Part 1. Assessment for intentional teaching
Part 2. Introducing assessment practices
Part 3. Gathering information about children’s learning
Part 4. Multiple perspectives
Part 5. Learning stories
Part 6. Narrative assessment techniques
Part 7. Responding with intentionality
Part 8. Assessment and intentional teaching in daily practice


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In this part of the course, we look at the importance of gaining multiple perspectives on the raw observation and assessment data that you collect in order to inform intentional teaching. When making assessments, it is important to gain the perspectives of other teachers in your teaching team, as well as those of the family and the child themselves, as this enables us to develop more secure assessment judgments (validity) or at least acknowledges and creates space for alternative interpretations (uncertainty). 

In this part of the course, we are aiming to: 
  • Understand how and why to use multiple perspectives to increase the validity of assessments
  • Learn how and why to involve other people in assessment practices
This will involve:
  • Watching a video in which Lorraine Manuela discusses the importance of collaborative approaches to assessment
  • Listening to a podcast about involving others in assessment
  • Engaging in a reflective conversation with a colleague to generate another perspective on the learning you observed in the last part of the course
  • Reading about involving parents and whānau in the assessment process
  • Putting your learning into practice by gaining more perspectives on the learning you have captured in your learning story

There are also links to develop your understandings around working in partnership with others in our further reading section, and the opportunity to discuss different ways of getting family perspectives on children’s learning with other participants in the online forum.

Revisit your learning so far

How many different observation and assessment tools or techniques can you name?

Observation and assessment tools include running-record observation, time-sampling, event-sampling, video, Go-Pro video, and progression scales or profiles.

In the previous part of the course, we talked about the importance of having a variety of sources of data or information about children’s learning, in order to develop high quality assessments that then feed into highly effective intentional teaching. Alongside this, it is important that we seek a variety of interpretations of our data, to ensure that we have considered a range of possibilities as to the meaning of what we have observed and the information we have collected. Seeking other interpretations can often lead us to new evidence about children’s learning. When there are a variety of sources of information confirming the same strengths, interests and achievements for a child, and a range of people important to the child, and possibly the child him or herself, agreeing that these strengths, interests and achievements are evident, we can be much more confident in our assessment outcomes. As you will note, all of the expert interviews in this course reiterate the importance of collaborative approaches to assessment practice.

Watch a video

In this video, Lorraine Manuela discusses the practices she and her team use for assessment and intentional teaching at Tots Corner in Auckland. Lorraine has been teaching in the early childhood sector for many years, working with children and teachers in a number of professional roles. She is the director of Tots Corner ELC, where she and her teachers are actively engaged in action research within a socio-cultural context. Lorraine believes that early childhood settings, teachers, and leaders have a profound responsibility to cultivate a culture of play and inquiry that builds upon children’s dispositions to question and research as they pursue connections and meaning.

What forms of assessment do you use at Tots Corner?

We use a variety of ways of assessing children. I don't believe that there is ever one way of doing anything; that we have to be conscious of having multiple ways of viewing children. And Te Whāriki tells us it's about making what we value, making the learning visible. What value that we place on, and that’s a subjective thing. Children soon come to know and realise when you are taking photos, when you were writing their words down, or making a short video clip. Children will come and say ‘You need to write this down’ or ‘You need to get the photos of those’ or ‘Can we take photos of this?’  So, they know the context within where they are working is of value, and it provides those multiple opportunities for us to observe children.  I think we can't be assessing unless we are really observing children. We know that they begin to understand, they come to know in multiple ways, so we have to be flexible in our thinking of how they come to know, how do they begin to understand different things?  How do they negotiate learning if we are not truly listening to children?  

So, I guess the short answer is we share photos, we have video clips, we do blogs. Each of our three rooms in the centre blog their families several times a week. We do write learning stories and we work in collaboration with families. 

