Local curriculum design guide

Te Whāriki provides a framework for curriculum in early learning services. Each service designs a culturally responsive and local curriculum based on learning priorities and aspirations for tamariki and whānau in their setting.

The curriculum design diagram supports curriculum intentional decision making for each early learning service.

Curriculum decisions are made in the moment or through short, medium, and long term planning.

The diagram below shows a process that will help you to review and design your local curriculum based on decisions about what matters here. The process is circular but you may need to go back to previous steps sometimes to revisit your decisions.

Explanation of the diagram

Curriculum design diagram

The diagram depicts a whāriki to symbolise the way in which each stage in the process of curriculum design is built on a foundation of Te Whāriki.

The process needs all the pieces or steps shown to fit together to form the overall whāriki.

The speech bubbles used for the process demonstrate that curriculum design is collaborative. It involves building learning partnerships and talking together.

The colours of the speech bubbles reflect the role of the principles, strands, pathways to school, and responsibilities of kaiako in Te Whāriki in designing your curriculum.

Select the grey circles to learn more about each step.

On a mobile the diagram is best viewed in landscape. You can also read the explanations in each of the step sections below the diagram.

Examples of using the curriculum design diagram in practice


Curriculum design steps and examples at each step

Get to know our people and place

How to get to know your people and place

This is an opportunity for us to reflect on what we already know and what we need to find out about our tamariki. Fostering learning-focused relationships with parents and whānau plays an important part in helping us find out about our tamariki.

For example we look at:

  • the identity, language, and culture of our community
  • the knowledge, perspectives, and tikanga of mana whenua
  • what tamariki know and can do
  • the interests and aspirations of our tamariki, whānau, and kaiako
  • what support our tamariki need as they transition to school/kura.

Start where your feet are

In this video Professor Wally Penetito shares his thoughts on where to start with curriculum design. He says:

  • start where your feet are
  • connect to the people who belong.

Transcript for Start where your feet are

Place-based education is really an excuse to begin where my feet are, if you like. That's part of the cliché of place-based education, begin where your feet are - where you're standing. Get to know this place first, and then spread out into the world. That's kind of really been my main motivation and inspiration for place-based education.

This is my message to teachers and educators everywhere. We need to start where our feet are, but never let it stay there. That's the beginning point only. Everything else moves out from that. It's kind of like, sort of a basic principle of education, about begin with stuff you know, and then move into the unknown. It's kind of like good sense. That's how I see it.

Place-based education there's no limits to it. I don't know what might count as a limit to it, to what might be a curriculum for it, if you like. It comes down to what does place-based education mean? It is about that knowing where your feet are. But it's also how you get to know – that's a really important part of the agenda as well for place-based education.

It's how you get to know, and that's about pedagogy and that's about knowing what it is that our ancestors, what the people that we belong to, how they tell their stories. The way in which they impart that history. It isn't just about books. In fact the books are very much what you move to later on, when you get some earlier understandings that come from relationships with people. And a big part of that, in the Māori world anyway, is through storytelling, through pepeha, through kōrero, through being on a marae and exchanging views about what’s going on there, and the histories that belong to that place.

This video is part of the home-based early childhood education downloadable workshop that stimulates thinking and discussion about rich learning opportunities.


Building curriculum around what we know and do locally

Child being lifted to hongi the waka Ngātokimatawhaorua

An early learning service in a seaside community has several families involved in maritime activities.

The centre’s closeness to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds means that tamariki are familiar with Ngātokimatawhaorua, the waka housed there.

Kaiako use these features of their community and location to inform and shape their curriculum. For example, an inquiry question “What would early voyagers need to think about for the voyage to Aotearoa/New Zealand?” tapped into the experience and interests of many tamariki and their whānau. Learning was extended as they investigated how food was caught, kept, and carried by the first Māori navigators.

This story is one of the examples on the Local curriculum, Tuia Mātauranga and beyond page designing focus areas for a local curriculum.


Learning about our families who are former refugees

A former refugee helping a kaiako

Kaiako at a Dunedin kindergarten actively sought networks and reciprocal connections with those involved with refugee resettlement when three former refugee families enrolled.

Kaiako gained better insight into the little things that mattered most to these children. This included the children waiting until other children had left an activity before they participated. Another example was keeping their bag and clothes with them at all times rather than using the lockers.

Through their connections with the resettlement networks, kaiako came to appreciate that these were likely behaviours and rituals the children needed and learnt in the refugee camps. Kaiako accommodated the rituals and behaviours while the children settled into kindergarten. The kindergarten was a very different environment from what they had experienced.

This example is part of a story of practice on the Identity, language, and culture page about recognising Te Whāriki affirms the identities, languages, and cultures of all children, whānau, kaiako, and communities from a strong bicultural foundation.

Decide on learning priorities

How to decide on learning priorities

We think about:

  • What matters here?
  • What learning are we prioritising?

We make decisions based on:

  • what we have learnt about our people and place
  • the goals and learning outcomes in Te Whāriki
  • our centre’s philosophy and priorities
  • rich opportunities for learning.

Learning outcomes contributing to curriculum design

In this video, Anne Meade and Lucy Hayes from Daisies Education and Care Centre discuss how they use the learning outcomes in curriculum design.

Transcript of Learning outcomes contributing to curriculum design

Anne Meade: I'm Anne Meade and I'm one of the co-founders, with my daughter, we established Daisies ten years ago and I'm still actively involved in Daisies not as a teacher but in the education leadership team.

