Focusing on strengths as children start school: What does it mean in practice?

Kathryn Hopps-Wallis
Angela Fenton
Sue Dockett
Charles Sturt University

Recent Australian reforms in early childhood education have incorporated a focus on strengths-based practices. These practices have been supported in a range of professional resources and professional development. Despite this, there has been limited interrogation of the ways in which strengths-based practice is interpreted and employed by educators. This paper reports an investigation of prior-to-school and school educators’ references to strengths-based practices in their communication with each other as children made the transition to school. To assist in the analysis of this communication, we draw on a categorisation of strengths-based practices developed from analysis of cross-disciplinary research literature. Three categories of strengths-based practices—derived from the fields of positive psychology, social work and organisational practice—provide the theoretical framework for analysis of this communication data.

Data reported in this paper were contributed by 22 educators as part of a broader investigation of preschool–school communication around children’s transition to school. Secondary analysis of a subset of data, including questionnaire responses, interviews and documents that referred to strengths-based practices, were analysed. Results indicate that educators interpreted strengths-based practice as the sharing of positive information about children. We argue that this positive psychology approach presents a limited view of strengths-based practice and suggest that the organisational practice category offers the potential to communicate about children’s strengths, as well as the challenges they may face, as they start school.

Australasian Journal of Early Childhood—Volume 41 Number 2 June 2016

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