Undertaking assessment for learning in a Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program
What is assessment for learning?
Assessment in the early years is designed to discover what children know, understand and can do (Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework (VEYLDF), p. 13). Assessment for learning and development is one of the eight VEYLDF Practice Principles.
The National Quality Standard 1.3 Assessment and Planning (in particular, Element 1.3.1 Assessment and Planning Cycle) also speaks to the importance of each child’s learning and development being assessed or evaluated as part of an ongoing cycle of observation, analysing learning, documentation, planning, implementation and reflection.
VEYLDF Practice Principle Guide: Assessment for Learning and Development (pdf - 2.12mb)
Children learn from birth and each stage in their learning and development has an impact on what comes next. Early childhood professionals assess children’s learning and development using the five VEYLDF Learning and Development Outcomes in order to understand where children are at, and what their needs currently are, while also assessing their future needs and how these could be best met.
Over time, early childhood professionals develop an understanding of the learning and development of each child in their Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program. You will note the similarities that exist among a group of children and the range of differences that co-exist in any group. Noticing the similarities, the differences and, importantly, the changes in children’s learning and development is a critical part of the assessment process.
Assessment practices and documentation play an essential role in the communication between early childhood professionals and families. Educators use their expert knowledge of child development to inform families of their child’s progress. In addition, early childhood professionals work in partnership with families and children to include their views on the child’s growth and development as part of their assessment practices.
Early childhood professionals assess children’s learning for many reasons, but specifically to create a holistic understanding of each child’s knowledge, understanding, skills and capabilities. Effective assessment for learning practices support early childhood professionals to identify and understand:
- what each child knows and can do (including strengths, interests, attitudes and dispositions)
- each child’s attachment patterns, relationships and how to support their transitions (including between rooms and services)
- how each child is progressing developmentally
- each child’s physical health and emotional wellbeing
- what needs to be planned and implemented next, for children to master developing skills and to extend each child’s developmental and learning needs
- which children may benefit from access to additional supports and services
- how effective the planned experiences are for a specific child or group of children (Harley, 2006).
Early childhood professionals engaging in effective assessment practices should ensure that:
they are authentic – authentic assessment practices ensure that educators assess children’s learning and development in environments in which they regularly learn, socialise and play
- they are ethical – ethical assessment practices ensure that teachers and educators assess children’s learning and development in ways which honour the diversity of cultures, genders, and abilities evident amongst a group of children
- they are ongoing in nature – this requires assessment practices to be intentional, dynamic and occur over a period of time so that children’s progress can be identified and celebrated
- they are diverse – there are a range of ways to undertake assessments. It is the role of early childhood professionals to choose the most suitable approach or assessment tool and then use this in order to advance children’s learning and development.
Assessment documentation: making children’s learning visible
Making learning visible is an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the capability and confidence of children attending Three-Year-Old Kindergarten programs. It also provides the foundation for important conversations with families to strengthen the connections between the early childhood service and home. This supports conversations about a child’s progress with family members and other relevant professionals.
Effective assessment practices include children and families’ perspectives, support a child’s learning and development, and provide opportunities to celebrate children's successes. Early childhood professionals can celebrate and document children’s thinking, ideas and theories as they actively participate in a kindergarten program.
For example, educators’ documentation aims to track children’s learning and development progress against the VEYLDF Learning and Development Outcomes over time, while also encouraging early childhood professionals to reflect on their practice.
Questions to reflect on as part of this analysis include:
- what is the child learning? How are they learning and how do I know?
- what do I know about what the child can do, what they need help with, and what are they ready to learn? How do I know what they are ready for?
- what do I know now about this child’s strengths, culture, learning and development?
- are there any gaps in the learning? Are there things I expected to see that are not evident yet?
There are a range of ways in which educators can document evidence of children’s learning and development and a range of materials that can be documented including:
- children's work
- photographs, plans and drafts of play and work in progress
- audio/video recordings of children and early childhood professionals in action
- comments and interviews with children
- child observations.
The key to assessment for learning is the collection of rich, meaningful documentation that educators then reflect on, question and analyse to inform the next stages of children’s learning and development.
Assessment should be strengths-based, reflect a whole-of-child approach, and support having high expectations for the learning and development of every child attending a Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program. This will include a focus on:
- children’s knowledge
- acquired and emerging skills
- attitudes and dispositions
- next stage of learning
- continuity of learning.
The VEYLDF’s Early Years Planning Cycle (EYPC) invites educators to collect evidence of children’s learning and development over time and to use this information as part of the assessment process.
Connections to the VEYLDF
The VEYLDF highlights the importance of early childhood professionals using a range of assessment tools as part of their practice to assess children’s progress against the five Learning and Development Outcomes which focus on identity, community, wellbeing, learning and communication.
This can include more discipline specific assessments such as health and language assessments, which may be used in collaboration with other early childhood professionals. It also includes assessments that involve documenting over time, evidence of children’s learning against VEYLDF Learning and Development Outcomes in the context of the early childhood service.
