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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Continuity and fostering ongoing and diverse pathways – Te motukore me te para i ngā huarahi ki mua

Views of continuity can go far back in time.

"The child was, and still is, the incarnation of the ancestors: te kanohi ora, “the living face”. The child was, and still is, the living link with yesterday and the bridge to tomorrow: te taura here tangata, “the binding rope that ties people together over time”. The child is the kāwai tangata, the “genealogical link” that strengthens whanaungatanga, “family relationships”, of that time and place."

Reedy, 2003, page 58

The higher up the mountain we stand, the wider the horizon will be. Looking far forward, beyond the horizon (“kei tua o te pae”), we cannot be certain of our destination. A child’s learning develops in multiple directions at the same time, and their concept of what makes a competent learner also changes.

Perhaps we could say that the more understanding participants have of each other (teachers, children, families, and the community) and of the curriculum, the higher up they can stand and the more they see.

In early childhood education, assessments can be “work in progress”. They inform decisions about “what next” (or “PLODs” – Possible Lines of Direction – see Whalley, 1994) as teachers, children, and families look back in order to look forward in the process of considering potential pathways of learning.

In early childhood education, teachers develop pathways with reference to children’s developing identities as competent and confident learners and to curriculum strands (well-being, belonging, contribution, communication, and exploration) that are closely linked to local circumstances and communities. Therefore, children’s learning pathways can develop in any number of directions. Often, too, the pathways will be emergent and therefore cannot be determined with any confidence beforehand or compared with universally or nationally prescribed reference levels and standards.

The following excerpt from a child’s assessment portfolio provides a good example of continuity between looking back and developing forward. The teacher calls on previous assessment documentation while the child himself devises a new way of using one of his drawings.

"Jo and I were admiring three small pastel drawings that Harry has done. “Perhaps you could frame them,” I suggest to Harry, thinking about his previous learning story. “Yeah!” says Harry. I find some cardboard, and Harry makes a frame. He discovers that only two of the drawings will fit in the frame, so he decides to make a frame and a gardening book as well. The third drawing is incorporated into the gardening book. He asks me to write the word “gardening” on his book."

Harry initiated this new pathway, which integrates art and literacy. Frequently, children will decide on where they want to go in areas that interest them (see Book 4).

Parents also support continuity. For example, here is a parent’s contribution to her child’s portfolio:

"Tane has had an ongoing enthusiasm for sewing projects following a session at kindergarten where he used a needle and thread for the first time. With his mummum (grandmother), he made a bag with button decorations. Pictured above is the apron he made last week. The biggest challenge was coming to grips with having to finish each seam with some kind of knot to keep it all together."

Tane’s parent made connections with home and the past, thereby enriching the record of Tane’s learning progress. His folder records the development of this enthusiasm and these skills at the early childhood centre over time, together with his involvement with other children. It describes him mastering the use of a sewing machine, drawing patterns, discussing the best fabric for the job, and sewing an outfit, which included a motorcycle helmet and a decorated jacket that he made with two other children.

In Book 5 (pages 16–17), Andrew’s mother contributed to continuity when she provided a story about Andrew’s play on a flying fox and added: “So, I would like to see Andrew sharing his stories with his friends at the kindergarten mat time.” She negotiated about competence and suggested the next step. The teachers followed up on her suggestion and continued the written and illustrated story of Andrew’s ongoing learning.