Lucy Hayes: And I'm Lucy Hayes and I am an education leader and kaiako at Daisies.

Anne Meade: We do quite longish investigations as part of our curriculum design in Daisies. And when we're working on a more in-depth and comprehensive investigation we will take a look at which goals and learning outcomes might be associated with that. They don't get fixed at that point in time. They're just sitting there as maybes and then there's quite a bit of discussion with following children's interest. Then we'll say that seems to be their own learning goals. So we will focus, we'll zero in, a bit more closely on the learning outcomes or the goals the children seem to be showing us that they're interested in pursuing and we’ll take it forward. And then our documentation will include mention of these.

Lucy Hayes: Our most recent investigation we had a whole centre investigation that was exploring whanaungatanga and that led our oldest group of children and their kaiako literally up a mountain. But right at the beginning of that investigation before we really knew what direction it was going to go I remember, over I think it was two meetings, we looked at what learning outcomes we felt right from the get go were important to explore. And I know recognising and appreciating their own ability to learn was something that we valued from the very beginning and it was something that was threaded right through. And this was eight months of investigation from when we started shorter walks and then the big walk to the top of Tarikākā.

Anne Meade: It really would not have been possible if they weren't supporting each other as a group and that was where the whanaungatanga came into it.

Lucy Hayes: I'm looking back now and actually even just thinking back we could easily have, I mean there's a place in that investigation for pretty much every point there. I'm looking at the contribution page (Te Whāriki, p. 37) but actually we chose to focus on two or three different areas and different learning outcomes through that investigation. I think that's important we could have just gone tick, tick, tick, tick, tick but we didn't, we went deeper.

Anne Meade: You kept coming back to it. What I liked to hear you talk about was the way you were threading quite big words that are actually in Te Whāriki into the conversations with the children. The sort of motivational things that you needed to do for those children to achieve their aspiration of climbing to the top of the mountain, which takes four hours on your feet there and back again. You were using some of the words in Te Whāriki and they love the big words.

Lucy Hayes: They do. We've got four-year-old children who can talk to you about physical and mental resilience because we've used language. We've talked about expressing feelings and how we can contribute to shared goals and how the children can contribute to their learning as a group too. Everybody has a contribution, everybody has something to offer and we have children who can talk about that – their strengths and the strengths that their peers have. And I think that's pretty amazing. But we, as kaiako, gave them the tools, we gave them the language that is reflective of Te Whāriki. That was a choice that we made to expand or extend the children's thinking and their knowledge.

This video is part of the Making good use of the learning outcomes page. This page delves deeper into using learning outcomes as a compass rather than a map when planning curriculum.


What matters in your place

Watch this YouTube video showing Te Puna Reo o Puhi Kaiti.

As you watch this video look out for ways in which:

  • kaiako knowledge of their people and place influences the learning experiences offered to tamariki
  • a vision and philosophy guides their curriculum
  • Te Whāriki is enacted.

Let's imagine

You will see in this video how kaiako from a Pacific early learning service prioritised learning based on the cultural and social practices of their whānau. They combined these with attention to the Exploration | Mana aotūroa strand and goals of Te Whāriki.

Notice in the video:

  • children thinking and planning together in their learning
  • the learning about patterns and spacing, and how to work cooperatively
  • sensory experiences in the learning
  • cultural values such as tautua/service are important and can be seen through making food for the family and community.

Plan our response

How to plan our response

Responses can be planned or spontaneous. There can be layers involved in planning our response.

For example we look at:

  • responsibilities of kaiako, underpinning theories and approaches, teaching practices and strategies
  • the ways in which we are working towards our priorities
  • making intentional decisions around people, materials, time, and space, examples include, how we create our rosters (people), what resources we need (materials), how we organise the day (time) and how we best utilise our spaces (space)
  • interacting intentionally and thoughtfully with tamariki
  • what professional learning kaiako are engaged in.

A kaiako and tamariki plant a seedling together.

Planning conversations: The key to promoting scientific thinking

A kaiako inquiry at a Montessori centre showed that while children had access to well-stocked shelves of Montessori materials for science, they could do more to foster children’s scientific thinking and dispositions. Questions prompted by their reading of the Exploration | Mana aotūroa strand in Te Whāriki were:

  • Do we extend understanding following on from presenting materials?
  • Do we recognise science happening in other areas of our centre?
  • Do we foster exploring, asking questions, observing, testing ideas, making representations, and sharing findings?

The team engaged a facilitator specialising in science who recommended Marilyn Fleer’s research. This highlighted that conversations with children are the key to building scientific thinking. This shifted the focus towards the nature of their conversations in their planning. For example, they looked at ways to model a sense of wonder through specific questions such as, “What would happen if … ?”. They also focused on planning scientific processes such as data recording and sharing findings. By discussing and deciding on these strategies ahead of time, kaiako addressed their inquiry questions with confidence and consistency.

Read more of this story in the stories of practice on the Deciding what matters here page.


Planning communication strategies

Three-year-old Poppy attends a Hastings kindergarten and uses a combination of signs, actions, and vocal sounds to communicate. With the support of her parents and a speech-language therapist, kaiako and children are learning about how Poppy sends messages, such as wanting to play or needing some help. The kaiako team plan the following ways to reduce Poppy’s frustrations and improve their communication with her:

  • observing her to get to know her unique communication strategies
  • being patient and giving her time to get her messages across
  • supporting her communication with others, by encouraging those who know her well to provide a voice for her when that is helpful
  • giving her encouragement and feedback when she seeks attention from others in positive ways
  • modelling for her ways of getting attention from kaiako and children, such as touching them on the arm, smiling, or pointing to something
  • using visual communication aids, including pictures and home-made photo books.

