AJEC Vol. 42 No. 2 – Assessing young children’s learning: Using critical discourse analysis to re-examine a learning story
School of Education, Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia
THE CURRENT POLICY CONTEXTS of many countries demand that early childhood educators are able to articulate their practice in new ways. For example, the need to assess and report positive learning outcomes in multiple ways to policy-makers, families and educational systems is a feature of contemporary early childhood education and care. This theoretical paper introduces a multi-dimensional framework to support the assessment of young children’s learning and then provides an example of how modified tools drawn from Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) can be used to effectively examine these dimensions of learning. CDA is a multidisciplinary methodology that integrates the study of language with a consideration of wider social practices. It offers a perspective from which to examine how ways of thinking, speaking, acting and being are drawn from, and also contribute to the particular discourses that are made available within social institutions (in this case, early childhood centres). CDA focuses on how language establishes and maintains social relationships and identities. This paper provides an example of how some of the tools made available in CDA can enhance assessment practices with young children. It is argued that CDA enables early childhood educators to re-examine young children’s learning in new ways. The processes outlined in this paper have the potential to inspire early childhood educators to embrace assessment as an opportunity to articulate, celebrate and communicate young children’s ways of knowing in new ways.