It is with great delight that we present to you a research symposium, special paper edition of AJEC. The third AJEC symposium was held at Charles Darwin University on Wednesday 28 October this year. It was a sold-out affair which showed an appetite for discussions on research, and the program promised rich discussion and robust debates as our theme focused on ‘Whose knowledge is it anyway? Pushing the evidence base in early childhood research’.
Our day started with a welcome from Professor Ann Farrell who likened the day to a gastronomic feast with tastes from a variety of presentations. Then the assembled delegates heard from three researchers who were asked to present provocations—and they delivered. Associate Professor Sheila Degotardi, Ms Robyn Ober and Associate Professor Lyn Fasoli, with the assistance of Ms Jane Garrutju, gave us their thoughts from different perspectives about our theme. Following this session, a series of research roundtables were held throughout the day and Professor Susan Danby assisted us to gather thoughts from across the day and conclude proceedings.
This paper edition of AJEC contains selected papers from the symposium that have undergone the AJEC blind, peer-review process, and we present them here for your consideration. These eclectic topics illustrate the apt analogy described by Professor Farrell of a gastronomic feast. In the area of child development, Brookes and Tayler investigated the effect of an evidence-based early learning intervention on young Aboriginal children’s language development and their capacity for joint attention with an adult. The findings provide direction for centre practices that may assist in closing the gap in development and achievement for children experiencing early disadvantage. Cloney, Tayler, Hattie, Cleveland and Adams tested the influences of family socioeconomic status (SES) on the selection of early childhood education and care program quality. They found that children from lower SES families were more likely to attend programs of lower quality, with the largest gap in quality before kindergarten.
In Aotearoa New Zealand, Carroll-Lind, Smorti, Ord and Robinson trialled a coaching and mentoring methodology with early childhood pedagogical leaders using ‘third-generation’ cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT). They found that CHAT had the potential to be used as a tool for building pedagogical leadership capacity. In the area of pedagogical practice, Barblett, Knaus and Barratt-Pugh found that of 200 early childhood educators, most identified their most pressing pedagogical issue as the erosion of play-based learning and the legitimate use of play as a pedagogical tool in early years programs. The implications for educators, children, parents, schools and in particular early childhood pedagogy for quality teaching and learning is concerning.
In the digital space, Highfield, De Gioia and Lane explored how 213 pre-service teachers developed a digital teaching portfolio using multimodal evidence to document their work and pedagogic engagement. They investigated the pre-service teachers’ perceptions of evidence and concerns with documenting learning and facilitating teacher accreditation using technology.
In the area of research centred on infants and toddlers, Degotardi, Torr and Nguyen investigated the quality and quantity of 26 educators’ language-support practices by videoing interactions with infants and toddlers during morning or afternoon snack-time. Overall results showed that educator language-promoting practices were limited and the authors make a call for the increased focus on educators’ pedagogical knowledge and skills of building the language development of very young children. In addition, Li, Quinones and Ridgway used visual narrative methodology and reflective dialogue to explore toddlers’ everyday play activity and analyse how educators enter play, taking the toddlers’ perspective to develop collective knowledge. They found that the educators’ involvement and peer interaction was significant for learning and the social production of collective knowledge.
In the last symposium paper presented in the journal, Jackson used data from the 2011 Australian Census of Population and Housing to examine differences between Australian early childhood educators at different qualification levels. Using a theoretical framework informed by Bourdieu, her findings suggest that educators’ qualifications are related to wider social differences that have implications about how they might experience current policy efforts to improve qualifications and professionalism.
In the online annex of the journal, the papers are drawn from our contributors and continue the theme of a rich variety of tastes. Harcourt and Jones provide a commentary on educational documentation and examine the process that enables educators’ work to become visible and support the educator’s evolving capacity for ongoing reflective practice. Also in the documentation arena, McFadden and Thomas used a mixed-method approach to document parents’ perspectives on the implementation of a digital portfolio in a large early learning centre. They found parents had some concerns about privacy, ethical use of images and documentation; however, there was significant uptake by parents because of the greater desire for connection to their child and other parents.
In their research, Jovanovic, Brebner, Lawless and Young explored 27 educators’ professional understandings of early communication and attachment development. They argue from their findings that there is a need to further investigate how such expertise shapes programs, practices and professional development needs. In Carter and Ellis’s descriptive study, they sought to identify Montessori educators’ instructional practices associated with children learning pro-social behaviours. The findings provide preliminary support for the importance of the purposeful teaching of minimal-level, pro-social behaviours by educators.
Finally, Sanagavarapu, Said, Katelaris and Wainstein report on a pilot study that used photo elicitation interviews to explore 10 mothers’ feelings and perspectives of the transition to school for their child who had food allergies. Mothers’ concerns centred on trusting and transferring responsibility to school staff and children themselves. Even though this is a small sample, there are implications for educators being able to ease the worries of parents and ease the start to school.
Thank you to the AJEC committee and all the researchers who presented their work to be included in this special edition of AJEC, and all the delegates who made the symposium a great success. We look forward to presenting another AJEC early childhood research symposium and a symposium edition of the journal at a later date.
Dr Lennie Barblett
Edith Cowan University
Australasian Journal of Early Childhood—Volume 41 Number 4 December 2016.
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