Most of my life I have been surrounded by children especially my cousins, nieces and nephews. I have chosen to go into this field because I want to be one of those early childhood teacher that get children ready for important part of life. Having little cousins to watch growing up as well my own children and see them grow in their early education has shown me that I want to be part of that. I love the thought of being the first person to get the children started with their education by helping them along the way with fun filled classroom activities and games.
The early childhood are the most vital time for learning, therefore observations, assessments, planning and evaluation are an important part of the curriculum for children’s learning and within early childhood centres and teaching practices. These all work in correlation to support learning for children. These terms will be discussed in this essay, along with appropriate teaching strategies to support children’s learning in the physical, temporal and interpersonal aspects for an optimal learning environment.
Observations serve a number of purposes. When reflected on the planning cycle observation which can be termed under the heading of ‘notice’. Observations help us learn about the children in centres, how centre programmes work and to gather information about children’s learning. To narrow it down it is the foundation of assessment, planning and evaluation (Penrose, 1998). It is important that consideration to ethics is apparent, and that consent has been granted, so the rights of those being observed are respected when conducting observation.
The word ‘observes’ can be interpreted in which it is important that teachers need to decide what to observe and weather to be subjective or need to be objective (Penrose, 1998). Formal observations include, anectodal, running record, time sampling is defined as being an objective observation. Informal observations is “something that happens from minute to minute as adults work with young children, and provides a sound basis for the planning to meet the learning needs of young children” (Hamer, 1999, p. 3). In order to help teachers understand how children in their centres grow, change and develop, it is important that the records must be accurate and the child’s and parents ‘voice’ is also listened to (Penrose, 1998). Observations help teachers to develop awareness and objectivity which helps teachers with the children and create quality in centres. Documentation leads higher learning and helps to support the child’s individual interests and learning styles.
Observations also give parents an insight into their child’s interest and development within an early childhood environment (Penrose, 1998). The term assessment is referred to as the process of noticing children’s learning, recognising its significance and responding to ways that teachers can foster their learning further (Ministry of Education [MoE], 2004b). Assessment helps to enhance a child’s chance of becoming a successful learner. When reflecting this into the planning cycle it comes under the heading of ‘recognise’ (MoE, 2004a).
Formative assessment is described as informing learning and carrying on from what has been seen when children are assessed to inform and provides feedback to teachers and families on what the child can do and what they are ready to learn next (Davis, 2002). Assessment can also be regarded as being informal which can be decisions that are made on day to day base, when working with children. When linking observation to assessment, different areas can be analysed and different methods can be used depending on what the objective is that one is doing the observation for (Davis, 2002).
Assessments are important to the early childhood settings as it helps to identify interests, strengths, challenges and barriers in all different areas that need addressing and areas where changes might be needed. It also helps to address issues that may require further professional help or assistance. It is important that the concept of scientific and social-cultural perspective are taken into consideration, so that children’s learning are fostered (Davis, 2002). In the planning cycle, the planning characteristic can be reflected into the ‘respond’ section of it.
There are two different planning styles that can be use, the DOPS planning cycle (MoE, 1998) or the progressive filters which is notice, recognise, respond and possibilities (MoE, 2004a). In the planning the environment is viewed as the foundation of the child’s learning. Te Whariki defines planning as “helping adults who work in early childhood education to understand what young children are learning, how the learning happens, and the role that both adults and other children play in such learning” (MoE, 1996, p. 28). Observations have a very important role in lanning for the child, as the observation shows a lot about a child and what their interests are, which can help to determine the ‘what next’ characteristic to extend children interests. Observations help teachers to plan in regards to what they have seen (MoE, 1996). It helps to create an environment that facilitates the children’s learning, so that they can get the optimal benefits in regards to what they are interested in. It also indicate what may not be working in the centre therefore the teachers can plan to improve, or take it out or do something else.
Planning is important because this reflects on the children’s learning and should be a continuous process (MoE, 1996). It is important that the planning also involves working in collaboration with the children, family and whanau, which is outlined in the contribution strand of Te Whariki. An observation is of limited use until it has been evaluated and also depending on what one wants to find from the observation which will determine how the evaluation takes place (Penrose, 1998).
