Observation, Planning and Assessment
The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) underpins everything we do, including our planning, observation and assessment cycle. At Archfield House Nursery we follow a planning system called “Planning In The Moment”, which was pioneered by Anna Ephgrave.
Children learn through play and have an innate desire and curiosity to explore, therefore they learn best when they take a lead role in their play. When children are able to initiate and lead their play, with minimal interruptions, they become highly engaged and involved. This is when they are happy, content and their brain is active and developing.
“Babies and young children are experiencing and learning in the here and now, not storing up their questions until tomorrow or next week. It is in that moment of curiosity, puzzlement, effort or interest- the ‘teachable moment’- that the skilful adult makes a difference. By using this cycle on a moment-by-moment basis, the adult will always be alert to individual children (observation), always thinking about what it tells us about the child’s thinking (assessment) and always ready to respond by using appropriate strategies at the right moment to support children’s well-being and learning (planning for the next moment)” (The National Strategies Early Years: Learning, Playing and Interacting, 2009).
The environment plays a vital role in supporting and extending children’s learning and development. Our environments are organised to enable children to explore and learn safely and to independently access open-ended resources to support their learning. Children take a lead role; where possible they are able to select where they play, the resources they use and what to do with them. Staff also enhance children’s learning by setting up provocations.
Staff join the children, support them and record the outcome of the interaction. This allows children to become highly engaged, whilst following their own interests. Our routines have minimal interruptions with long periods of free flow, child-initiated play, allowing for high levels of engagement. Our environments are constantly reviewed and reflected upon to ensure they meet the needs of the children.
We carry out the cycle of observation, assessment and planning on a moment-by-moment basis. In addition, we use provocations and celebrate festivals etc. We generally do not plan ahead as our planning is done ‘in the moment’. Working in this way captures the children’s interests in the present moment and enables staff to respond to what the child needs in that exact moment. We are led by the children in the moment and respond accordingly.
Planning In The Moment enables staff to spend their time directly with the children and preparing environments that will excite and interest them, rather than filling in unnecessary paperwork. Working in this way may mean less ‘evidence’ in the children’s learning journals, however it means our staff know the children extremely well. “Paperwork has minimal impact on the children and is therefore not as important as the interactions themselves. Practitioners need to get back to the important, powerful role of interacting with children, rather than trying to document everything that happens” (Anna Ephgrave, 2018).
Although this is the case we recognise the importance of documenting observations and assessments. We have ‘Focus Weeks’ for groups of children and focus on documenting their learning for a week of their nursery time. We complete assessments about children’s characteristics of effective learning and development 3 times a year, these assessments inform staffs practice and the environment provided for the children.