Well, hello everybody and welcome. It's great that you're able to join us for the final webinar in our series on Connecting Assessment to Practice brought to you by the Victorian Department of Education and Training, in partnership with Early Childhood Australia. As I said, my name is Catharine Hydon, and it's my absolute pleasure to be hosting this conversation. And today, of course, we have a very special opportunity to join practitioners who are navigating the world of assessment and determining a whole range of different ways that they can practice that work. Now, of course when we're gathered together in opportunities like this, it's important that we take a moment to acknowledge the traditional owners on whose country we are all collectively on. I'm here on the lands of the Woiwurrung people of the Kulin Nation. And I particularly pay my respects to elders who have guided our thinking and helped us to, in the words of Marrung, the education statement of the Victorian state government, hold the doors wide open for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in early childhood education and care settings. We also particularly welcome our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander colleagues who've joined us here today and thank them for the work that they do in supporting children and families in all sorts of different settings across Victoria. Thank you, as I said, for all of your work and participation in making the realities of reconciliation practiced daily in early childhood education and care settings. So as of course you know, we have had lots of opportunities to discuss assessment as we've worked through these amazing webinars with these really fantastic presenters who shared some terrific insights. So as we bring these ideas to you, we really are wanting this to be a robust dialogue, a conversation that we start together that you take into your own early childhood settings. So we hope by now, there's some ideas that have been presented by our amazing presenters that has sparked your interest, maybe challenged you a little bit, maybe resonated with you in terms of your existing practice. We hope that you've taken some of those back into your own early childhood settings and started conversations with your educational leader, you might be the educational leader. You might've started some conversations with your colleagues to understand the place of assessment in the work that you do every day. I just wanted to recap a few things that we heard from our presenters as we start to introduce our amazing panelists. So you remember in the first webinar, we heard from Dr. Jane Page, who talked to us about assessment, assessment as, assessment of and assessment for. Really helping us to understand the difference between those, but importantly also reminding us about the planning cycle. And I think she's going to do a little bit more of that today because we'll be rejoined by Jane Page. And also making sure that we deeply connect with contexts and children's rights, strong features in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework. And then of course we heard from Professor Sue Grieshaber who started to explore pedagogical documentation. The way we used evidence, we collected evidence and we made sure that evidence was shared with everybody. With children, with families, with our colleagues and making sure that we use the research data, that she was sharing with us, to make decisions about meaningful opportunities for pedagogical documentation. And we're thinking about the value we place on that, the way that it illuminates children's learning and development. And I think a number of you raised in some of the dilemmas that you might've been facing about the types of documentation that you might be using, the different ways that you calculate, how much you might be using. It's important to note there that we need to go back to source information, to find out what the expectations are, really encourage you to go to the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework, the law and the regulations, and the National Quality Standard to determine what the expectations are. Rather than making assumptions about what they are and perhaps making a distinction between what's expected and what some of your local decisions might be. And then of course, we heard from Professor Susie Garvis, who opened up a whole new space, thinking about the international perspective in particular, the Swedish context. And I know there are many of you thinking, I love those ideas and I wonder how we can enact them. Of course it's a different context here, but there were lots of things that were similar. I'm sure you noticed that the way that she talked about the planning cycle, different words, but same process. But also helped us to think a little bit more deeply about some things that obviously work well for our colleagues in Sweden. In particular the thing that I remember, is the relationship with families and the expectation and the way that they talk to families about the ways that they could share the assessment processes that they had done. And I wonder how we can start to make sure that's part of our assessment processes. So those parent talks lots of conversations in the chat about that. I hope that some of those ideas have really resonated with you as I said, that might have said, actually we do some of those things. So maybe we have more in common with some of our colleagues in international context that we think, or maybe it's presented really new and challenging ideas to you that have opened up a new space for consideration. So lots of different ways to think about the work that we do. So what I want to do now, is start to introduce our amazing panel. And we're very fortunate this time to be joined by practitioners. So I know that you love hearing from practitioners. I know that this starts to help you identify what these ideas might look like in practice. And we're going to indeed hear from practitioners who are sharing their practice stories, and indeed we'll be joined by Dr. Jane Page as well. So, just let me remind you of our amazing panelists and introduce some new ones to you as they're coming up on the screen. Of course, you know, Dr. Jane Page, thank you very much, Jane. There's a whole lot of people here who I'm sure they have been lectured by you and are looking forward to hearing from you once again. Dr. Jane Paige is an associate professor in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, so fantastic that you are able to be here. And we have two practitioners who are joining us, which is fantastic. We have Shona Kelly-Briggs. Shona is a kindergarten teacher at Yappera Children's Services in Thornbury. Hello Shona, fantastic that you can be here. And she's passionate about supporting and advocating for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in education. Having eight years of experience working in early childhood education, Shona believes strongly in the connections to culture and forming respectful relationships with families. And we're really looking forward to hearing from you Shona about some of your assessment practices. And we're joined by Kelly Walsh. Who's at Assisi Kindergarten in Strathfieldsaye which is near Bendigo. And Kelly is an experienced kindergarten teacher with 24 years experience. Her current role is nominated supervisor and teacher in a double unit kindergarten, just outside Bendigo. There we go, there's Bendigo for you. And Kelly is inspired by the ever-changing dynamic of early childhood education as are we all and constantly interested in learning and reflecting and strengthening her pedagogy and practice. So welcome to you all. It's fantastic that you can be here. So, I'm going to stop sharing my screen now and hear from all of you. I think we've got a bit of a fuzzy noise going in the background there, but we'll power on. And hopefully that'll remedy itself. So in the first instance, it would be really fantastic for us to hear from Shona and Kelly, maybe Kelly you first, about some of the ways that you assess. So this is an assessment focused conversation, and there's lots of people here who are looking for really practical ideas, what are people like you do? So, can you tell us in particular, some of the strategies that you've put in place, some practice strategies around assessment, but particularly we're interested in the ones that you have changed in recent times to better respond to the needs of your community and the children and families in your space. Welcome Kelly.
