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Parcours linguistiques des jeunes enfants

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Pedagogical approaches to making language learning pathways visible

The PALINGUI team has identified observation, documentation, and assessment as key pedagogical approaches that allow teachers and educators to make the diverse range of language learning pathways of the children visible within the educational system. These key approaches make language learning pathways visible as a means of supporting the children’s individual experiences.

The pedagogical approaches of observation, documentation, and assessment are interlinked; they are part of a holistic process to evaluate the different language learning pathways of the children. The processes of observation, documentation and assessment will vary depending on the (educational) context and the language learning pathways of the children themselves. This means that there might be set ways of observing, assessing and documenting progress which are based on the requirements of the curricular guidelines for the language(s) of the education system, or any additional language(s) taught.

Other languages might not form part of the (formal) education system – these language learning pathways might also follow different trajectories; each being used in a specific context or situation: for example, in the home or for (extended) family interactions. This means that teachers and educators need to consider new and creative ways of supporting children in identifying their own competences and skills together with their parents, and to enable them to see themselves as agents of their own (language learning). Teachers and educators will need to rely on other sources of information – for example the child’s self-evaluation of their competences and input from the parents – to help identify the child’s progress on their language learning journey and how they can be supported in developing their linguistic competences.
Teacher observation is essential in supporting language learning. Observation is the careful and purposeful watching and listening to the child. Observation can take various forms; scheduled, spontaneous, directed, non-directed, recorded or without a formal record. The type of observation that takes place will depend on the situation and the children in the class. Assessment tools and professional judgement can be used to inform the teachers' observations of their pupils' progress.
Pedagogical approaches
to making language learning
pathways visible in the
education system
Documenting is the systematic recording of a child's progress. Documenting the different language learning pathways of the child can involve different elements, sources and forms which make the individual language learning journey of the child visible. Pupils should play an active role in documenting their own learning.
Assessment is the systematic and ongoing process of evaluating the child's (language) learning. It provides an indication of the current skills, knowledge, experiences, and attitudes and forms the basis for planning the next steps along the child's language learning pathway. Assessments can be formal, informal, summative, formative, child-led, or teacher-led. Assessment involves teachers, children, and parents as co-educators who all reflect on the child's progression over time. Teachers need to understand the key principles of assessment and be able to choose from a range of different tools and methods to select the most appropriate ones, depending on the purpose of the assessment. It is important to compare the child's performance, achievements, and progress with their previous ones, as well assessing them against curriculum objectives. Assessment needs to help children understand their own development and supports them in being agents of their own learning.

Observation, documentation, and assessment can happen as part of the same process – where the observations are documented and then used to assess the child’s progress. This assessment might be against a set of standards or expectations – for example those set out in the curricular guidelines – or it might be a comparison to previous evaluations. The order in which these three pedagogical approaches happen can vary: it can start with observation, which is then used to provide an assessment of the progress, which, in turn, is documented. An assessment can form the basis for documenting progress or achievements, and this can be followed by observations to identify the next steps in the child’s language learning pathways. Documentation can also be used to guide the observation and assessment process – evaluating the big and small learning steps that the child has taken on their language learning journey and identifying the next steps.