In the Early Years assessment for children’s learning refers to the process of gathering and analysing information as evidence about what children know, can do and understand. It is part of an ongoing cycle that includes planning, documenting and evaluating children’s learning. It is important because it enables educators in partnership with families, children and other professionals to:
- Plan effectively for children’s current and future learning.
- Communicate about children’s learning and progress.
- Determine the extent to which all children are progressing toward realising learning outcomes and if not, what might be impeding their progress.
- Identify children who may need additional support in order to achieve particular learning outcomes, providing that support or assisting families to access specialist help.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of learning opportunities, environments and experiences offered and the approaches taken to enable children’s learning.
- Reflect on pedagogy that will suit this context and these children.
Educators use a variety of strategies to collect, document, organise, synthesise and interpret the information that they gather to assess children’s learning. They search for appropriate ways to collect rich and meaningful information that depicts children’s learning in context, describes their progress and identiﬁes their strengths, skills and understandings. More recent approaches to assessment also examine the learning strategies that children use and reflect ways in which learning is co-constructed through interactions between the educator and each child. Used effectively, these approaches to assessment become powerful ways to make the learning process visible to children and their families, educators and other professionals.
The five Learning Outcomes in this Framework provide early childhood educators with key reference points against which children’s progress can be identified, documented and communicated to families, other early childhood professionals and educators in schools. Over time educators can reflect on how children have developed, how they have engaged with increasingly complex ideas and participated in increasingly sophisticated learning experiences.
Ongoing assessment processes that include a diverse array of methods capture and validate the different pathways that children take toward achieving these outcomes. Such processes do not focus exclusively on the endpoints of children’s learning; they give equal consideration to the ‘distance-travelled’ by individual children and recognise and celebrate not only the giant leaps that children take in their learning but the small steps as well.
All children demonstrate their learning in different ways. Approaches to assessment that are culturally and linguistically relevant and responsive to the physical and intellectual capabilities of each child will acknowledge each child’s abilities and strengths, and allow them to demonstrate competence. Including children, families and other professionals in the development and implementation of relevant and appropriate assessment processes allows for new understandings to emerge that are not possible if educators rely solely on their own strategies and perspectives. Developing inclusive assessment practices with children and their families demonstrates respect for diversity, helps educators make better sense of what they have observed and supports learning for both children and adults.
Assessment, when undertaken in collaboration with families, can assist families to support children’s learning and empower them to act on behalf of their children beyond the early childhood setting.
When children are included in the assessment process they can develop an understanding of themselves as learners and an understanding of how they learn best.
When educator’s reflect on their role in children’s learning and assessment they reflect on their own views and understandings of early childhood theory, research and practice to focus on:
- The experiences and environments they provide and how that links to the intended learning outcomes
- The extent to which they know and value the culturally specific knowledge about children and learning that is embedded within the community in which they are working
- Each child’s learning in the context of their families, drawing family perspectives, understandings, experiences and expectations
- The learning opportunities which build on what children already know and what they bring to the early childhood setting
- Evidence that the learning experiences offered are inclusive of all children and culturally appropriate
- Not making assumptions about children’s learning or setting lower expectations for some children because of unacknowledged biases
- Incorporating pedagogical practices that reflect knowledge of diverse perspectives and contribute to children’s wellbeing and successful learning
- Whether there are sufficiently challenging experiences for all children
- The evidence that demonstrates children are learning
- How they can expand the range of ways they assess to make assessment richer and more useful.