Hello and thanks Catharine. That was a mighty introduction. I think that in my career I have strengthened my knowledge in learning and understanding and it's ever changing. And I think that's something that we really need to be aware of ourselves and that maybe when you're starting, your practice will look different to later in life and in your career and that's all really positive. And I think when I've been reflecting, I've come around full circle in some ways. And I've gone back to taking observations in a book, handwriting, sticky notes, all of those types of things that I did many years ago. That kind of went out the window a little bit when I embrace learning stories and digital documentation and those types of things. And I think the way that we assess and document learning actually depends on ourselves, our own knowledge and understanding. And our teams who we work with, and what's their best method of observing and assessing children in our community. So, as I said, I've been through learning stories and huge big documentation, lots of paragraphs to perhaps describe things that we can sum up in a nutshell in maybe one sentence with our knowledge and understanding that perhaps we don't need to go into a lot of detail about. So some of you are visual learners, I know I like to see programs in practice, I like to see what people are doing. So I have bought in what we are currently doing in our kindergarten.
We have these books they're binders with 10 tabs that I've put in and each child has a tab.
So 10 per book?
- I do 10 per book, our group does, our team. In the kindergarten we have three kindergarten groups and two pre-kindergarten, or three-year-old groups. They do very different ways. Some of them have individual exercise books. So when they're going through their planning cycle, if they are focusing on particular children, they have the books out. So that's really meaningful for them. For us, I put things down a lot. So having 30 books around the kindergarten could be challenging for me and our team. So we have gone with this with tabs down the side. So we do hand write. This was a bit of information from our learning conversations, at the start of the year with families. We then asked the children's voice, to document what they'd like to learn and what they are looking forward to. We take observations sometimes their little photos, we just stick it in, as you can see, it's not pretty so to speak. But it is authentic and it does give a really good description of what's going on with the children.
- And Kelly, multiple people contribute to that?
Yes, everybody does. So some staff write on scraps of paper or pieces of paper or sticky notes, stick it in, got another team member that talks into the iPad and then she just prints that out, sticks that in. Others take photos, just to jog their memory, so to speak. So there's lots of different ways, I think we all learn, we all document in different ways. So, some are really confident to write starting here, others like to take notes and then expand later, linked to framework, use that terminology. So that's a bit of a idea of what we do. We do summary kind of assessments mid year. So we're looking at where the children have gone from the start of the year to where we are now mid year. So that's really assessment prior, of what they already know, what they can do. And then we look at assessment in terms of right, we've got a picture of this child. What are we going to plan for next? So assessment of prior learning, how far they've come, and then assessment for where to next, where are we going next in our program?
Well, and Kelly can I just ask you a little follow up question? I can see Shona is nodding here. So she may in fact thinking actually I do some of those things. So there might be a whole lot of people in the chat also who are going, "I do that." Can I just ask a couple of questions there. You said right at the beginning that you changed your practice quite a bit. Do you see that as a sign? I think there's a lot of people who think maybe I shouldn't change it very much, but it sounds to me like you're saying that changing it is actually a sign of quality. What do you think Kelly?
Yes I do, I actually think that our time's really valuable and we reflect it on writing learning stories. It's intensive in terms of the time it takes to write, then the adding the photos, there was some anxiety around, I didn't get a photo of that can I still write the observation. Taking that away has actually lessened, has given us more time, it's given us more freedom. And we did survey our family and our community around learning stories, and do they want to go on a digital platform. And in our community, we decided not to that was our feedback. So what we do now, is what we term, a beautiful colleague of mine calls these a gift. So we actually have A4 photos of the children, or we do a pic collage of their term, we get their voice of what they've learned. So it's not so much the documentation that we need for meeting the requirements of the National Quality Standards and ratings, assessment and regulations, but it's a beautiful gift for families. So when we changed our thinking in terminology, we felt free.
