Learning stories are an assessment approach in early childhood education which reflect the complexity of children’s learning and development and how it is positioned in the context of their interactions with people, places and things.
A learning story is an observation that is reinterpreted as a story, then analysed and used as the basis for planning. It describes and analyses learning moments which seem significant for a child, and uses these to trace the trajectory of the child’s learning and the pattern of their learning dispositions. Several consecutive narratives can be pieced together for a fuller picture of learning.
Learning stories are particularly suited to early childhood education as they provide qualitative and interpretive methods of documentation that focus on capturing the learner and his or her achievements in the contexts of relationships and environments. Learning stories are therefore better able to assess multifarious and non-predetermined outcomes, such as learning dispositions.
While there is some research suggesting that learning stories positively impact families’ and children’s involvement in assessment processes, transition to school, and children’s learner identities, there is a lack of research contrasting learning stories with other assessment approaches to determine their relative strengths and weaknesses and relate their use to children’s learning outcomes. Learning stories have sometimes been critiqued because of the time and skill needed to create effective stories, and for their strengths-based focus which obscures learning needs.
Puzzle over the meaning of an observation with children and families.
Suggest new challenges that involve transferring learning to a new context, taking on a new responsibility, strengthening a disposition, extending knowledge or skills, or revisiting and improving a product.
Carry identified interests, skills and knowledge into subsequent narratives.
Review portfolios periodically to determine whether assessments demonstrate the breadth of children’s learning and development and document progress and increased complexity over time.
Do you use learning stories to analyse children’s learning progression and consider how the environment and interactions have contributed to learning?
Do you record changes made to environments and interactions as a result of learning story analyses?
How often are families invited to participate in interpretation and planning from learning stories?
How do learning stories help teachers to get to know children really well, to recognise activities and experiences likely to interest children, and to respond to their interests, strengths and cultural knowledge?
In what ways are learning stories used to inform teaching interactions that challenge children’s thinking and extend their learning and abilities?
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