PART 8: Responding to learning


    As we approach the end of this course, we take stock of the rich information we are gathering about a child through the assessment process, and return our focus to intentional teaching, which will form an important construct for the final part of our learning story and our planned response to what has been observed.

    At the end of Part 8, you will plan and carry out an intentional response to the learning you have observed and documented as you have participated in this course, and then create a short follow-up story or note to record these intentional actions and children’s responses to them. First, we continue our discussion of the concept of intentional teaching.

    Our aims in this part of the course are to:

    • Further understand the features and purposes of intentional teaching
    • Develop meaningful plans in response to assessments
    • Learn to write follow-up stories to address concepts of continuity and change

    This will involve:

    1. Reflecting on the knowledge you have gained about the child through the learning story assessment process so far
    2. Revisiting the concept of intentional teaching
    3. Watching a video about different ways to plan intentional responses to children’s learning
    4. Putting what you have learnt into practice by formulating some plans for extending children’s learning, and writing the planning or responding section of your learning story
    5. Creating some form of record about the impact of your response to children’s learning as a follow up story

    Revisit your learning so far

    What are three things to look for when analysing children’s learning?

    You might look for dispositions, working theories, interests, continuity, and change when analysing children’s learning.


    Drawing on your own analysis and the comments and discussion you have engaged with children, parents, whānau and other teachers, reflect on what have you learnt about this child and their learning through this assessment. What initial thoughts do you have about how you will respond? 

    Share this reflection with a colleague as the basis for a reflective conversation.

    We come now to writing the last section of our learning story: the responding section. This is an opportunity to begin a cycle of intentional and reflective teaching and interaction with a child that aims to support their learning. 

    Remember, in Part 3 of the course we described intentional teaching as taking a thoughtful, considered approach, and deliberately and purposefully teaching, interacting and responding to children in ways that further their learning. Intentional teaching builds on the notion that learning takes place through children’s participation and interaction with more knowledgeable adults and peers in shared activities, and supported by research which demonstrates that sustained and reflective interactions between teachers and children promote extended learning for young children. This means that intentional teaching behaviours comprise activities such as active involvement in children’s play, asking questions, making suggestions or comments, initiating projects or investigations, or resourcing environments for children’s play and exploration.

    Relate your learning to practice

    Once we have noticed and recognised learning occurring, and made some hypotheses about what is going on for the child in terms of the interests, working theories and dispositions they are exploring and consolidating, we need to ask: What are we going to do with this information? How will this understanding of the child affect how you interact with them in a similar situation? What does it suggest about the kinds of materials and environments children need to continue this learning?

    We know that it is important for children’s learning that we as teachers are intentional about what we are doing. One of the most powerful things about a learning story is that it helps us to reflect on learning at a distance, and enables us to be more thoughtful in formulating plans for responding to children. The process of writing a learning story also gives us space and time for ongoing discussions with other people that know the child well that can further inform our planning.

    The quality of our planning for the next steps depends on the quality of our observation and analysis. However, you are not always going to able to pinpoint exactly a child’s motivations and interest. The responding section builds on the understandings and hypotheses you developed about children’s interests and learning in the analysis section. While this will hopefully further children’s learning, the act of testing your hypotheses will further your understanding of the child too (this remains true if your planned response doesn’t hit the mark for the child!).

    Watch a video

    In this video I talk through the steps involved in responding intentionally to children’s learning.

    When you are thinking about how to respond to the learning you have noticed and documented for a particular child, the first step is to think about what learning you would like to see develop from the documented play or interest. Then you can think about how to support it, drawing on the concept of intentional teaching. Remember, being intentional means planning particular ways of interacting with children, perhaps thinking ahead of challenging questions to ask children, or questions that encourage children to engage in more sustained exploration - even planning not to intervene but to be on hand and observing can be an intentional response.

    So you might ask yourself: Do you want to see this learning deepen, in terms of children exploring some of the underlying concepts in more depth? For example, if a child is interested in covering things with blankets, you would think about other ways in which they could they come to understand the concept of being covered or enveloping. Or you might want to see the learning extend to other contexts. Perhaps then you’d like to help a child who is showing kindness to soft toy animals extend that care to his peers. Alternatively you might want the learning to become more complex within the same context. For example, you might like to support a child who pushes cars and trains along bridges she’s made, to invent scenarios to explain why bridges are needed. If children have demonstrated good problem-solving skills, you might like to see them progress to more complex problems.