Well it's a great way. And we'll come back and talk a little bit more about maybe another example of your documentation, but it's fantastic to see some concrete examples, cause I think sometimes as you say, we are quite visual learners and we'd like to go oh, right that's what you mean. So Shona, I can see you nodding and going yes I think I might be doing something like that. So can you tell us a little bit about some of your assessment practices, maybe why you were nodding before. Was it something that Kelly was talking about?
Yeah, so lots of nodding, thanks for sharing Kelly. It was very relatable to what assessment looks like here at Yappera. We do very similar to the notebook. We have individual books for, you know, children that may need it. And we do lots of, like writing on sticky notes, notepads and you'll write like in terms of, moving away from, you know, going back to writing down notes on books and papers and stuff like that. Cause that's what assessment looks like in our kindergarten room as well, along with, and I'm finding that lots of conversations and communicating and discussions around, children and their learning and their needs is what it also looks like in the kinder room and what works as well for the staff in there.
And Shona, it was something that was picked up really strongly by our colleague, Professor Sue Garvis, who said that our Swedish colleagues spend a lot of time talking to each other. Now, Shona, do you write some of that down, when you're talking to each other? Do you write some of that down?
Where do you put that?
So like similar to how Kelly explained it, we have like a booklet as well. And we pop it on like a notepad or write it straight into the book. A lot of the time it's actioned as well. So if we're having a conversation about something we're like, oh yeah, let's get onto it. We will try and make it happen because we know, a day in the kindergarten program, it's so busy. So full on, that conversation or that idea could pass your mind. So we'll try and get onto the ball and action, and as well as, you know, write it down. So when we've got the chance to do it, we follow through.
And of course, all of what we're talking about, and you can see our lovely colleague, Dr. Giant page nodding away, too. This is all speaking the language of the planning cycle that's in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework, isn't it Jane.
Absolutely that drawing on rich sources of knowledge, to deepen understandings of children and what children are ready to learn capturing children's interests and capabilities. And it really sounds Shona and Kelly, like this is a community of practice that you have developed around assessment. So you're capturing a number of different perspectives, a range of perspectives on children's learning, including children's own perspectives and then developing those rich learning goals that support you then in the every day to be with children and to support the learning process. And then of course, to reflect on that.
So we'll come back to you, Kelly, cause I know you've got other things to share and some different ideas that you want to share with us. But before we keep going, I think it's a good opportunity for us to clarify a few things. Kelly, do you have a particular set amount, and Shona as well, do you have a particular set amount of things that you have to write into the books that you have in relation to individual children?
No, and I think some children require a lot more observations. Our books actually have conversations with families as well, or if they've sent us an email, if they've updated information from their specialist services or early intervention. So, there's other children that perhaps the group goals and some of those things we're already meeting. So it might be a simple line as, you know, say our main program for that learning. And we need to get back to the fact that we are professionals we have a lot of knowledge. Trust in yourself and sometimes you do right what you're seeing, what you're observing, but sometimes you can actually say, I can already assess that learning. I know that they've had a sense of achievement cause they've completed that activity. We don't say they jumped up and down with their hands in the air and they smiled. We can actually just make that assessment. So I think it's varied. It'll be very varied in terms of the children and sorry, Catharine. And then it has to be every staff member has to do two per term, but you are collectively making sure you have a picture of that child.
An important reminder there, I think about having the conversation upfront and Shona you might want to talk a little bit about that too. Do you sort of have an agreement about how many you're going to do or you know, what the process is?
Yeah, so very similar to what Kelly said. We don't have an agreement of like a quantity, but it's just more, you know, like again, like I said before, like it's just, again, another conversation. So, I could be like, oh, I haven't had a chance to observe this have you seen it? And then, sort of have that discussion together and then yeah, go from there. And we observe obviously, you know, children's behaviour and identify if there's any changes in their patterns or anything like that. And then discuss on what we can do to promote their learning as well.
Kelly, one thought too, the book that you showed us, that blue one with the sticky notes and things like that. And that's a document that professionals use rather than you share with families. Or do you share that with families?
If families wanted to see there's nothing in there that would be confidential to that family, it can be theres, it can be messy. So we might need to interpret some of the little scribblings and jottings but if a family wanted to see that, they definitely would be able to. I think, touching base with the summative assessments our learning conversations, emailing out what's happening in our program and keeping them up to date gives them a sense of what's happening. But certainly I would share that. And I've always written documentation that if families wanted to look at it they could.
I guess it's distinct from a professional dialogue we might have around our own professional practice, something that we would exchange perhaps with educators. But when we're thinking about children, it's something that we might want to share with families. In fact, families might be very interested to know what our methodologies are and how processes some people might be really interested. Kelly, I'm conscious of time. We could talk about this all day, but Kelly, can you take us to that other document that you have that I know you've got there. And again, talk a little bit more about some of the changes that you might've made or how the shifts in your practice might've taken you to that document. And I'm sure Shona will be able to add some more things to that too, off you go Kelly.
