Saturday, 8 October 2016

Part 2: Pedagogical Documentation and Assessment in FDK

The Kindergarten Program 2016: Unpacking the Front Matter - A Six Part Series

Part 2: Pedagogical Documentation and Assessment in FDK

Welcome to Part 2 of my six part series, Unpacking the Front Matter of The Kindergarten Program 2016.

For this post, there is A LOT of information to cover. I will be focusing on the issues that seem to be most important to other educators based on what I have heard. There is a wealth of information in the program document, so if I don't cover something, feel free to look in the program document... or ask!

I will be covering:
-pedagogical documentation vs. assessment
- new style of taking documentation notes
- the issue of learning goals and success criteria
- the Communication of Learning (formerly called the report card)

So grab your copy of The Kindergarten Program 2016 (HERE) and the Growing Success: The Kindergarten Addendum 2016 (HERE) and let’s get started!

Definitions and Clarification

So let’s start off with a little bit of clarification…

Pedagogical documentation is not the same thing as assessment. They are not interchangeable terms.

If you don’t know who Ellen Brown is, you can check out her website HERE. If you don’t follow her on Twitter, I strongly recommend that you do!

Let’s dig a little into this…

Pedagogical documentation is, as Carla Rinaldi calls it, the “’pedagogy of listening’ and ‘visible listening.’ Pedagogical documentation is not a form of summative assessment and should not be reserved for the end of a given period of time. Instead, it is done on an ongoing basis.” (TKP 2016, p.37)

This quote is directly from The Kindergarten Program which is why it is a little confusing that it often sounds/feels like they are using the terms pedagogical documentation and assessment, almost interchangeably. I have noticed that because these two terms are used in the same section that some people are using them to describe the same thing. We need to be careful when we do this, because this isn’t quite accurate.

To put it simply,

·      Assessment is gathering evidence (observation, conversation, product) that demonstrates what a child has learned.
·      Pedagogical documentation is a gathering of evidence (say, do, represent) through careful, mindful listening to make the child’s thinking and learning visible.
·      One is for making judgements according to the overall expectations, one is for making interpretations about how children make meaning.

We can use pedagogical documentation see how children make meaning in the world around them. This enables us to understand the child so that when we do assess, we will be able to notice and name the learning that the child is demonstrating.

Every child is unique, so they do not always demonstrate their learning in the same way. Pedagogical documentation allows us to understand each child so that we are able to recognize their demonstration of learning.

Does that make sense?

They are close… but not exactly the same thing.

Let’s move on.

New Program, New Documentation Style

 One of the biggest changes in the new program, other than the reorganization of the expectations into the four frames (see my last post for more info HERE) is the MASSIVE change in the way that we need to take documentation notes in order to prepare for writing the Communication of Learning (no longer called a report card).  

Just as we have done with the change over to the Full Day model, we will continue to gather documentation “from observations, notes, photos, videos, voice recordings, work samples, and interactions with children.” (TKP 2016, p. 36)
What will be new for some is that we are then to use that collected evidence for more than just planning and reporting at the end. “That information, or evidence of learning, is analysed and interpreted by the educators in collaboration with the children and their parents or other family members to gain insights into the children’s learning paths and processes.” (TKP 2016, p. 36)

If we do not analyse the evidence and information that we collect it remains as simply documentation. Once we have analysed it, then it becomes pedagogical documentation.

Remember, we are not analysing the documentation to find the overall expectations that a child is demonstrating…. we are analysing the documentation to make sense of how a child is making meaning.

This changes how we write our notes and the type of pictures that we take.

 (Note: I am in the process of adjusting my documentation style right along with all of you, so is this perfect? Nope! But it is where I am in my journey. This is merely an example, not an exemplar)

For example, 

Here is a picture that I took of some of the children in my class exploring at the light table. After they explored for a little while, I gave them some paper and markers and asked, “How could you show what you are making?”

In the old style of documenting I would write:
·      September 20: Child A built a tower on light table. Identified blocks as triangle, square, rectangle, and circle. Knows colours blue, pink, and yellow.

