Te whatu pōkeka (English)
This resource aims to stimulate debate and to encourage people to share their experiences and views on the ideas, suggestions, and practices within it. It is hoped that kaupapa Māori early childhood services will then be able to validate, share, and build on the values, philosophies, and practices related to assessment based on kaupapa Māori.
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Ngā Kākano o te Kaihanga
Ngā Kākano o te Kaihanga is a christian, kaupapa Māori centre located in Titirangi, West Auckland. There are 18 children and 5 full-time and part-time staff.
In early 2002 we participated in the National Early Childhood Learning and Assessment project (NECLA). In 2003 we were approached to work on the Kaupapa Māori Learning and Assessment Exemplar Project (KMLAE). We felt that the KMLAE project seemed to really fit our philosophy. It challenged us to see things through a Māori lens. This supported us to see children in a different light and challenged us to ask, “What are we on about? What is our philosophy? Why are we doing it? Have we achieved our purpose? Where is the proof?”
Over time, our view of the child changed. We began to see the fern frond as a symbol for the child. The child, like the pikopiko, is initially tightly wound. Every branch of the pikopiko is part of the child’s character and disposition. The child unfolds as s/he is nurtured, just as the pikopiko unfurls with growth. Just as the pikopiko is surrounded by the outer fronds of the fern, as the child unfolds we see her/him, not in isolation, but surrounded by the outer branches of whānau, community, whakapapa, and whakawhanaungatanga. This surrounding support needs to be particularly strong around some families.
Despite a number of staff changes and major developments, we have continued to refine our thinking and practices about teaching, learning, and assessment. Our enthusiasm for the project has grown as our confidence in our abilities to utilise assessment to support children’s learning has developed.
Issues emerging from our work
Whānau/whanaungatanga – The whānau is the key to our framework development.
Whānau/child assessment – The child is part of the whānau and the whānau is part of the child. One cannot be separated from the other. The child learns within the context of whānau, which is a real-life context. It is not a socially contrived environment such as the early childhood service. Learning occurs first in the whānau and it is the whānau that determines the learning that is valued. It does this sometimes in association with the early childhood centre, and sometimes not.
Assessment must acknowledge and make visible the relationship between whānau and child. Whānau do not merely contribute to the assessment of their children. They are central to it. We are now focusing on how this relationship can be reflected in practice in our assessment processes. This involves ongoing hui with whānau to wānanga what this means for whānau and educators.
Leadership and commitment – An important factor in the success of this centre has been the team’s commitment to providing the best possible learning opportunities for our children. Openness to new ideas and practices, and upskilling educators and whānau have been crucial to the development of our assessment understandings. Strong consistent leadership not only guides and supports the growth and development of the educators, but is crucial in maintaining enthusiasm and commitment for the project.
Assessment and the transition to school – The primary school new entrant class has adopted the assessment model developed by Ngā Kakano o te Kaihanga and has continued to map children’s learning journeys as they transition from the centre to the school. This two-way passage of information has provided important feedback to the centre on the effectiveness of our assessment processes in capturing and extending children’s learning. Kaimahi feel a sense of pride that our work is being acknowledged and is useful and meaningful in the primary school context.
Te reo – Participating in the project has supported the reo development of educators. We began with kaimahi writing assessments in English and accessing the support of fluent speakers in the centre to translate into Māori. Over time kaimahi were encouraged to attempt to translate the stories themselves before accessing the support of others. Some kaimahi are now able to write assessments in Māori, accessing support from fluent speakers only when required. A marked improvement in te reo has occurred over a period of time.
Te pītau o te pikopiko – Te pītau o te pikopiko – We are now working on deepening our understandings of our framework, “te pītau o te pikopiko”, the “frond of the fern”. We feel very confident that this framework will provide us with a basis for our evolving ideas on teaching, learning, and assessment in a kaupapa Māori context. There is a growing sense of confidence in our abilities and understandings, and in the validity of our framework.