The evaluation and reflection cycle are part of an observation and planning cycle which is important as it helps one to improve their own practice and child’s learning. Evaluation can open eyes to issues that may have not been addressed that should be, to help improve environments or can identify things that do and do not work well such as human relationships both adults and children, children’s learning, the curriculum and other situations (MoE, 1998).
The word evaluation means “the process of using assessment information and other data to review the quality and effectiveness of programmes, in order to make decisions about change” (MoE, 1996, p. 99). Evaluation can also be done by working in collaboration with parents, by having a parent’s voice which will help to provide opportunities to make decisions or offer other point of views on situations.
Teachers can also use reflections as a tool for their own development and documentations for their learning which they could use to help scaffold themselves as teachers (MoE, 1996). Strategies that teachers could implement within their centre and ensuring that observation, planning, assessment and evaluation environmental factors are important to include, reflect upon and consider children’s learning can be extended from one level to another level in which Vygotsky labelled it as ‘scaffolding’ (Nixon & Aldwinckle, 2003).
Vygotsky’s social-cultural theory emphasize the importance of educators in supporting and challenging a child’s development and interactions with social world which can be done through observation in which the child experiences the environment including people, places and things in a holistic manner (Nixon & Aldwinckle, 2003). This can also linked to Bronfenbrenner’s ecology human development theory, which can be reflected on the learner engaging in their environments, the immediate relationships between children and adults in the environment and the social beliefs and morals about care and education in early childhood settings (MoE, 1996).
For teachers to support children’s learning it is important to have quality child care centres to create an optimal learning environment which include physical, temporal and interpersonal aspects to provide a family like atmosphere where children will feel sense of belongings and parents will have more confidence to send their child’s to the centres (Whitehead & Ginsberg, 1999).
The strategies for physical environment can be created in both indoor and outdoor area in the centre where teachers should consider the layout of the room such as, is there enough space and equipment for children to explore, ensure that the environment is set up to facilitate individuals and an environment that offers learning experiences (MagNaughton & Williams, 2009) and also by creating a comfortable and warm spaces in the room for the child to have they own quiet time after a group activities for most of their day (Whitehead & Ginsberg, 1999).
Besides that outdoor spaces should be created in such a way that is more homely by including more natural materials where children will have the opportunities to explore and learn more about trees, gardening and water the plants in safe and nurturing environment (Whitehead & Ginsberg, 1999). Temporal environment is very important in children’s learning environment and teachers should have positive attitudes in setting time and routine. During transition where a child transition from home to centre, teachers should ive the child a specific time to adjust in the new environment and discuss with parents about the child’s rearing strategies, needs and routines to allow the transition to run smoothly (Whitehead & Ginsberg, 1999). Teachers can also use different strategies to create lively environment for example, if the weather is fine teachers can take some of the indoor materials outdoor for a change of routine at appropriate times and consider child’s interest and parents view to the changes which does not affect the centres daily routines (Oliver & Klugman, 2005).
Interpersonal relationship should have “family like programs include elements that focus on the environment, children and families. The atmosphere emphasizes a caring concern for individuals and encourages positive child-child, adult-adult and child-adult and parents interaction” (Whitehead & Ginsberg, 1999, p. 5). Te Whariki stated in exploration that children not only build relationship with human but also with natural environment, things and learn through responsive and reciprocal relationships which will give them more opportunities for social interaction with teachers, parents and whanau (MoE, 1996).
In conclusion observations are important to early childhood settings, as they contribute to children’s learning and development. The assessment, planning and evaluation context all work in correlation to aid in getting the best result to enhance and facilitate the child’s learning in the best way possible in a socio-cultural environment, to support further the children’s learning which means that the children’s care can be both optimal and of full quality. REFERENCE LIST Davis, K. (2002). ‘It’s evolving overtime’: Some reflections on shifts in assessment practices through the voices of infant toddler practitioners.
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