    Planning to support ongoing learning does not need to involve complex plans for new experiences for children, although it can do. In the example of the child’s exploration of bridges, learning may become more complex if a teacher simply makes the right suggestion or comment at the right time. Or you might initiate projects, investigations or problem-solving by providing children with ideas, meaningful questions and problems to solve. Other ways of supporting children’s developing learning in an intentional way is through the provision of environments, and through making particular materials available. For example, if an infant has enjoyed exploring a basket of fabrics, draping them over her face, and you want her to continue to develop her ability to explore, experiment and take risks in her play, next you might provide a box to crawl through in which scarves have been hung. Or, returning to a previous example, you might support children who are interested in covering things with fabric to explore coverage with other materials, such as sand, paint, or paper.

    Relate your learning to practice

    There are two parts to this activity.

    Part 1

    Determine which aspect of the learning you have recorded in your learning story you want to focus on to extend, expand or strengthen for this child. What would be your goal for their ongoing learning? Formulate some plans for extending or expanding children’s learning, and write the ‘next steps’ part of your learning story. Use these pointers to help you:

    • Use a heading for the planning section, which helps you to be quite intentional about planning. If planning is absorbed into the main narrative, it has less prominence and significance for readers.
    • Think about the different ways in which interests and dispositional learning can be extended. For example, a disposition can develop by becoming more frequent, while an interest can become more complex. Both interests and dispositions can be supported to become more wide-ranging (across different areas or activities). 
    • Don’t restrict planning to activities in the same area or with similar resources. It helps to look for underlying interests and motivations here. For example, a child who is interested in building train tracks, who appears to be exploring and motivated by ideas of connection and length, might also be interested in using masking tape to create lines on the floor, or using long pieces of string wrapped around trees and posts in the outdoor area.
    • Use your planning section to provoke the “next steps” conversation – encourage reflection and see the assessment as something that can inspire as well as inform continued learning and exploration. Try using questions such as “do you think you will need to check on the progress of your plant regularly? How will you do this?”
    • Planning can also include planning to carry out further observation or documentation. For example, look at whose ideas and actions have been documented, and whose ideas and actions are missing. What can you learn about the children and what do you still need to know? How can you find out?
    • Refer to the pages in Te Whāriki about “Examples of practices that promote these learning goals” and “Considerations for leadership, organisation and practice” for ideas for practice in relation to the learning goalswhich are most prominent in children’s learning. 
    • Be tentative and express a sense of diverse possibilities and uncertainty about how the child’s ongoing learning journey will develop. This will reflect an understanding that dispositions and working theories evolve in unpredictable ways.  
    • Ensure there are clear links between the learning described in this story, the analysis of this learning and what you are planning.

    Questions that may help you think about planning

    • What do your understandings and hypotheses imply about the next steps for children’s learning? For example, if you hypothesised that it is the movement of water as children pour between containers that interests them most, what kind of experiences could you plan next for children?
    • What are different ways in which children can explore the ideas underlying their play? Exploring ideas in different ways and making a shift from one language/activity to another helps children to create and consolidate concepts and conceptual maps.
    • What challenges could you offer children that involve them in transferring learning to a new context or to add complexity to an interest? For example, you might strengthen a disposition to take responsibility by offering children an opportunity to take on a new responsibility. The ability to transfer knowledge and skills to a new context demonstrates secure learning for the child.  
    • In what ways would it be useful for children revisit this learning? In what ways could they improve on a product, or on a process for creating something?

    Part 2

    After putting your intentional response into action with this child in your centre, write a follow-up note to your learning story, about the actions you took to further that child’s learning and their effects on the child’s learning, or on other ways in which the child has continued to explore similar ideas or areas of learning. Think about how you are going to demonstrate continuity and show the connections across this story and the last, and about the best way to record this follow up. Does it need to be another learning story, or a  shorter snippet or note perhaps?


    • What systems does your early childhood setting have in place to enable you to get feedback and additional interpretations of the learning happening in your learning stories from colleagues?
    • How effective are these processes? 


    These are the key points covered in this part of the course:

    • Planning a response to what you have observed and documented in a learning story or other assessment format may involve asking questions to encourage children’s reflection and planning, carrying out further observation and documentation, and testing hypotheses about children’s interests and intentions.
    • Planning should be tentative and offer varied possibilities for children’s developing learning.
    • Children’s learning can be extended when children are offered new ways to explore underlying ideas, challenges, opportunities to transfer learning to new contexts, or to repeat, revise and improve an outcome.
    • Writing follow-up responses to learning stories, in which you document the outcomes of your planned response to support children’s learning, are important for demonstrating continuity in children’s learning experiences.