Assessment for learning in the foundation stage Assessment for learning means formative assessment which fully involves children and practitioners together in deciding “where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get there”. For primary school children in key stages 1 and 2, aspects of this process are: sharing learning goals with the children; helping children to recognise the standards for which they are aiming; involving children in self and peer assessment; giving feedback and helping children to identify their next steps. However, because of the ways in which young children learn and the nature of effective pedagogy in the early years (see EPPE findings and principles from the CGFS), assessment for learning in the foundation stage looks different from assessment for learning with other age groups. The Building the Foundation Stage Profile video training materials (2003) pointed out that: `Given the open ended and play based nature of many of the learning experiences that children encounter within the foundation stage, it may not always be appropriate to share learning objectives with children before they begin activities.' Nevertheless, practitioners should discuss their learning with the children, giving feedback when appropriate without interrupting their play and identifying next steps with them. In the `What do practitioners think?' section on the CD-ROM, one practitioner describes this process in her setting: “The children have a vital role in the Profile. Often they will talk to us about what they enjoyed learning. They come to us to explain what they like doing and what they can learn.” Photograph copied from The Handbook, Foundation Profile WHAT IS ASSESSMENT FOR LEARNING IN THE FOUNDATION STAGE? Assessment for learning in the foundation stage includes: • formative assessment based on observations and other evidence of learning • discussions with the children about their learning wherever possible and involving them in self-assessment • assessment used to inform planning • involving children in planning their next steps. Foundation stage assessment for learning is different from assessment for learning with other age groups because: • “Given the open ended and play based nature of many of the learning experiences that children encounter within the foundation stage, it may not always be appropriate to share learning objectives with children before they begin activities.” (Building the Foundation Stage Profile video training materials (2003, p22) • In the Foundation Stage "there should be opportunities for children to engage in activities planned by adults and also those that they plan and initiate themselves.” (CGFS, p11) • Best outcomes for children take place in settings which provided a near equal balance of practitioner-initiated group work and learning through freely chosen play. (EPPE, Technical paper 10, 2004) • Freely chosen play activities provided the best opportunities to extend children's thinking. (REPEY, 2002) 'The Foundation Stage Profile links very nicely to the Foundation Stage Curriculum, so all we've done is to tie it into our curriculum planning' Quote from CD-ROM: `Observing children: building the Profile' Developing a cycle of assessment Typically, a termly cycle of assessment occurs in effective foundation stage settings and schools. As part of the learning and teaching process within everyday practice this cycle would include: • incidental observations, when the practitioner notices something significant he or she is not involved in • participant observations, where the practitioner is fully involved with the children • carrying out one planned `focused' observation for each child (3-5 minutes) where the practitioner stands back to watch a child in a play-based or independent self-chosen activity inside or outside • informal discussions with parents • informal discussions with the child. In addition, the cycle must include a time to review the children's records, make summative assessments and develop learning priorities or targets for the children across the breadth of the curriculum as necessary. These learning priorities should cover all areas of learning as appropriate to the individual child, and should not be confined to literacy and mathematics. The CD-ROM section `What do practitioners think?' includes an interview with a practitioner working in a team situation and describes how the process works in her setting: “We would individually go away and look at the children that we've got each term and say where we think they are at. Then if there are any queries we would put question marks and we'll go back and discuss these.” This termly cycle is applicable across the foundation stage, including in nursery settings where practitioners are not expected to complete assessments against the Foundation Stage Profile scales. In this way, their contributions to the assessment process will be more focused to support transition and more useful in making the final assessments for the Foundation Stage Profile. In the final year of the foundation stage, staff may find it useful to make summative judgements on all children once per term in relation to the Foundation Stage Profile scale points, thereby making the workload at the end of the foundation stage more manageable. In nursery settings it is much more appropriate to use stepping stones and, where and when applicable, early learning goals as set out in the CGFS.