(Adapted from He Māpuna te Tamaiti: Support Social and Emotional Competence in Early Learning, p.17)


Tamariki playing on playground equipment in an ECS grounds with the school ground outside.

One community whānau

ECS and school kaiako in the Learning journeys from early childhood into school Teaching and Learning Research Initiative (TLRI) project met regularly to discuss transition to school in their community. Observations in each others’ settings provided the chance to discuss practice and develop mutual understandings based on Te Whāriki and The New Zealand Curriculum.

Joint curriculum planning, for example, around themes such as Matariki or the Olympics, allowed expertise to be shared.

ECS kaiako and new entrant teachers developed a range of action research mini projects to work on together.

Some examples include:

  • planning ways to support friendships that could be continued at school
  • planning strategies and resources that would help children understand the rituals, norms, and rules of the school playground such as shared books to discuss this, safe and interesting play spaces, and strategies to help children initiate play with others.

Reference: Peters, S., Paki, V. & Davis, K. (2015). Learning journeys from early childhood into school. Teaching and Learning Research Initiative. This is one of the stories of practice on the Pathways and transitions page that explores supporting tamariki to navigate transitions.

Make it happen

How to make it happen

Here is where we put our thinking and planning into action.

As we take action we may revisit steps in the curriculum design process.

Learning happens in diverse ways.


Different sized socks pegged on a line

Homebased kaiako planning in action

Listen to this example of a homebased kaiako planning in action. They see an opportunity in an everyday event to help tamariki refine their working theories about the usefulness of pegs.

This story is an example included in the Home-based early childhood education downloadable workshop on rich learning opportunities.

Transcript for home based planning in action audio

It was one of those hot, muggy, sunny days that you get in Auckland sometimes and I went to visit an educator with three children and a baby. So we sat outside under a tree on a blanket and looked at her pegging out the washing, which seemed to include hundreds of her husband’s work socks. One of the children noticed that the pegs were a different colour and was talking about it and wondering why that was. He asked the educator and she said, “I don’t know. Why do you think the pegs are a different colour?”

The children started talking amongst themselves and came up with some ideas. One child said that his father reckoned that red sports cars went faster than any other colour so perhaps the red ones were very fast pegs. After some talking around why pegs were different colours, what the colours were, and how pegs worked, the children came up with the idea that maybe the pegs were different coloured because some pegs were stronger than others. And that the black pegs would be the strongest of all. So I asked them how would they prove that? The children decided that they would have to do some tests to check which pegs were the strongest. When I asked what sort of things they could test for the pegs, they said well if they hung things on the line with pegs, the one peg that hung the heaviest thing (whatever that was) was the strongest peg.

So I said, "Okay but how are you going to make sure that you do this fairly?" They decided they could put things in the socks as there were plenty of socks. The more stuff they put in, the heavier the sock would be and so the stronger peg would be that held it up. They decided the best thing they could do was marbles. So I said, “How do we make sure it is fair with the marbles?”

We got into a big discussion about how they would measure the marbles. Some children thought they could measure them with weight on scales. Some children thought they could line them up one by one and the same number of marbles would weigh the same. Other children said well we could count them and that would be quicker. So over the next couple of weeks they did all sorts of things with the marbles and the socks to see which was the strongest. Eventually they came up with the finding, I think we would say, that all pegs are equally strong. I was a bit disappointed that nobody gave me a red sports car to try out the father’s theory but there you go.


Local history a feature of curriculum

Kaiako at this kindergarten have made local history and pakiwaitara a feature of their curriculum. Watch the different ways children’s learning is being extended because of the ongoing focus they have chosen.

Transcript of Voyagers

(Kaiako Cathy Wall talking to the camera)

CATHY: My name is Cathy Wall. I work at Kidsfirst Kindergarten.

(Exterior and interior of kindergarten)

(Ships in Lyttelton Port)

We are in Lyttelton which is in Te Waipounamu, the South Island, and we're in a busy, port town.

Tamatea Pōkai Whenua is a Māori adventurer from the 1300s who travelled around Aotearoa.

(Tamariki sitting inside their kindergarten)

We were first introduced to this story by a colleague who created a book about his adventures in Whakaraupō/Lyttelton Harbour. So there are several different versions out there about Tamatea’s adventure.

(Tamariki acting out the story of Tamatea)

We were able to consult with our local iwi and really make sure that we were doing the version of the pakiwaitara that they were happy with.

Initially we started with the picture book. Once they had started to retell the story themselves with the picture book we moved on to making a model of Te Poho o Tamatea, which is the maunga/the mountain in the story. They then used this model along with props to retell the story. Then we noticed that they were taking elements and concepts from this pakiwaitara and using it in their own play. We wanted them to really think about what it would have felt like to be Tamatea and his whānau out on Whakaraupō.

(Tamariki in their cardboard waka reenacting the story)

So we supported them to reenact the story and to make a backdrop and resources that they needed. So they are now retelling the story through drama.

(Tamariki moving black silhouettes on a light box and using figures on a felt board)

Some of the resources we’ve created have included silhouettes that we've used on overhead projectors and on lightboxes. Our children are now at the point where they know this pakiwaitara so well that they can even make and illustrate their own books.

