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In this part of Module 2, we are going to be working from your observation of learning, and the description that you have written for your learning story, to create the analysing section (recognising learning) of a learning story.
Our aim is to:
This will involve:
There are options for further reading and to explore some relevant resources on The Education Hub’s website.
What are the two functions of the description part of a learning story?
In early childhood assessment practice, the analysis of children’s learning is often about inferring meanings about what you’ve observed so that you can make a good guess about how to strengthen and further this learning. As well as identifying concrete skills, dispositions and knowledge, you are also developing a theory or hypothesis about what is happening for children and what they are interested in and learning about. This is a process of critical reflection that can be aided when you gain the perspectives of others, including other teachers, family members and the children themselves. Different perspectives enable you to present children’s abilities as shifting and fluctuating over time and context, in line with what we know about the way children develop and learn. We will look more at encouraging a range of perspectives on learning next week.
Strategies for analysing children’s learning
How do we go about analysing learning? It is usually helpful to look at learning through a particular lens or focus, for example, by examining dispositions, interests, and/or working theories in children’s learning.
For example, you might look for the dispositions associated with the five strands of the curriculum (taking an interest, being involved, persisting, expressing ideas, or taking responsibility). You are also asking yourself what has changed in children’s behaviours, language and action that shows these dispositions have strengthened. Avoid simply describing participation or confidence, but focus on noticeable difference such as an increasing capacity to persevere with difficulty and so on.
You can also ask yourself: What are children showing you about their interests? What exactly are they thinking about these interests? For example, don’t just state that a child is interested in dinosaurs, but make guesses about why that is, or what aspect of dinosaur play appeals. Is it the noises? The strength and power? The complicated names? Making a guess about what exactly motivates an interest enables you to provide other related experiences.
Also try to see if you can recognise what children are thinking. Can you formulate some potential working theories from their actions and words? For example, a child putting sand and water into a bowl and calling it “porridge” may have some working theories about cooking which include: cooking involves mixing ingredients, cooking involves changing substances, and so on. A child who comments that the larger caterpillar must be the mummy may be drawing on a working theory that all baby creatures are just a smaller version of their parents. Putting working theories into words helps you think about the key aspects of children’s play and language. With a good guess at children’s working theories, you can respond by planning to help children draw out and extend these working theories.
Finally, it can be useful to determine what else you know about a child and their experiences that you can connect with this learning event. Look for other stories that you or other teachers have written about this child that connect with this one, and think about in what ways they are connected. What are those interconnections? The connections may be showing continuity as well as change. For example, does this learning story show children’s learning progress in relation to previous stories? Can you see how particular skills, knowledge or dispositions are growing through a set of experiences?
Analysis involves a lot of guesswork. Especially in early childhood, it is hard to be definitive about what children know and can do, and even more so about what they are learning. So we come up with hypotheses. Having hypotheses about what children are interested in, what they are learning and why they are motivated to learn help us to then take some form of action in response. If our hypothesis turns out to be incorrect, then we can form another, more informed one.
Finally, analysis also involves your best judgement and selectiveness. If you were to simply “tick off” or list all the learning outcomes from Te Whāriki that you see demonstrated in the child’s learning activity, you’d probably have heaps. So you have to ask yourself what is the most significant learning? Which of these aspects excites you? This might be an emerging skill or emerging knowledge that you see developing. It might be something that is pertinent to your centre’s valued learning outcomes, or something that you know the family would be keen to see their child develop. Think about why you were motivated to write this story, and this will help you to understand where to focus your analysis.
Which of the strategies you’ve just read about might be most useful for analysing the learning story you are writing now? Try answering the questions posed in the reading in relation to your observation:
- What dispositions for learning (such as taking an interest, being involved, persisting, expressing ideas, or taking responsibility) is the child drawing on? What has changed in this child’s behaviours, language and action that shows these dispositions have strengthened?
- What is this child showing you about their interests? Why are they motivated by these interests? (develop your own hypothesis).
- What is the child thinking? (develop your own hypothesis). Can you articulate what their working theories might be from their actions and words?
- How does this learning story show learning progress in relation to previous stories? Can you see how particular skills, knowledge or dispositions are growing through a set of experiences? How has what you have documented changed from previous assessments?
2. Which of these aspects excites you?
Relate your learning to practice
Using your answers to the above questions as a guide, write the analysis section your learning story. You won’t want to include everything you have identified, but just the parts of your analysis that seem pertinent to ongoing learning and further assessment. Here are some further pointers for writing analysis:
- Use a heading for the analysis section, which helps you to make the shift away from description, and ensures that learning is quite visible and obvious for families and children.
- Try to track the child’s learning over time, looking at how knowledge and skill are growing and changing.
- Generate more perspectives on the learning that is occurring, and the meaning that this activity/event had for the child. How else might you view what is happening here? Are there alternative understandings or interpretations? (Next you will show your story to families, children and other teachers and see what they think.)
- Use tentative language, including questions (“Perhaps you are thinking …?” “Could it be the sound that interests him most?” and so on) to reflect the fact that in analysis you are creating hypotheses, and you can never really know what is going on inside a learner’s head.
- Show that you value the learning that you have recognised.
Watch a video
Lorraine Manuela discusses the practices she and her team use at her early childhood centre in Auckland
Read more about working theories and how to recognise them in The Education Hub’s short resource guide here.
Reflect on your achievements with the learning story you have written during this course.
Here are the important points to take away from this module about analysing children’s learning: