacher’s results rather than an instrument for the improvement of teaching and learning. Indeed, research by Brown (2008) indicates that primary teachers tend to see summative grading for student accountability as irrelevant while holding a more favorable view on assessment for improvement. According to him this is not so much a result of teachers lacking the knowledge and skills but rather that “...policy makers, professional developers, and administrators may have failed to persuade teachers that the assessment systems used for accountability or summative purposes provide valid information that leads to improvement” (p. 118). The goal of this study is to determine how (pre-)K teachers view the role of standardized paper-pencil-tests such as those included in the pupil monitoring system by Cito as an instrument for the improvement of teaching and how these views influence classroom practice. Specifically the following two questions are answered: 1) How do (pre-)K teachers experience the role of norm referenced standardized tests in their teaching? and 2) In what ways do (pre-)K teachers’ conceptions about norm referenced standardized tests influence their teaching?
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 23-Aug-2017
EventECER 2017 (European Conference on Educational Research) - Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 21-Aug-201725-Aug-2017


ConferenceECER 2017 (European Conference on Educational Research)
Abbreviated titleECER 2017
OtherReforming Education and the Imperative of Constant Change: Ambivalent roles of policy and educational research
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