Using Te Whāriki to reflect on learning progress
In this video Associate Professor Alex Gunn and Jenna-Lee Pfeifer demonstrate using the goals and learning outcomes in Te Whāriki as a reference point. They reflect on learning progress and consider the next steps for a child.
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.
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.
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.
This video is part of the Local curriculum design guide.