The challenge of summative assessment

Where have we been, and where will we go next?

As early childhood educators, I think we are generally pretty good (exceptional even) at observing children in their everyday experiences, and then analysing these observations, and planning next experiences that build on the learning we have observed. We might use jottings, anecdotal records, or annotated photos to document this learning. This is all formative assessment.

When we are developing summative assessments, we are not just focusing on one or two observations and analyses of learning, but rather on a whole collection of records of children’s learning.  We really want to understand and then communicate the distance travelled by each child in relation to the EYLF outcomes.

Summative assessment is plainly described in an NQS PLP e Newsletter from 2012: “the term summative describes assessment processes that sum up what a child has learned by reviewing documentation gathered over time from a range of sources. These processes bring together information about what the child knows, understands and can do in relation to the EYLF learning outcomes” (No 40).

Summative assessments of learning can be a little more challenging for educators. It might even feel like we have done too well with our formative assessment. Having created copious jottings, notes, anecdotes, photos and learning stories we might feel a little overwhelmed. We know that the children have thrived in the rich learning environments we have created, but how do we communicate that? How do we sum it all up?

If summative assessments weren’t so important, we might be tempted to leave them alone.  However, we need to engage in summative assessment in order to pause and reflect on the information collected, and then in conversation with families and children, decide how to best continue supporting the child’s learning and development. Summative assessment is particularly important when children are transitioning from one room to another in our service, or from our service to school.

Thankfully, EarlyWorks makes this process very easy.  Using EarlyWorks, educators and administrators can generate a Learning Journey for each child.  This Learning Journey includes all of the comments that have been created for each child, for each of the EYLF learning outcomes in both observations and journals. Educators simply select a timeframe, and generate the child’s Learning Journey.  This Learning Journey can then form the starting point for transition statements, conversations with families, and conversations with children.