Assessment, a mana enhancing process 

Carol Marks, Professional Learning Facilitator, Educational Leadership Project, New Zealand

Wednesday 16 January 2019

Mā te ahurei o te tamaiti e ārahi i ā tātou mahi. 
Let the uniqueness of the child guide our work. 
 
As we weave our own curriculum and keep abreast of current theory, the alignment between Te Whariki, Te Whatu Pokeka, Reggio Emilia and kaupapa Maori becomes evident when strengthening assessment for tamariki. You may be wondering why this comparison and for the centres who follow the Reggio Emilia approach, they may not have realised the close alignment between our curriculum and Reggio practice. So lets think about the similarities between Te Whariki and Reggio Emilia when it comes to our assessment practices and recognise the impact on tamariki when pedagogy is based on relationships (co-contruction) and listening and made visible and supported through the process of writing learning stories. It is through this pedagogical documentation that learning processes can be shared, discussed, reflected upon and interpreted (formative assessment).
 
 
When kaiako think deeply about wise practice permeated by cultural values the alignment between Reggio and kaupapa Maori is strongly evident. Reggio’s choice is to take the image of the rich child, “an active subject with rights and extraordinary potential and born with a hundred languages.” (p,17)
 
Te Whariki reminds us that assessment for all children will be consistent with the principles of Te Whāriki. 
“Assessment will be a mana-enhancing process for children, parents and whānau, conducted in ways that uphold the empowerment | whakamana principle. and assessment takes account of the whole child – tinana, hinengaro, wairua and whatumanawa .
 
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.” (p,66) Where tapu is the potential for power, mana is the power, the realisation of the tapu of the child. The mana of a child is derived from their links with ngā atua. The spiritual powers are their immediate source of mana (mana atua) – they are the source of the child’s tapu; they come from their iwi, hapū, and whānau (mana tangata) and from their land, their tūrangawaewae (mana whenua). The mana of a child needs recognition and must be nurtured. Rameka (2003) said that children actively participate in their  own learning and become active participants and co-constructors of knowledge. In this way, children are considered to be social beings located or embedded within cultural communities. So within our assessment we recognise Funds of Knowledge, that is based on a simple premise: people are competent, they have knowledge, and their life experiences have given them knowledge. Everybody has a story and when a story moves us it changes our perspective on things, it adds to our knowledge and understanding of the world around us. Te Whatu Pokeka reminds us that children have the seeds of greatness within them. They are the culmination of generations of chiefs and rangatira. They therefore cannot be viewed as being needy or from a deficit model.
 
So, our learning stories need to grow authentic connections between people places and things encouraging teachers to think deeper about the learning stories they write and how the things children do in the centre relate to their local community and whanau. Each child  who steps through your doors will bring with them a story......lots of stories, even at their young age.  How we interpret those stories, how we open our hearts and minds to those stories is something you may like to investigate further  as part of your appraisal process, keeping in mind that you will be strengthening your understanding and providing evidence of meeting the Standards as Learning Stories should also be used as evidence of your  teaching practice and the growing and stretching of practice in your Inquiry e.g.
 
Principle 2: Protection—protecting and enhancing the wellbeing, identity and self- concept of the tamaiti (child) Under the treaty principle of protection, the tamaiti is at the core. This principle acknowledges the importance of protecting and enhancing student self-concept and cultural identity by utilising strengths-based and holistic approaches to overall health and wellbeing. Ka Hikitia reiterates the importance of “realising Mäori potential” by focusing on strengths and when we ensure that this happens within our practice and assessment practices the principles of  Te Whāriki will be strongly connected to te Tiriti o Waitangi; the learner is the centre of teaching and learning. (Te Whāriki p, 54) 
 
I particularly like the words of Carlina Rinaldi when writing about assessment that “gives value to the children themselves , as they can encounter what they have done in the form of a narration, seeing the meaning that the teacher has drawn from their work. In the eyes of the children, this can demonstrate that what they do has value, has meaning. So they discover that they ‘exist’ and can emerge from anonymity and invisibility, seeing that what they say and do is important, is listened to, and is appreciated: it has a value.”  Certainly a mana enhancing process. 
 
 
References:
 
Giudici,C. & Krechevsky, M. (eds) (2001) Making learning visible: Children as individual and
                group learners, Cambridge, MA: Project Zero and Reggio Emilia: Reggio Children.
 
Rameka, L. K. (2003). Cultural values and understanding as quality outcomes for early
                 childhood. In Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Education Conference. Conference held at
                 Arizona, USA.
 
Rameka, L. K. (2003). Kaupapa Mäori learning and assessment exemplar project. In 14th Annual Conference on Quality in Early Childhood Education. Conference held at Malta.
 
Ministry of Education (2017). Te Whāriki: He Whāriki Mātauranga mō ngā Mokopuna o Aotearoa/Early Childhood Curriculum. Wellington: Mātauranga House
 
Ministry of Education. (2009). Te Whatu Pōkeka: Kaupapa Māori Assessment for Learning: Early Childhood Exemplars. Wellington, New Zealand: Learning Media.