Assessment and Transition Further Reading

We hope you find these suggestions for further reading helpful.  We have provided links where appropriate, but in many cases a subscription will be required to access a particular research article.  Where an article is available without charge on another website, we have included a link to that for your information.  In the case of subscription articles, we do not recommend any particular provider and suggest that you use the information provided below to help you identify the most appropriate research source for you.

Bradbury, A. (2014) Learning, assessment and equality in Early Childhood Education (ECE) settings in England, European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 22:3, 347-354.

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) has been a site of intense policy intervention over the last decade. The extent and nature of assessment by teachers at the end of the Reception year and the reporting of the results of this assessment to the government is unusual internationally. National results from this assessment, the EYFS Profile, show continued and significant disparities in attainment by children’s socio-economic status, gender and ethnic group. Bradbury argues that the use of assessment to judge schools and teachers has implications for its operation in the classroom, as teachers feel under pressure to assess children in particular ways, and there is great potential for low expectations of some pupils to result in low attainment, which can set the child on a trajectory of educational failure.

Clarke, M. M. (2015) The language of young children on entry to school as measured by baseline assessments. Why ignore the evidence from research? Education Journal, 244, 5th October 2015, 11-16.

Professor Margaret Clark has spent a lifetime working in education, her particular research interests in early years and early years literacy. This article provides a brief outline of selected research findings, which should provide insights for contemporary policy on the assessment of young children’s language, in particular the effect of the context and the adult on young children’s score in the new, proposed baseline assessment. In each study, not only the sample, but also any groups excluded need to be considered. Other aspects in assessment of young children by tests that should provoke disquiet are identified One of the worrying findings is that none of the three studies by Tough, Wells or Tizard and Hughes had any children whose home language was other than English. In our multicultural / multilingual society it must surely be of some considerable concern that all children are only assessed in the English language.

O’Farrelly, C. and Hennessy, E. (2014) Watching transitions unfold: a mixed-method study of transitions within early childhood care and education settings, Early Years, 34:4, 329-347.

Unlike the transitions children make between settings, those they undertake between age groups within early childhood care and education (ECCE) settings are seldom studied. Accordingly, this exploratory study followed seven pre- school children (three boys and four girls) as they moved to new rooms in five ECCE settings. The findings showed that all boys and one girl demonstrated increased anxiety behaviours following transitions. This gender difference was mirrored in parental reports of negative affect and aggression in sons, but independence and assertiveness amongst daughters. Families also reported shifts in children’s identity from expert to novice and a sense of becoming ‘big’. Interviews highlighted the challenges and opportunities underlying transitions, and parents provided a rich overview of the factors they believed support and hinder transitions, emphasising the importance of strong home-centre connections. These exploratory findings suggest that internal ECCE transitions may be unique junctures in children’s ECCE experiences.

Carr, M. (2001) Assessment in Early Childhood Settings: Learning Stories. London: Sage Publications.

Carr’s work has widely influenced the use of ‘learning stories / diaries / learning journals’ in this country. The author asks: ‘How can we assess and track children’s learning in the early years in a way that includes learning dispositions and avoids the pitfalls of over-formal methods, whilst being helpful for practitioners, interesting for families, and supportive for learners? The book describes a way of assessment that stays close to the children’s real experiences and provides an alternative to mechanistic and fragmented approaches, showing how practitioners can assess what really matters. The author also argues that unless we find ways to assess complex outcomes in early childhood they will be excluded from the teaching and the learning. Simple and low level outcomes and goals will take their place. However, as Fleer (2015) emphasises, whilst learning stories represent a significant shift for assessment, they largely continue to focus on individuals.

Siraj-Blatchford, I., Kingston, D. and Melhuish, E. (2015) Assessing Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care: Sustained shared thinking and emotional well-being SSTEW scale for 2-5 year-olds provision. London: Institute of Education Press (IOE Press).

A new study from Iram Siraj-Blatchford, the Sustained Shared Thinking and Emotional Well-being (SSTEW) Scale is designed to consider some of the intentional and relational pedagogical strategies strongly associated with child outcomes. It considers practice that supports children aged between 2 and 5 years of age in developing skills in sustained shared thinking and emotional well-being as well as developing strong relationships, effective communication and aspects of self-regulation. It is designed to be used for research, self-evaluation and improvement, audit and regulation. Using the SSTEW Scale alongside other environment scales (including ECERS-E, ECERS-R or ITERS-R) gives users a more complete picture of what high-quality early childhood education and care can look like. It is aspirational in that it considers high quality pedagogy and practice. It can be used by researchers, heads of centres, managers, teaching staff and practitioners, as well as advisory staff and in professional development.

