PART 1: Introduction and overview


    In the first part of the course, we are aiming to: 

    • Develop familiarity with the course and its modes of delivery including the online discussion forum
    • Understand the relationship between assessment and intentional teaching

    This will involve:

    1. Watching an introductory video
    2. Reading about the relationship between assessment and intentional teaching 

    Watch a video

    Welcome to the course. My name is Vicki Hargraves. I’ve been teaching in early childhood for most of my career, and held several leadership positions, in which I have focused on pedagogical leadership, that is leadership focused on improving teaching and learning. In my work, I have personally found the key ingredient to pedagogical leadership to be effective assessment, and using documentation of children’s learning to work out how to provide the most meaningful and intellectually challenging curriculum opportunities for children. I’ve also spent time researching children’s working theories and how to document and respond to these, and completed a PhD focused on, among other things, understanding the ways in which the material environment and social interactions in an early childhood setting influence who children are and what they learn, which of course is what assessment is all about. In short, I am passionate about assessment and documentation, and I hope to share some of my curiosity and excitement about assessment with you in this course.

    Tenā koutou, tenā koutou, tenā koutou katoa, Ko Vicki Hargraves ahau.
    Tēnā tātou katoa e huihui nei i tēnei rā
    Koia nei te kaupapa mō ā tātou akomanga.
    Kia kaha tātou ki te mahi tahi i roto i te aroha.
    Kia whai whakaaro ki ëtahi atu me ō rātou whakaaro
    Kia mahia ā tātou mahi i roto i te koa me te tōiriiritanga
    Kia honoa tātou hei whānau ākonga kotahi.
    Tēnā anō tātou katoa


    The relationship between assessment and intentional teaching

    Effective assessment practice is hugely important in supporting children to achieve positive outcomes because effective assessment practice is as much about informing teachers’ intentional actions so that they best support learning, as it is about making judgements about children’s acheivements. Assessment is about figuring out the meaning of children’s play and learning so that we can take appropriate and intentional action to support it. Intentional teachers help children make the most of the varied opportunities and experiences that their settings and programmes have to offer through techniques such as active involvement in play, questioning, scaffolding, and co-constructed and sustained conversations involving shared thinking. Research suggests that when teachers use these kind of intentional teaching strategies, children make more progress. Ultimately, the quality and responsiveness of our intentional teaching depends on the quality of our assessment of children’s play and learning. Assessment can help us with the following aspects of intentional teaching:

    • planning interactions and activities with children that are meaningful and responsive to their current learning and interest
    • evaluating and improving our pedagogies, environments and teaching interactions
    • informing families about children’s learning in our setting and enabling families to effectively participate in supporting children’s ongoing learning

    In this course we’re going to look at how we use assessment for all of these functions. We will also focus on a particular type of assessment: formative assessment. Formative assessment is the kind of assessment activity that informs the next steps for teachers to support children’s learning, such as planning and providing activities, interactions and environments that will extend children’s learning. In contrast, summative assessment is about ‘summing up’ a child’s current achievements, skills and knowledge at a specific point of time, and might be useful, for example, at school entry. However, summative assessment is much less useful for informing subsequent teaching. Rather than assessment of learning, assessment should be for learning, for informing and improving the effectiveness of subsequent learning and teaching.

    Formative assessment is going on all the time as we observe and interact with children. It is involved when we respond in the moment to something we hear the child say or see them do, as well as when we record our observations and reflect on them through the format of a learning story. Formative assessment is best understood as including the range of ways, informal and formal, in which we observe children’s learning, try to interpret and understand what is happening for the child, and then put that understanding to good use by being intentional in our teaching and planning. 

    In this course, we’re going to be looking at formative assessment in a more formal sense, involving reflection and analysis in relation to documented observations, particularly written assessments such as learning stories and other forms of pedagogical documentation used to inform learning and teaching. The learning story is the tool for assessment we are going to use in this course, although the skills we employ for writing a learning story can be applied to all kinds of written and reflective forms of pedagogical documentation. Not all assessment is formal (in fact, much is informal assessment that occurs in the moment when you play and learn alongside children) and not every recorded assessment needs to be in the format of a learning story. However, learning stories are a method of assessment recognised by both the Ministry of Education and the Education Review Office. 


    The important points to take away from this introductory part are:

    • Intentional teaching involves actively planning for and being deliberate and thoughtful in your actions and interactions to support children’s learning.
    • Research has established that strategies employed in intentional teaching such as active involvement in play, scaffolding, questioning, sustained dialogue and shared thinking contribute to greater learning progress in early childhood programmes.
    • Assessment practice supports intentional teaching because it involves teachers seeking to understand children’s current learning in order to support future learning. Documented assessments provide opportunities for considering a range of intentional teaching behaviours in order to respond effectively to children’s learning.
    • Assessment can be formative or summative. Formative assessment is assessment undertaken to plan for and support future learning, and is more relevant to intentional teaching than summative assessment, which is focused on ‘summing up’ a child’s current achievement.
    • Assessment can be formal or informal. In this course we focus on formal, documented assessment, although much formative assessment and intentional teaching occur spontaneously throughout the day and goes unrecorded.
    • The learning story is one possible way of managing and recording a teacher’s assessment practice (other forms of assessment are also possible). It is a form of pedagogical documentation involving careful observation of a child’s learning, reflection, analysis, and planning. 

    Further reading

    Learn more about the principles that underpin effective pedagogy and curriculum design in this guide.