Critically evaluate the provision for supporting cognitive development in own setting

Qualification: NCFE CACHE Level 3 Diploma for the Early Years Educator
Unit: Unit 3.9: Facilitate the cognitive development of children
Learning outcome: Be able to critically evaluate the provision for supporting cognitive development in own setting
Assessment criteria: Critically evaluate the provision for supporting cognitive development in own setting


Critically evaluating the provision for supporting cognitive development in an early years setting involves a reflective and comprehensive approach. An Early Years practitioner would assess various aspects of the setting, including the environment, resources, teaching strategies, and the overall curriculum. Here’s a structured approach for such an evaluation:

1. Environment Assessment

  • Safety and Comfort: Ensure that the learning environment is safe, secure, and physically comforting for children.
  • Stimulating Materials: Evaluate whether the environment provides stimulating and age-appropriate materials that promote cognitive development.
  • Space for Exploration: Assess if there is ample space for children to explore, play, and engage in various activities.

2. Curriculum and Learning Experiences

  • Inclusivity: Examine if the curriculum addresses the diverse needs of all children, including those with special educational needs.
  • Balance of Activities: Look at the balance between guided activities and child-initiated play, ensuring that there’s a mix of both.
  • Developmentally Appropriate Practices: Review if the activities and teaching methods are suitable for the developmental stages of the children.

3. Resources and Materials

  • Variety and Relevance: Check if the resources (toys, books, games) are diverse, culturally relevant, and updated regularly.
  • Technology Integration: Evaluate the use of technology and whether it’s appropriate, beneficial, and not overly relied upon.

4. Teaching Strategies and Practitioner Interaction

  • Scaffolding and Support: Assess how practitioners support learning – are they using scaffolding techniques effectively?
  • Encouragement of Critical Thinking: Look at how practitioners encourage problem-solving, questioning, and critical thinking.
  • Communication and Language Support: Examine how language development is supported through interactions, storytelling, singing, and reading.

5. Assessment and Feedback Mechanisms

  • Observation and Documentation: Evaluate the effectiveness of the observation and documentation strategies used to track children’s progress.
  • Feedback and Improvement Plans: Check if there’s a system for feedback from staff, parents, and possibly from the children themselves, and how this feedback is used for improvement.

6. Parental Involvement

  • Engagement with Families: Review the level and quality of parental involvement and how it supports cognitive development.
  • Information Sharing: Assess how information about the child’s progress and strategies for cognitive development are shared with parents.

7. Professional Development

  • Staff Training: Look at the opportunities for professional development provided to staff to ensure they are up-to-date with the latest research and best practices in early childhood education.

8. Policies and Procedures

  • Review of Policies: Assess if the policies and procedures in place support and enhance the cognitive development of children.
  • Inclusion Policies: Ensure that there are clear policies for inclusion, catering to children from diverse backgrounds and with varying needs.

9. Reflective Practice

  • Self-Evaluation: Encourage a culture of self-evaluation and continuous improvement among staff.
  • Research and Best Practices: Consider whether the setting keeps abreast of current research and best practices in early childhood cognitive development.


This critical evaluation should be an ongoing process, involving regular reviews and updates. It should aim not just to identify areas for improvement but also to recognize and reinforce effective practices already in place. The ultimate goal is to ensure that the setting provides a rich, supportive, and stimulating environment that optimally supports the cognitive development of every child.

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