Designing the curriculum and its implementation is a challenging task for educators and academicians. Similarly, developing appropriate tools for monitoring and assessment is equally important for making the concept to reinforce its objective at the learning or execution levels. The role of educators and teachers in imbibing and facilitating at conceptual and operational stages are well comprehended and so they need to be appropriately trained and equipped for performing their tasks and roles responsibly. When considering preschool learning it becomes even more relevant as these learning structures form the base for preparing the child for the future. Appropriately designed learning structures in fact enable the child to develop essential skill sets, which would prepare children to become better individuals at various levels. So both educators and teachers need to be doubly cautious right from the design stage to the execution stages in order to be more appealing and applicable to the little users. Teachers have a greater part to do in the execution stages and they need to adapt the techniques contextually as well in order to make it more applicable and beneficial to children. Queensland kindergarten learning guidelines recognizes the role of both teachers and parents in the learning program and their rightful involvement is expected to reap more benefits to the children especially in their early developmental stages. Relevance of monitoring and assessing child learning using these guidelines is discussed in detail.
Need for evidence based child learning
Understanding the capabilities of a child is of prime importance in his or her learning process. This can be done only through proper monitoring and assessment of the ways in which the child respond to real life situations and under different circumstances. Assessing these responses in the light of structured tools would be of great help in identifying the strengths and weaknesses of children as well as their areas of expertise. So there is need for quantifying the evidences that suggests of child’s capabilities (Queensland kindergarten learning guideline, 2010). The process of collecting evidences could in fact increase the level of interaction between the teacher and the children and such enhanced communication can help the child in getting the right focus in their learning process as well. Children would be assessed routinely on the basis of child’s capabilities, enthusiasm, reactions and other aspects during a range of activities based on play, art, music, dance, study, games, etc. (QKindy, 2012).
These types of approaches and activities ensures that the child’s learning capabilities are identified at early stages, which helps the parents and the authorities in orienting the child to better in his future endeavours. Gathering evidences of the responses made by the child in different life situations and during various other child centric activities in relation to the prime learning areas would be useful in making assessments (Dowling & O’Malley, 2009). Gathering and documenting evidence for understanding what the child can do, how much the child can grasp, about the level of knowledge and skills already possessed as well as of the child’s capabilities would be of great applicability in nurturing the child’s progress academically and holistically (DEEWR, 2009; Aldemir & Sezer, 2009). Evidence based assessment would be useful for the tutors to convince the parents about their child’s peculiarities and capabilities. Such practices provide opportunity for the teacher or mentor to understand the child better and can help the child to develop the essential skills and ability to accomplish progressive goals in future.
Importance of documenting needs evidence of child learning: Different learning areas have been identified based on the Queensland kindergarten learning guidelines and the assessment of the child’s learning would be with regard to these areas. The five “learning and developmental areas” have been identified and is broadly categorized in to “identity, connectedness, wellbeing, active learning and communicating” (Queensland kindergarten learning guideline, 2010, p. 32 – 33). Learning outcomes and associated aspects are also clearly mentioned in the Queensland guidelines. So teachers need to consider the aims, purpose and the expected learning outcome of each area when making assessments and evidences need to be documented in consideration with these factors as well. Documenting evidences in relation to the learning outcome and expected skill requirements would deliver more clarity to these assessments (Young-Loveridge, 2002).
At school the child would be given opportunity to explore these learning areas and their knowledge, skills, talent, character, temperament and other related aspects displayed during their exposure to these learning areas would be documented and assessed by the teachers. This can be done systematically through properly observing the child and the observations need to be recorded correctly, which would later be utilized for assessments (Price, Bridge & Smyth, 2012). Monitoring and documenting each child’s capabilities with regard to the learning areas appear to be relevant for assessing the overall learning and performances of the child or children. Documentation of the child’s responses, knowledge, skills, nature, etc indicates the child’s current status in this regard especially in relation to the learning areas. These documentation and periodic assessments should be an ongoing process and hence teachers could rightly monitor the progress made by each child in different areas and there by assist him or her in taking right steps ahead as well (Watkins & Mortimore, 1999). Such documentation forms an important evidence of child’s present state with regard to his learning abilities and could act as a pointer to future prospects.
“The information that teachers gather helps them to form a point-in-time snapshot of each child’s learning that informs their ongoing work with that child during the year” (Price, Bridge & Smyth, 2012, p. 7). Such approach in fact makes the teacher to be more aware of each child’s needs and such evidence based method would be useful in assisting, supporting and facilitating the holistic development of the child. Such evidence based documentation could act like a pointer in to the child’s capabilities and their prospect for development. This also helps to identify the specific areas that the child requires greater attention and practice. As these evidences are collected based on the observation made about the child, the assessments would be reflective of the actual behaviour and responses of the child. Evidence based approaches also appear to be the early indicators of learning disabilities and hence provide greater opportunity for remedial and corrective actions in the needed times (Jenkinson, 2006).
