Kei Tua o te Pae
Kei Tua o te Pae/Assessment for Learning: Early Childhood Exemplars is a best-practice guide that will help teachers continue to improve the quality of their teaching.
The exemplars are a series of books that will help teachers to understand and strengthen children's learning. It also shows how children, parents and whānau can contribute to this assessment and ongoing learning.
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Assessment – Aromatawa
Assessment principles in Te Whāriki
Guidelines and principles for assessing learning have been set out in the first nine books of Kei Tua o te Pae. Each of books 2–9 asks evaluative questions about assessment practice. The four overarching evaluative criteria, based on the four curriculum principles in Te Whāriki, are set out as questions on page 19 of Book 1:
- Is the identity of the child as a competent and confident learner protected and enhanced by the assessments? (Empowerment/Whakamana)
- Do the assessment practices take account of the whole child? (Holistic Development/Kotahitanga)
- Do the assessment practices invite the involvement of family and whānau? (Family and Community/ Whānau Tangata)
- Are the assessments embedded in reciprocal and responsive relationships? (Relationships/Ngā Hononga)
These criteria for assessment are described in detail on page 30 of Te Whāriki.
Book 1, pages 9–19, sets out additional criteria for assessment for learning with Te Whāriki in mind. These criteria are: having clear goals, balancing the documented and the undocumented, citing assessment in everyday contexts, protecting and enhancing the motivation to learn, acknowledging uncertainty, listening to children, including collective assessments, and keeping a view of learning as complex – all features that are demonstrated in the exemplars in books 11–15.
At the same time, documented stories about learning dispositions can themselves contribute to children becoming lifelong learners. Narratives are embedded in the relationships and connections of the storyteller’s community.
In its introduction on page 2, Book 3 states:
"Te Whāriki is a bicultural curriculum that incorporates Māori concepts. The principles of whakamana (empowerment), kotahitanga (holistic development), whānau tangata (family and community), ngā hononga (relationships), and the different areas of mana that shape the five strands provide a bicultural framework to underpin bicultural assessment."
That book sets out a number of principles for authentic bicultural assessment, and books 11–15 provide some examples of these principles in action. For example:
Some assessments are in te reo Māori. The exemplar “Tapahia me ngā kutikuti – Cutting with scissors” (Book 13) is an example from a centre where documented achievements are frequently written in three “languages” – Māori, English, and the visual language of digital photography. They are accessible to a range of audiences.
Some assessments are represented in ways that are consistent with tikanga Māori. The holistic nature of the context may be reflected via narrative. Some of the documentation in the exemplar “Te Tuhi a Manawatere” (Book 11) might be described as of this kind. The documentation forms a learning narrative that begins with a story: “On today’s beach trip to Cockle Bay, I told the children the story of Te Tuhi a Manawatere, underneath the actual pōhutukawa tree.”
Māori whānau and community participate in the assessment process. In Book 15, the exemplar “A grandfather’s letter” begins with the grandfather making an introduction in Māori: “Tēnā koutou e ngā kai-whakaako ki te kura. Kei konei waku whakaaro e pā ana ki te ripoata mō Taylor. He mokopuna nōku.” The grandfather then continues with his interpretation of the learning, in English.
Contributions from the home and the community are in the children’s and the centre’s assessment documentation. A contribution about “Tāwhirimatea” (in Book 11) was sent to Tia’s early childhood centre by her grandmother. The What next? section included the grandmother’s comment, “I would like the centre to be aware of this so staff can reinforce her knowledge base of Tāwhirimatea, the wind.” An early childhood centre community’s distress at, and response to, a fire at the local marae is described in “Fire at the marae” (in Book 13), together with a parent’s voice, comments from Whaea Taini at the marae, and reflections from one of the teachers.
Assessments include the collaborative and the collective. The exemplar “Drawing and chanting together” (Book 14) describes Mūmū Te Āwha and Mira drawing at the whiteboard and chanting together in tune with their drawing.