Sound familiar? We have all done this.

So let’s break it down.
·      What this shows is that I have gone straight for the product not the process.
·      Does it matter that he made a tower? Not really, I can see that in the picture, it isn’t really important to write down.
·      Does it matter that he named the 3D shapes as 2D shapes? Maybe a little, but that is an assessment note not a pedagogical documentation note so it isn’t important for this setting.
·      Does it matter that he knows the name of the colours? Nope.

In the new style, moving towards pedagogical documentation, I would write:
·      September 20, 10:05 am: Child A has built many different structures with the blocks on the light table. He examines each piece by looking closely, comparing the size to other blocks and feeling the different attributes with his fingers. He carefully balances each block before adding a new one. He is reluctant to represent his drawing on paper, and would rather explain what he made verbally. He becomes frustrated when his representation of the blocks “doesn’t look right”. He leaves his drawing half finished on the table to join his friend Child B in the big blocks.

Let’s break it down:
·      This comment is more about the process rather than the final product
·      It has my interpretation of the events, rather than just a retell of what happened
·      More of a focus on how he is exploring the shapes rather than what he calls them
·      Can be used for generating next steps of how best to support this child in his learning
·      This note can be interpreted with colleagues where as the other one cannot. Does he not like to represent because of fine motor? He leaves the small blocks to go to the big blocks, he enjoys building but again, fine motor?

Very different! You can see another example of what new note taking COULD sound like in the program document on page 38.

Is this new style of documenting really practical?

Some of you may be reading this thinking… “ok great, that sounds lovely and wonderful but I can’t do that in my room. I have 29 kids with a lot of high needs! I can’t sit there long enough to write all of that down.”

Trust me, I thought the same thing too. But it is doable, it just requires a shift in thinking and a shift in how our educator teams work together in the room.

The only way to make this work in a room with a lot of students and high needs is to divide and conquer.  Remember, there are TWO of you!!

While one educator is deeply engaged in note taking with one child, or a small group of children, the other educator is circulating the room, still taking notes… just not as deep and detailed perhaps.  To have both educators, in a busy high needs room, deeply engaged… is simply not practical and possibly dangerous.

It is not the responsibility of only one educator to do the entire deep note taking while the other is only responsible for crowd control. These roles should be traded in order for both educators to feel valued.

If you have a room of children that are less high needs or maybe less children in the room, then it is possible to have both educators engaged in this deep listening process… but as we all know, that is kind of rare.

Everything is a balance. What works in someone else’s context may not work in your context, so you have to find what works for you in your space. Again, remember that you are not alone… there are TWO of you!

Talk to your teaching partner, have ‘courageous conversations’ and figure out what works best for the two of you in your space with your children.

Give yourselves permission to slow down. We often put a lot of pressure on ourselves as we race to get through everything. Remember, this is a two year program…

“Recognizing the learning is a complex process, educators understand the importance of ‘slowing down’ – of taking the time to listen and observe, in an ‘inquiry stance’” (TKP 2016, p. 38)

The Issue of Learning Goals and Success Criteria

The issue of learning goals and success criteria is one that has been ongoing for a while now. In the past, there have been several ideas surrounding this issue:
·      Kindergarten is not part of the Growing Success document so we don't have to do them with our kids
·      Success criteria and learning goals are not appropriate for kindergarten
·      And the complete opposite… yes we should and yes they can!

With the release of the new program document and the kindergarten addundeum for the Gowing Succcess document, we finally have some clarification.

The gist of it is this, yes we should do them but the way they look in kindergarten is different than how they look in the older grades.  What is important is that we are “noticing and naming the learning” (TKP 2016, p. 42) This means that as we engage with children in their play, we explicitly name the learning and provide feedback that describes “the what and how they are learning.”

The example from the program document is:

“I see you’ve put down two blue blocks and one green blocks, then two blues ones and one green one again. We call that a pattern.” (TKP 2016, p. 42)

With the move to doing less large group instruction and less “units” where everyone is learning the same thing at the same time, it is has been suggested that posting learning goals (LG) and success criteria (SC) in the classroom is not beneficial for this age group. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have them, it just means that we need to be mindful of how we are creating our LG and SC and how/if we are displaying and how we are referring back to the LG and SC.