(Three tamariki sitting on a couch, with a child showing her book to the other two tamariki)

We have one child who has retold me the whole story and then done all the illustrations and she now shares that book with her peers and her whānau. She's very proud of herself.

(Kaiako Cathy Wall talking to the camera)

So her being able to tell this story and create the book tells me that she has a very in-depth understanding about this pakiwaitara and how it affects people around them in her own whānau. She's added elements on that really are important to her.

(Tamariki watching the reenactment)

Most of the tamariki were involved in the reenactment but some were still observing so we wanted to ensure that these children had another means of retelling a story and deepening their understanding.

(A child using a storytelling app and moving around the figures in the story)

We introduced a storytelling app that they were able to use quietly by themselves to really express what they understood. Then we were able to share this digital platform with peers and whānau.

(Children using clay and drawing with crayons)

The children also use paintings, drawing utensils, and clay to represent their understandings.

(Artwork hung throughout the kindergarten)

We've made books and we celebrate all their artwork throughout the kindergarten. So this really in-depth look at this one pakiwaitara has given the children the opportunity to really explore their understanding.

(Tamariki acting out the story during the reenactment and outside play)

They think a lot and talk a lot about what it would have been like to live in Aotearoa hundreds of years ago. What the clothing would have been like, what food would have been like, what the means of transport were, even what the family structure was like. We've really been able to explore the story and unpack it with them.

(Whakaraupō/Lyttelton Harbour with the traffic going past)

We’ve now discovered that the children are going home and telling their whānau members about Tamatea – where he's been and what his adventures have included and also where our landmarks in our local community have come from. As kaiako we have really come to understand how important it is for children to value their place in the community and have a feeling of belonging. Through this pakiwaitara they've been able to have an understanding of this and make links with the local landforms, the local iwi, just the whole local community. That's really strengthened their sense of identity.

This story is part of Local curriculum, Tuia Mātauranga, and beyond page about making meaningful connections.


Child in flax

The bush as a context for learning

Place-based education is a framework a Northland infant and toddler centre has adopted to guide their practice. “It makes us pause and reflect: how can we make the learning for this infant or toddler genuine and authentic?”

It all starts with infants and toddlers knowing who they are and where they come from – an element of the Belonging | Mana whenua strand. This identity construction is a process of intertwining the physical, social, and cultural to make the whole person.

Infants and toddlers spend three days a week in the bush playing, exploring, discovering, and of course learning. Mostly they learn about how they fit into this environment, how old stories are influencing the stories they are enacting now. Stories of Tāne are read, secret fairy houses are built, and all the magical spots discovered are named. The kaiako say we have our awa, our maunga, and our centre is woven into the story of this rohe.

Read more of this story as part of the stories of practice on the Infants and toddlers page. This page looks at Te Whāriki as a framework to explore infants' and toddlers' rights to high quality care and rights to be taken seriously as active and competent members of society.


Mathematics through Manaakitanga

As you watch this video showing the development and use of a mathematical resource you might think about:

  • ways kaiako are designing their curriculum based on knowledge of their people and place
  • how in their planning they take account of people, materials, time, and space.

This video is part of the teaching resources and strategies page, Mathematics that discusses how Te Whāriki positions mathematics as one of many forms of expression that tamariki need in order to communicate successfully and widely.

Transcript for Mathematics through manaakitanga

Jasmine Heads: Bluff is a small fishing community. The kindergarten is situated in the middle of our community in close proximity to both schools. Seventy-five percent of our whānau are Māori that attend our service.

At the beginning of this project I was not confident with mathematics. I purely thought of mathematics as being number. So I didn't really see where we fitted into the picture of things. One of the biggest outcomes for the team was to raise the awareness of mathematics and mathematical concepts within their environment at home, within the community – producing a resource that was available to families that was free and that they could utilise that was easy.

We wanted whānau to recognise the mathematical concepts within everyday experiences with their children – whether it be at home, in the supermarket, going to their local marae. Looking at all the different shapes, patterns, and number because number is important but it's not the only mathematical concept that they can see.

We created an adventure pack for the children to take away from the kindergarten. We designed the pack with mathematics in mind of course. Every activity has a mathematical concept behind it. One of the main concepts was our community I spy which was a collection of photo cards that we took of different landmarks/aspects around our community where children were asked to find them. Behind each photo there is a question to ask like where the photo is located. So we asked the children to tell us where they located the picture. We also asked the children a question it could be; was there pattern around this area, was there shape, was there number? All different mathematical concepts to look for. We also found that with our activity pack it crossed over into literacy. So we have also provided an assortment of books that go with the pack as well.

The other thing that we also added to the pack was information about the community. Walks that are made available for our families, free activities around our community that a lot of whānau didn’t actually even know about. Historical aspects to our community that children could also look at that were outside of the actual activity itself. That was information which we want to build on.

The other thing that we added to it was a guide to their hīkoi or driving. We produced two packs. One was a driving pack for whānau that had access to a car and then we also had another two packs that were made available to whānau that didn't have access to a car but either families could try them. Then we also added a scrapbook which is the tamariki documenting their journey. We called it Tamariki Kōrero which is the child's voice and it was a way for them to revisit as well.

Also within the packs we have provided the whānau with cameras to video or take photos of their journey. This has been really popular as the children have been allowed to take over and do all the filming and things themselves. So it's really nice when the backpacks come back to the office that we can actually look through that footage and we have a bit of a laugh and it's lovely.