Assessments show respect in seeking advice and interpretation from whānau. The story of one early childhood centre’s preparation for a marae visit, “Te marae” (in Book 14), outlines the role of Whaea Pip, their “pouaka mātauranga”. In a multicultural context, the exemplar “Rahmat and the snakes”, also in Book 14, is eloquent about the value of interpretation from speakers of the home language.
Children’s voices are heard in the assessments. In “Whakapai kai” (Book 15), Anthony and Remy recite the whakapai kai karakia that Anthony had been taught at home; his father had written the words out for the teachers, and Anthony had taught it to Remy. Sometime earlier, the teacher had consulted the family about the tikanga of their iwi.
Book 3 sets out a continuum towards bicultural practice that is dynamic (in that it is about moving forward) and allows for multiple points of entry as centres build bicultural understandings and practices. Book 3 provides a reference for all assessment practices that support Te Whāriki.
Learning dispositions, dispositions-in-action, and learning stories
Many of the assessments in Kei Tua o te Pae (books 11–15) are learning stories. Learning stories integrate learning dispositions into a story framework and include an analysis of the learning. They frequently include Possible pathways or What next? suggestions. In the original research with teachers,17 five dispositions-in-action followed a story sequence: taking an interest; being involved; persisting with difficulty, challenge, and uncertainty; expressing a point of view or feeling; and taking responsibility.
Each of these dispositions-in-action can be seen to represent some aspects of more abstract learning dispositions. Over time, teachers have also begun to consider these dispositions on their own merits, not as part of a story sequence. For example, taking an interest has been useful in noticing and recognising aspects of courage and connectedness inside the Belonging/Mana Whenua strand; being involved has represented aspects of trust and playfulness inside the Well-being/Mana Atua strand; persevering with difficulty, challenge, and uncertainty has given voice to aspects of resilience and curiosity inside the Exploration/Mana Aotūroa strand; expressing a point of view or feeling has relevance to aspects of communication and resourcefulness inside the Communication/Mana Reo strand; and taking responsibility has enabled many aspects of responsibility and collaboration to be documented in the Contribution/Mana Tangata strand. These learning dispositions have been defined in each learning community.
Possible pathways for learning
Teachers’ reflections on how learning dispositions and working theories can be strengthened are exemplified in the What next? sections of the learning stories and narratives described throughout books 11–15. Teachers are developing local examples of dimensions of strength, and these provide opportunities for discussion and debate. On page 6 of Book 7, Assessment and Learning: Continuity/ Te Aromatawai me te Ako: Motukore, competence that progresses over time is described as becoming “more secure, more widely applicable, and more complex”.
In a 2004 article, Guy Claxton and Margaret Carr described these same features of strengthening learning dispositions as: “robustness, breadth and richness”.18 The principles of Te Whāriki could also provide a guide for identifying dimensions of strength. Learning dispositions become more frequent (secure, integrated into the everyday life of the centre); frequency can be aligned with Holistic Development. They can become more distributed (complex, related to, and stretched across a widening range of reciprocal relationships with people, things, and other enabling resources); distributed learning can be aligned with reciprocal Relationships. They can become more connected (appearing in other places and social communities); connectedness can be aligned with Family and Community as an integral part of the curriculum. They can become more mindful as children begin to take responsibility and make up their own minds.19 Urie Bronfenbrenner has described this as allowing the child “sufficient balance of power to introduce innovations of her own”.20 Mindfulness can be aligned with the principle of Empowerment.
Sociocultural links are more likely to be maintained when teachers notice and recognise features in the educational setting that enable or disable the development of learning dispositions and the narratives around them.
"Dispositions to learn develop when children are immersed in an environment that is characterised by well-being and trust, belonging and purposeful activity, contributing and collaborating, communicating and representing, and exploring and guided participation."
