WELCOME TO OUR SECOND edition of 2011, another bumper edition of AJEC. I would like to take some time to share our compassion with those who are still feeling the effects of the floods in Queensland, northern NSW and Victoria, the fires in WA and the earthquakes in Christchurch and Japan. We acknowledge with deep sadness those who lost their lives, and our thoughts are with their families and friends as they try to rebuild their lives after tragedy. We also recognise how important it is for early childhood professionals to understand how to support children and families who have experienced such trauma. This is reflected in the growing ‘education for emergencies’ agenda. I draw your attention to the work done by UNICEF (www.unicef.org/emerg/index_48797.html), the Interagency Network for Education in Emergencies (www.ineesite.org/), and various state government departments (for example, www.education.vic.gov.au/about/emergencies/floods.htm). We all need to know what to do, not only in the immediate period of crisis, but how to support children and families in the recovery period.
For those of us in NSW, this is an interesting time with the recent state election. Early childhood people have been lobbying as hard as they can to keep the profile of early childhood at the forefront of politicians’ minds. Lobbying is easier when we have hard evidence to back up our claims. We all think we know what is right, but politicians and economists want the hard data. Research is the only way we can develop what is necessary, both to drive change and to develop sound, evidence-based practices. AJEC provides a voice for this evidence, and it is up to us to use it wisely in guiding our practice and informing our lobbying. This edition provides us with some exciting material to steer our endeavours.
First we have three articles discussing forms of play. Play, as we know, is given a key role in the Early Years Learning Framework for Australia, but we need to be clear about what we mean by play. Yelland challenged us 10 years ago to think about play in a different way, and she continues to challenge us today to reconceptualise play and reflect on what we mean. From Canada, Tannock reminds us that rough-and-tumble play is an important, but often forgotten, aspect of play. Rough-and-tumble play contributes to children’s overall development and wellbeing and it is important that we understand how to support its development. Kelly, Dissanayake, Hammond and Ihsen examine the links between children’s executive functioning and the development of symbolic play. They argue children need to learn to inhibit their habitual responses to a situation in order to pretend a different reality.
Following these we have a range of articles addressing issues of curriculum and pedagogy. From New Zealand, Grey reminds us that we have a responsibility to teach children cybersafety so that they learn to perform ethically as cybercitizens. She argues we must work closely with families around cybercitizenship, particularly as we, the professionals, are likely to have more training in issues of cybersafety than some of the families with whom we work. One area in which we may sometimes feel inadequate is in science education. Edwards and Loveridge (also from New Zealand), argue that many early childhood professionals sometimes feel they have inadequate knowledge of science to support children’s scientific learning. They propose we need to focus on team teaching in this area, and the skills needed to effectively team teach. Mackey and Vaealiki (New Zealand researchers) investigate education for sustainability. Their article takes a children’s rights approach, ensuring that children were active and equal participants in the research process. Garvis, Twigg and Pendergast focus on arts education. They suggest that many pre-service teachers have bad experiences in art education and these contribute to poor self-efficacy which inhibits both their ability to support children’s learning in this area, and to support the learning of pre-service teachers they mentor. Following the thread of pre-service education, Ortlipp and Nuttall examine the professional practice experiences of students from culturally and linguistically different backgrounds. They draw our attention to the impact of different expectations around teaching and learning, and the way different life experiences and knowledges affect student performance in the placement.
The recognition that our experiences and background influence our practice is continued in the article by Purdue, Gordon-Burns, Rarere-Briggs, Stark and Turnock. These researchers examine inclusion in New Zealand early childhood programs and show that, despite legal requirements, some programs and staff have exclusionary policies and practices that are underpinned by their attitudes and beliefs around difference. Attitudes and beliefs around different forms of early childhood provision underpin the research of Barblett, Barrett-Pugh, Kilgallon and Maloney. This team looked at the transition of children in WA from child care to kindergarten programs (a transition in WA which represents movement from services auspiced by the Department of Communities to those of the Department of Education). Despite acknowledgement of the importance of a carefully managed transition, they found that practice was fragmented, and at times non-existent. Kindergarten teachers tended to expect childcare practice to change to reflect what they did to facilitate transition. Despite these evident difficulties with transition, Wildy and Styles demonstrate, using a universal test of achievement, that WA children are beginning school with increasingly better levels of literacy and numeracy. Given that data suggests that children in WA are performing less well at age 15, they flag concern about what is happening to children in the intervening years to impact on their achievement in such a manner. They also flag concern that teachers may not be prepared to support the greater number of higher performing children in the early years of school.
Finally we have two articles that focus around families. Hunt and Walsh have undertaken an extensive literature review on parental views of child sexual abuse prevention education. They found little research in this area, and only one article (relatively old now) from Australia. Given we now have a clear child protection framework in Australia (Council of Australian Governments, 2009), it would be useful if we were to have better evidence upon which to base our actions arising out of the framework. Finally, Colmar reports on an intervention program to support the development of children with language delays. She found coaching parents in ways to support their children initiating conversations, and how to respond to open-ended questions in a book-reading context, had a positive impact on children’s language over a four-month period when the children began with a baseline of a 60-word vocabulary.
I commend this suite of research work to you. It represents the activity of Australasian early childhood researchers, and as such, I believe it compares with the best in the world. Happy reading, happy reflecting and enjoy your work with children and families.
Council of Australian Governments (2009). Protecting children is everyone’s business. National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.
University of New England
Australasian Journal of Early Childhood – Volume 36 No 2 June 2011
Don't forget, Australasian Journal of Early Childhood is tax deductible for early childhood professionals
Vol. 36 No 2 June 2010
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