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The initiating parent voice: Placing the child at the heart of the dialogue about learning

Marjolein Whyte

Assessment practice suggested in Te Whāriki, Aotearoa New Zealand’s early childhood curriculum, aspires to involve parents in the planning for their child’s learning. The narrative documentation of children’s learning, known as learning stories, is an example of such assessment. While the New Zealand Early Childhood Regulations advise that parents are to be part of the decision-making process for their child’s learning, Stuart, Aitken, Gould, and Meade (2008) found that parents’ comments in response to learning stories are more likely to be of a summative nature, rather than contributing feedback that feeds into planning for learning. In 2010, a concept called the initiating parent voice was developed during a small research project. This research shows that parent involvement in their child’s learning is enhanced by asking the parent to talk about a teacher-identified learning interest with their child, and share this with the teacher, before the full learning story is documented by the teacher. Further research, recently completed for a Master of Education thesis, was carried out in the context of parents in full-time employment with their children in five full-time childcare settings. The use of the concept of the initiating parent voice shows an increase in parent efficacy and opportunities for dialogue with teachers. The question remains as to whether teachers will embrace this opportunity for dialogue.

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