Welcome to a new year and to a new volume of AJEC. If it is possible to find one theme to fit the 13 articles in this issue, it would have to be ‘perspectives’. Perspectives from parents, children, educators and policy elites are all presented in this issue, highlighting the importance of all early childhood education and care stakeholders having a voice.
Four research papers present parent/family perspectives in regards to young children’s learning. Colliver examined mothers’ perspectives on learning through play at home. Case studies of eight Australian mothers were developed through video-stimulated recall dialogues. Mothers believed their children learnt intrapersonal, cognitive and social skills through play in the home environment. The author recommends techniques to align mothers’ perceptions of learning at home with their perceptions of learning in an early childhood and care setting, and in turn with educators’ perspectives of learning. Using a Chilean context, Newman, Arthur, Staples and Woodrow investigated family engagement in young children’s literacy learning. Working with 25 family members in a low socioeconomic status community, data were collected by surveys, focus groups, video-recordings and documents. In contrast to the dominant discourse which makes deficient assumptions about families in low socioeconomic communities, the authors found these families had high expectations for their children’s future, were interested in their children’s education, understood the importance of learning in the early years and provided a range of experiences that supported their children’s literacy learning.
Continuing the concept of families guiding their children’s learning and development, Deans, Liang and Frydenberg evaluated the community-based Early Years Productive Parenting Program to support culturally and linguistically diverse parents. Seventeen Australian families from diverse backgrounds participated. The authors found the program equipped parents with a set of skills and resources to understand their personal parenting journey and to broaden their coping capacities by providing a safe space to discuss and share their ideas and experiences. Acknowledging parents as consumers and participants in early childhood education and care services, Nyland, Pan, Cooper, Nyland and Zeng examined Beijing parents’ satisfaction with kindergarten services following a period of change. Collecting data through surveys and interviews, parents were found to be discerning consumers who valued the social and emotional aspects of kindergarten experiences.
Two research papers report on children’s voices. Im and Swadener present a cross-cultural exploratory study on how culture plays a role in young children’s views of their kindergarten experiences. Two middle-class kindergartens from Korea and the United States were compared with data collected from children’s individual interviews and group interviews. Both groups were found to value play and friendship, and dislike lengthy teacher-directed instruction. Further, Korean children were found to value harmony for the group, while US children valued individual choices and independence. Ey explored six-year-old children’s engagement in single and group interviews as a means to highlight young children’s capacity to participate in research. The children were found to be highly competent in participating and sustaining engagement in both types of interviews. The author concluded that children can generate rich data when the research topic is relevant to children’s lives and when children are given the opportunity to direct research conversations, rather than being restricted by time or developmental constraints.
Considering research as a site of ethical practice, Graham, Powell and Truscott report on the nexus between participatory methods and ethics in early childhood research. Using the international Ethical Research Involving Children project, they present the ‘Three Rs’ framework of reflexivity, rights and relationships as a means to develop a culture of ethics in early childhood research.
Two research papers report on educators’ perspectives. In exploring Swedish preschools as children’s language environments, Hvit Lindstrand and Björk Willén used focus group interviews with 21 preschool educators to determine their views in relation to supporting literacy learning among toddlers. The authors recommended that educators would benefit from engaging more deeply in theories of literacy that align with early childhood education. Using a ‘Strengths Approach’ framework for supporting young children’s mathematics learning opportunities in family and community contexts, Fenton, MacDonald and McFarland present a single case study of an educator and parents who participated in the ‘Let’s Count’ project. Effective communication and collaboration between the educator and families was found to be fundamental to applying the framework. The framework also assisted in making mathematics learning visible to the families.
In analysing the language demands of written mathematical problems, Exley and Trimble-Roles examined the pronouns and noun groups of the Australian National Assessment Program—Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) Year 3 Numeracy Example Test. They found that some of the pronouns and noun groups used in the example tests were more complex than what Year 3 children are expected to achieve in the Australian Curriculum: English. Recommendations for early childhood teachers of mathematics include drawing attention to grammatical structures of written mathematical problems to enhance children’s numerical literacy.
Interventions for school readiness feature in two research papers from South Africa. In the first paper, de Witt and Lessing report on the success of a language and phonological awareness skills program on preschool children in rural areas. In the second, Loubser, Pienaar, Klopper and Ellis report on the success of a perceptual motor skills program on kindergarten children from disadvantaged areas. Both papers highlight the importance of the learning environment, support from quality educators and early intervention to assist in young children’s learning.
Finally, this issue of AJEC contains one paper relating to policy: Logan, Press and Sumsion introduce the term ‘critical juncture’—path-breaking policy developments that have lasting impacts. The 1990 Hawke policy speech and surrounding political events led to the development of a mixed-market for child care and the establishment of a national child care quality accreditation system in Australia. Based on interviews with four policy elites, this critical juncture is examined as a means to understanding the Australian contemporary early childhood education and care policy landscape.
Which of these perspectives have resonated with you and your work? How can you use some of the ideas or frameworks presented in this issue of AJEC to give voice to the children or parents that you work with?
University of Western Australia
Australasian Journal of Early Childhood—Volume 41 Number 1 March 2016
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