I don't know that we can ever, and I suspect that maybe it's hard, maybe it’s a nerve thing, but I don't know that we ever engage with families in the way that Te Whāriki suggests that we should. It clearly states that we should be in dialogue with our families, who knows the child best, the family - the mum and the dad and the whānau, more so than us. I think they see a different perspective than what we see as the teacher - the way we view the child. So, it’s really important that we have that dialogue and in quite a bit of depth to really understand the learning that we want to make visible, and how they see that as being visible.  

So, assessment, for us it's about observing and interpreting and then documenting and then reflecting. I don't know that it's a wise practise to ever do that singularly.  I think that we know that we can learn so much on our own, but collaboratively, in a group we can learn even more. And I think as teachers we always need to be consulting and sharing in dialogue and asking each other how they've seen things, how they are perceiving this child.  To be to be doing things alone I don't know gives a true picture of the value of the learning that you're trying to make visible.

What do you consider to be the important elements in a learning story or other forms of pedagogical documentation?

We need to think about what we value. So, whenever we record, whatever photos we take, whatever words we write, whatever piece of document we start to write, we're making a value judgement.  It's completely subjective about what we value to take out and to write about, or think about, or share.  So those things we need to be looking at - observation and then observing that, really thinking about that, reflecting back on it, and looking then at the new possibilities that we are offering children.

How do you use assessment documentation to support intentional teaching and ongoing planning at your centre?

We believe everything we do in the centre is intentional.  Whether it's in a very relaxed way or whether it's a little bit more in a formal situation, but everything must be intentional for the child. There must be intellectually rigorous opportunities set up and be available for children to engage. And everything Te Whāriki talks about – to explore, to investigate, to be curious – all those dispositions. To communicate with others.  If there is just a lump of playdough with some sprinkles around it on the table, how intellectually rigorous is that?  What opportunities is that offering children to really think and be engaged and come to know, to understand the whole process of learning?  

We have a cockroach named Barry who joined the centre several weeks ago and it's interesting in that the children aren’t in the slightest bit interested in knowing about the physiology of the cockroach and the science of the cockroach. They want to know how will his mummy know where he is? Does he have a sister that might be looking for him? So, they are anthropomorphising. They are giving them human emotions. They are trying to understand. 

For the last couple of years, we've been looking at the notion of self with all ages from our babies to our five year olds: how do children build self-identity? Some of the ways they do that is through animals, through insects, playing in nature and working with clay. What stories do they tell, and where do these stories come from?  The monarch butterflies are classic: often teachers want to dive into the life cycle of the butterfly because the monarchs are out, and we've got the caterpillar and the chrysalis. But in fact, our children didn't want to know that at all. They were anthropomorphising - they wanted to know: did it have a family? Were all monarch butterflies on the tree from the one family? And what if another butterfly from another tree came? The depth of thinking in those questions was really significant for us and they wanted to know: where did they fly? So, they got on the net and they found that they fly tens of thousands of miles to South America, some in clusters. So some really interesting information that took off with particularly some of the older children, and the parents wanting to know, as opposed to the life cycle of the butterfly. 

If you're very intentional, and I don't believe that we can ever be intentional in our teaching if we aren’t truly listening. And I know people that know me will go ‘Here she goes again, harping on about the pedagogy of listening’.  But how can we do any of that if we really aren’t listening to children? We can't set up opportunities that are exciting for them if we're not listening to what they're talking about, where we think we might be able to move that to. What other opportunities could we take? 

So, for us, our planning, often we have an overarching hypothesis that we might be looking at like: our children, the stories they tell around this notion of self, and then we might have a number of  threads that run through that. And our older children go to the ngahere - to the bush - once every week so they have been looking at all sorts of things and sharing stories around it, but weaving it back to themselves and their families.  We have now got Barry the cockroach in the centre and they are weaving those into different stories about themselves and families. So, if we are not listening, we are not huge at pre-planning things. Sometimes we do and there are times for that but there is also not enough time in the day to waste webbing out big plans that never happen because if we are listening to children we don't know where they might be navigating.  We might have an idea of where we might end up but the roads take twists and turns and bumps and who knows?

