The Learning Outcomes – read the small print!

Many educators record assessments of children’s learning using the headings Identity, Contribution and connection, Wellbeing, Communication and Confidence as a learner. While it definitely makes sense to use the Early Years Learning Framework and Frameworks for School Aged Care Learning Outcomes as a focus, I’m not convinced that simply repeating what’s in the Frameworks is very useful in 2015.

By now surely all educators have at least a general idea of the meaning of the Learning Outcomes. Most will have moved on to explore the nuances and detail in particular Outcomes, helped by using the many resources available.3.1

If I were an Authorised Officer, I would want to see and hear evidence that educators’ understanding extends beyond the headings. There is limited value in simply matching words and phrases in the Frameworks and observations of children’s behaviour.

I would also look for evidence of thoughtful analysis and interpretation of observations, analysis that borrows from details in the Learning Outcomes and other parts of the Frameworks. In other words, I’d want evidence that educators understand the content, not just that they had memorised the headings.

An example: A toddler takes the hand of a one year old as she arrives, walks her over to the basket that has her photo and name on it, removes her hat, puts it in the basket, and says ‘Hat off inside’.

It’s not very helpful to write down the words identity, contribution to the world (or Learning Outcomes 1 and 2), literacy, agency or belonging, or to copy all the relevant text from the Frameworks in relation to this event. It isn’t true that the more you write the better. Quality, not quantity, matters. One good insight is probably much more valuable than repeating what’s in the Frameworks or collecting lots of photographs.

The quality of assessments lies largely in the analysis or interpretations arising from educators’ critical reflection about what they see and hear.

The point is to write down what’s important, what you really see and hear, and why it’s worth recording.

In addition, if I were an Authorised Officer I’d also want evidence that assessments of children’s learning inform program planning directly – inform the child’s whole experience, including their interactions and conversations with educators and daily routines. Planning for the child’s whole experience, not just particular activities or times of the day needs to be based on deep understanding of the child. That’s the reasons for assessments.

Do you think that by now educators are familiar with the broad intent of the Learning Outcomes? What’s the evidence for your answer?

What benefits and risks arise from encouraging educators to avoid simply repeating what’s in the Frameworks in their documentation?

Might focusing on recording thoughtful insights and analyses of what you think children are learning both improve the quality and reduce the amount of documenting you do?

How can educators be encouraged to move to deeper analysis of children’s learning and more insightful and helpful records to support planning?

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Anne Stonehouse

Anne Stonehouse AM lives in Victoria and works as a consultant, writer and facilitator of professional learning in early childhood. She has published many books, articles and other resources for educators and parents. Her main professional interests are the nature of good quality curriculum for babies and toddlers and family-educator relationships in early learning settings. She was a member of the writing team in the Charles Sturt University-based consortium that developed the national Early Years Learning Framework. She is currently engaged in a number of projects related to the national and Victorian Frameworks.

7 thoughts on “The Learning Outcomes – read the small print!”

    Rachel says:

    I agree, and as an Educational Leader I encourage my educators to make meaningful documentation that looks beyond the great tower a child built, and looks more closely at what the child is building inside – their resilience, their leadership, the power within the group etc. It can be difficult for trainees to look past the amzing things that children do, and be able to comment on what it is that made it amazing. It is also challenging for educators who are ‘old school’ to change their documenting ways. I think education is a key factor in understanding what to look for. As educational leader, it is my job to re-educate old school educators and influence trainees. I also think that the unessesary use of take home portfolios influences documentation too much. I have found educators document what they feel ‘looks good’ to parents, and shows off their teaching and experiences, rather than being passive observation of what the child is trying to achieve on his/her own, and gaining a true and honest sense of the natural child. It is also an uphill battle to find time to document meaningfully aswell as intrravt meaningfully and undisturbed by photography and scribbling diwn notes, aswell as meet ratio particularly in organisations that prioritise profit over meaningful and authentic documentation and planning. Even with new ratios in place, educators are not any more freed up. It just means more children to pay for the extra staff, or staff loose their job. Argh the contant struggle of this industry. It definitely runs on good hearts.

    Karen Austin says:

    we need to look more at learning dispositions the in depth underlying learning, but this will come with time.

    Liza Corrigan says:

    As a trainer I am very aware that there is a breath of knowledge and understanding. New entrants into our profession will be at a beginning understanding of the EYLF and linking to the outcomes. It is then up to more experienced educators to model in their own reflections how they have expanded and included the intent of the EYLF. This may include making reference to particular outcomes as doing so also allows parents to see where these connections have been made.

    Maree Aldwinckle says:

    Unfortunately our EYLF combined with onerous expectations about documentation from parents and regulatory bodies has lead to the type of shortcutting you have described Anne. Further, postmodern attacks on developmental theory and the current overriding sociocultural bias in Australian ECEC discourse have left ECEC educators in limbo with no clear knowledge base to work from. We don’t seem to
    be having a dialogue about this as a group, we are having a dialogue imposed on us. No wonder educators in the field are shortcutting and not fully engaging with the EYLF. They have little time, are extremely poorly paid and garner little respect and are no longer being appropriately trained in basic knowledge and understanding abou young children.

    Julie says:

    my thoughts are where to hard on ourselves I can guarantee that when I speak to educators about the beautiful learning that’s taking place with the children they could tell me magical stories we would be able to link to outcomes easily I find the divide is the paper work twritten work why this pressure that we place on ourself how can we build this bridge is it the ever changing language that happens ? I don’t think there ever is one answer .I know if I was supporting a child through a new language process I’d be supportive and help build a level of confidence in there intrinsic ability linking what we already know as cares to the new language to our own language back to basics not getting lost in big words trusting in our Linnate abilities to care for and support our beautiful children as women we can guide support discuss debate reflect teach and be taught by each other this is what supports uplifts and builds an empowering place for our children to be

    Noorulain says:

    Your thoughts on ECE practices and documentation is great, this post is surely going to help educators maintain the quality.
    Thanks.

    Judith says:

    The EYLF provides broad guidelines that assume a deeper understanding of development. Unfortunately this assumption appears to be unfounded in so many instances. When interpreting children’s actions and speech for meaningful insights to guide planning, the limitations of such knowledge becomes painfully obvious. It is all too common to read generic statements taken directly from the EYLF that supposedly springboard further learning. A favourite one reappearing with startling frequency seems to be ” to extend children’s interest in…”. Usually the specifics of learning are omitted or dismissed by well-meaning educators smug in the knowledge that they are implementing the most up-to-date ECEC learning approach, but who lack a deep appreciation of development and learning. Sadly our children are the losers.

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