“Together, learning goals and success criteria help children focus their learning efforts, understand what comes next, and begin to make decisions about their learning.” (TKP 2016, p. 42)

So what should they look like then?

The program document provides some examples of how educators might possibly create LG and SC. It is important that these are supposed to be created WITH your students. Use the provided LG and SC as a starting point but simply copying them is not beneficial for your students because they were not part of the process.

TKP 2016, p. 42


As I mentioned in part 1 (if you missed it, you can read it HERE) my favourite part of the new document is the incredibly helpful misconception boxes sprinkled in the document. 

TKP 2016, p. 43

The Communication of Learning

We are almost there…  the part you have all been waiting for… the scary Communication of Learning (no longer called the report card).

Nothing strikes more fear into a teacher, parent or child’s heart than the awful report card… but fear not! We shall tackle this beast together. So pull out your Growing Success Kindergarten Addendum 2016 document! (you can access online HERE)

With the release of The Kindergarten Program 2016, the Ministry of Education also released a much-anticipated addendum to the Growing Success document. This document is used in Ontario for “Assessment, Evaluation and Reporting in Ontario Schools”, specifically it mandates how report cards should look and what is to be reported on and how often. 

Previously, this document was only for grade 1-12 with kindergarten being left out. This made for a very messy and very confusing time for kindergarten teachers across Ontario because there was no one single way of reporting learning to parents. Each board has been free to communicate learning to parents in any form that they feel is appropriate.

Some boards had checklists, some boards had a layout identical to the grade 1-8 report card, some were written as short bullet points and others were written in prose (paragraphs). This made it very confusing for parents when their child changed schools or school boards.

With the release of the new addendum, all school boards in Ontario must now report to parents using the same format with the same expectations of how the report is to be filled out.  This is really exciting because the reporting format matches the new four frames and makes use of the new documenting style.

Remember those old style notes (Student A built a tower?) are not useful for this new reporting format. You will see why in a minute.

Growing Success Kindergarten Addendum Front Matter

The Growing Success document is structured in a similar way to the program document, with front matter that few people read (let’s be honest… most of us don't) and appendices at the back (we would much rather look at this stuff because it is less reading and more visual).

Just with the new program document, I URGE you to read the front matter of the Growing Success document. This one is WAY shorter, the entire document is only 30 pages. Not bad compared to the 331 of the program document!

The document begins with much of the same that we have been discussing so far,
- noticing and naming the learning (learning goals and success criteria) page 7
- documentation and descriptive feedback page 8

The new part that is of most interest to many people, is the portion about evaluation (page 10-11) and communication of the learning (page 12-16).


 Just really quickly,

Growing Success K Addendum 2016, p. 10

The important part of this section is as follows,

“Evaluation in Kindergarten is the summarising of evidence of a child’s learning in relation to the overall expectations at a give point in time, in order to specify a child’s key learning, growth in learning and next steps in learning.” (Growing Success K Addendum 2016, p. 11)

“What is the most significant learning demonstrated by this child at this time?” (Growing Success K Addendum 2016, p. 11)

This is incredibly important because these new terms, key learning, growth in learning, and next steps in learning, are how the comments in the report are structured.

These terms are all in relation to the most significant learning demonstrated by a child… this is why discussing your documentation with your partner is important. You can’t determine the MOST important learning if you are doing this by yourself.

You might be thinking at this time, Ummm… what?

Thankfully, the Edugains website has come to our rescue with some definitions. If you haven’t printed out the definitions and glued them into your documentation binder, you can find them HERE as a PDF file in the Spring 2016 Training section.

They are also on page 14 of the Growing Success document. For ease, I have also included them below:

Edugains, Training Resources Kindergarten, 2016

The Importance of Partnerships

You may have noticed that I have been mentioning quite a few times the importance of your partnership in your classroom… this hasn’t been by accident. You really cannot do this job anymore as one person, there is way too much involved.

