Rethinking assessment and its place in practice
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Rethinking assessment and its place in practice

by Dan Cloney

June 30, 2023

Assessment is a core component of good quality early childhood practice. It is an explicit practice highlighted in the newly released Early Years Learning Framework v2.0 and is a standard within Quality Area 1 of the National Quality Standard.


But what does good quality assessment look like in everyday early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings? Recent reviews of the literature highlight that there are few assessment tools readily available to educators. In fact, most are proprietary measures that resemble checklists that are more suited to researchers and allied health professionals.


The most common form of assessment used, and taught in initial teacher education programs, are observational: cycles of documentation and collecting evidence, reflection, and then implementing deliberate practice to support learning. The challenge with such approaches is that the understanding about what learning looks like as children grow and develop is inconsistent. The language that educators use to describe progress children makes is inconsistent within and between settings and more so across transition – including into and out of preschool.


What assessment looks like in early childhood is changing, however. The Commonwealth, as part of the Preschool Reform Funding Agreement, is developing, trialing, and implementing a preschool outcomes measure. The jurisdictions, too, are driving change: the Victorian Early Years Assessment and Learning Tool is an assessment designed to make consistent observations and assessments of children’s learning in preschool settings. These reforms are provoking a debate about the purpose of assessment and the time invested in conducting assessment.


The ACER Research Conference in 2023 is bringing educators, leaders, policy makers and research together to continue this discussion and propose a new framework for assessment – one that is led by educators and focused on building a common understanding of what learning looks like, no matter what assessment tool is used. Constructing detailed learning progressions and aligning assessment tools allows educators to speak a common language of learning and be more effective in not only their practice by also their professional conversations. Such assessment is not an extra burden, but an essential tool to describe the impact of educators on children’s learning.


The ACER Research Conference will be held from 3-4 September 2023 in Sydney. To find out more or to register, visit 

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