We want to have a whānau evening at the end of this project. We thought that maybe we would put it into a wee movie for families to see like with captions of all the families' journeys all put together in a wee movie. We thought that would be kind of nice and to give it to the families that participated.

I think a lot of the time like our parents thought it was going to be number. A lot of them knew shape and colour come into it but locating, distance, all the measurements, and just lots of different things that they've used in the everyday experiences but they didn't realise that there was a mathematical education for their children behind it.

One of the best parts of the feedback was hearing from family and whānau that they had fun and that they were spending quality time with their tamariki. Mathematics was fun. It wasn't actually all hard work.

Helen Jackson: Our vision was that we wanted whānau to participate, have fun doing it, and just have a great time with their tamariki. The outcomes we wanted was to have whānau feeling confident that they could be teachers at home or away or at kindergarten. But just that they had confidence about maths and that they were able to bring something with their children as well.

To get our whānau and community involved we started off having an activity night where we invited whānau to come at night with their tamariki and we had a PowerPoint presentation. It was just a wee short thing about our objectives of what we were doing so they could come on board with what we were doing and support us, as well as us supporting them. Then the next thing we did is we got them to move around the kindergarten to different station points and work with their children doing mathematical things that they would actually find at home. We tried to use resources that they had at home so they could take what they learnt that night and take it back home and maybe have a go with it at home. That it doesn't have to cost them money. I think some of our whānau were thinking I have to buy them maths books to take our children to a different level. They don't need to do that now. They can see that they can do it themselves which is really exciting for us.

Some the feedback that we got from the activity night was that it was interactive – that they could participate. Whānau before thought that it was written format as maths but actually being involved and being interactive with their children was a better way to teach their children mathematics.

One of the most exciting things about these adventure packs is that whānau are coming to us and having huge kōrero with us about what's the next thing, which is really exciting for us because we didn't even know if they would take this concept on at all. But they are asking what's the next bag going to be? What else can we do? So it's really exciting that they came on our journey with us and actually now they are wanting to lead it a bit more.

Perry Savage: It was great to see with the kids and that then all the different aspects of maths. Stuff that you never knew that was like that – especially with fishing and all the different mathematics we use for navigation and stuff. Then go down the street and there's mathematics everywhere. One of the biggest things is maths is more than just numbers for the kids.

Roxanne Frahm: From the maths backpacks my family learnt that maths is really happening out in the world, in the real world that we live in – here in Bluff. That being able to see what numbers are different, and see shapes and count how many there are was actually useful and relevant. It was really exciting and great fun.

The maths backpacks are really constructive. I was just blown away by what a cool experience it was for my son to go out there and use his maths skills and see that they were useful. When we buy petrol reading numbers was actually a really useful thing to be able to do. Because those numbers told us how much the petrol cost. It was a useful thing that he could tell that it was a nine. He was really proud of himself.

The other thing we really loved about the maths backpack was taking Grandad around Bluff and introducing him to lots of local landmarks. It gave us an activity to do with a visiting family member and that was really exciting. I was just like we need more of these. I want to do this in the future.

Find out what and how tamariki are learning

How to find out what and how tamariki are learning

  • observe and reflect
  • talk together and record
  • consider what learning is happening for tamariki and what to do next
  • discuss with parents and whānau.

Assessment in Te Whāriki says "only a small amount of assessment will be documented. Formative assessment happens on the go as you teach, as well as in a more formal and planned way."

For more see the Assessment downloadable workshop, particularly slides 4–8.


Expectations of assessment in Te Whāriki

In this video Professor Claire McLachlin outlines the new expectations of assessment in Te Whāriki (2017).

Transcript of Expectations of assessment in Te Whāriki

In the original version of Te Whāriki, it talked about that the assessment would mainly be minute by minute, and it would use primarily observation, and that although it did give advice that you would use other assessment methods, it was mainly for children with special needs. So there’s this kind of quite distinct focus, if you like, on mainly – you’ll do this just kind of on the run.

This document doesn’t say that at all. This document says that assessment will be both in the moment (I think is the language that’s used, if memory serves me), and that it will also be planned, alright? And this isn’t just about children with special needs, that if you’re looking at children’s development against learning outcomes, you’re actually going to have to reorganise how you do assessment to make sure that you’re actually assessing children across those 20 learning outcomes.


Assessment in practice

In this video Lucy Hayes and Anne Meade discuss their approach to assessment in practice.

Transcript of Assessment in practice

Anne Meade: Well I'm Anne Meade and I'm one of the co-founders, with my daughter, we established Daisies ten years ago and I'm still actively involved in Daisies not as a teacher but in the education leadership team.

Lucy Hayes: And I'm Lucy Hayes and I am an education leader and kaiako at Daisies. Okay let's talk about the way we use the curriculum at Daisies.

Anne Meade: Well we use it with the children. We use it often with the team either in the planning meetings that we have in the small teams or at team hui where everybody comes together. It's always woven into what we do at wānanga. It's there in the planning. It's there in the teacher’s thinking through, “What am I doing here and what is my job here at the moment?” So it's used in investigations but it's also used when we sometimes just go around the circle of kaiako at team hui and say, “let's talk about the children at the moment.” Te Whāriki, the goals, and the learning outcomes will come into those discussions about individual children.

Lucy Hayes: I was going to say we use all aspects of the curriculum too. So we go beyond the learning outcomes and we make a choice to tap into the red section, for example, the kaiako responsibilities in assessment, and using the whakataukī within the curriculum in our planning too.

