April 21, 2017

Assessment in early childhood education and care settings: How, what and why?

Last night, a panel of presenters from the University of Waikato and Charles Sturt University spoke about their research and invited discussion about current directions in the assessment of young children’s learning and wellbeing in Australia, New Zealand and internationally. It was well attended by early childhood educators and speech pathologists from across the region.

L-R: Linda Harrison, Sharynne McLeod, Sandie Wong, Linda Mitchell, Audrey Wang, Tamara Cumming, Jayne White

Here are the details of the panelists and presentations:

Chair: Linda Harrison, Professor of Early Childhood Education, Charles Sturt University

Linda Mitchell, Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Waikato 
Supporting competence and continuity through democratic assessment practices 
Assessment is a value-laden activity that has both constructive and destructive potential. Linda will draw on a recent research study on continuity of early learning, to argue that assessment practices that have democracy in mind will include the views of those being assessed, build a culture of success, and be open to contribution from children, families and community.

Jayne White, Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Waikato 
"If it don't fit don't force it": Disrupting assessment discourse with under threes 
In the absence of a well-defined pedagogy, and in consideration of the unique developmental needs for this age group, this presentation argues that contemporary assessment practices may not serve under three year olds well. Based on a series of studies undertaken over the past five years Jayne will highlight some challenges NZ teachers face in this regard. She will pose an argument for a more disruptive engagement with learning where infants and toddlers are involved; and its potential contribution (and challenge) to contemporary assessment practice.

Sharynne McLeod, Professor of Speech and Language Acquisition, Charles Sturt University 
Giving children a sound start: Assessing children's speech and language 
Identification of speech and language difficulties in early childhood facilitates early intervention that may prevent long-term difficulties with communication, literacy, numeracy, and socialisation. This presentation will draw on three large-scale Australian studies (Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, Sound Effects Study, and Sound Start Study) to demonstrate that parent and teacher concern regarding children’s speech and language competence is correlated with clinical assessments by speech pathologists and links to children’s academic and socio-emotional outcomes at school.

Audrey Wang, Research Fellow, and Tamara Cummings, Lecturer in Early Childhood Education, Charles Sturt University 
Tracking progress towards school readiness. How do educators make a difference to children’s learning? What difference can educators’ practice make? 
Early childhood educators’ practice is key to children’s learning in preschool settings. But, how do educators make a difference to children’s learning? And, what difference does their practice make to children’s learning? In this presentation Audrey and Tamara discuss the benefits of using a mixed methods approach to illuminate these questions. With reference to a recently-completed study with preschools in Orange, NSW, Audrey will discuss the use of standardised assessment tools to generate evidence for what difference educators’ practice can make to children’s learning. Tamara will discuss how practitioner inquiry helped make visible some of the ways educators believed they were contributing to what was learned.

Discussant: Sandie Wong, Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education, Charles Sturt University and Industry Fellow, National Lead Practice Research, Goodstart Early Learning