What makes a great story? : teacher and parent perceptions of quality learning stories in early childhood education : a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Education at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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Massey University
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Learning stories have held a primary position within the assessment landscape of early childhood education in New Zealand for over two decades. Learning stories are designed as formative approach to assessment that occurs in partnership with parents and families. Emerging evidence suggests that the way in which learning stories are used for assessment and to support children’s learning varies widely. Limited research has attended to teacher beliefs about their use of learning stories and the values that guide their practice. In addition, limited research has examined parents’ perspectives of learning stories and the features parents place value upon. This study aims to address these identified gaps in literature through exploring what features and practices of learning stories teachers and parents value and considers the ways in which these perspectives may align. An interview-based, qualitative case study approach was adopted to explore the perspectives of 9 teachers and 10 parents across two early childhood education settings in New Zealand. Data collection methods for this study drew on replication of the teacher interview tool and the supporting protocol from The Learning Stories Project (McLaughlin, Cameron, Dean, & Aspden, 2016) with a study-specific paired interview and supporting protocol developed for use with parents. Findings revealed that teachers and parents placed value on eight shared features and practices. Most notably, well presented, personally meaningful stories individualised to children and inclusive of their voices were collectively valued by both teachers and parents, as were opportunities for informal sharing and connection to parental aspirations. Yet, several other key features and practices of learning stories yielded disparate views from parent and teacher participants, including the value placed on links to curriculum and learning, inclusion of parent voice, and the use of stories that were connected to a wider evidential cycle of learning. Five key points were identified from data analysis as key discoveries: differing and shared views on good learning stories; the things not said; a preference for individual stories over group stories; meeting the needs and expectations of third party audiences; and an absence of shared dialogue between teachers and parents on valued practices. Findings highlight the need for deeper collaboration and shared understanding between teachers and parents in relation to the valued features of learning stories, alongside further consideration afforded to the prevalence of wider assessment methods in early childhood education to meet diverse needs.
Early childhood education, New Zealand, Evaluation, Early childhood teachers, Parents, Attitudes