Fleer, M. (2002) Sociocultural Assessment in Early Years Education—myth or reality? International Journal of Early Years Education, 10(2), 105-120.

Socio-cultural theory (based on Vygotsky and his followers) is widely accepted in early childhood education. In this paper Professor Fleer of Australia, draws on socio-culturalism, relating it to assessment, including the work of Margaret Carr and Barbara Rogoff. She argues that assessment is still situated within a Piagetian framework that focuses instead on studying an individual’s ‘possession or acquisition of a capacity or a bit of knowledge’ . In contrast, in a socio-cultural perspective of assessment ‘the focus is on people’s active changes of understanding and involvement in dynamic activities in which they participate… (Rogoff, 1998: 690). Fleer admits that ‘One of the greatest challenges facing educationalists in using a sociocultural perspective for assessment is the current testing regime advocated in many English-speaking countries around the world, including New Zealand, Australia and the UK. This is an interesting paper that is likely to challenge thinking.

Guy Roberts-Holmes (2015) The ‘datafication’ of early years pedagogy: ‘if the teaching is good, the data should be good and if there’s bad teaching, there is bad data’, Journal of Education Policy, 30:3, 302-315.

This English article argues that early years high-stakes national assessments act as a ‘meta-policy’, ‘steering’ early years pedagogy ‘from a distance’ and have the power to challenge, disrupt and constrain early years teachers’ deeply held child- centred pedagogical values. Roberts-Holmes argues that the current narrowing of early years assessment, along with increased inspection and surveillance, operates as a policy technology leading to an intensification of ‘school readiness’ pressures upon the earliest stage of education. The paper suggests that this has encouraged a functional ‘datafication’ of early years pedagogy so that early years teachers’ work is increasingly constrained by performativity demands to produce ‘appropriate’ data that results in more formal schooling. This data ‘delivery chain’ may well start earlier and become stronger from September 2016 when the English Government plans to impose a Baseline Check on four-year-old children in Reception class.

Vogler, P., Crivello, G. and Woodhead, M. (2008) Early childhood transitions research: A review of concepts, theory, and practice. Working Paper 48. The Netherlands: Bernard van Leer Foundation.

Transitions are now recognised as central to young children’s experiences and well-being, as well as a powerful integrative framework for research. The findings of this review point to the value of widening perspectives on transitions in order to inform integrated and contextualised child- focused policy and programming. By linking concepts, theories and practice, this review offers an accessible resource that is intended to have wide appeal for both researchers and practitioners concerned with early childhood transitions.

Bradbury, A. (2014) Early childhood assessment: observation, teacher ‘knowledge’ and the production of attainment data in early years settings. Comparative Education, 50:3, 322-33.

This paper examines the peculiarity of the English assessment system, the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile, noting that whereas other regions of the UK have no statutory assessments of children in this age group, its use in England is an unusual case. Analysing data from two ethnographic case studies of classrooms of four- and five-year-old children, the author concludes with a number of observations of the efficacy of such assessment that impact on teachers, pedagogy and children. Set against the government’s preference for numerical data and the planned introduction of ‘baseline’ assessment, this results in ‘a reduced curriculum through ‘teaching to the test… [and] practices of ‘cynical compliance’ with regulations.

Whalley, M. Arnold, C. Lawrence, P. and Peerless, S. (2012) The voices of their childhood: families and early years’ practitioners developing emancipatory methodologies through a tracer study, European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 20:4, 519-535.

At Pen Green Children’s Centre, Research projects emerged out of the daily challenges experienced by nursery staff, parents and children, and all staff were encouraged to see themselves as practitioner researchers. This research involved two groups of young people of 11-20 years of age who had attended Pen Green as young children, shared their stories, providing new insights into the child’s voice, and transforming understanding of a child’s world.

Basford, J. and Bath, C. (2014) Playing the assessment game: an English early childhood education perspective. Early Years: An International Research Journal, 34:2.

This paper highlights the latest English early childhood assessment policies, which often give contradictory messages to practitioners, outlining key challenges for practitioners and pointing the way to issues that could enable practitioners to develop greater confidence when playing the assessment game.


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