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Assessment, planning and evaluation

Content from pages 63-65 of Te Whāriki: Early Childhood Curriculum


Mā te ahurei o te tamaiti e ārahi i ā tātou mahi.

Let the uniqueness of the child guide our work.

Content sections


Assessment makes valued learning visible. Kaiako use assessment to find out about what children know and can do, what interests them, how they are progressing, what new learning opportunities are suggested, and where additional support may be required.

Understood in this way, assessment is formative, intended to support curriculum planning and enhance learning. It is also useful for informing children, whānau and families, other kaiako and external support agencies about children’s learning and progress over time.

In reciprocal, responsive ECE practice older children will be included in the planning and assessing of their own learning journey.

Assessment is both informal and formal. Informal assessment occurs in the moment as kaiako listen to, observe, participate with and respond to children who are engaged in everyday experiences and events. It leads directly to changes in the teaching and learning environment that will help children reach immediate and longer-term goals.

More formal, documented assessment takes place when kaiako write up observations of children’s engagement with the curriculum. They may also take photographs, make audio or video recordings and collect examples of children’s work. By analysing such assessment information, gathered over time, kaiako are able to track changes in children’s capabilities, consider possible pathways for learning, and plan to support these.

Portfolios of children’s learning are a useful way for kaiako to follow children’s progress and interests. They also provide opportunities for parents and whānau to engage with their child’s learning journey and contribute their own observations and suggestions. Portfolios may include annotated photographs, children’s art, recordings or transcripts of oral language, kaiako observations and learning stories. Older children will often take their own photographs and dictate the story of their work.

Narrative forms of assessment, such as learning stories, may make use of a formative assessment sequence: noticing, recognising, responding, recording and revisiting valued learning.

Opportunities for children to revisit items in their portfolios invite learning conversations and support self- and peer assessment. Older children will plan for their own learning with kaiako and whānau.

Identifying the learning, progress to date, possible next steps, and whether additional support is required are the core elements in a formative assessment process. The goals and learning outcomes in Te Whāriki provide a sound basis for formative assessment, planning and evaluation.

A kaupapa Māori approach to assessment situates the child within Māori ways of knowing and being and is carried out in ways that recognise and support the educational aspirations that whānau have for mokopuna. Kaupapa Māori assessment requires kaiako to recognise what and who mokopuna bring to the early childhood context, including their inherent strengths, traditions, history, whānau, and whakapapa. Assessment informed by kaupapa Māori does not view the child in isolation but recognises that the mokopuna emerges from rich traditions and is linked strongly with whānau, hapū and iwi.

Kaupapa Māori assessment is concerned with enhancing the mana of the child and their whānau. This means placing Māori constructs of the child and their whānau in the centre of the frame, ensuring that assessment captures the strengths, abilities and competencies of the mokopuna and their whānau.

Assessment for all children will be consistent with the principles of Te Whāriki

two tamariki enjoying looking at their learning stories together.

Assessment will be a mana-enhancing process for children, parents and whānau, conducted in ways that uphold the Empowerment | Whakamana principle.

Children have increasing capacity to assess their own progress, dictate their own learning stories, and set goals for themselves (for example, learn to climb something, write their name, pursue or expand an interest or project or lead a waiata). As they learn to assess their own achievements they also become increasingly able to plan new challenges, for example, transferring their learning to a new context, taking on a new responsibility, strengthening a disposition, extending their knowledge or skills, or refining an outcome.

The Holistic development | Kotahitanga principle means that assessment takes account of the whole child – tinana, hinengaro, wairua and whatumanawa. While kaiako may focus observations on a specific area of learning, they draw on their wide knowledge of each child to make meaning of their observations and plan for next steps. Through its principles, strands, goals and learning outcomes, Te Whāriki provides for children’s holistic development, supporting kaiako to recognise and respond to the full breadth of each child’s learning.

The Family and community | Whānau tangata principle means that parents and whānau will be included in discussions about their children’s progress and achievements. They will contribute knowledge of their children’s capabilities at home and in other settings and will be seen as ‘experts’ on their children’s interests. Whānau expectations are significant influences on children’s own expectations and aspirations; collaborating with kaiako can in turn influence the expectations of whānau.

From time to time external expertise may be called on to support children’s learning. This is important for all children, but particularly so for those who need additional learning support. Where those involved have different perspectives on what is needed, kaiako have a role to play in coordinating these perspectives and aligning them with the principles of Te Whāriki. Kaiako should have a good understanding of the learning that is valued by whānau, hapū, iwi and community, and this will be reflected in the information that is shared with them.

The Relationships | Ngā hononga principle means that the assessment process will recognise the people, places and things that support a child’s learning. Assessment is more likely to be valid when the child is assessed by someone who knows them well and is able to recognise significant learning over time. All those involved in the education and care of a child will be involved in assessment. This includes those who may be working with the child to provide additional support.

Assessment frameworks consistent with Te Whāriki include Kei Tua o te Pae (books 1–20) and Te Whatu Pōkeka.


Planning involves deliberate decision making about the priorities for learning that have been identified by the kaiako, parents, whānau and community of the ECE service. All children should have opportunities to learn across all five strands of the curriculum and to pursue their strengths and interests in depth.

When planning, kaiako draw on their own pedagogical knowledge and on their knowledge of the children. This is gained from informal and formal assessments, dialogue with parents, whānau and others working with the children and from other sources such as parent surveys and internal evaluation.

At the broadest level, curriculum planning begins with shared inquiry:

  • What do we believe about young children and the ways that they learn and develop?
  • What do we know about these children?
  • What aspirations do we, along with their parents and whānau, have for them?
  • What do they need to learn in order to realise these aspirations?
  • As kaiako, what do we need to know and do to support this learning?
  • What kind of environment do we need to provide to enable this learning?

Such questions provide a starting point for respectful dialogue with parents and whānau, in which diverse views are heard and acknowledged. Kaiako need to be able to explain Te Whāriki as the overarching curriculum framework and articulate what this means for children in the setting. From this dialogue a shared sense of ‘what matters here’ will emerge, and local curriculum priorities can be negotiated within the Te Whāriki framework. These priorities will be reflected in long- and medium-term planning as well as in day-to-day practice.

Some services, for example, hospital-based services, operate in contexts where planning for the care and learning of individual children often has to be done on a day-to-day basis.


The purpose of evaluation is to enable systematic improvement in the ECE setting.

Evaluation can be internal or external. An internal evaluation is undertaken by the service itself and will sometimes involve children and their parents and whānau. An external evaluation is undertaken by an individual or agency that comes in from outside the service.

Internal evaluation considers how effectively the service is providing for the strengths, interests and needs of all children and how their learning is progressing. It may focus on the teaching and learning programme, the service’s priorities for learning, or other elements of the ECE service directly impacting on learning and teaching. Kaiako discuss, reflect upon and evaluate how effectively their curriculum planning and implementation is supporting children’s learning interests and progress.

A far-ranging internal evaluation might look, for example, at leadership, the learning environment, and relationships with parents and whānau. It will ask: What is working well, and for whom? What needs to change, and how? A more narrowly defined internal evaluation may follow a specific curriculum event or intervention, with the aim of reviewing its effectiveness and drawing lessons from it.

All internal evaluation should be primarily concerned with the service’s impact on children’s learning and development, using the principles, strands, goals and learning outcomes of Te Whāriki as a framework, together with the identified learning priorities of the service’s kaiako, children, parents, whānau and communities.

Internal evaluation can be either short- or long- term. Long-term evaluation considers the impact of practices, processes and policies over time, usually one to three years. Long-term evaluations support periodic external evaluation.