How do you engage with parents and whānau around assessment?

We are very conscious at drop off and pick up times to have quick chats.  We are quickly engaging with how the children are - how their night has been.  We do it more through trying to have in-depth conversations with families and taking their cue from them.  You know when they are hanging around sometimes, and there needs to be some kōrero. We are very comfortable for parents of young infants to phone our teachers at work, we are often phoning and texting and taking photos: ‘look he's settled really well even though he was screaming when you left. This is him ten minutes later’. And they send a photo and text to a mum, who replies back, and the teacher might say: ‘Call me, if you can give me a call at lunchtime, we can chat more’.  We encourage families when they are on holiday or in the weekend to send photos into the centre. We will print and share them at our morning meeting about what children have been doing, and put them into their portfolio, to try to build that real commitment of true dialogue with each other. It's never easy and people say there's never enough time, but there's never enough time for anything in teaching - you have to make the time - you have to find time in the day to do those things.

Are there any other thoughts that you would like to share with us about assessment? 

Just don't be stuck on one way of ever doing things. Don't think that it's okay to be locked away in a teacher’s room for an hour to produce one or two stories if that's the only means of assessment that you do. Share at staff meetings. Talk about writing stories and share these beautiful photos that make the learning visible but do it in collaboration with colleagues. There are always multiple ways to see.  I love seeing children constructing with blocks and shapes and different things and loose parts in the construction area. And my science head immediately sees height to weight distribution, balance, I see physics - I think all these guys are amazing and they are three!  Whereas another teacher will look at it and go ‘That's beautiful, look at the artistry there, it’s balanced, they have used beautiful colours - they are coordinated!’  We all see things with different eyes - our lenses are different, so I think when we are writing and when we are assessing children, we need to do that collaboratively because our lenses are so different.

Delve deeper

Lorraine affirms the importance of getting multiple perspectives in assessing children’s learning. She suggests that this is enabled when teachers have multiple ways of assessing children, and when they collaborate with others to assess learning. Lorraine reminds us that assessment is always subjective, and that each teacher has their own unique and individual lens, which means that they look at learning in different ways. The families and whānau also have their own, very different, perspectives, and will know the child really well, which is of great benefit to the assessment process. Bringing these different perspectives together is very powerful, and Lorraine suggests that, in fact, this is the most ethical way that we can approach early childhood assessment. She is very cautious of approaches in which teachers spend time alone in an office producing learning stories. Getting multiple perspectives requires plenty of opportunities and time for in-depth dialogue. This means making time to discuss photos and videos in teaching teams, with families, and with children, which can be as valuable a means of assessing as producing a learning story. 

At Tots, assessment is seen as a process of observing, interpreting, documenting, and reflecting on learning. The documents produced are not merely for providing families with information about their children but are living documents, used for the purpose of thinking about and trying to understand children’s learning better. The teachers observe children’s play and come up with hypotheses about what children are thinking and learning about, which they use to connect with further experiences. We’ll learn more about making hypotheses later in the course.

Lorraine stresses observation as crucial to the assessment process. She makes the point that we can’t assess children unless we truly observe them, really listening to what they think and learn about and how they go about negotiating that learning. She gives the example of noting an interest in cockroaches or monarch butterflies. Where a common response might be to discuss butterfly life cycles or look at the physiology and habitats of cockroaches, in her centre, as a result of genuinely listening to children, teachers discovered and supported children’s interest in anthropomorphising these creatures (giving them human characteristics) and relating them to concepts of family and self. Having a strong understanding of children’s interests and thinking in relation to particular topics enables Lorraine’s teaching team to offer exciting, and highly intentional, ‘intellectually rigorous’ opportunities. Experiences are not often pre-planned, as the teachers want to listen to and be responsive to the trajectories children are navigating. This makes the practice of listening to children crucial for enabling teachers to be highly intentional in responding to children.