Te Whāriki, page 45
There is a dynamic two-way link: the learning dispositions and narratives will also influence the features of the educational setting. The four dimensions of strength (outlined above) are mirrored in the enabling or disabling features of the educational setting. The cultural norms and regular events in the setting make it easier or more difficult for dispositions to become more frequent, robust, and practised. The accessibility of people, materials, and diverse ways to represent meaning make it easier or more difficult for dispositions to become more richly distributed. The connections developed with families and a diversity of social communities make it easier or more difficult for dispositions to achieve more breadth and become more widely connected, and the flexibility of the power balance between adults and children makes it easier or more difficult to reshape and consider new possibilities – to become more mindful.
Assessment plays a key role in this two-way process as teachers notice, recognise, respond to, record, and revisit learning stories and learning dispositions.
Possible pathways with learning dispositions in mind: an analysis of an exemplar
“The three friends” exemplar in Book 15 provides excerpts from the portfolios of three children, Tane, Sarah, and Leon, over a period of time when they collaboratively developed their interest in sewing.
Frequency and regular events
The children’s learning repeated the learning story framework several times as they adapted their original interest in a number of ways, sustained their involvement over time, persisted with difficulties (with the adults often providing more assistance), negotiated with each other, and took responsibility in order to make the project their own.
The children’s individual portfolios include many stories about their deep involvement in projects that either they or others initiated and in which they became enthusiastic and interested participants. Sarah, for instance, was part of “The mosaic project” described in Book 2. These enterprises have become routine and regular events at this early childhood centre – it is what they do there, and spaces (in terms of place and time) are provided for such projects to develop. Children often observe events for some time before they become involved. The teachers have developed a “culture of success” in the way that they notice, recognise, respond to, record, and revisit learning.
Distribution across helpful people and enabling resources
Tane, Sarah, and Leon were learning about the distributed nature of pursuing an interest over time, becoming increasingly sensitive to which fabrics might be best for the task and which adults have particular expertise. They became particularly skilful at marshalling and adapting the support they needed in order to persevere with difficult enterprises and to achieve complex aims. They discussed their plans with each other, and the teachers made suggestions as well. The teachers provided a range of interesting materials and brought in a sewing machine when the project seemed to need it. They found that patterns were useful, and they combined drawings with sewing. Photographs reminded them of their learning journey. The teachers stepped up their direct assistance when a sewing machine was needed.
Connection to a diversity of social communities
These particular stories may have begun with the story from home about Tane sewing with his grandmother (it included a photograph). That story emphasised Tane coping with difficulty. Ideas and intentions came from the children’s knowledge about the work (and uniforms) of ambulance drivers and police officers. The social communities inside the early childhood centre became more diverse – extending from one child to include this group of three and then expanding to include other children (some of whom were initially visible on the periphery of the photographs). Connections continued to be made with home. The teacher commented to the children that Sarah’s mother sewed (and therefore might have a pattern for trousers). The children were reminded that sewing stories happen elsewhere.
Mindfulness and flexible power balances
The three friends (Book 15)
The children frequently took the initiative and became more capable at negotiating ideas with others (for instance, discussing how different fabrics might be used). Sarah resisted Tane’s suggestion that she make an apron as he did and followed up on an imaginative idea of her own (creating a noticeboard for her bedroom at home). Tane has an imaginative idea of his own – to create a bicycle helmet from black lace (not included in the exemplar).
How can assessments contribute to an understanding of continuity and to the growing strength of learning?
Many of the exemplars in books 11–15 directly document the continuity of learning in some way. A key strategy for mutual understandings about continuity and increasing strength is revisiting the documentation with children and families. Not all revisiting conversations with children and families are documented, but these conversations are also important pedagogical opportunities. Assessment for learning becomes assessment as learning. A teacher comment in the exemplar “O le matamatagā tusi” (Book 13) points to the value of portfolios being accessible for revisiting and reflecting on the learning. Fergus and William revisiting their folders is documented in the exemplar “Fergus and William take their folders outside” (Book 11).
Revisiting invites children to identify their own progress and to develop their own goals. (See Book 4 for a discussion about children contributing to their own assessment.) In Book 13 Amy states that she is “getting better and better … It used to be hard”, and in the same book, children contribute their prior knowledge about camping before going on a camping trip, and a parent documents the value of the camping experience for one of the children. The What next? sections in learning stories provide cues for discussion when a portfolio is revisited as well as being guides for planning.