Based on Queensland kindergarten learning guideline, though monitoring and documentation includes greater involvement of teachers, the child need to be given opportunity to interact with fellow students as well. This is essential for developing and building social skills and hence it is important for assessing the child’s capabilities and weaknesses in this regard. In addition to the involvement of the teachers, the parents also need to engage in these processes in order to increase the applicability of such approaches in the context of the child or children. The best thing about this type of framework is that the child’s social, physical, emotional, moral, mental and academic development and status of the child could be documented and assessed (Gahan, 2005). So such assessments would be useful for facilitating holistic development of the child and would assist in transforming the child in to a better adult of tomorrow.
Each documented evidences has specific meanings that point towards the child’s learning abilities in the specific learning environment. Proper documentation of the child’s responses and activities in a given condition is essential for making clear and precise assessments (Healy, 2012). The task of observing the child and documenting the evidences are primarily conferred to the teachers and so the teachers need to be rightly trained and equipped for carrying out this overtly important task. Any minor mistake from the part of the teachers when monitoring and documenting could badly affect the child’s academic progress. All these factors in fact reveal that documenting evidence accurately would assist in making proper assessments.
Assessments based on the evidence based documentation can prove more effective in the development of the child only if the results regarding the progress of their child are handed over to their parents or other responsible authorities for supporting the child in his future learning plans (Dockett et al, 2007). At the same time, teachers need to provide suggestions to both the students and parents in order to guide them in their decision making process. According to Petriwskyj (2005, p. 39) evidence based assessments provide greater opportunity to understand more about the child’s learning skills and capabilities and hence it can be used for identifying the “readiness” or transitional abilities of the child to higher levels.
Ways of collecting and documenting evidence
There are different ways for collecting evidence regarding the child’s responses and capabilities for each learning and development area. Teachers need to undertake documentation planning prior to collecting and documenting evidences of the child’s learning and developmental stages. In the planning stage, teachers need to devise documentation plans with proper linkages to the learning and developmental areas and the expected learning outcomes. For collecting evidences, teachers need to observe the child, his interactions, traits and behaviour under specific conditions and activities. Greater levels of direct interactions with the child or children are expected from the teachers in order to understand the purpose behind each response or action of the child. Teachers need to engage in conversation with the child or children to understand them better (Maloney & Barblett, 2003). They also can inquire about the child from their parents, relatives, friends, etc if they get a chance and such interactions enable the teachers to gather more explicit details, which might appear relevant for making reflections and assessments.
Evidences can be documented in different ways and the various ways with which the child’s progress in the early years can be recorded as per the guidelines of Queensland kindergarten learning is given in the table (1). Evidences can be documented by creating and maintaining records of how the child responds to various life situations. Identifying and noting down the child’s reaction and his or her level of understanding of small educational or moral stories would also be useful in analyzing the child’s attitudes and capabilities (Queensland kindergarten learning guideline, 2010). The insights gained through chatting and communicating with child need to be recorded in a book or a file and such notes would of great use at the time of analysis as well as for making appropriate reflections. Such exercises enable the teacher to identify the interests and dislikes of a child and could assist the teacher in devising appropriate learning plans in future (QKindy, 2012). Noting down important points from the conversations and interactions with the child would provide opportunity for the teacher to better understand the child’s responses to varying stimuli as well as under varied conditions. Teachers can keep track of the various products and learning activities done by the child and their level of understanding regarding these things and activities can be understood and recorded.
|Ways of collecting and documenting evidences
|· Anecdotal records and learning stories
|· Notes from discussion or conversation
|· Annotated samples of children’s learning and objects or products that result from learning
|· Annotated images or recordings and multimedia records
|· Personalised checklists
|· Personal reflections by children, parents, family members, teachers and other partners.
Table 1. Different ways of documenting evidences (Source: Queensland kindergarten learning guideline, 2010, p. 13)
Teachers can keep images, video clipping or other similar mediums which would be helpful in identifying the child’s talents and strengths. Maintaining a record of the opinion about the child by his or her parents and near and dear ones would be appropriate. Such documentation provides insights in to the child’s character and behaviour, and understanding in this regard would be useful in devising appropriate learning strategies for the child or groups of children (Queensland kindergarten learning guideline, 2010). These activities enable the teacher to understand the values, priorities and perspectives of the child. Creating and maintaining a portfolio of the child would be appropriate in identifying the progress made in learning as well as about the changes that had occurred in the child as a part of the education program. Portfolio can include all the relevant documents and records that indicate learning and development of the child during his or her kindergarten days.