Thank you. We have, I've just got our planning journal with us at the moment. And I was reflecting on, when I first started teaching, we would have objectives and goals for every single activity and it was really individual. And then our thinking perhaps moved to more of the group setting and then involving what's happening in the community and our thinking. And I suppose my knowledge and understanding also increased and I was constantly writing and planning for experiences that didn't happen. Because children may have been interested in it a week ago, but when they came back to kindergarten, they were no longer interested. So I've also gone back to doing a whole plan for a term. So this is our term plan that we do.
So that's a big, A3 book.
This is A3, yeah. So there's a rationale or I suppose a bit of an assessment of what's happened for this. We also took into consideration our learning conversations with families and things that they were interested in their children learning. Then once we've done that section, I look at theory and how that may link or how I can further our understanding and our educating teams understanding about why we might be doing particular things. Then we look at goals from the early years learning framework or from our own understanding. Cause sometimes I think there's things we can add.
And indeed the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework is only one list. You can go ahead and add more dimensions to that. In fact, that's fantastic, particularly sort of culturally contextually work to come up with particular outcomes. That's a great idea.
Yeah and adding or changing. And then we have the educator's role and intentional teaching.
And I really believe our role is very significant in programs and we do need to be engaged and we do need to be having these conversations. And knowledge of the child is really rich. And I think I could sum up every child, I work with 30 children in terms of their learning styles and those types of things. And I may not know their grasp off the top of my head or their rote counting, but that's where a photo in those other books or maybe even a checklist for those things so you have a really big overview...checklists sometimes are frowned on. But, left-handed, right-handed those types of things. I think that may be helpful in a program. Then we document the children's voice and our voice in this.
So that's like a form of observation, the next parts are observation of what's happened in that. Okay, great.
So this is the emergent curriculum. So we do this usually weekly, so we look at emerging interests, ideas and their learning. We have educator initiated experiences of provocation child initiated, community initiated. Obviously Olympics has been something that seemed particularly relevant. And for us, we've also been planning around COVID the dreaded COVID. And perhaps some of our planning is that families might be fragile, that we have a conversation at the door with families that we send texts home, that we communicate with them as well. We have, if there's small group learning and different things down here, we have family voice community, and then what next, links to Framework. And then we continue with what's actually happened.
So Kelly, there's probably going to be 400 questions. People are going, how did you do that, what'd you do here? But did you develop that model in collaboration with your colleagues, how long has that been in place for you?
For me I've been doing a form of this probably for four or five, six years. And then the colleagues that I work with presently are taking some of that on and they're doing parts of that. So I think it depends, as I said on our teaching team, it depends on how you interpret things. Some people like to have boxes and they fill boxes in. That for me is, oh, what if I don't fill a box in, I find that dreadful. So everybody just thinks and learns differently. I don't know what you do Shona but if you don't get a box filled in, sometimes I can become more anxious about that. Whereas if it's more free flowing, everybody writes in it during the day. And then we talk about it. Our team get together every Monday afternoon and we have a block of an hour and a half to talk about what's happened.
And Kelly, I think you heard that is a very important thing. If a box doesn't work for you, then change it because this is the great thing about you as curriculum decision-makers. You this collective group of people who have gathered here, our whole profession, our curriculum decision makers, you can start to decide what works for you. And if a box is always empty and it's worrying you, then maybe you have to change it. But let's hear from Shona. And say Shona, do you use a paper thing, or are you using something online doing a bit of a digital thing?
So we do use the digital platform for like observations and learning stories, but we also have a paper form of that as well. You know, for staff who aren't as confident with using technology and are more comfortable with the paper based. And like Kelly said earlier, if you don't capture a photo, it's not to say that, that learning has been missed or it hasn't taken place. So that's another reason why we've decided to keep the paper form as part of our assessment. And we also use very similar to Kelly's I love how she's sectioned there into different little areas. Very similar to that, where the program goes into an A3 book. And it's the voices of all the educators, it's voices of families. I try and capture, the voices of children. So it's, child led and also has aspects of our adults led in there as well and community and family involvement.
And both of you have referenced the fact that you are quite responsive to what's going on. So Kelly, you've got a term frame, if you like. And then something that is more short-term. So a longer term and a short-term. Shona, would you have a set time that your program goes for, or your plan goes for, or do you say, well, maybe three weeks or sometimes it's two. And what do you do?
Well, I aim for two, so I do it fortnightly, but if I see a consistent, interest that's continuing or is showing up, I definitely don't change it just because it needs to be changed. It obviously continues, but yeah.
And Shona, what about your team coming together? How do you sort of support them to contribute to the plan?
