Celebrating the individuality of young children: Participatory assessment through child-led imaginary play in Reception Class


Practitioners in Reception Classes are required to observe and assess children in order to record, understand and support each unique child's development to the fullest. The increasing education policy focus on numeracy and literacy teaching for four and five year-old children has been criticised however, for reducing time for child-led play which is widely acknowledged to be an appropriate and accurate way to observe and assess young children. Assessment frameworks are not designed to catch the 'essence' of who children are, however, the increasing emphasis on numeracy and literacy skills may arguably lead children being defined by their level of development in these areas at the expense of 'knowing' children in a broader sense. This small-scale, qualitative study aims to investigate 'joining in with child-led imaginary role-play' as an original observation method to explore the possibilities of discovering different aspects of two reception class children that might not be apparent through adult-led assessment. The study highlights the tensions and complexities of the 'knowledge' gained about children during observations. Voice recordings and field notes were taken during episodes of child-led play. The researcher experienced unexpected conflicts of roles at times which appeared to unsettle the autonomous nature of the play, however, the method allowed insights into the children's personalities and 'ways of being' during play and was a surprisingly meaningful relationship building arena based in shared humour and co-created playful meanings. This method may offer reflective food for thought for researchers and practitioners wishing to celebrate different aspects of children to those contained


Observation, Young Children, Reception Class, Participatory Research, Imaginary Role-play, Child-led Play, Early Years Education, EYFS

How to Cite

Bee-Booth, S., (2020) “Celebrating the individuality of young children: Participatory assessment through child-led imaginary play in Reception Class”, Fields: journal of Huddersfield student research 6(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.5920/fields.680


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Sally Bee-Booth (University of Huddersfield)





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