An Interview with our Pedagogist - Why Worksheets Don't Work?


With the changing education landscape, children need to gain skills and disposition to prepare them for life. Most paper-based assessment methods are designed with an average child in mind. A Chinese worksheet, for instance, tends to test a child's knowledge of characters that are too complex, skipping too many stages in the learning process such as reading and writing characters. Worksheets limit a child's self-expression and do not capture the different learning needs of individual children fully. 

In our third and final series on 'Why Worksheets Don't Work', we speak to Denise Teo, Pedagogist at EtonHouse, on the use of "Provocation Pages" at EtonHouse International Education Group's pre-schools.  

  • Why do EtonHouse teachers use Provocation Pages instead of standard worksheets? 
When the assessment is authentic, it helps teachers understand the children’s learning that traditional methods do not. There would be opportunities for teachers and children to change the sequence of learning and be flexible to children’s needs and interests. Teachers would be able to benchmark each child’s learning progress, which makes the planning of lessons much easier.

Additionally, authentic assessment is more exciting and enjoyable for the children. This makes the classroom easier to manage while reducing behavioural problems. Unlike test or paper-based assessment, authentic assessment helps teachers build better relationships with children and provides unique insights into each child as an individual. Futhermore, by spending so much time carefully considering and reflecting on assessment with other teachers, it offers a lot of learning and growth opportunities for our teachers, enhancing their  confidence. Hence, over the long term, authentic assessment is not just better for the children, it is also better for teachers.  

  • Are there other pre-schools that use similar assessment methods?

Much research has been done around the world on the use of testing and worksheets, but the results are always the same. Test-based, traditional, norm-referenced assessment is not beneficial and in some cases, harmful to children’s learning.

Despite this, written evaluations are a more comfortable and familiar form of assessment. Therefore, schools all over the world continue to use them. Most countries that rank at the top of global indexes have authentic and robust assessment practices; it is a large part of what makes their systems more useful, especially in early childhood. Improving authentic assessment is a constant journey for educators as we are all always working on innovating our practices.

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  • How are teachers being trained and is this approach more demanding on them compared to regular worksheets?

Provocation Pages (2).pngUsing such authentic assessment practice is more difficult for teachers over the short term but definitely more rewarding in the long run. To facilitate the use of authentic assessment, our teachers spend much time on planning together in groups.

Our most significant focus for teacher training is allowing time for the teachers to plan and reflect collaboratively as we believe that learning from each other is the best tool for understanding and applying authentic assessment.  

We put teachers through an intensive induction process with much time devoted to authentic assessment practices. Also, each of our principals, who conducts ongoing training in their schools, carries expertise in authentic assessments and a firm belief in the importance of the Reggio Emilia approach to pedagogical documentation. 

  • What do parents think?

Parents and families are a vital part of our practice. Our teachers use a variety of ways to gather feedback to improve assessment and planning. One of the facets of our Chinese Provocation Pages is that there will be strategically placed English instructions which can help non-Chinese speaking parents, so they can follow and understand the learning which is being assessed.

Parents also read research and understand not only the limitations but also the disadvantages caused by paper and norm-based education assessment. As a result, our parents are supportive of our choice to use authentic assessment practices that are more respectful of children.

Have a chat with our educators to learn more about our unique approach to education. 

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