Before I do the plan, I actually spend about half an hour to an hour in the room with the other educators. And we just discuss, what's been happening, where do we want to go to next? How are we going to get there? Is there anything in particular that I need to do or someone else needs to do to make it happen? And then from that, obviously draw on, you know, any notes and using the books as well while I'm writing the plan.
I guess, and Jane I'd love you to sort of chip in here. Cause I think there's some really good threads here. But for me one of the things that's really important here, maybe sometimes this has happened just through logistics. is that the planning sometimes and engaging in the assessment process has become a solitary process we do without consulting our colleagues. But maybe we've got to think about opening it up and saying, how do we bring more people into it? Children, families, educator, colleagues, to open it up a little bit and make it a bit more democratic. So how can we get more people to be involved in it? And it sounds Shona to me, that by having that preliminary conversation, what you end up producing in that assessment process is much more meaningful. Jane, do you want to just add a thought or two? Can you bring us back into that planning cycle again.
Shona and Kelly, you've just raised such rich practices it's been wonderful to hear about your work. And what's so clear is that it's a collective endeavour. And to me, I just get a really strong sense that you have a clear vision in your services that your assessment practices fit within your visions. You have a real sense of purpose. And Catharine as you were saying bringing everybody into that journey, which has a framework in place, but is organic and flexible enough for you to modify and change on the basis of emerging interests and children's learning over time. I think when we reflect on the early years planning cycle, at each stage, we can ask ourselves a set of questions. So we gather information, but who are the sources of our information? As Kelly, you yourself said, we are professionals. We use our professional knowledge and judgments when we're collecting information on children. We are one lens and an important lens. When we bring children's perspectives into the conversation our families perspectives into the conversation, we just develop a more nuanced understanding of children and how children learn and what that learning looks like in our context, but in contexts, other than our services as well. And I think that's a really rich process. And then that flows through the different phases of the early years planning cycle as well. So when you're engaging in those conversations around children's learning, you can then jointly develop learning goals. And then when you're interacting with children, children can engage with you there and that flows back to reflections, so it's a very rich process.
And in my reckoning, and again, Kelly, maybe you can start us off here is analysis for some people seems a bit tricky to do. How do you actually look at all the stuff you've got in that blue book and all the things maybe Shona you've got in the digital platform and how do you make sense of it all? So then you decide what you're going to put in your plan. And just a little heads up everybody, if you are connecting with other colleagues in your local community, it's great to share templates and tools and different ideas. So reach out to your local community and ask for different things, because that's been my experience. People share ideas and you can get inspiration from different people. So reach out to your colleagues in your community, But Kelly, how do you take all of your sticky notes and your bits and pieces that are in that blue book and how do you make sense of it all. So that you know what you're planning what's that bit there?
I think that's a really good point Catharine, as I said, when I started teaching, I possibly was writing more of what I was seeing. And some educators, that is what they need to do to take observations and maybe they have different levels of knowledge and understanding. And they might not be as familiar with the early learning frameworks that we are, and that, that's just as important. So an observation that a colleague takes that is exactly what she sees and then I would collate all of that into perhaps the summaries. I only do that at the end of second term when I'm about to have learning conversations, I will do a more formal summary of the child. And prior to that, there will be little steps along the way where I will look at the data and all of the observations and we will make goals collectively. That's generally, when we talk to our teaching team, we would say, this is what we're thinking around this child at the moment, challenging them in this way, or this could be our role in this goal. So then there's kind of little steps in assessments. So we've assessed where they'd come. If you had a child with separation anxiety, you might have all of these steps in place. So you can get to a point where the child is actually saying goodbye well to their family. So you can say in your assessment, we've met that goal. There'll be other goals like, I think in kindergarten in this age, we always talk about friendships. She's my friend, she's not my friend, they don't like me, they're not my best friend, they're not ready, they're not wearing the right clothes. All of those types of things. That goal, as Shona said will be a goal for the entire year. And perhaps for five, six years, maybe even adult.
And many of these goals we don't probably get to a stage where we say we've met that goal. And I think that's okay, we can say we've gone from here to here when we're assessing where a child's at. But in the social and emotional and learning dispositions, sometimes we won't meet the goals that we set. But I think as I've got more experienced, I think those goals are the most important. And perhaps when I started teaching, I was looking more at things that I could see concrete. Can they count to 10? Do they have a great grasp, do they climb over the A-frames correctly? You know, you look at tangible things that children can do that you can observe and then as you get experience, you're perhaps looking at goals that are a little bit more.
Complex is a good way to put it, yeah.
Because indeed children's learning is not always lineal and it's not always sort of lock step with their developmental age, for example. So there's lots of things going on there. Shona do you want to talk a little bit about your analysis process? How do you make sense of all the pieces that you collect?
So I'm still, open to learning and building my own knowledge as a teacher. So for me, I like to refer to the Early Years Framework and sort of read through that and pull out bits that I feel relate best to sort of, what was observed or what we've written about that child, just to link it through that way. But like Kelly said, you know, over time I might have a different way of doing it or I won't need to refer to the Framework to be able to analyse children's learning.
