As I write this editorial the Australian election campaign is in full swing, and the Brexit vote in the UK has driven the media to new heights of hysteria. It is in this atmosphere that I am reminded of my student days and Plato’s allegorical essay of ‘The Cave’. I am beginning to feel like one of the cave’s prisoners who can only see shadows. It is therefore a relief that I have the enviable task of introducing the papers in this edition of AJEC. A variety of research has been represented, making it difficult to find an underlying theme. To best demonstrate the rich content in this issue, I have roughly divided the studies into topics: child experience, content and pedagogy, early childhood teachers and parent partnerships.
The first three papers explore children’s experiences in terms of the changing nature of self-concept, influence of personality on experience, classroom inclusion and exclusion, and children’s social abilities to negotiate. Cohrssen, Niklas, Logan and Tayler have examined the idea of academic self-concept in young children in the preschool years. Discussing the relationship between academic self-concept and academic achievement in school children, the findings suggested that in the preschool years self-concept was mostly unrelated to child outcomes. However, significant changes occur in the year prior to school. In the next paper on this theme, Smart, Green and Lynch look at the phenomenon of the shy child and report on an intervention that involved video modelling to introduce social skills. Such use of video allows for the targeting of specific skills and individual children. In the third paper of this topic, Adams and Fleer research a group of children where there has been little research to date. They are exploring the experiences of expatriate children who will undergo multiple transitions as their parents move from one country to another. Highlighted in the research is the importance of the physical and social educational environment to encourage interaction and reciprocity.
The next topic, content and pedagogy, contains six papers. The first three focus on literacy but with very different perspectives and in different contexts. Peterson, McIntyre and Forsyth interviewed primary and preschool teachers in Canada to explore how the participants supported children’s language growth. The participants had varied backgrounds including First Nations educators and three French Immersion teachers which added depth to the study; that participants were more confident in supporting writing than oral language was an interesting finding. In the next paper, Harden describes a PhD project that followed four children in a literacy program emphasising drama and puppetry as a pedagogical method. The case study of one child, Lucy, is unpacked. Harden comments on a curriculum that is overfull of guided investigations for children and argues for the value of dramatic pedagogy. Newman takes another approach and concentrates on the literacy play environment and action research. To assess change rating scales, photostories and focus group data was used. The study was promising in relation to practitioners’ interest to engage in change and gives a taste of the possibilities of long-term collegial work. The next paper addresses the issue of children learning about sustainability and takes the idea of children’s cubby play as a method. The ‘Cool Cubbies Project’ is investigated in this study and Boyd, using engagement theory and the strength of the idea of collaborative work, researched and evaluated the project. Five preschools participated and educators believed children gained considerable awareness of sustainability issues through the project. On a different plane Deans takes us into the realm of dance and its role in development. There was a two-pronged focus to this research: the enabling role of dance in children’s learning and the role of the adult. Deans has based her project on the idea that dance is a human activity and a universal artistic language. Findings are compelling in regards to dance as a valuable learning modality that enriches children’s meaning making. The final paper in this content and pedagogy topic is a discussion piece that presents a rights-based argument for maths teaching and learning in early childhood. Cohrssen and Page present the argument that children from low socioeconomic backgrounds often underperform in mathematics, and girls are under-represented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects at school. The authors argue that it is the responsibility of the early childhood educator to integrate maths into day-to-day curriculum planning.
Teachers’ work and teachers’ understanding and support of children’s resilience, and preschool and Foundation teachers working cooperatively are the topics of the next three papers. Grant, Danby, Thorpe and Theobald have investigated how teacher decision making has been influenced by education reform in the context of the new national curriculum, a new assessment and ratings system and the texts that articulate these systems. The relationship between teachers’ experience and policy intent is discussed in the conclusion. Archdall and Kilderry ask why the notion of resilience is so important, how the idea is dealt with in the literature and the varied understandings educators have of resilience. Viewing resilience as a multifaceted construct; the findings in this small study suggest that greater explication of the idea of resilience might lead to the employment of more purposeful strategies by educators to support children. The third paper, by Dunham, Skouteris, Nolan, Edwards and Small, reports on the ‘Alliance Project’ that was established to help early childhood educators and Foundation teachers better understand the processes and challenges children face when transitioning to school.
The final paper for this edition of AJEC falls into the category of parent partnerships. Campbell, Dalley-Trim and Cordukes have conducted a qualitative case study to investigate parent engagement in the early years and whether a customised approach should be adopted. The voice of parents in one setting and their preferred communication strategies with the school were examined.
I commend these papers and return to my initial comment about the shadow world of Plato’s cave, and the activities that are reported on here, that are for the good of the early childhood community.
Australasian Journal of Early Childhood—Volume 41 Number 3 September 2016.
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