Should Assessment Include Joy, Meaning and Heart?
Assessment that is FOR children and not OF children respects their growing minds and creates patterns of thinking that help them see themselves as owners of their own learning trajectory.
By Judi Garcia-Stevenson
For early childhood leaders, who must have a clear vision of what they want to achieve, it is important first to identify the approach to assessment they want to use with teachers, children and families.
Do they hope for assessment practices that include joy, meaning, and heart?
Do they view learning as a primary purpose of assessment practices?
If so, what would it take to share that vision with teachers in a way that allows them to understand and embrace it? And what steps would be required encourage and support teachers to take on authentic assessment that supports learning, engages families, and enhances teaching?
The Role of Pedagogical Leadership
Regulations, policies, and funding requirements often specify assessment tools that are quantitative and aligned with early learning and development standards.
And while Learning Stories are an assessment tool, they are much more. They are an approach to observation and documentation that shifts the emphasis toward the child and away from checklists.
If teachers are using Learning Stories to document a child’s journey, their observation skills are engaged as it very quickly becomes all about the next story, the next moment that represents success for each child. And for each child, that’s a different moment. To pick those moments, the teacher needs to understand the child.
Learning Stories can be used on their own as documentation of children’s growth and development, but with the Educa platform, they can also be connected to quantitative indicators on the DRDP or to early learning and development outcomes frameworks like the Head Start ELOF, which are available on the platform.
Educators usually find that a single story connects to multiple indicators across learning domains. So a shift toward Learning Stories doesn’t have to mean a shift away from meeting program expectations or requirements related to assessment.
With this in mind, how can leaders inspire a new vision for documenting children’s learning?
Prioritizing Relationships in Education
Share passion for respectful and inclusive assessment practices that have joy and heart at their center
In Emotions and Leadership: The Role of Emotional Intelligence, the author, Jennifer George, suggests leaders must model the way, inspire the vision, challenge the process, enable others to act, and encourage the heart. If the expectation is that relationships between teachers, children, and families will be key to assessment and learning, then as authentic leaders, leaders must:
- Model the way and support collaborative relationships that will be instrumental in enacting change;
- Share passion for respectful and inclusive assessment practices that have joy and heart at their center;
- Give teachers to time and headspace to truly observer and reflect and,
- Encourage staff to increase sharing with families and to find the joy in documenting children’s learning.
Authentic leadership and authentic assessment help early childhood leaders improve their programs’ approaches to assessment and support relationships between children, teachers, and families. Educa and Learning Stories support early childhood leaders who hope to bring the joy, heart, and meaning back to early assessment practices.
Making Children Owners of Their Own Learning Trajectory
Stephanie Pace Marshall, a pioneer in leading education transformation, says, “. . . our future resides within the growing minds of our children. How we ask them to learn creates the patterns of their thinking and their thinking shapes the world.” (Seed + Spark, 2020, p 44). Early childhood leaders have the privilege of shaping the future by supporting and building the growing minds of our children.
Learning Stories help this process develop. It creates a practical reason – the next story – to focus intently on the uniqueness of each child. This builds an understanding that can be shared with families and other caring adults. Furthermore, Learning Stories read to children, helps children see themselves as learners. It helps them understand why they were successful, and where their strengths lie.
Assessment that is FOR children and not OF children respects their growing minds. It creates patterns of thinking that help them see themselves as owners of their own learning trajectory.
And it’s this ownership that will shape our future.