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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Parent and whānau views of assessment – Te aromatawai ki ngā mātua me te whānau

Families and whānau know and understand their children best of all. When this is recognised and valued, they gain confidence in taking part in discussions on their children’s learning and development.

Although they are involved in the assessment of their children through IP meetings,1 research indicates that families and whānau sometimes feel unqualified to contribute. Writing from a parent’s perspective, Bernadette Macartney (2002) argues that parents should be helped to make informed decisions about assessment and support for their children. She notes the importance of emphasising children’s achievements more than their failures:

"What I find of most concern is when people focus on what Maggie isn’t doing rather than what she is doing. As a parent, talk that comes from that perspective is deflating. I feel like they don’t really know or respect my child for who she is and what she has achieved."

page 31

In this book, Kian’s mother echoes this concern:

"I can’t tell you how amazing it is to have someone else tell you what your child 'can' do instead of all the 'can'ts'."

page 22

In Lesley Dunn and Sally Barry’s report (2004), a parent comments on the value of her child’s portfolio in highlighting his achievements:

"It gives other people, like people who read them, like my family and grandparents and things like that, that don’t see as much of him or only see the bad side of him when he’s home and tired and grumpy – it’s quite neat for them to learn and to read the stories and things [he can do] like that."

pages 20–21

Similarly, in Lepper et al.’s report (2003), a parent comments:

"I suppose it was the learning stories. They seemed to bring out the actual enjoyment and the relationships that they [the rest of the team] have with Joe and that made me feel good. It is a compliment that other people enjoy your child ... you need more encouragement when you have a special needs child."

Mother, page 21

Often, when they read stories about what the teachers are doing, families and whānau feel encouraged to contribute their own knowledge. In Dunn and Barry’s project (2004), a father wrote about an episode at home with his daughter Sherina, in which she put a video into the machine and “had it going, and was sitting in the chair, and was looking very proud of herself” (page 23). When interviewed, he said that he was keen for the teachers to see that Sherina could do more than people, including himself, expected her to.

Families and whānau know their children very well and can advise both teachers and early interventionists during formative phases of assessment and when the team is deciding “what next?” There are several examples in this book. In one, a mother illustrates her child’s communicative competence through singing (page 20), and in another, the mother explains the use of signing at home (page 8).