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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Keeping a view of learning as complex

Vic Kelly (1992) comments:

"Accuracy of assessment is related inversely to the complexity and the sophistication of what is being assessed. And, since education is a highly complex and sophisticated process, educational assessment can be regarded as measurement only in the remotest of metaphorical senses.

page 4

Worthwhile educational outcomes are often complex, especially if they are about relationships and participation. Te Whāriki states that “the outcomes of a curriculum are knowledge, skills, and attitudes” and that they “combine together to form a child’s ‘working theory’ and help the child develop dispositions that encourage learning” (page 44).

In early childhood, children are developing more elaborate and useful working theories about themselves and about the people, places, and things in their lives. These working theories contain a combination of knowledge about the world, skills and strategies, attitudes, and expectations ... The second way in which knowledge, skills, and attitudes combine is as dispositions – 'habits of mind' or 'patterns of learning'. An example of a learning disposition is the disposition to be curious. It may be characterised by:

  • an inclination to enjoy puzzling over events; 
  • the skills to ask questions about them in different ways; and 
  • an understanding of when is the most appropriate time to ask these questions."

page 44

In Te Whāriki, therefore, the concept of “learning dispositions” includes learners’ inclinations, skills, and understandings. Margaret Carr (2001) describes learning dispositions as “situated learning strategies plus motivation – participation repertoires from which a learner recognises, selects, edits, responds to, resists, searches for and constructs learning opportunities” (page 21). Within the Te Whāriki framework, they involve reciprocal and responsive relationships with people, places, and things. A focus on learning dispositions, accompanied by the aspiration that children should be secure in their sense of belonging and in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society, foregrounds children’s strengths and achievements. Assessment notes what children can do when they are “at their best”.

Patricia Broadfoot (2000) comments:

"Increasingly now there is a need to harness the dynamic power of educational assessment to motivate and empower learners."

page 201

Narrative assessment, which is often appropriate for complex outcomes, includes the surroundings: how the learning has occurred across people, places, and things. Sometimes, scaffolding can be progressively withdrawn so that children can achieve something by themselves. More often, however, the lesson in documenting the surroundings is to recognise that this is how learning occurs: in the context of interaction with people, places, and things. Children learn how to marshal this assistance for different occasions.

Book 6 of these exemplars adds a third cluster of outcomes: “social roles and culturally valued roles and literacies”, together with their associated competencies. That book includes the comment:

"In any learning community, children will have the opportunity to try out a range of sociocultural roles and their associated competencies, for example, tuakana, teina, friend, measurer, jam maker, town builder, kaimahi, observer of insects, reader, citizen of the world, and member of hapū and iwi.

page 4

Acknowledging the complexity of learning means understanding that noticing, recognising, and responding will include conjecture and intuition. Recognising complexity also means viewing assessment as something much more complex than assigning marks or ticking boxes. No one format is “right”, but Te Whāriki principles provide 4 evaluative criteria:

  • Is the identity of the child as a competent and confident learner protected and enhanced by the assessments? 
  • Do the assessment practices take account of the whole child? 
  • Do the assessment practices invite the involvement of family and whānau? 
  • Are the assessments embedded in reciprocal and responsive relationships?

Children and teacher preparing food Child and teacher preparing food