Module 3: Assessing learning through play

Getting started in this module

We would like to start this module by Acknowledging Country.

We acknowledge all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first sovereign people of this land. As a community of educators we recognise with deep respect their continuing connections to lands, waters, knowledges and cultures. In doing so we pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

Objectives of the module

This online module will strengthen teachers’ understanding of assessment as part of an effective planning cycle that identifies play and inquiry learning outcomes in relation to the Victorian Curriculum (F – 10). This includes assessment in curriculum areas such as language and literacy, numeracy and mathematics, as well as personal and social capabilities. The Module also focuses on assessing play itself, recognising the link between a student’s play ability and learning.


Welcome to Module 3 of the Differentiated/Play-based and Inquiry Learning for Foundation Teachers Professional Learning Program.

Listen to the vodcast below where Professor Andrea Nolan will introduce herself and the other academics who will be facilitators for this module.


Your interaction and involvement

The module has been designed to allow for participant interaction and involvement. In working through the module, you will be asked to respond to a question or add a comment on the Padlet. These comments and responses will be used to inform the program evaluation that will be provided to the Department and research relating to professional learning and practice change. All comments downloaded from the Module are non-identifiable.

This means that any material you generate during your interaction with the module is anonymous and cannot be traced back to you or your place of work. If you have any questions or comments about how this data is being used, please contact the lead researcher: Professor Andrea Nolan.

Authentic assessment captures the learning

Learning is a process and authentic assessment captures the learning as it occurs naturally. During play, students naturally apply skills, abilities, knowledge and understandings. As noted in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework (VEYLDF): Practice Principles Guide – High Expectations for Every Child, authentic assessments take place in environments that are familiar and natural to children; when children are comfortable; when children can engage with experiences, materials and equipment that interest them; and in everyday experiences.

‘Assessment of children’s knowledge, understandings, skills and capabilities is an essential ingredient of planning for and promoting new learning and development’ (VEYLDF 2016). By observing the students during their play and documenting what you see, you can gain a rich understanding of what they know, understand and can do. For example, during play, pay attention to the kinds of behaviours the students engage in and their interactions with materials, objects and people. Observe these behaviours for:

  • signs of progression in their learning
  • achievement against learning intentions and success criteria
  • new abilities
  • student enjoyment in accomplishment.

Resources for Authentic Assessment in the Early Years

Outcome Descriptors in Transition Learning and Development Statement

When considering authentic assessment and planning of play-based and inquiry learning, you may find it helpful to consider the outcome descriptors captured in Transition Learning and Development Statements. The descriptors describe a child's progress against the five Learning and Development Outcomes of the VEYLDF and are aligned with the first three levels of the Victorian Curriculum (Levels F-10).

Early Abilities Based Learning and Education Support (Early ABLES)

Early ABLES is a strengths and observation-based online assessment for learning tool. It supports educators to provide a more individualised learning experience for children aged two to five years with disabilities and/or developmental delay. This assessment tool is particularly useful for students requiring an enhanced transition to school.

Early ABLES includes eight assessments that align with the Learning and Development Outcomes of the VEYLDF:

  1. Identity and community – social
  2. Wellbeing – emotion
  3. Learning dispositions
  4. Communication – interactions
  5. Communication – symbols and text
  6. Learning and communication – numeracy
  7. Wellbeing – movement
  8. Identify and learning – thinking skills.

Examples of assessment from practicing teachers

As you watch the video consider the different perspectives of assessment that are discussed and their potential.


Connecting with parents about assessment

Teachers choose assessment instruments and techniques to create a holistic picture of each child’s knowledge, understandings, skills and capabilities. Teachers consider how they can support parents/families to understand and value the learning that comes from play in a play-based and inquiry learning program. This means being thoughtful, deliberate and purposeful in the way the information is utilised in discussions with families.

In the video below, a Foundation teacher outlines how she and her colleagues demonstrate learning and student progression to parents. Sharing information with parents can assist in building their understanding of the learning that is occurring in play and emphasise that play is purposeful with goals and expectations that students can achieve.