Assessment and documentation in early childhood education

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Assessment and documentation in early childhood education

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Publication Book
Title Assessment and documentation in early childhood education
Author(s) Alasuutari, Maarit ; Markström, Ann-Marie ; Vallberg Roth, Ann-Christine
Date 2014
English abstract
The chapters of this book study documentation and assessment from three perspectives: considering them as issues of curricula and pedagogy and as tasks of an educator; studying them as negotiations on and about the child; and examining them as actions on and of parents. The book is divided into different sections according to these perspectives. The first section ‘A view on curricula, didaktik and teachers’ includes three chapters. Chapter 2, ‘Assessment and documentation in the ECE curriculum - focus on the Nordic tradition’ discusses the basis of documentation and assessment in early education, the curriculum. Since it focuses on the Nordic curricula, it also illuminates the broader frame that the examinations of the following chapters are embedded in. The Nordic tradition of curriculum design emphasizes children’s performance and defines goals to strive for without specifying the objects of achievement. The other tradition to curricula design presented in the chapter, the Anglo-Saxon tradition, is characterized by the focus on the individual and by detailed formulations of goals to achieve for different age categories. The chapter discusses the contradictory tendencies of de- and re-centralization in the Nordic curricula, evident for example in the regulations and directions concerning documentation and assessment. It also argues that we can recognize a movement towards the Anglo-Saxon tradition of curriculum design in the Nordic countries. Chapter 3 ‘Different Forms of Documentation and Assessment in ECE’ familiarizes the reader with the documentation practices of Nordic early education at the grass root level. Drawing on a case study of three Swedish preschools, it illuminates the types of documentation tools that are applied in ECE. It proposes that the documentation practices can best be characterized by the term multi-documentation. The examination of the multi-documentation shows how the documentation tools comprise different forms of assessment, ranging from developmental-psychological, narrative and activity oriented assessments to self- and personality assessments. Finally, the chapter raises questions about in what sense the documentation and assessment practices are about empowering, supporting, and strengthening children, parents and professionals and in what sense they can weaken, mislead, and constrain the different actors. The fourth chapter, which ends the first part of the book, ‘Teachers in intensified assessment and documentation practices - a didaktik approach’ builds on the previous chapter and considers documentation and assessment practices and teachers’ role in them from the view of the reflective, Continental approach of didaktik. It approaches documents as co-actors in educational processes on focuses on the following questions regarding it: why (the function), who (subjects/actors), what (the content) and how (the form). The chapter introduces the concept of transformative assessment as a boundary object between different forms and functions of assessment and between micro-, meso- and macro-level actors of assessment and documentation practices. The preschool teachers’ role can be described as trans-actors in the transformative multi-documentation and assessment. The second part of the book, ‘Auditing the child’ with its two chapters will move the focus to the social study of childhood and consider the notions of the child in documentation and assessment from two different starting points. Chapter 5, ‘Documentation and listening to the children’, begins its discussion from a common understanding of child documentation as a means to give children a ‘voice’. By drawing on empirical data from parent-teacher discussions considering children’s responses to specific questions, the chapter problematizes this notion. It argues that despite of its benevolent aims, listening to children through documentation is constrained by and deeply embedded in, institutional and generational practices and assumptions about professionalism in ECE. Consequently, the child’s view can be ‘lost in translation’. Chapter 6, ‘The normal child’, continues the discussion about the notions of the child by inviting the reader to consider how documentation and assessment practices produce normative ideas about the child and how these ideas are intertwined with the social order of the ECE institution. This order both controls and empowers the institutional actors in different ways. The chapter illustrates how the ‘ordinary’ or ‘normal’ child is produced in written documentation and in the intertwinement of text and talk. It also illuminates how the assessments and the normative function of documentation are predominantly implicit and actualized, especially, when the child shows ‘resistance’ of the system of ECE or otherwise departs from its expectations. The third part of the book positions ‘Parenthood on focus’ and consists of two chapters. Chapter 7, ‘The governance and pedagogicalization of parents’, highlights the demands on parents in the documentalized practices used to establish collaboration between home and ECE. It considers practices and tools that are used to involve parents in the assessment and documentation of their child and the family. Through them, the parents are expected to embrace the ideas and discourses of the ECE institution. Furthermore, the documentalized practices yield unspoken expectations about how the parents should support their child in lifelong learning and how they can meet the institutional norms of good parenting. Chapter 8, ‘Parenthood between offline and online – about assessment and documentation’ draws on a ‘netnographic’ research on what parents write about assessment and documentation of children on Internet sites. In the discussions parents are free from the institutional constraints that are evident, for example, in parent-teacher meetings. The chapter considers whose interests seem to be involved in the discussions and who is assessing whom. Moreover, it considers in what ways the discussions can be seen both as empowering and constraining parenthood. The final chapter, ‘Conclusion: Dilemmas of documentation’, ties together the key points of the preceding chapters by discussing the ‘junction’ of discourses and contradictory tendencies that are embedded in the assessment and documentation practices of Nordic ECE, regarding children, parents, and professionals. The chapter illuminates the different fields of the contradictory discourses by a multi-dimensional model of the steering of assessment and documentation and proposes the concept of ‘documentalized childhood’ as capturing the function of the steering in the transnational context of contemporary ECE.  
Link (external link to publication)
Publisher Routledge
ISBN 978-0-415-66125-6
Pages 152
Language eng (iso)
Subject(s) Assessment
Early Childhood Education
Humanities/Social Sciences
Research Subject Categories::SOCIAL SCIENCES
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