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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Why should children contribute to assessments? – He aha tā ngā tamariki ki ngā aromatawai?
There are two main reasons for teachers to encourage children and give them opportunities to contribute to assessment.
Firstly, research on assessment and motivation indicates that settings that encourage children to set and assess their own goals are rich sites for learning. Part of the reason is that children who contribute to their own (and others’) assessments are perceived as “competent and confident learners and communicators” (Te Whāriki, page 6(external link)).
The Māori word “ako”, which means both teaching and learning, captures the way in which the two processes are woven together. “Ako” reminds us that teachers are also learners. Neil Mercer (2001) points out that one of the strengths of a sociocultural approach to education (see Book 2) is that it explains education in terms of the interactive process of teaching and learning and that Vygotsky used the Russian word “obuchenie”, which means both teaching and learning.
Secondly, seeking children’s perspectives about their learning is about viewing children as social actors with opinions and views of their own.
Encouraging children to set and assess goals
A central feature of effective pedagogy and learning is involving the learner in the meaning making and goal setting that are part of the assessment process.
The terms “whakamātau” (to enable one to learn and to test oneself) and “whakamātautau” (to test oneself and thus to evaluate oneself) illustrate the close connection between learning and self-evaluation (Pere, 1982, page 74).
Most children approach problems, people, and places with an orientation towards both performance and learning goals. However, assessment practices have an important influence on the type of goals to which they are oriented (Ames, 1992). Assessments that include the “child’s voice” or children making a contribution to their assessments encourage an orientation towards learning goals. Assessments that call on reference levels or standards that children and families have not understood or legitimised are likely to shift this orientation towards performance goals.
Seeking children’s perspectives
Where assessments take a narrative approach in context, the assessments – and the notions of valuable knowledge and competence that they take as reference points – can be legitimised by calling on multiple perspectives.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which New Zealand signed in 1993, includes the child’s right to have a voice and to have it listened to and respected (Article 12). Respecting children’s views means that their views can make a difference.
Teachers who pay careful attention to children’s voices gain windows into their world views and assumptions. Detailed observations in context help adults to better understand children’s perspectives, using the children’s non-verbal expressions of self-assessment and their recognition of achievement (or lack of it).