Anne Meade: We have weekly meetings, or fortnightly at least, in small groups and that's when we design the intentional teaching part of the curriculum. But of course the curriculum is much bigger than that. So we're needing to be conscious of the learning outcomes during the other parts of the day and the programme.

Lucy Hayes: Looking at our planning folder we use the whakataukī here which prompted us at the beginning of that particular session. We go beyond using learning outcomes in our planning and use the whakataukī as well. This has guided our intentional teaching on the learning outcomes and what we hope to achieve with the children. But after that we also use the learning outcomes to assess children's play. We also use our knowledge and we jump on the back of the strong relationships that we have with these children to enable us to assess what they might be exploring and what they might be learning. And I think that is something for me as a kaiako is that it's okay to wonder. We don't know all the time what a child is learning and we can more than guess but we use the knowledge we have of these children and we wonder about what they might be exploring or we can make links between different play experiences that they are engaged in and from there we can assess what they might be learning about too.

Anne Meade: But you need to just be watching children at play for a while and they are starting to give you ideas and the patterns of their play and what they might be thinking about and then the kaiako might pick up and say all right we can take that further and extend their thinking. So that's quite intentional and we’ll maybe go back then to Te Whāriki, the words of Te Whāriki, and see whether that helps us or we might actually be bringing some of our own learning outcomes in for ourselves. The 20 is wonderful to work with, it is much more manageable but I have to say that the team at Daisies produces more than the 20 when we've been observing the children at play.

Lucy Hayes: I think anyone that is using the learning outcomes as a checklist, I would wonder how well they actually know the child that they're assessing because there's so much value in stopping what you're doing, sitting down and just having a conversation with children – whether they're four-and-a-half-years-old or actually whether they're one – the relationship and the knowledge that you gain from something as simple as a conversation, you can't do much better really.

Anne Meade: I think the kaiako at Daisies actually are carrying in their heads the goals and the learning outcomes so they don't need to go to a checklist. So that they can pick it up when they're having the conversations or when they're observing groups at play or whatever.

Lucy Hayes: The relationships that we have allow us to use the curriculum as a whole and the learning outcomes to assess children’s learning because we know them well.

This video is part of the Making good use of the learning outcomes page that looks at the learning outcomes as a compass rather than a map.


Assessing in the moment

Talia was busy drawing a rainbow with many colours when she turned to Ruta her kaiako and said, “O le nuanua lea.” / "This is my rainbow." After completing most of the bands of the colourful rainbow Talia explained to Ruta that each colour was a member of her family. Talia made two small marks beside her rainbow, one longer than the other. She laughed and said, “This is Nickson. He is little and this is Talia, I’m big.”

When Talia announced that this was her family and that each colour represented a member of her family Ruta gained some insight into the complexity of Talia’s thinking and the ways she makes meaning about her whānau. Ruta believes she could have easily hijacked Talia’s learning by commenting about the colours she had used, instead she waited and observed carefully for longer. This positioned her to build on and extend Talia’s thinking about her whānau and her identity.


Using Te Whāriki to respond to observations

Watch this video conversation between Associate Professor Alex Gunn and Jenna-Lee Pfeifer. Together they use the goals and learning outcomes in Te Whāriki as a reference point to reflect on learning progress and consider the next steps for a child.

As you watch, you might think about:

  • the kaiako attributes and dispositions Jenna-Lee brings to her observations
  • the strategies you hear and see Alex use to help Jenna-Lee clarify her assessment of this child
  • what this dialogue between kaiako and critical friend tells you about useful, meaningful assessment.

Transcript of Using Te Whāriki to respond to observations

Alex: Okay. So Jenna-Lee you will have been working closely with a few children that you're thinking about planning for. So pick one and tell me who that person is. Tell me about them.

Jenna-Lee: Yeah I've really been puzzling over another child. So she's just turned four. She really enjoys interacting with other children and playing. But I get the sense watching her that she gets a bit overwhelmed and retreats. So one of the things in a moment of retreat that I noticed because it was quiet and calm enough for me to see it, was she brought herself over to the art table, which was empty. She had been playing outdoors and she sat down with watercolours and just began to sort of experiment with putting lines on paper and different shading.

It was very, very calm and peaceful. Then I noticed that she seemed to be thinking really hard about something. Not sure what it was. And her whole art process began to change. When she got not quite frustrated, she got very serious all of a sudden and she took a paint brush she got it very wet and another one got a lot of paint on it and started doing speckling. The more frustrated or serious she looked, the harder she was doing it. Then she would stop and kind of admire what she had done. Then go back to these fluid movements and then she'd stop and get back to the speckling. So it was interesting to watch her use art as a form of expression and of working through that emotional overwhelm.

I asked her if she wanted to tell me about her picture. She told me that it was a storm but there was a rainbow at the end.

Alex: Wow.

Jenna-Lee: I don't know if I'm wrong, if I'm putting my interpretation of her emotional state onto it, but I just thought that was really inline with the way she had been interacting with the materials. Especially coming into the room after quite an intense social activity outside where she clearly felt overwhelmed or run over or silenced so she retreated. It was just really fascinating to watch that self-regulation happen as well.

So I went and found her learning portfolio after that because I hadn't read it yet. And what stood out to me was there were quite a few stories where they were recognising these first adventures into forming friendships and working collaboratively, socially and about things like: “You seemed scared but you kept trying”. “It was nice to see you working with someone.” I could see that push to work collaboratively with her peers and through play and just through social interaction in general was there. One of the things that I noticed that wasn't addressed was this ability to help her regulate and identify emotion and identify ways that she could deal with these feelings of overwhelm. And I saw it happening organically and without any interference. So I think that an important thing we could do to support her is using art and other forms of expression to help with self-regulation and managing of emotion and just feeling more grounded in the space when she's with the other group of girls she likes who are quite strong personalities.