And Shona, in my introduction of you. We talked about your commitment to honouring children's cultural identity. So in your practice at Yappera culture's obviously a really important part of understanding how children are learning and growing. How do you use that to think about the material that you're collecting? So at...
We...Culture is embedded in our everyday practice. So we take on, sort of the ...the Bronfrenbrenner approach to, it takes a community to raise a child. So obviously taking all that into account as well.
And a like the fact that we're using different materials, like our cultural knowledge, what we know about our community, the people in our community to make sense of what's happening for individual children. We're touching base with families, we're using the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework. I can see you sitting there next to you and having a look and seeing, and hopefully lots of Victorian Early Years, Learning and Development Framework copies out there, which are slightly tattered because you've been looking at them so much. But I think those connections are really important. And I guess there's not one right way of analysing, but I can really hear some ideas there about how you do it. Maybe Jane, do you want to chip in here about some of the things that you just heard in terms of that analysis process?
Absolutely, thank you, Catharine. And I think it's very much about drawing meaning from your observations and I've heard both Kelly and Shona really refer to their own communities, to cultural knowledge, to knowledge generated by the children and the families themselves. And so that's really about what is the meaning of this in terms of what children are ready to learn. And that analysis process, I think often we do in our heads. And what I've loved hearing today is how that analysis process is really part of a conversation with many people, including colleagues and families and children. And I think that's a really rich and valuable process.
So we know that there's quite a number of people who are really keen to hear about some of the logistics as well. Like how do you do some of those other things? So I wonder whether Shona, you have a digital space that you work in? Do you also have some other sort of documents that you use? Can you just tell us a few more things about the documents? Do you have a book that you have in your room? A few of those sorts of logistics would be great. And do you have time to talk to your colleagues about some of those things?
Yeah, so we do have reflection books, we use notepads like paper forms of learning stories as well. And yeah, I think for what works in our kindergarten program is we're very big on communication. So communicating is probably our number one and then, obviously getting it to paper as well.
Yeah and speaking of which Shona, you regularly communicate information about the planning cycle to families through your digital platform, or do you do that with paper as well?
Mostly through paper, through COVID I have used the digital platform to share documentation, like the program plan and also communicate and reach out to families. Just to check in, share some play experience, some learning experiences, so that learnings, continued through COVID with some families isolating during these times.
Yeah, great, thanks Shona. And Kelly, what about you? Any sort of other logistical steps that you particularly think are important in terms of the planning cycle? And, we know that the documents you've shared with us, and some of the things you said of course, make up parts of the planning cycle. And some of them are a combination of parts of the planning cycle. But any other sort of logistical steps that you take that you think are worth noting?
We take time to critically reflect on our roles and how we see things that we've observed that have been really successful and those things we'd like to work on. You never stop learning. You never stop changing and growing. I think that's really important too, that you identify things that are going really well. Sometimes we look at the negative things in how can we change that? Do you know what, some things are working really really well.
Indeed and we should keep them shouldn't we Kelly, if they work well, keep doing them.
And you've done a great job and we do indoor outdoor during our program. So for example, yesterday I was outside for most of the day, except for a brief moment. So for me to say to the other team members well tell me what happened inside today. And even the next morning when we're sending up, oh, I wasn't inside much last session. So tell me what they were really interested in and what would you like to put out? So there's autonomy and I trust my colleagues. I trust their knowledge that they will set up things that are really important for children, or we leave tables sometimes and say to the children, what would you like out today? We also have quite a big foyer. We're pretty lucky that we have a big foyer. So we do have wall displays of some of the learning. At the moment we are looking at, our children are very interested in experimenting at the moment. So we have got a wall of some photos around experimentation that families can look at. And I've documented that with, we haven't got the children's voice yet it's coming, but I've got the terminology of the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework. Sometimes we send a text home to families. That just is something that's been really great that a child's achieved during the day, or they come to us sometimes now and say, can you send that to my family? So that's really nice way of just staying in touch. And I think I agree with you Shona, the conversations that we have are so important. And trusting our colleagues and building their knowledge and understanding as well.
And Kelly, I think the idea of having some displays and we heard again last week Dr. Sue Garvis was talking a little bit; Susie Garvis was telling us a little bit about some of the ways that documentation was visually available to some of the families in Sweden. But that is complimented so the things that are publicly on display is complimented by the things that are in that gorgeous blue book, which is like a big collection of observations and evidence about children's learning.
Yes and we also scan the diary or the reflective journal to send home to families so they can read it in their own time. It's the practice that we have done for some time, but COVID really made that more important because it couldn't be standing around reading the book. It takes out the children showing their families what they've been doing, but they can do that at home on the digital platform. So while we perhaps don't use the digital platform for communication in terms of a paid platform, we're still sending things home virtually and sustainability and keeping connected as much as they can.
