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Documenting and reflecting for children’s learning
Documenting and reflecting is the process of gathering evidence of children’s learning, described in the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) as ‘Assessment for Learning’. Educators observe and listen to find out what children know, can do and understand. They collect information that shows children’s learning, describes their progress and identifies their strengths, skills and understandings.
You can do this by creating a folio for each child to record their learning journey, for families, educators and other professionals to see. A folio will be different for each child and may include:
- observations and stories of children’s learning
- photos, drawings or recordings
- samples or artefacts of projects, investigations and representations
- individual and collaborative works
- contributions from families.
Folios can take different forms, including display folders, loose-leaf folders and digital records. It’s important to give children ownership of their folios. They should be able to access them if they want and be given chances to suggest what to include. Families should also be encouraged to take folios home to read and to contribute comments and ideas.
Over time, a folio will contain a range of evidence of children’s learning. From this evidence, assessments can be made about their learning.
Making informed and consistent assessments
At particular points in time, educators make assessments about each child’s knowledge, skills and dispositions, to discuss with families and colleagues. The EYLF advises that,
… such processes do not focus exclusively on the end points 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.
(Commonwealth of Australia, 2009, Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia, Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations for the Council of Australian Governments, Canberra, p.17.)
For each learning area, educators should provide examples of children’s learning across three contexts.
Learning should reflect the rich cultural, linguistic and conceptual skills children may bring to an early learning program.
Learning children may demonstrate as they respond to new and unfamiliar situations in an early learning program.
Learning children may demonstrate as they become confident and active participants in an early learning program.
This information is used to:
- validate what children know and can do
- look for and see children’s learning in new ways
- build learning bridges from what children know and can do to new learning
- determine the level of individual support required to progress children’s learning
- engage families and other educators in conversations about children’s learning.
Children’s learning is not always predictable and linear. It can start at different points and continue along different pathways. At any time, children may demonstrate learning described in any one of the contexts.
Following learning over time
To support their assessments, educators document significant aspects of children’s learning. This forms the basis for decisions about each child’s future learning, and for sharing information with families about their child’s progress.
Being proud and strong - confidence and resilience
Braiden watched and listened attentively to a traditional story being told by an Elder. He mimicked the actions modelled by the Elder, who was pointing to each body part using traditional language names. He later participated in doing the actions of songs using traditional language, and attempted to sing the unfamiliar traditional words to the song. When asked to do corroboree, Braiden was reluctant to participate. However, he followed instructions modelled using a combination of Yarrie Lingo and traditional language by the Elder, and watched quietly as the other children did the corroboree.
Braiden is demonstrating his interest in, and understanding of, traditional aspects of his culture. He chooses to respond to directions nonverbally, following directions in both Yarrie Lingo and traditional language. He shows caution in tackling new tasks and watches carefully before imitating their actions.
Focus for new learning
Confidence to try new and challenging tasks:
- provide Braiden with time and space to tackle new tasks
- build on Braiden’s interest in mimicking and modelling actions through action rhymes and songs in Yarrie Lingo and Standard Australian English
- continue to provide Braiden with opportunities to interact with Elders and community members.
Braiden has been absent from kindergarten for a few days, and today he was asked which experience he would like to do after the group session had ended. He appeared undecided as he quickly glanced around at what the other children were doing and pointed to the blocks. He was asked if he wanted to play with the blocks with his cousin who was already in the block play area, and he nodded. Braiden was reluctant to talk about what he was going to make when asked. He nodded and went to collect some of the play wooden furniture near the block shelves.
Braiden demonstrates that in unfamiliar situations he requires adult direction and support in approaching tasks and exploring the kindergarten environment.
Focus for new learning
Confidence in approaching tasks, people and situations:
- continue to support Braiden in his play by making suggestions that build on his ideas and interests, for example, adding new resources to the block corner
- seek opportunities to build Braiden’s confidence in approaching tasks, people and situations through his friendship with his cousin
- use the support of Indigenous educators to assist Braiden’s attempts to become part of the group.
Braiden played at the playdough with a small group of children. He appeared happy as he laughed at jokes with his peers and said that he was ‘Dad’ and the others were the ‘sister’ or ‘brother’. Braiden decided he wanted to make a birthday cake as part of the negotiated play planning for the ‘class party’, so he collected a plate and some craft sticks for the cake. He molded the dough onto the plate and stuck the sticks into it. Using a combination of gesture and Standard Australian English he said to the educator, ‘I made it for you. A birthday cake. Look all a candle on. I go roll it an’ put it on ‘ere an’ den I go put all dem candle on.’
Braiden shows he is confidently exploring the environment and engaging with others across a range of learning contexts. He initiates and contributes to play experiences, sharing with others how he completes tasks in Yarrie Lingo.
Focus for new learning
Enjoyment in sharing successes and achievements:
- provide opportunities for Braiden to share his successes with others, for example, finding a place to display his creations or asking Braiden if he would like to take a photo using the digital camera to display or put into his folio. Scribe Braiden’s words.
- continue to strengthen Braiden’s use of his first language and support his awareness of Standard Australian English as an additional language.
This example shows how educators use the example learning behaviours for 'being proud and strong' to analyse their observations and make assessments about Braiden’s learning.
When reflecting on Braiden’s learning, educators refer to suggestions for the relevant planned learning to develop their focus for new learning, and the strategies they’ll use to keep building confidence and resilience. At the same time, families and adults who speak Standard Australian English (SAE) as well as Braiden’s first language can work together to support his first language and his awareness about and use of SAE.
This approach helps children become two-way strong. Educators build on what children have already learned from their families and communities, and support their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identities.