The VEYLDF EYPC outlines the role of early childhood professionals as they collect, analyse, plan, act and reflect on the evidence of learning and development and use this in their assessment. The VEYLDF Learning and Development Outcomes provide a common language and focus for teachers and educators to notice evidence-based concepts that advance children’s learning and development.
Questions for reflective discussion
To support your assessment for learning, take some time to reflect on the following questions.
- How would you describe your current approach to assessment?
- How will you monitor and assess the progress of three-year-old children’s learning and development against the five VEYLDF Learning and Development Outcomes which focus on identity, community, wellbeing, learning and communication?
- What assessment processes do you currently feel confident using and why? Which forms of assessment would you like to know more about, strengthen or change, and why?
- How might the VEYLDF Learning and Development Outcomes be used to guide and inform assessment for learning processes within a Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program?
- How might early childhood professionals strengthen the involvement of and their partnerships with families as part of the Three-Year-Old Kindergarten program’s approach to assessment?
Connection to the Box of Educational Resources
Box of Educational Resources has been provided to services funded to deliver Three-Year-Old Kindergarten in 2020 and 2021. It includes resources that specifically support early childhood professionals to engage in assessment for learning. Some relevant resources included in the box are also freely available online and these links are listed below, and others are only available in hard copy.
Resources available online
VCAA, Assessment of Children as Confident and Capable Learners Literature Review: This resource supports identifying and assessing children’s progress towards VEYLDF Outcome 4: Children are confident and involved learners.
Resources included in the box
Birth and Beyond – Meaningful practice for babies and toddlers: This resource supports educators to understand the specific needs and priorities of this age and how to transfer this knowledge into meaningful environments, practice and programs. This resource can help to inform educators’ understanding of where children have come from, including what learning would have already occurred before they start Three-Year-Old Kindergarten.
Child Development – The developing child, communicating skilfully and nurturing competent learners: This resource focuses on three key areas: the developing child, the child as a skilful communicator, and the child as a competent learner.
Health and Wellbeing – Growing and developing physical and emotional wellbeing: This guide invites educators to reflect on the three strands of growing and developing, physical wellbeing and emotional wellbeing. See page 17 which provides an insight into the physical wellbeing of children and an introductory overview of children’s development. It covers physical development, sensory processing and useful information relating to sleep, rest, food and nutrition.
DET, Early ABLES: Early ABLES is an observation-based online assessment for learning tool for use by educators with children aged two to five years with disabilities or developmental delay. It supports educators to observe and assess children’s learning and development for the purposes of planning and delivering individual learning programs. Early ABLES aligns to the VEYLDF and Victorian Curriculum F-10 and can be used to support children’s successful transition from kindergarten to school.
DET, Individual learning plans for children in out-of-home care (pdf - 1.19mb): This resource provides an overview of what early childhood educators need to consider when developing individual learning plans for children placed in out-of-home care. It is aligned with the VEYLDF and supports educators to use the EYPC, consider children’s transitions, and adopt a trauma informed lens when developing individual learning plans for children.
DET, VEYLDF Practice Principle Guide Assessment for Learning and Development (pdf - 2.12mb): This practice guide supports early childhood professionals to critically reflect on their assessment for learning and development practice. This can be done individually, in discussion with a mentor or critical friend and as a guide for discussion with colleagues. The guide draws on the
VEYLDF Evidence Paper Practice Principle 7: Assessment for Learning and Development (pdf - 1.34mb) and should be used in conjunction with the VEYLDF Practice Principle Assessment for Learning and Development video.
ACECQA, Guidelines for documenting children’s learning: This resource provides guidance about documenting children’s learning and highlights that there is not a one size fits all approach. Educators and leaders should consider why they need to document children’s learning and development, ideas for documenting an educational program, and what Authorised Officers look for as part of the assessment and rating process.
Monitoring and assessing children's learning: This video, produced by Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, provides an academic's perspective about monitoring and assessing children’s learning and development. It asks educators to consider the ‘so what’ after taking documentation to support learning plans that extend learning and have high expectations for every child.
Planning for and documenting children’s learning: This video, produced by Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, provides an academic's perspective about planning for intentional teaching and having high expectation. It reflects on the purpose of documentation, how it is undertaken and stresses the importance of capturing the views of children and families.
Think, Feel, Act: Lessons from research about young children: This series of videos and Making Learning Visible Through Pedagogical Documentation research brief encourages early childhood professionals to reflect on their practices and think about ways to make children’s questions, ideas and learning visible.
VCAA, Early Years Planning Cycle for the VEYLDF: This resource demonstrates how the VEYLDF EYPC can be applied to observe, assess and respond to evidence of children’s learning, and provides an illustrative model for the teaching of specific concepts to children from birth to eight years within everyday learning environments.
Harley, E. (2006). Assessment in the early years. Birth to 8 years. Assessment in the Early Years Newsletter, 1, 1-4.