This podcast covers some of the key ideas about involving others in assessment, and particularly who to involve and why, and offers teachers some practical tips.

We can never be totally sure in our judgements about children’s learning. In early childhood, children’s learning and development is often unpredictable, it might not be well-consolidated and it might fluctuate in different contexts and in different relationships. This means it is better to get multiple interpretations about children’s learning so we can reflect some of this inconsistency and uncertainty in our assessments. Assessments that are written by one teacher and include only that teacher’s interpretation of the learning event also raise issues of validity. This is because we write and make judgements from our own perspective which is shaped by our own context, history and culture. Seeking other perspectives and being open to alternative perspectives and vocabularies for describing children’s learning can help us to open up our thinking beyond our own situated perspectives.

In order to develop a more robust and reliable analysis of learning, it is important to integrate different voices in the assessment process. This means asking other people for their opinions and interpretations! Getting these other perspectives not only help you in assessing children’s learning, but they also make assessment and planning a more inclusive and democratic process that can be more responsive to the individuals involved. One of the best ways to gain the perspectives of other teachers in your teaching team, and those of the family and the child themselves, is through sharing raw assessment data, or a partially written learning story without analysis. This is because it is much harder to invite shared thinking with others when the analysis is already complete. Our next few tasks focus on getting feedback about your assessment data from different groups.

The best way to get feedback and additional perspectives on the learning you have observed is to share your initial observation notes, photos, or perhaps (if you are in the process of writing a learning story) just the description part of your story, with a range of people who know the child well, and with the child if appropriate, and find out how they interpret these events. Below, we look a bit more closely at why and how we should gain the perspectives of families.


Read this short piece offering ideas about how to involve whānau and children in the assessment process.

Involving parents and whānau in the assessment process

Active parent and whānau engagement in assessment practice is very powerful in terms of helping you to understand children more deeply and better support their learning. Learning with and from families to gain a deep knowledge of children’s strengths, interests, family and community activities enables you to create links to these within the programme and to provide children with continuity in their learning and expectations. Working in partnership with parents enables you to support children in connecting their home and school experiences, which enables deep learning. There are many ways to support parent and whānau involvement in assessment practice, including:

  • Using email, diaries, displays, information evenings, photos on slideshow, and parent interviews, as well as daily conversations, to share information about children’s activities and what they are learning at the centre. 
  • Ensuring that assessment documentation is easily accessible. This means ensuring documentation is easy to find and use but also that it is relevant, meaningful, and easy to comprehend.
  • Using children’s and families first languages when possible. 
  • Regularly inquiring into family aspirations for children’s learning, and allowing this understanding to influence what you notice and focus on as learning. Families and whānau will then be more likely able and willing to participate in assessments and make links to children’s home experiences and cultural contexts. 
Involving children in the assessment process

Learning stories offer children an opportunity for reflection and self-assessment, which is really important for developing children’s metacognition (an ability to reflect on their thinking and learning, in terms of how they learn and what they know). Revisiting previous experiences and recalling their ideas and theories can help children to remember the thread running through their learning, and can motivate continued exploration. This can help children to dig deeper into a concept, or develop deeper investigations. Learning stories might be specifically written to help children to examine their own thinking and the thinking of others related to a topic or activity. They can also stimulate children’s interest and curiosity about each other’s learning, interests, problems and strategies.

When learning stories are shared with children, teachers can invite children to comment on their own learning. As well as supporting metacognition, gaining the child’s perspective on their learning enables teachers to recognise children’s intentions and interests in order to co-construct curriculum with children. This means that curriculum will reflect children’s interests. The concept of co-construction requires that teachers support children to develop the skills they need for planning and executing their own learning trajectories. These are skills such as reflecting on their current thinking and understanding (metacognition), and different skills for inquiry and creative work such as testing ideas, and revising products.  

