Thursday, April 21, 2016


Margaret Carr, Annie White and Wendy Lee

How wonderful it has been to have Annie White with us over the last few days. Annie is an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Studies, at California State University, Channel Islands.  It has also been a pleasure to host her husband Jim as well. Annie is passionate about ‘Learning Stories’ and has participated in three Study Tours in New Zealand with Margie Carter, which was hosted by NZ Inspire early childhood educators in Auckland. During her stay, she has been interviewing teachers, leaders, academics etc about the use of Learning Stories in New Zealand.

In California, all State funded programmes are required to use a children's assessment tool referred to as the Desired Results Developmental Profile (DRDP).  This tool was developed by University of California, Berkeley and WestED, research institute.  This is a very challenging tool to use and has the potential to stop any teacher in their tracks with the density of the observation requirements.  Finding a pathway to meet these requirements and keep teachers connected to children’s learning lives has been a huge challenge for Annie. When Annie came to NZ, and listened to our voices and witnessed the practice, she knew that there had to be another way that Head Start and California could approach children's assessments.

After learning about the practice and philosophy of Learning Stories she returned home from NZ with a deep passion and a tenacious drive to incorporate learning stories in the Head Start programme, where she has worked with for the past 18 years. They have now been using Learning Stories for the past four years. 

This led her to her dissertation study, "Engaging Families in School Readiness: Creating New Pathways for Dialogue".  She used Learning Stories as the basis for her research to investigate teacher and parent collaboration and family engagement.  Annie also worked with Early Head Start program (birth to three years of age) to use Learning Stories (they called them "Journey of Discoveries") in collaboration with parents/families.  Her research was a qualitative case study through the University of California, Davis and Sonoma State University.  Her findings have been well received and she has presented at the California Department of Education, Early Education Support Division, to demonstrate how learning stories can be used in conjunction with the DRDP tool.  Recently, she has presented locally, Statewide and Nationally on her research.  There is an incredible interest in Learning Stories.  Annie recently received a Simms/Mann Fellowship and will be conducting a year-long project using Learning Stories with two homeless shelters that have child care centres.  Annie’s University students will also be supporting the teachers in the homeless centres, as peer mentors, to support parent to complete Learning Stories.

Annie was recently hired by California State University, Channel Islands to support their existing work using Learning Stories in the early childhood study courses.  Learning Stories have been used as part of the curriculum and assessment courses for several years.  Teachers who are placed in classrooms for student teaching, use Learning Stories for children's assessments, to assess the centres, and for their own assessment for learning. 

Annie continues to teach, explore and research Learning Stories as she searches for meaningful and authentic ways to assess children’s learning.