How to craft effective learning stories for New Zealand ECE

Learning stories have become a habitual aspect of Early Childhood Education (ECE) practice in New Zealand. So much so that, as teachers, we may not often pause to reflect on how to craft effective learning stories—or why we write them in the first place. Crafting learning stories has become a “given” action in the day-to-day practice of an Early Childhood Teacher: Welcome a child, change a nappy, serve morning tea, write a learning story…

However, if we want to improve the quality of our learning stories, we must ask ourselves to reflect on the purpose of learning stories. This guide is informed by the belief that learning stories are an ideal example of narrative assessment for learning:   

Learning stories empower learners, teachers and whānau to document how learning is noticed, recognised and responded to within their learning community; to ‘Notice, recognise and respond to’ learning is to enact a responsive pedagogical approach; to embed the principles and strands of Te Whāriki in practice.

(Ministry of Education, 2004)

How to craft effective learning stories  

When sitting down to craft effective learning stories, there are several core considerations for teachers. Having a clear understanding of the intention, audience and content of learning stories, coupled with reflective questions, will greatly help teachers in producing effective learning stories. 

Intention (goals of assessment)  

Learning stories are often underpinned by implicit goals or aims we have for learning. As you begin crafting a learning story, consider how you define learning and what is seen as valuable learning in your learning community, centre or service.  

  • What is your reason for writing this story?  
  • What aspect of learning are you trying to document here?  
  • Why have you chosen to recognise this particular aspect of learning for this child at this moment in time?  
A Maori mother watches as her two young children paly with 3D letters on a table

As you ponder these questions, jot down notes so you can incorporate these thoughts into the body of your learning story. You may also wish to create a section in your learning story titled ‘What Learning Do I See Here?’ and include your reflections as a bulleted list.  


Who are you writing for? When we write learning stories, we often write for multiple audiences at once: the child, parents, extended whānau or family, fellow teachers, practice or centre leaders and even ourselves (as a form of reflection on teaching practice). The diverse positions and perspectives of our multiple audiences makes learning stories a powerful, complex form of communication. As a teacher this dimension of learning stories can be equal parts exciting and overwhelming!  

Remember, you do not have to prioritise all these audiences all the time. While it is always important to consider the position and voice of the child and their whānau as a primary audience of your learning story, you can write intentionally for or champion various audiences on a rotational basis. Use different formats, templates or structures of learning stories to help you do this. See the links below for examples of learning story formats that can help you engage diverse audiences:  

Looking for inspiration? Check out our Playground templates on Pinterest.


What do I include?  

  • Photos 
  • Descriptions of events 
  • Records of conversations 
  • Videos 
  • Learning outcomes 
  • Children’s artwork 

Effective learning stories empower us as learners, teachers and whānau to make learning visible. They document how we “notice, recognise and respond” to learning within our community. To “notice, recognise and respond” resonates with Ako (a reciprocal notion of teaching and learning) that emerges out of Te Ao Māori, aligns with the principles of Te Whāriki and is attributed to the work of education researcher Bronwen Cowie (Cowie, 2000).  

Encompassing three distinct actions, this pedagogical process can act to structure and design the content of our learning stories. If we are intentional about including aspects of “noticing”, “recognising” and “responding” when we craft learning stories, we enable ourselves to be both effective and creative in crafting quality documentation of learning. The image below offers some suggestions on what sorts of content might support the actions of “noticing”, “recognising” and “responding”.  

Looking for inspiration? Check out our Playground templates on Pinterest.

The learning story exemplars below show how you might integrate these content elements in a learning story:  

Reflective Questions  

You can use these teaching prompts to guide reflection on practice or to facilitate discussion among your teaching team.   

What do our learning stories tell us about 

  • How we define learning in our centre/service community?  
  • What sorts of learning are valued and celebrated in our centre/service community?  

 Does our approach to learning stories 

  • Support our reflective practice as teachers?  
  • Foster the sharing of “noticing” or observation or discussion of learning that is not recorded among our team?  
  • Generate conversation and connection with parents/whānau?  

And, who is engaging with our learning stories? How do we know?  

  • Are we interested in measuring child, parent and whānau engagement with our learning stories?  

Now you’ve got some tips on how to craft effective learning stories 

You’ll find it easier to craft effective learning stories for your ECE service with practice. By considering your intention, audience and what content to include, you’ll be well on your way. Using reflective questions will help you and your fellow teachers hone and refine your learning stories. 

Many teachers turn to planning platforms to create and share their learning stories. Discover by Xplor’s Playground platform for teachers offers several ways to create and share your learning stories. We’re constantly striving to improve the platform to meet the needs of teachers. Check out this page to see what improvements are around the corner and what else we’ve got planned for our teacher platform. 


  • Cowie, B. (2000). Formative assessment in science classrooms. Doctoral thesis, University of Waikato, Hamilton.  
  • Ministry of Education. (2004).  Kei tua o te pae/Assessment for learning: Early childhood exemplars. Book 1: An Introduction to Kei Tua o te Pa Wellington: Learning Media.  
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Sarah Saxena

Customer Success Coordinator

Drawing on her experience as an early childhood education teacher, Sarah builds relationships with customers, helping ensure they get the most out of the Discover by Xplor platform.

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