I have been hearing from a lot of people that there is sometimes (often) a lot of tension in programs between the ECE and the OCT (for an example of one of these tensions, click HERE to read about my post on the Vocabulary of Partnerships In FDK) 

The Growing Success document recognizes the importance of having two educators in the room and that they MUST work together as a team when it comes to documenting, assessing, evaluating and reporting.

The addendum specifically identifies that:

“It is expected that teachers and early childhood educators will collaborate in observing, monitoring, and assessing the development of the children in Kindergarten and in communicating with families.”  (Growing Success K Addendum 2016, p. 13)

The Kindergarten Communication Of Learning Template

Another HUGE change to reporting is that we now have three (3) reports that we are completing and sending home to parents. This is different from the 2… or even possibly one that has been done in the past depending on your board.

1. Initial Observations (like a progress report sent home in November)
·      “educators will provide an overview of the child’s key learning and growth in learning during the fall of the school year, along with information about next steps in learning.”  (Growing Success K Addendum 2016, p. 15) It is one box where you write in paragraphs. It is not specified which of the Four Frames you have to report on, so that should come down to your professional judgement unless you are told otherwise.

2. Kindergarten Communication of Learning (like a report card sent home in February)
·      “Educators will provide clear descriptions, including anecdotal comments, about the child’s learning and growth in relation to the overall expectations in each of the four frames.” (Growing Success K Addendum 2016, p. 13) There are four boxes, one for each frame, where you will write your comments in paragraphs.

3. Kindergarten Communication of Learning (like a report card sent home in June)
·      same as the report sent home in February

If you look through the Growing Success document, there aren’t any examples of what the comments might sound like, which can be a little scary for some. But have no fear! Edugains to the rescue!

In the same Spring 2016 Training section, there are sample comments that you can download as a PDF. Check them out HERE called Package Sample Report Card Comments. I have put one example here as a teaser from the Belonging and Contributing frame.

Edugains, Training Resources Kindergarten, 2016
As you read this sample comment: Where is the key learning? Where is the growth in learning? Where are the next steps?


Reporting Templates

Here is what the templates looks like for the Initial Observation report and the big Communication of Learning report.

Note: There is a different template for public boards and for Catholic boards, but they are basically the same. The only difference is that on the Catholic board version, there is a box at the beginning titled Religious and Family Life Education.  (sorry educators in the Catholic board, I don’t have any information about this section because I teach in the public board!)

Initial Observations, Catholic and Public Board. (Growing Success K Addendum 2016)

Kindergarten Communication of Learning, Catholic Board. (Growing Success K Addendum 2016, p. 26-29)

Some considerations
·      yes the boxes look huge and daunting but you are writing in prose (paragraphs) so it fills up quickly
·      Since there is a lot of cross over in the four frames it will be easier to fill a box than you think. In the past, if you had a child who didn’t do very much traditional writing, then their language box would be pretty small. In this new format, art is a form of expression and is included in the Literacy and Math box. Trust me, you will find when it comes time to reporting that you will have plenty to say
·      Quality over quantity - If you have said everything you need to say and the box is not completely full, THAT IS OK. It is better to have some white space and an expert comment than to be fill the box up with filler that detracts from the learning that you are describing.
·      When you are documenting in the classroom, if you structure your notes in the format of key learning, growth and next steps… you will save yourself SO MUCH TIME when it comes to reporting. Work smarter, not harder.
·      Work together with other kindergarten teams in your building. Remember, we are all new to this… so discuss and learn from each other!

Does that make sense? I hope this has helped to ease some of the anxiety that you may have had around pedagogical documentation, assessment and the new reporting format in kindergarten.

Yes it is a lot to take in but it is way less scary than it sounds.

As the document reminds us, SLOW DOWN and work together. We aren’t in this alone.

We have an amazing network of incredibly knowledgeable people all around us… we just have to ask.

Was this helpful? Do you have any other burning questions that haven’t been addressed?

Check out the next part of the 6 part series, Part 3: The Four Frames: Belonging and Contributing !

Let’s talk,


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