Simple standard tests or non-standard tests are not generally used for collecting information about a child as this type of assessment might act as a hindrance to the play based structure in general (Wien, 2004). But evidence based documentation provides opportunity to assess the learning skills in a more relaxed manner. Documentation of various types enhances the teacher’s understanding of the child, about their capabilities, their interests and their approaches, which in turn could help the teacher to plan the learning program for the child and make it more exciting and beneficial to the user (Roopnarine & Johnson, 2000).
The evidences of child’s learning and development need to be quantified for the purpose of assessing the present condition of the child with regard to his capabilities as well as for preparing the child for future endeavours (Dowling & O’Malley, 2009). Evidence based approach in fact give clues about the child’s inclinations and specific interests and hence could be very effective in nurturing the child’s abilities as well as for developing areas that needs special attention. As evidences of the child’s level of understanding and capabilities to perform tasks and responsibilities are documented for the purpose of identifying the child’s present status as well as future needs, one cannot predict the quantity of evidence that need to be collected (Raban & Coates, 2004). But teachers need to focus on the goals and purposes of the approach and need to delineate the quanta of evidence that needs to be recorded for getting clear cut information on the child’s learning and development (Campbell & Scotellaro, 2009).
Though there are certain set practices for collecting evidences from the kindergarten children, there appears no hard and fast rule for quantifying the amount of information or data required for making assessments (Seaman & Slattery, 2010; Clark, 2005). This could vary from individual to individual and the quantum of information required for making right assessments depends on the clarity of the evidences and its possibility for making right judgements or reflections. Educators need to interact freely with the children, which makes collection and documentation of evidences much easier (Raban, Brown, Care, Rickards & O’Connell, 2011). Educators need to make appropriate responses based on the child’s reactions and involvement and such responses could guide the child in to taking appropriate reactions in future as well.
Evidences need to be recorded in time but the documented parts need to be scrutinised further prior to the assessment process. According to the article, (EYLFPLP, 2011, p. 4) it is “both a professional responsibility and a practical necessity to sort through children’s records regularly, keeping only those that demonstrate learning and progress over time”.
Assessment using evidences
In this type of approach even the assessments might be done in a more child friendly manner as well as in the play based format and so the child who is being assessed will not be in any type of stressful situation as in the case of standard test conducted for identifying specific skill sets of children. The teachers or the tutors are given specific “reference points” for assessing the evidences that have been documented for the different learning and development areas (EYLFPLP, 2011, p. 1). The assessments are mostly subjective and the effectiveness of the assessments depends on the capability of the educator in making right judgements. So the educator or the teachers need to be appropriately equipped with proper skill sets to perform their assessment tasks. In order to make proper evaluations the educators need to “notice, recognize and respond” than just mere observing and recording the responses of the child while doing any activity or tasks (EYLFPLP, 2011, p. 2). The educators need to be competent enough to understand and interpret the child’s responses and then record the reactions in the light of such interpretations in order make the analysis to be fair enough.
The assessments need to be followed by feedback to the child and concerned authorities and it can be either verbal or non verbal. Verbal in the sense that the positive attributes expressed by the child need to be recorded and conveyed to the child as well as to their parent in order to make improvements or changes in future (Hay, 2009). Non verbal in the sense that the child need to be appreciated at the time of his or her response and such acknowledgement would be an encouragement to the child to continue that particular behaviour or trait. When making assessments, the educators or the teachers need to document both the positive and negative changes in the child over the period of assessments and such assessments need to be conveyed to the concerned parties (Garvis, Fluckinger & Twigg, 2012). Assessments need to be done periodically and the most important part is the educator’s reflection on the documented evidences of the child’s capabilities and examples of teachers reflections are given in table (2). Teachers need to systematically assess the individual as well as a group in view to facilitate knowledge building, skill development and overall progress in learning and development.
Table 2. Important considerations for teacher’s reflections (Source: Queensland kindergarten learning guideline, 2010, p. 15)
Monitoring and assessment has a major role in the learning process of the kindergarten children and is well documented in the Queensland kindergarten learning guidelines. Documented evidence based approach of monitoring is found to be effective in identifying the child’s strengths, weaknesses, priorities, interests, dislikes and other relevant information regarding child’s learning. Educators have the primary role of monitoring the progress and development of the child based on the five learning areas identified in the Queensland kindergarten learning guideline. Educators need to identify the child’s capabilities and prospects through observation, interpretation, responses, reflection and assessment. Teachers need to interact and communicate more with the children in order to understand his responses as well as for making the right judgements. These approaches could reveal the child’s current abilities and would also be useful for guiding and supporting the child to make right decisions especially with regard to his future learning endeavours if rightly implemented and executed by equipped teachers. Parents also have a critical role in supporting the child to better his prospects.
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