Symposium discusses how to innovate in the development and use of assessment in early childhood

Dr. Dan Cloney of ACER led the Measurement, Applications and Scaling Symposium with guest speakers:

Dr Cloney said while assessment in the early years can be seen as controversial, there is significant and growing interest in learning more about what children can do and how best to support their learning and development. .

“Across the country, there is an appetite for better early childhood assessment to help close the gap between the promise of early learning and what is actually delivered. We know that children in less privileged areas receive the lowest quality programs,” said Dr Dan Cloney.

“At the heart of what we want to do is put children and educators at the heart of assessments and give children the opportunity to show what they can do, using assessments in practical ways,” he said. -he declares.

This is true in global monitoring of progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4.2 (quality early childhood development, care and education), with UNICEF encouraging parental reporting on learning, health and child development. psychosocial well-being of children aged 2 to 5 years.

This is also true in Australia’s Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) system, with the Commonwealth Department of Education advancing a reform agenda that includes measurement of pre-school outcomes for children during the pre-school year (usually 4 years) and state jurisdictions pursuing the development of assessments, for example in Victoria in the development of the Early Childhood Assessment and Learning Tool and use of learning progressions, for example in Queensland.

Within ECEC providers too, significant efforts have been made to develop and deploy tools to monitor learning and inform practice in the pursuit of better learning, development and well-being outcomes. for kids.

There are therefore multiple programs that stimulate the increased development of the use of evaluation in the early years, including international comparative reporting, monitoring and systems improvement, evaluation for learning and research. .

The symposium focused on how new perspectives on assessment can prioritize and focus on the primary purpose of assessment – teaching and learning – while addressing other priorities, including including monitoring and research, without placing additional burden on educators and providers.

The symposium took the view that the primary purpose of early childhood assessment is to improve outcomes for children by helping educators collect data on children’s learning and development, use this data to inform planning and practice, to act in an evidence-based manner, and to reflect and adapt their impact over time.

Measuring early oral language and literacy

The first part of the symposium focused on developing a high-quality measure of early learning and development focused on oral language and literacy.

The Early Language and Literacy Development Index (ELLDI) manifests oral language and literacy skills through authentic adult-child interactions, but applies theory and contemporary measurement approaches used in curriculum large-scale assessment such as that of the OECD. International Study on Early Learning and Child Well-Being ensure technical rigor. The goal is to demonstrate how authentic measurement can be reliably used by educators to measure each child’s growth and to provide scaffolding as well as support system monitoring and reporting – without the need for assessment. additional.

Assess and support young children in remote communities

The second part of the symposium focused on rolling out ELLDI in early years settings in the Northern Territory, to support educators working in vulnerable communities to improve outcomes for children. This includes a focus on capturing growth – quantifying educators’ contribution to learning and supporting effective planning and decision-making.

Sarah Groom of the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation explained that the ELLDI is used to help educators locate children on a progression of oral language and early literacy to support their learning. One of the main goals is to help educators implement evidence-based practices targeted at the level at which children are currently working.

Sarah said the focus is on how educators can be trained to use assessment and learning progressions to target their practice so that it has positive impacts on learning and development – ​​including included throughout the transition to school and at the beginning of the primary year.


The third part of the symposium focused on scaling up assessment in a large ECEC provider in Australia. This included the groundwork needed to ensure that evaluation practice is coherent and integrated as part of the planning and programming cycle and that evaluations are engaging for children. Obtaining the support of all the educators and offering them the possibility of co-designing the process within the framework of the normal rhythms of a long-term childcare service was an essential condition for success.

Myra Geddes, from Goodstart Early Learning, explained how evidence from assessment can be used not only at the level of the individual child, but also at the provider and system level, provided it is implemented alongside other evidence-based measurement approaches to provide a comprehensive picture of a child’s situation. learning journey. This detail can be used at scale to inform resource deployment and support better outcomes, including in underserved communities.

“Large-scale assessment is important,” Ms Geddes said. “We need to understand what each child already knows in order to determine what comes next – and then bring what we know to scale so that we can better support all children, especially by identifying and supporting those who might being at risk of poverty with long-term outcomes.

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