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Evaluating Early Years Practice in Your School: A Practical Tool for Reflective Teaching

reviewed by Maleka Donaldson - October 11, 2021

coverTitle: Evaluating Early Years Practice in Your School: A Practical Tool for Reflective Teaching
Author(s): Ann Langston
Publisher: Bloomsbury, London
ISBN: 1472959167, Pages: 176, Year: 2019
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In Evaluating Early Years Practice in Your School: A Practical Tool for Reflective Teaching, author Ann Langston provides detailed and actionable steps for how teachers of three- to five-year-old children can improve their pedagogy. Drawing on her experience as an early years specialist and trainer in the United Kingdom, Langston leverages a nuanced understanding of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum and Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services, and Skills (OFSED) inspection criteria to craft a thoughtful, how-to guide for self-evaluation, professional reflection, and instructional improvement. With each chapter, the book details how teachers—whether individually or embedded in a community of practice—can utilize the included information, checklists, and reflections to specifically and accurately assess the quality of their current practices and incorporate new approaches into their daily work with children.

Chapter 1 emphasizes the importance of documentation and accurate self-evaluation, which are required to establish “a cycle of continuous improvement” (p. 3). Readers can rate themselves using a multi-page chart of 40 attributes. This assessment serves to determine their initial status in several core areas (i.e., relationships, deployment of other adults, organization of space, opportunities for learning and development). After reflecting on the results, readers are urged to develop an action plan for pressing concerns that can be addressed in the short term.

The early chapters of the book delve into a few foundational aspects of classroom teaching. In Chapter 2, Langston makes the case for the importance of planning, providing some successful model plans to emulate and making recommendations for how practitioners can draw on the wants and interests of children and parents. The chapter also pushes readers to consider the particular requirements of EYFS curriculum and to articulate their own rationales for when to use different types of lesson plans. Next, Chapter 3 focuses on the role of observation in the classroom, sharing several charts teachers can use to collect data about their present child observation practices, as well as case studies and sample notes to illustrate how to gather more useful observational data in the future. In Chapter 4, readers are invited to think about their past and future assessment practices. The early portion of the chapter emphasizes how to foster connections and partnerships with children’s families in order to build mutual trust; tools are provided to examine both parental engagement and the types of information given to parents. The latter portion of the chapter makes the case for an appropriate amount of ongoing and summative assessment—not too much and not too little—that aligns with EYFS standards and can support effective learning, with prompts offered to help teachers plan for this.

The next four chapters of the book spiral into the specifics of teacher planning and the provisions and resources offered to children in EYFS classrooms. Chapter 5 addresses how to teach based on children’s interests, promoting their confidence and making the most of teachable moments. A series of case studies and observations allows readers to determine the extent to which this already occurs in their teaching practice, and how to improve and expand it going forward. Chapter 6 weighs how the classroom environment is organized. Readers can identify the “hot and cold” (p. 80) spots in their room and read a case study that shows how to encourage children to try out the “cold,” underutilized places. Then they can use the provided tables to understand where and when various skills are addressed in the curriculum. Chapter 7 tackles how to keep children “hooked” into learning on an ongoing basis and closes with 50 challenges teachers can try out to infuse excitement, curiosity, and interest into their classrooms. Outdoor learning is addressed in Chapter 8, urging teachers to compare the extent to which the EYFS curriculum is addressed in indoor and outdoor spaces, and suggesting how to develop some next steps to expand learning across these settings. Prompts are also provided so readers can evaluate the quality and usage of their outdoor provisions.

The final two chapters attend to how teachers’ efforts within the EYFS curriculum relate to factors beyond the classroom. Chapter 9 addresses cross-year transitions, articulating the best ways to support children and families as they move from one year to the next. After helping assess their current practices, the author supports readers as they develop plans to meet established needs for the transition and to ensure that teachers communicate and share information appropriately with families and school personnel. And finally, Chapter 10 focuses on evaluation. It primarily elaborates how the EYFS principles can enhance children’s learning and steer preparations for successful OFSTED inspections.

On the whole, Evaluating Early Years Practice in Your School is an excellent resource for teachers who need to rigorously assess their work with children and to establish a professional practice of ongoing self-evaluation and reflection. A great strength of the book is the wealth of practical guides and detailed tables that teachers can complete along the way to carefully examine themselves and make step-by-step plans for improvement. While the specificity and concrete nature of the book are an asset, one compromise is that it centers entirely around the structure of the U.K. system. Objectively, the recommendations and assessments throughout the book reflect approaches that could apply in many early learning settings around the globe. However, a major drawback is that the author does not offer any translation of terms or generalization of practices that could help readers working under different standards to tailor to their own contexts. Navigating some aspects of the book may be a heavier lift for teachers who work outside of the United Kingdom, due to the constant references to EYFS, OFSTED, and other country-specific terms.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: October 11, 2021
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23869, Date Accessed: 10/16/2021 10:08:34 AM

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About the Author
  • Maleka Donaldson
    Smith College
    E-mail Author
    MALEKA DONALDSON, Ed.D., is an assistant professor of education and child study at Smith College. She is a former early childhood teacher and has earned degrees from Harvard University in the areas of Human Development, Learning & Teaching, and Biology. Her research focuses on teacher and student responses to mistakes during real-world classroom instruction, and she is the author of From Oops to Aha: Portraits of Learning from Mistakes in Kindergarten (2021, Rowman & Littlefield).
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