Authentic Assessment

There is no replacement for assessment designed to measure whether what has been taught has been learned. In the Early Years, the best way to measure outcomes is through Observation and Conversation. 


While watching and interacting with children in their play, educators pay close attention to how children make known their ideas, interests and theories. These revelations challenge educators to assess:
  • what children are thinking about
  • how children interpret and communicate what they are doing
  • what children are learning through the play process
  • who children are interacting with and how they interact
  • where the children might take their interest over the next few days

Educators reflect on the above assessments and make decisions about:
  • how they will support children’s interests and questions
  • what resources or props might be added to the environment to enhance the learning and to deepen the children’s experiences
  • where the play might lead and how the educator might scaffold the children’s learning

Gathering Information through

  • document a small portion of a process or event
  • can be accompanied by written descriptions of the process being recorded
  • can be easily shared with children, parents, the community
  • can become part of a larger documentation of children’s learning projects
  • are a more permanent and visible record of learning

Learning Stories:
  • tell a story about a child’s learning processes or a group of children learning together
  • may be told from the perspective of the child, the educator or the family
  • document what a child has been working on alongside others or when interacting with peers
  • describe three elements in the observation: interacting with materials, developing understanding, and creating representations of understanding
  • detail what children “can do”
  • may be brief written snapshots or lengthy records over a longer time period
  • may include educator interpretations and personal comments
  • present an authentic view of children learning in a specific context
  • function as part of educator reflection and program planning
  • can be easily shared with children, families and others
  • are appropriate in early childhood settings where storytelling serves as an important way of communicating
Documentation Posters, Panels and Books:
  • record traces of children’s learning processes in a visible way
  • capture the important moments in learning
  • combine photos, records of children’s conversations, questions and ideas
  • show sequence of processes in developing and completing a project
  • communicate children’s learning to the learners themselves as well as adults and other children
  • encourage revisiting the project and processes

Adapted from Play and Exploration
Early Years Branch
Ministry of Education
April 2008
Reprint 2013
ISBN 978-1-897211-36-6