We are walking in, hopefully awake, to a new era in early childhood. It is unfolding around us. Extensive past, current and continuing research supports the expectations of the new era in early childhood. Expectations, when built upon research and practice evidence, empower hope and positive change and with governmental support become new-era realities.
This volume of the Australasian Journal of Early Childhood provides a cacophony of research voices, each of which brings with it evidence-based possibilities and solutions for change at differentiated levels within the wonderful world of early childhood.
Corr, LaMontagne, Cook, Waters and Davis’ cross-sectional study extends evidence for the need to support the mental health and wellbeing of early childhood educators. This research presents associations between Australian family day care early childhood educators’ mental health and their working conditions. With 41.7 per cent of educators surveyed stating that psychological distress and high overcommittment to their work occurs, their mental health and wellbeing appears to be overlooked. Psycho-social working conditions require modification so that workforce training and reforms are extended to on-the-ground practice by family day care educators.
The wellbeing of early childhood educators is further supported by Wong and colleagues’ research. Time-use diary methodology is used in research that aims to increase the effectiveness of early childhood workforce policy through the development of a tool (the time sampling time-use diary) to ascertain everyday work tasks, activities and actions of Australian and United States early childhood educators.
Following on with the theme of service provision is research completed by Harris, Cartmel and Macfarlane. This work focuses on early year’s perspectives on service integration. As part of a broader university study, this research aims at identifying best practice models for an integrated early childhood service delivered as part of a new community service precinct. A need for further investigation in light of potential risks is discovered, with the research highlighting the ‘need to better inform community organisations who are seeking to translate, innovate and implement integrated service models’.
Also embracing community and using Rapid Rural Appraisal methodology and data analysis focused on ‘distilling’, were Giamminuti, Tye, Buckley, Merewether and Kuzich. Their research, based in the south-west of Western Australia was supported by the Centre for Sport and Recreation Research. The investigation into how communities welcome families and young children acknowledges foregrounding their research with the Italian town of Reggio Emilia. How towns and communities are enabled to provide ‘hope’ trajectories for their children is explored.
Using social-constructivist methodology, Diamond and Whitington investigate early childhood educators’ views on the value of their work, specifically regarding learning about brain development in young children. Data analysis from this study results in four major themes becoming evident. The need for support of professional engagement with neuroscience and early brain development is one conclusion from the research.
Kilderry’s research supports early childhood practitioners by providing valuable insight into why early childhood educators may find the practice of intentional teaching difficult in Australia. Critical discourse analysis of semi-structured interviews ‘shows how developmentally appropriate practice discourse is legitimated, marginalised and silenced in certain curricula practices’.
Using a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methodologies, Fleet, Soper, Semann and Madden provide evidence for the need for increased support for early childhood educational leaders. The research finds perceptions of the roles of educational leaders are evolving and are not as clear as they need to be during this period of change. This research also finds that there are high expectations on the Educational Leader, whilst his/her role remains unclear with the need for clarification of the role of the Educational Leader evident. Additional support for educational leaders is advocated and a call is given for further investigation to enrich the current limited knowledge base.
Cheeseman, Sumsion and Press’ paper is titled Infants of the productivity agenda: Learning from birth or waiting to learn? It embraces the needs of the most vulnerable members of the early childhood community—children aged birth to three years. This analysis into the Australian Productivity Commission Inquiry into Childcare and Early Childhood Learning finds that the Productivity Commission’s call to substantially lower educators’ qualification requirements reflects an image of the child as waiting to learn. Reflection leaves one pondering if this image—being contrary to Australian early childhood policy (wherein the image of the infant is that of a learner from birth)—presents juxtaposition at governance level.
The National Quality Standard Assessment and Rating Instrument is examined by Jackson. The research provides support to practitioners and authorised officers with positive results supporting the reliability and validity of the Australian assessment and rating process for Australian early childhood care and community centres.
A research paper written by Zhang explores the voice of the child in Australia and New Zealand. An extensive literature review of journal articles across the past 10 years identifies a ‘gap between the child’s voice rhetoric and research practice’. Four voice types manifest and are examined as both distinctive and intertwined with each other. Zhang’s aim is to support the ongoing provision of strong quality in the collection and analysis of child-related data.
Tayler, Cloney and Niklas advocate for positive change to the trajectories of at-risk children. The research suggests that by assessing skills and abilities of at-risk children in their early years, positive change may be enhanced. Solid statistics are presented to reflect a need for action to improve outcomes for at-risk children. This research brings significant results as it acknowledges and builds upon the extensive research of Australian E4Kids, wherein 2498 three- and four-year-olds were participants.
Deans and Cohrssen highlight seven categories of spatial thinking and visualisation (mathematical concepts) within spontaneous dance experiences of four-year-old children. Observation and recognition of their findings may provide possibilities for children to extend conversations and engage in higher order thinking and connectedness to other concepts.
Nirmala’s review of quality care for infants/toddlers in Singapore, although worked from a small number of participants, presents results that include commonality of epistemological beliefs between educarers, supervisors and parents.
We trust you are challenged by this volume of the Australasian Journal of Early Childhood to add fresh new-era understanding to your lived realities.
Chinchilla Christian School Kindergarten and
OTEN W, Sydney TAFE
Australasian Journal of Early Childhood —Volume 40 No 3 September 2015
Don’t forget, Australasian Journal of Early Childhood is tax deductible for early childhood professionals