"It's a shift in thinking, a shift in practice" : moving to a new assessment framework in early childhood education.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Teaching and Learning
This qualitative ethnographic study explored the various ways a team of early childhood teachers made sense of, and used, an assessment framework based on learning dispositions and formative assessment for assessing children’s learning. In the late 1980s and early 1990s traditional methods for assessing children were being significantly questioned. The development in 1996 of Te Whāriki, the early childhood curriculum, signalled a re-form of assessment practices in the early years. This reform involved a major shift in thinking and practice for teachers who worked in early childhood education. The teachers in this study were already beginning to change their assessment practices to reflect learning dispositions and formative assessment. This study focused on the theoretical and policy framework that reflected the shift toward teachers being encouraged to adopt these new ways for assessing children’s learning
Multiple sources of data collection included individual interviews, a group interview, an analysis of documents including relevant policies, staff meeting minutes and Learning Stories written by three of the teachers over a six-month period. Findings revealed that the ways in which the teachers in this study made sense of, and used, the dispositional framework depended on how they viewed the purposes of assessment and their role as teachers. The study also explored some of the consequences of teachers adopting the dispositional framework when they were already experienced in other forms of assessment practice. The significance of self-directed professional development was also highlighted. Implications for management include the need to consider that the theoretical concepts associated with shifting from a developmental approach to a dispositional focus requires extensive time, resources and a team that is committed to change.