Making progress

One purpose of documenting children’s learning is to be able to capture the progress in children learning.  The word progress can be defined as ‘the forward or onward movement toward a destination’. So with that definition in mind we have to think about what is the destination we are moving towards?

Te Whāriki aspiration provides us with that destination

 ” … that all children will grow up as competent and confident learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging, secure in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society.”

Te Whāriki also provides us with the desired outcomes for our children

  • Mana atua = I have power over myself. I know my own strengths. I value my whakapapa.
  • Mana reo = I share my views. I ask for what I need. I express my ideas.
  • Mana auturoa = I explore the bigger world.
  • Mana tangata  I take care of others. I take leadership.
  • Mana whenua = This place is my turangawaewae. I join in.

Margaret Carr developed a notion of progress here as the ABCD framework – where the measure of progress involves four key elements – agency, breadth, continuity and distribution.

We can also think of progress in terms of learner identity and dispositions. We know children make progress when they

  • Stick at it longer
  • Become more adventurous with it
  • Master it
  • Become an expert in it
  • Teach it to others

Learning stories provide us a powerful tool to capture this learning. A learning story generally captures a moment in time to illustrate the child’s learning. A learning story can also capture a child’s learning over a longer period of time  – this will provide a holistic picture of the child as a learner. Below are three examples of what that might  look like.

A progress story focusing on the sparkling moments

A progress story focusing on the strands of Te Whariki

Or a progress story focusing on the threads of learning

End of session korero

In Playcentre the end of session korero is pounamu. It’s a time to stop and reflect, to connect, to share stories and to learn from each other. When thinking about documenting it, it’s a good idea to think about the purpose of the documentation. Why are you documenting this? What do you do with the information you documented? How are you going to use this information to do things differently for your tamariki?

When we document children’s learning we want it to be more like storytelling and less like  paperwork. We want it to be about the children rather than complying with requirements.

There is no right or wrong way of documenting the end of session korero. Try different things. Keep what you like and tweak what is not working. A key outcome of documenting the end of session korero is to capture the emergent play and learning interests.

This end of session is designed to focus on capturing emergent interests.

Good questions will help you to generate powerful conversations at the end of session.

Capturing the emergent interests on session helps us to make decisions about the next session.

See below examples of how centres document the emergent interests of the children’s play and learning.

Lincoln Playcentre keeps a session profile book for each of their sessions.

North Beach Playcentre captures the day’s learning as a mindmap.

Southbridge Playcentre notes the day’s play and learning on a white board.

River Downs Playcentre revamped their end of session evaluation form to capture the important emergent interests for the day.

I would love to see other creative ways of capturing the stories of the day.

Decisions, decisions, decisions

Making a decision about early childhood options for your child can be daunting. So many services to choose from, so many opinions about what’s best. Using a  decision matrix can help to make that choice just a little easier.

With a decision matrix you use a table set up with each criterion given a weight depending on its importance in the decision and with each alternative given a ranking for that criterion. Confused yet? It’s not that complicated really and once  you’ve mastered this tool, you will find it can be helpful in making many future decisions.

To help explain the process, I will talk you through it step by step.

First thing to do is to decide what criteria is important to you in choosing a service for your child. These criteria will be unique to you. Let’s say we have a parent, Molly, who is trying to make a decision whether to keep her three-year old Sarah at Playcentre or use a different service. She discussed it with her partner and together they decided that the following criteria is most important to them in making this decision:

  • Children of the same age
  • Community relationships
  • Provide care options
  • Provide structured learning time
  • Parent involvement
  • Low adult to child ratios
  • Health and safety
  • Emotional well-being

Not all these criteria has equal importance to Molly, so the next step is to weight them according to importance to her. Using a scale to weight the criteria helps to make more consistent judgments:

  • 1-2: Not at all important
  • 3-4: Not too important
  • 5-6: Somewhat important
  • 7-8: Quite important
  • 9: Really important
  • 10: Deal breaker

Molly weighted her criteria as follows

  • Children of the same age  [currently there are only a few children at Sarah’s Playcentre in her age group; weight = 6]
  • Community relationships  [building relationships with other in their own community; weight = 8]
  • Provide care options  [it’s not that important right now, but might be more important in six months when Molly is expecting a second baby; weight = 5]
  • Provide structured learning time  [not sure that it’s that important to them, but Molly’s mother feels Sarah needs more structured learning experiences; weight = 5]
  • Parent involvement  [both Molly and her partner likes being actively involved in their child’s education; weight = 8]
  • Low adult to child ratios [ratios are important to them as Sarah tends to thrive in close relationships; weight = 9]
  • Health and safety [a definite deal breaker; weight = 10]
  • Emotional well-being [another deal breaker; weight = 10]

Once  she has weighted her criteria, the next step involved visiting the centres she is considering, talking to other parents and staff, observing children at the centre and finally scoring the centres on each of the criteria. Once again using a scale for your rankings will help you to make more consistent judgments.

  • 1-2: Not at all
  • 3-4: Not really
  • 5-6: It’s okay
  • 7-8: Looking good
  • 9: Loving it
  • 10: Perfection!

Once she has scored the centres, it’s time for some basic arithmetic:

  1. multiply the centre score with the criteria weighting
  2. add the weighted scores up

and  you can see which provider will best meet you and your child’s needs. Easy as 1-2-3.

See an example of Molly’s criteria, weighted decision.

See the Ministry of Education in choosing an early childhood education service for your child.