A common way to represent continuity is to document progress through a series of notes, photographs, and/or learning stories. The sewing project of “The three friends” exemplar was documented in this way. In the exemplar “Jedd’s increasing participation” (Book 11), Jedd’s participation is described as it increases from July through to March of the next year. Layne’s developing curiosity is documented in “The acrobat” (Book 13).
The exemplar “Suelisa’s sense of belonging” (Book 11) is set out in a series of learning stories, and the inclusion of photographs of her family from earlier documentation (two years previously) allowed the assessment folder to become a powerful resource for strengthening Suelisa’s sense of belonging.
The continuity of children’s developing curiosity and working theories in a lengthy project has been documented in the exemplar “What’s over the fence?” (Book 13).
In Book 14, there are three connected series of learning stories in the exemplar “Fuka, Colette and Fea”. The continuity for each child in terms of communication and participation is clearly set out in the stories. In this exemplar, a learning story was turned into a book, which became a mediating resource for social interaction since English was an additional language for this child.
Continuity of a different kind is illustrated in “A budding archaeologist” (Book 13), when a teacher responds to a child’s interest and sets up an exploration of archaeology and history by contributing her photos from China. Similarly, in the exemplar “Te Tuhi a Manawatere” (Book 11), Helen reads the story of Te Tuhi a Manawatere to the children under the pōhutukawa tree where, according to historical records, the event occurred.
Families frequently provide continuity across time and place. The exemplars “Zachary dancing” (Book 15), “Osmana’s view” (Book 15), and “Making a card for Great-grandad” (Book 12) are examples of this. Teachers sometimes invite these connecting comments in the documentation (in “The acrobat” in Book 13, for instance). The families’ responses are, of course, not always recorded; nevertheless, they are of great importance for developing mutual understandings about continuity pathways. The exemplar “Caroline spreads her wings” (Book 12) begins with Caroline’s mother’s comment that she would like Caroline to “have a sense of independence”. The teachers document Caroline’s learning from March to December (interspersed with information from home, for example, when Caroline crawled for the first time), and the parent comments on the difference at the end. (“She is happy, independent, fun, and knows her mind.”) Likewise, a parent adds some detail to the continuity of children coping with a difficult situation in “Fire at the marae” (Book 13), and a teacher adds reflection, too.
Teachers comment on continuity in learning stories or narratives. A good example of this is in “Finn’s dragonfly” (Book 12), where the teacher comments to Finn on the continuity of his capacity to persevere: “This learning story reminds me of two that I have written for you previously … I noticed then your technique … This is exactly what you were doing today when you were drawing your dragonfly.” A home-based carer comments in “Hannah goes without a nappy” (Book 12) that “Today was the second day [without a nappy]” and tells a story about how well the day went.
In “Phoebe’s puzzling morning” (Book 14), a teacher introduces a story about Phoebe by commenting that she “often enjoys setting herself the task of solving puzzles” and then documents observations and discussions with Phoebe that support this statement. In “Alexander and the trees” (Book 12), the teacher records, through comments, photographs, and conversations, how Alexander’s paintings of trees, and his commentaries on them, have become more complex over time.
In “Becoming part of the group” (Book 15), the teacher refers back to the events of the previous two days to highlight the new learning; and in the same book, the teacher documenting the exemplar “Teaching others” comments that “Today, however, was different from the last time.”
Perhaps the last word should go to “Issy’s new role” (Book 15), where continuity is recognised between Eden (a toddler) caring for baby Issy, and then (over a year later), Issy caring in the same way for five-month-old Jimmy The earlier photographs are added to the later learning story for Issy. This exemplar also illustrates some important continuities of practice at the early childhood centre.
Kei Tua o te Pae demonstrates that learning will be strengthened only if the environment can afford its strengthening and if teachers notice, recognise, respond to, record, revisit, and reflect on multiple learning pathways.