And of course, in COVID, there's been lots of people who've using very different ways of doing things in relation to that. So a couple more questions before I'm passing over to Jane who's going to pull some threads together here. You mentioned Kelly before checklists. Can we just talk about that? Because I think there's some people in the chat who might go, I thought we weren't allowed to use checklists, Kelly, do you use checklists? And what are you using them for?
Occasionally we use checklists. They're not our main form of observation, but like I said, if you've got children that you just want to know how many children are left-handed? How many children are right-handed? How many children do you want to group together if you think they learn better a small group? Or who's interested in certain particular things? How high can they count? Do they know their shapes? It's not the be-all and end-all of--
Yeah and I think when we get to one of our main assessments in our transition statements at the end of the year, and you look through some of those things. And I think I have a really good picture of a child, and then I go, oh, that was a bit specific. So there's certainly not our main form of observation, but they are a quick snapshot on a tool sometimes that's important.
There's one question coming through. might you share those with families, a checklist?
In what sense?
Would you share that with families? Say if you're having a parent talk one of those meetings, would you share the checklist or would you summarise it rather, and share that with a family?
I'll probably saw it more in a newsletter or if a learning conversation, we might just jot it down. I think that one of the things that we are becoming a lot better at is sharing our knowledge in newsletter format, which is a form of assessment in itself. So that the newsletters actually really look at the learning well. I think we did talk a lot that the community and what happened last year, perhaps has influenced fine motor skill in our community, that children haven't engaged in a lot of gross motor skills last year. They didn't go to playgrounds, they didn't hang for a while, they didn't build their core strengths. So we've noticed that fine motor skills then can be challenging for some of the children, particularly this year. Other things that we would share with families that might've been a bit of a checklist in terms of oh we've got, noticed some things to do with grass, but hang on, let's go back to where are they at with their gross motor? Where are they at crossing their midlines? Where are they at in that sense?
And I think Kelly, it's a point you made earlier about using our professional voice to be able to summarise what we know about children and then share that in a meaningful way with families. What about you Shona? Do you use a checklist or two for some things?
Yeah, so we have used a checklist, but it was something that sort of came out of what we were sort of hearing from families. So it actually came out of when we're done our individual learning plan, sort of, families not being too sure whether their child was ready for school. And a lot of that impact was like what Kelly touched base on was due to COVID. So we've found that, the checklist has been reassuring for our families during these difficult times of COVID. So their like families get sort of a bigger picture as to where their children are at. And it's not to say, look, next year, our families might not need it or might not have those concerns. And that's where it comes back to, you know, really connecting with your families and getting to know what it is that they they need. And how are we going to share that information with them?
Very important advice, Shona. Speaking of which, as we start to wrap up, I wonder where the both of you Kelly and Shona can share a bit of advice for some of our people who are just at the beginning of their career, feeling a little bit overwhelmed at times. People who just need some new ideas, a bit of advice from yourselves. So Kelly, a bit of advice. What's the thing that you would say to the people here today about the task of assessment and how to make it work for you.
Be kind to yourself in terms of your time, make sure you're not double handling things. If you're taking a note, stick it in, don't feel like you have to type it up. Things don't have to look pretty. Reflect first on yourself and how you like to document and then talk to your team and work out what works best for your team. I know for some teams, digital documentation will well, and truly typing up on the iPads will well and truly meet their team's needs. But for us, it didn't and we found that if you had an iPad with observations, not all the team members were involved going back to handwriting. Everyone was involved. So that was really pertinent for our team in particular. So I think be kind to yourself, try things out if they work great. If they don't, don't take on every single thing. That's my advice. I think in childhood as a profession, we get new things. We take them all on and we don't let old practices go. We don't let certain things go, but it's okay to. That would be my advice.
Well I'm sure a whole lot of people are clapping now saying, oh, that's a really good idea. So Kelly does mean it though. Think about being kind and think about the things that work for you in your context. Shona, what about you. You're eight years into this work. So particularly, I'm not sure how long you've been working in early childhood might be longer than that. But your sense, some bit of advice for our participants.
I'd say, keep tracking along. Just be open to learning, and building that knowledge. And like Kelly said, be kind to yourself, talk to your colleagues, share the load. So it's not just, learning that you're taking on and then having to share with your team. Be involved in learning together and learning new strategies and adapting to it as well.
Great that you reminded us about keeping learning. And I really think that the ideas that you shared with us in terms of coming back to that Bronfrenbrenner idea in the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework, so that we can start to think about who is in our community. Because the knowledge we have comes from a particular place. So connecting with communities and hearing what they say about what they understand about children's learning is such an important thing in all communities. And there'll be lots of people who are joining us from particular communities where that matters a great deal. Thank you, Kelly and thank you Shona for your insights it's been fantastic. I think there's a lot of people who would just love to hang out with you and come and talk to you about what you're doing. So you never know you might meet them somewhere where we can catch up face-to-face. But Jane, you're going to pull some threads together and help us land all of these amazing contributions that we've had over these four webinars. So over to you, Jane.