Alex: Well there's a lot going on here in this one and my brain is sparking off in lots of different directions. I'll be interested to hear what you're thinking. So first of all I'm thinking about her sense of safety and wellbeing. Is this place safe for me? Is this place fair to me? So you know in that sense we would go to the wellbeing strand and have a look and think about her emotional wellbeing being nurtured in this environment. So that could be a recognised interpretation in terms of what you've been observing. And when you look at the evidence for learning and development if I pull up Te Whāriki and we can look at it together page 26. So we can see here in the wellbeing strand, which is about the nature of the child's involvement. It's the second kind of step in that learning disposition chain – “children experience an environment where: their health is promoted”. You have been talking about “managing themselves and expressing their feelings and needs”. And when you look down the evidence of learning and development – “capacity of self-regulation, ability to express emotional needs” – all of that stuff seems relevant to what you were potentially cueing into. So that's one way that we could lock onto Te Whāriki and say yes we think that this is the valued learning that we've recognised and want to respond to. It is about the emotional wellbeing of this person and their ability to be safe and secure with others and alone in the centre or where ever it is. So what do you think about that?

Jenna-Lee: I think it's there. I do wonder if I'm missing something. An opportunity for something richer for her in focusing in on self-regulation in and of itself.

Alex: Are you interested in the modes of expression and communication?

Jenna-Lee: Yeah. That's just so interesting that she went and did art and that mark making. It is so interesting.

Alex: Okay. So let's go to the communication strand of course. What is speaking to you about this person in relation to this curriculum strand?

Jenna-Lee: The work that she was doing on non-verbal communication and developing multiple ways of expressing themselves and emotion. Then down at the bottom of the goals list “they discover different ways to be creative and expressive”. And I think that's probably at the base level of what I think I was responding to. It was a different way to express how she's feeling. The evidence of learning and development near the bottom “the skill and confidence with art and craft processes such as cutting, drawing, collage, painting, printmaking, weaving ... ” and then the “skills with multiple media and tools ... ”. Then “the ability to be creative and expressive through a variety of activities”.

I think that is probably going to be a richer learning experience to plan for than just in ensuring that her wellbeing is being maintained. Because she's obviously comfortable enough to then go and feel those emotions elsewhere. So it's about encouraging new and different ways for her to work through that.

Alex: I also think that in the questions for reflection. The first question that is posed to kaiako is about “in what ways and to what extent do kaiako identify and respond to children's non-verbal communications”?

So in terms of a where to next because what I was thinking was when we looked at the wellbeing strand there was one goal that seemed particularly pertinent to the person you were talking about. But here in the communication strand, you know I could come through and we could highlight a lot more on the section of the curriculum that spoke to us about what was happening and what we wanted to happen for this person.

Jena-Lee: Definitely.

Alex: So in my sense of thinking in using Te Whāriki in this way there's always going to be one of the strands in the curriculum that speaks more to you about the person you're thinking about right now, what's happening right now, and where you want to get them to next. And so that's the way to kind of verify your thinking and just to check that your thinking is consistent with the kinds of learning opportunities you want to have for the children.

So I think in this sense there's an articulation between the wellbeing strand and the communication strand so there's the progress across that learning disposition chain but also this person is already using visual arts media in a particular way – you've observed that. So then there's the question of why would we continue to plan for what they're already doing? But there's a way to do that and you can stick with the strand but introduce more media or give a different range of opportunities or learning experiences so that their non-verbal communication capacity is enhanced. And you get to practise your listening to and responding to non-verbal cues as well as the curriculum asks you to think about.

There is a sense of movement between the wellbeing strand through to the communication strand. But there's also a sense of increasing depth. So in terms of the progress question longer, wider, deeper – it’s deeper. Using visual arts media in deeper ways to allow for more non-verbal communication and the child's ability to communicate in that way and for you to be responsive in that way.

Jenna-Lee: I think definitely. Yes.

Alex: So any planning along that line would be entirely justifiable I think.

Jenna-Lee: Definitely I think pulling in things like music or dance and movement or even encouraging storytelling. And just letting her just kind of explore that in different modes and places.

Alex: Yeah I agree and I think that this is the value of using the curriculum in this way. Because it cues you in to all those other cousin related type learning experiences or trajectories that you might want to plan for.

Jenna-Lee: Definitely like going to those questions for reflection and recognising the questions I have that are coming up in and of myself in terms of questioning my own recognition of things. I'm like well if there's something that's very similar or oh it's pretty much verbatim there then I'm probably on the right track.

Alex: Yeah that's right.

Jenna-Lee: So that's been a very different way of thinking about planning for learning and tracking development and in supporting children and their learning journeys than I had going into this at the beginning of the year. So that's using the document in this way – constantly going back to it – I think is a really good anchor.

Alex: Yeah it was written as a signpost – signposts not rules. And I think that's the inherent value in it. There's so many layers in the curriculum document around even just the learning dispositions that are associated with the curriculum document, let alone a whole other range of learning dispositions and culturally and other valued knowledge that we're interested in pursuing – children's mana, working theories. I just think it's such a rich platform for practice.

Review and respond

How to review and respond

This involves reflecting, reviewing, and evaluating on the experiences and the process.

