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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A lens focused on assessment practices – He āta titiro ki ngā mahi aromatawai

In practice, assessment for learning – noticing, recognising, and responding – may be non-verbal (a gesture, a frown, a smile), verbal (a comment, a conversation), or documented (written down, photographed, displayed). These three modes of communicating and representing can be described as languages. The language of teaching contributes to the assessment culture of the setting in at least three ways. Firstly, discourses of identity and achievement describe a particular view about what it is to be a learner. A very different view is developed from discourses of deficit and failure. Secondly, interactive conventions differ across cultures. Margie Hohepa and Stuart McNaughton, for instance, comment that different patterns of exchanges between book readers and listeners have been identified in the activity of reading to children and that features of these patterns can be related to core cultural values.

Thirdly, the languages used may describe a bicultural or multicultural setting. It is widely acknowledged that although being bilingual or multilingual is known to have many linguistic and intellectual benefits, support for children’s first language in early childhood settings that are not immersion centres is often overlooked.3 At the very least, one of the learning outcomes in Te Whāriki is that children develop “confidence that their first language is valued”.4 Instances of children using literacy conventions associated with scripts and languages of their mother tongue can be documented for their families, illustrating that these activities are valued aspects of their child’s participation in centre life. Where teachers are bilingual themselves, documenting assessment in the child’s first language presents an opportunity to assure families that bilingualism and biliteracy are actively supported in that setting. Kei Tua o te Pae includes a number of exemplars in which the children’s home languages are included.

Many of the early childhood settings contributing to this book make their documented narrative assessments available to the children themselves. This is a particularly powerful way of building children’s identities as literate beings. In many cases, the children’s portfolios have become books that they can “read”, contribute to, revisit, and retell. These portfolios are meaningful literacy artefacts for children, who find it compelling and engaging to be able to contribute to and revisit stories of personal achievement. They provide natural opportunities for children to assess their own literacy knowledge and skills. When teachers also draw children’s attention to some of the literacy conventions that exist within such documented assessments, their value for literacy learning is noticeably strengthened.

Book 16 provides some guidelines about what assessment to look for. Teachers might make connections between each of these guidelines and the topic in this book by ensuring that assessments:

  • include clear goals (Book 1, page 9);
  • are in everyday contexts (Book 1, page 12);
  • protect and enhance the motivation to learn (Book 1, page 13);
  • acknowledge uncertainty (Book 1, page 14);
  • include the documentation of collective and individual enterprises (Book 1, page 16);
  • keep a view of learning as complex (Book 1, page 18);
  • follow the four principles of Te Whāriki (Book 2);
  • are on the pathway towards bicultural assessment (Book 3);
  • provide opportunities for the children to contribute to their own assessment (Book 4);
  • provide opportunities for family and whānau to participate in the assessment process (Book 5);
  • make a difference to: community, competence, and continuity (Books 5, 6, and 7);
  • include infants and toddlers (Book 8);
  • reflect and strengthen inclusion (Book 9).