Referred to as “a missing link in assessment” (Banta and Kuh, 1998), collaboration between students and faculty has the potential to transform engagement, and reframe assessment. While we all recognise the need for assessment, students tend to be grade-focused (Wotjas, 1998), often paying little attention to written feedback (Ducan, 2007), thus missing an opportunity to transform future work. Clearly, there is a need for our thinking regarding assessment to continue to evolve, but is third level education leaving it too late? If Primary and Secondary institutes are handed a rigid curriculum (Woodrow, 2007), that comes with rigid assessment, ingrained in students long before their engagement with third level institutions. For this reason, the researchers turn their attention to the early education sector, and its Aistear Curriculum Framework (NCCA, 2009). This framework is adaptable and learning is student-led. It creates space for the child’s voice, facilitating innovative research and promoting participation (I’Ansos, 2013). Of course, for students of any age to shape their own learning and assessment, they must understand the curriculum, or rather, we must understand how they interpret the curriculum.
For the purpose of this project, the researchers collaborated with children in early years education, attending an Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) state-funded class. Children aged between 3-6 years were invited to share their views on the Aistear curriculum, with willing participants taking part in a focus group discussion. They children were invited to describe how they “see” each theme of Aistear in their classroom, with each willing participant given an opportunity to express their views. The results were documented by the researchers and read back to the children, offering them an opportunity to change, or add to, their comments. Their feedback was then used to inform preparation of the environment and the planning of learning opportunities.