Consider:

  • the impact of the experience on learning
  • how effectively we responded to our people and place
  • what we would do differently next time
  • what we will take forward to our next curriculum design cycle.

The use of video coaching to evaluate kaiako interactions

In an early learning service, a kaiako used video coaching to evaluate the impact of his interactions on children’s motivation to respond. This showed that a high proportion of his interactions were questions. Often the questioning drew little or no response from tamariki and didn't encourage tamariki to talk to each other.

Alternative strategies suggested during the coaching sessions included:

  • using commenting alongside tamariki
  • extending wait time for responses
  • using sentence starters such as; “I heard you say ... ”; “When I was ... ”; ”I am thinking about ... "
  • encouraging children to speak to each other.

Trying these strategies out, his interactions were more conversational. There was more turn taking with tamariki sharing their thoughts and ideas in response to his. Interactions felt easier and more natural. Asking fewer questions, making more comments, and consciously allowing time for tamariki to respond is a work in progress. Video coaching sessions continue to be used to help evaluation.

This story of practice is also found as part of the Talking together, Te kōrerorero resource in the Conversations and questions section.


Infant standing up against a table

Strengthening infant and toddler practice

Observations at an infant and toddler centre formed part of an evaluation into kaiako practice with infants and toddlers. Kaiako found that interactions were inconsistent and often rushed, with minimal conversation. As well, they found that rigid routines and older children were sometimes interrupting the play of infants and toddlers.

The team explored Te Whāriki to investigate how they could guide practice and improve learning outcomes for children. In particular, kaiako aimed to build their understanding of how to provide a physical and emotional environment that supported infants and toddlers to learn and develop.

This investigation highlighted the need for kaiako to:

  • allow more time and space to strengthen relationships between kaiako and infants and toddlers
  • provide a calm and positive learning environment
  • provide safe places for infants and toddlers to explore
  • ensure flexible and unhurried daily routines
  • strengthen communication between kaiako and whānau.

An improvement plan to address these points was put into place. The centre trialled a number of strategies and are working to refine these. Kaiako are now consulting with an ECE environment expert to identify ways to support the provision of a safe, yet challenging learning environment for infants and toddlers.

More information about this story of practice is found as part of the Stories of practice from pedagogical leaders, a focus on learning that matters here section.


A parent with two children playing on a car at playcentre

Evaluation of transition to school

Whānau at a playcentre evaluated how well relationships within the playcentre, and with the local schools, were supporting tamariki in their transition to school.

They were surprised to find that:

  • in most cases whānau were leading the transition process with little input or support from playcentre members
  • some whānau did not see it as the role of playcentre to support transition to school.

One of several responses to their findings was the creation of a folder with information and enrolment forms for all contributing schools. The development of this folder led to interesting conversations with children. Space was provided in the folder for children’s questions, valuing the child’s voice in the transition process.

Children identified that they would like photographs of the school, past playcentre graduates, and school uniforms to be included in the folder. Gathering this information has strengthened relationships with schools. New entrant teachers now share information about schools’ transition programmes and arrange to visit the playcentre to speak with whānau.

More information about this story of practice is found as part of the Stories of practice from pedagogical leaders, personalised pathways to school and kura section.


Supporting bilingual oral language development

At a mixed aged, Māori-focused, bilingual centre, oral language is an important component of curriculum planning. Being a confident and strong speaker is a gift in te ao Māori, therefore kaiako chose to focus their internal evaluation on how well they support tamariki acquisition of oral language.

Data collected to inform this inquiry included analysis of:

  • the learning stories written over the past six months
  • event recordings of sustained conversations with each child
  • how often tamariki experienced waiata, stories, and listening activities during one week.

Analysis of this data revealed three areas that required work:

  • making language support visible in learning stories
  • having quality conversations with two-year-old boys, because practice with this cohort of tamariki was not as strong as with other groups
  • finding more opportunities to read books to all tamariki.

Staff identified a range of actions to improve practice in these areas, including:

  • creating specific language learning goals for two-year-old boys
  • focusing on language in learning stories
  • using direct quotes from children in assessment documentation to illustrate progress over time
  • planning more opportunities to read books throughout the day
  • making a concerted effort to speak te reo Māori during set hours each day.

More information about this story of practice is found as part of the Stories of practice from pedagogical leaders, affirmation of identity, language, and culture section.

For useful information on supporting bilingual and multilingual language development see Supporting bilingual and multilingual learning pathways in the Talking together, Te kōrerorero resource.


Observe, reflect, share

Kaiako were concerned for a child who was very reluctant to come to a shared kai table at lunch time. A chat with the boy’s parents revealed that eating sufficiently at home and at the centre was an important learning priority for them.

One day a kaiako noticed that this child came to the table before the other children and he ate really well. She said to colleagues, “I think his reluctance has got something to do with him liking to come to a clear, clean table”. Another kaiako in the room then tested this hunch the following day. Noticing that the boy was not at all keen on coming inside for karakia kai she sat alongside him and said, “Would you like to come and have kai now? If you wash your hands then you can be first at the kai table while everyone else is at their hui.” The child nodded and went straight off to wash his hands then had his kai.

Seeing these adjustments to the normal routine working, all kaiako used the same personalised response while the child grew accustomed to eating with others.

In this centre the leader actively encourages "observe, reflect, share”. Much of their formative assessment of tamariki happens in action. Kaiako are encouraged to treat their observations as hunches rather than absolutes and to share these with other kaiako.