The following list provides some ideas for gaining children’s perspectives.

  • Provoke children’s narratives, conversations and explanations about their learning experiences by looking at photographs or art work. Use PowerPoint slides or photo presentations to construct an open-ended story, then ask children for their comments and about what might happen next.
  • Invite children to create their own learning stories by choosing photographs and dictating words.
  • Ask questions that encourage children to discuss and think further, for example, such as asking them to think about how they might develop an idea or skills. For example, would they like to keep their insects a little longer next time to study them? What would they need to be able to do so? 
  • Include older children in setting goals and in planning next steps for their learning journey. Acknowledge the goals children set for themselves, use them as a basis for spontaneous and formal planning, and indicate through your feedback how children are doing.
  • Make opportunities for children to make judgements about their achievements. Use materials and resources to provide points of reference with which children can assess their achievements, for example you might refer to earlier assessments in their portfolios to help children compare their current ability or performance with that of a previous time. 

To read the full version of this research review, with references, click here.

Relate your learning to practice

Let’s now get some additional perspectives for the analysis of your observed learning event. There are two parts to this activity, as you are going to seek the perspectives of both a colleague and a family member. Optionally, you might also like to share some of your assessment data with the child or children for their perspective too. 

  1. Colleague perspectives. Use a reflective conversation with a colleague to generate more ideas for interpreting the assessment data you have collected. Share the observation data (video, photos and notes) without your analysis and ask them for their thoughts about the learning that is occurring and their particular interpretation of the learning that is happening. What other knowledge or understanding about this child and family, or about the context of learning, does their interpretation add to your growing understanding of this learning event?
  2. Family perspectives. Work through the following steps to invite families’ perspectives on the learning that is happening or the next steps.
    • Select the most appropriate way (specific to that family) to share this information. This might be through sending home a paper copy of the documentation with some written questions, emailing the description of the story and asking questions, using an online portfolio communication system, or chatting face-to-face. 
    • Share the raw observation data (a video, set of photos, or observation notes) with families to find out their interpretation of the learning. Sometimes families can be discouraged from adding their own interpretation after reading a more polished analysis from the teacher.
    • Invite a general comment with questions such as ‘what do you think of this we’ve observed about your child?’ as well as specific questions that invite parents and whānau to analyse and plan for learning. The latter might include ‘What abilities do you see your child developing here?’, ‘Why do you think your child is so interested in dinosaurs?’, and ‘Does this connect with anything your child has been doing at home?’ (although don’t overload parents with questions though, as one or two carefully designed questions is enough!) 
    • Make time for a follow-up conversation or dialogue with families in which you respond to their comments and ideas (particularly if your interaction is not face-to-face).
  3. Child perspectives. If appropriate, you might also like to explore the ideas from the reading about involving children in the assessment process and getting their perspective.  


Here are the important points to take away from this part about analysing children’s learning:

  • Reflection on learning can be aided when you gain the perspectives of others, including other teachers, families and children. This enables you to develop more secure judgements or open up a space for alternative interpretations, both of which enhance the validity of your assessment. Different perspectives also help to present children’s abilities as shifting and fluctuating over time and context.
  • Active parent and whānau engagement in assessment practice helps you to understand children more deeply and to support their learning with increased continuity and connection across children’s diverse contexts.
  • Children’s self-assessment and reflection on their learning is really important for developing their metacognition and for encouraging children to extend on learning. Involving children in assessment practice can also support the co-construction of curriculum with children.

Discuss online

What are the different ways that you invite parents and whānau to contribute to assessment practice and planning for children’s learning? What works well in your setting? You can discuss these questions in the online forum for this part of the course.

Further reading

Read this article by Sue Werry, Eric Hollis, and Roberta Skeoch which explores how offering families unanalysed observation data improved whānau contribution to the assessment process in one ECE centre.

Learn more about validity and reliability in assessment in this Education Hub guide, or browse our general guides to parent partnership here and here.