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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Developing learning communities – He whakatipu hapori akoranga
Teaching and learning events can be designed around learning communities, and learning communities can be connected to the world in meaningful ways.
There are four main aspects to the development of learning communities, each of which is discussed below:
- developing relationships;
- making some of the work public;
- making connections between the early childhood setting and home;
- making connections between the learning community and the world in meaningful ways.
The idea of a learning community is introduced in Book 2. It is helpful to think of the early childhood setting as a learning community constructed through the everyday responsive and reciprocal relationships that develop between those who belong to it.
One way in which teachers can build responsive and reciprocal relationships with children is by sharing their own home experiences.
Making some of the work public
Learning communities are also constructed by writing down or recording some of the work of the community. A learning community is a place of collective participation. One of the ways the participants are connected together as a “community” engaged in learning is through the community’s practice being made public or documented. If the practice is made public (to even a limited audience) or documented, then it is available and visible, not only for the teachers but also for the children, families, whānau, and beyond to “read” in some way.
The artefacts in place will include documented assessments, and these will influence parents’ aspirations and expectations. There is a considerable body of research that suggests that parents’ aspirations and expectations (as well as their beliefs about whether achievement is associated with effort or innate ability) influence children’s achievement in a range of ways (for example, Biddulph et al., 2003, and Frome and Eccles, 1998). Some further New Zealand studies of family aspirations for their children are also outlined in Sarah Farquhar's research synthesis (2003; page 14).
Documented assessments can contribute to and construct such beliefs.
Making connections between the early childhood setting and home
Including families and whānau in the early childhood centre’s curriculum and assessment enhances children’s learning. Families enrich the record of learning, reduce some of the uncertainty and ambiguity, and provide a bridge for connecting experiences. Early childhood settings can include families in their assessment and curriculum in many ways. Documented assessments that are sent home regularly invite and encourage families to take part in the learning community. As many settings have found, narratives of achievements are a particularly successful way of doing this. In some settings, families write “parent” or “whānau” stories to add to their children’s portfolios. Children contribute as well (see Book 4). A wider community of people and places can be part of the curriculum and become part of the assessments as well, for example, local whānau can provide guidelines for definitions of competence in a number of domains.
In parent and whānau-based programmes, family and centre are closely aligned.
Making connections between the learning community and the world in meaningful ways
Book 6 outlines three aspects of competence. Two of these are “learning strategies and dispositions” and “social roles and culturally valued literacies”. Children explore and develop these aspects by engaging with people, places, and things and through the involvement of the early childhood learning community in the outside world. For example, visiting artists can help the learning community set reference points for competence in art. Exemplars throughout the books provide examples of the documentation of these connections. The documentation itself then contributes to the resources of the community.
What to look for
- Assessments that are accessible and detailed enough to invite children and families to suggest developments and alternatives and to bring knowledge and expectations from home. They can be revisited at home with family, whānau, and the wider community of friends and neighbours. They also clarify teachers’ interpretations and expectations.
- Assessments that include contributions from home that can be revisited in the early childhood setting. Teachers and children can make connections with the knowledge and expectations at home.
- Assessments that reflect manaakitanga and include in the early childhood setting some of the socially and culturally valued roles in the community, including tuakana-teina roles and the role of carer for the environment.
- Assessments that reflect two-way conversations between the early childhood setting and the wider community.
- Assessments that record ongoing explorations of the local landscape and valued people, places, things, and times.
- Assessments that document literacies and ongoing relationships with people from a diversity of cultures in the community.