Thank you, Catharine. And thank you, Kelly and Shona for such rich insights today, and for sharing your own assessment experiences, I think what you have really highlighted, and these are themes that have been raised across the series is how lucky we are in Victoria to have the VEYLDF. The VEYLDF is just such a wonderful resource that we can draw on as we reflect on and build our confidence in enacting assessment practices and how valuable that is. But what I've also really heard you discuss today is that as teachers, we are translating and enacting assessments in the context of our services and our communities. And so, we're working in a very particular context and that is an important part of the assessment journey. And I think also you've raised a whole range of questions that we've been reflecting on across the four webinars that we've had. And some of those questions include well, how does assessment for learning connect to our vision for young children and families aspirations for young children? Do we have a clear purpose as a team around assessment for learning? and that came through so clearly in your illustrations today that the importance and value of teamwork. And as you spoke I was really reflecting on how that provided agency for colleagues as well as for children. But then also what does meaningful and authentic assessment look like in the context of our services and who are the important sources of knowledge? We may draw on theory at times, but you've provided such rich illustrations of how you can connect with community, with families, with children to really build a holistic picture of children and a more sort of nuanced and multifaceted picture of children. I think you've also raised such important questions around the methods and the tools that we draw around to assess learning. And what I heard today is, what is the purpose? So you have your vision, you have your collected endeavor, and then how does this method, why would we be using it? And how does that support us to build that holistic picture of children? And then how does assessment shape our decision-making? I think you've really, again, provided such rich descriptions around who you collaborate with to build learning goals for children. To reflect on whether they're successful and then how that feeds back into conversations with families and with children. Another question I think that you've really highlighted this afternoon is the importance of tracking and monitoring the impact about assessment processes over time. And when you do that, you build a sense of how children's learning has progressed across the year and how important that is. And then of course, how do assessment practices shape our own collaborative efforts and that could include efforts within the team, but also our collaborations with families and children. And what I really felt in your own illustrations was this really strong sense of collective endeavor. And what I also loved about what you shared with us today, about how these conversations around the challenges and the successes we have through enacting the early years planning cycle and through our broader assessment endeavors. Is that it builds our own professional knowledge and understanding and I think what is so key to this process, which you both reinforced so often is well, I'm open to learning and I continue to learn as an adult in this journey. So I think these are such exciting and meaningful questions that go to the heart, Catharine, for why we're here advancing young children's learning and development and making that difference in the first years of life.
And of course, where you started us off in the conversation around honouring children's rights. Their right to be learners and to be able to actively participate in the early childhood education and care context that they are a part of. So thank you so much, Jane, for your wisdom and your thoughts about this. I think there's many people here who are going to take lots of the ideas that you summarised for as a way to start thinking about and implementing in their own practice. Thank you so much, Kelly, thank you so much, Shona. You're getting lots of lovely rounds of applause from all of our colleagues. And I'd like to thank all of the people who have taken the time to be a part of this. We know that it's a really busy time. There's lots of things happening and your commitment to continuing your own learning in this space is to be commended. We also want to thank all of the team who've brought this together. There's a lot of work in the background to make these webinars possible. So thank you very much to the DET team and the Early Childhood Australia team for making these webinars possible. So now of course, it's time for you to go back and start these conversations in your own settings. Reflect with your colleagues, plan for the future. Think about which ideas might resonate for you. Perhaps you might hold a reflection conversation, or review conversation with your colleagues to consider which ideas you really like, which ones you'd like to challenge yourself, to implement in 2022. Start to think about talking to families about what they think is meaningful. Perhaps you might have a look at all the tools that you use and have a discussion about which ones are working very well and which ones don't work so well. Revisit some ones perhaps that you've put aside and you might want to reconnect with. You might also want to identify the ones that you might like to perhaps discontinue that you think, taking Kelly's advice is to say, maybe there are things we should discontinue cause they don't work for us as well. They don't track the distance travelled as strongly as we might need to. Some of you also might want to go back to the source documents. You might want to revisit things like the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework, the law and the regulations, your local policies, make sure that there's a conversation happening about how these ideas connect with each other. Making sure that your decisions are really evidence-focused and they are sound and strong in their underpinning theory and the connections that they have to say that for example, the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework and the National Quality Standard. Hopefully what this has done is illuminates some space, make some space in your thinking for assessment. You've heard from Shona and Kelly today about all the thinking they've done all the revision and all the machinations in their local contexts. And you can also hear how proud they are of those great discussions that they have and how much that's included their colleagues. So please continue to think with each other about that process. You might also want to do some more research and maybe spark some ideas and thinking, I want to do some more thinking about what other people are doing. So reach out to your local community, use the networks that you have available to you. Thank you so much for joining us and we wish you all the best.