As I drove to work, thinking about how to introduce this editorial, a glorious rainbow appeared in the sky. The vibrant colours reminded me of a kaleidoscope. It then struck me that this edition of AJEC presents a kaleidoscope of early childhood education and care research. The 10 papers are from diverse perspectives, contexts and paradigms, each important in their own right. This diversity made it quite challenging to group the papers into themes; while I have tried, I felt that two papers did not need to be grouped.
Two papers consider the challenges early childhood educators face in engaging with different contexts: mathematics and art museums. Using a multi-site case study approach, Marianne Knaus investigated 21 Australian educators’ perspectives of teaching mathematics to children from birth to five years of age, and the impact of a mathematical professional development intervention. As a consequence of the intervention, educators became more aware of the mathematics they were doing, mathematical language, how to incorporate mathematics into incidental learning opportunities, and children’s capacity to learn. Lisa Terreni used a mixed methods approach to find out how New Zealand early childhood educators engaged with art museums and galleries for learning experiences outside the early childhood centre. Contrasting results were obtained on whether educators perceived such excursions as relevant or appropriate for young learners, highlighting different beliefs about what constitutes best practice in early childhood visual art pedagogy.
Information sharing in order to gain an advantage was the theme for two papers: one relating to transitions, and the other relating to parents promoting learning. Transition initiatives have placed increased emphasis on preschool–school communication and the sharing of written information about children. Hopps-Wallis and Perry interviewed 30 Australian preschool and school educators to identify the challenges they faced in using written channels to transfer information between settings. These written channels of communication were found to restrict the information about children that was transferred to schools, how it was understood and, ultimately, used. Ciara Smyth interviewed 29 Australian parents from varying SES backgrounds to determine how they promoted their children’s learning in the preschool years. Four resource-dependent strategies were identified: ‘parenting for cognitive development’, ‘outsourcing for cognitive development’, ‘concerted cultivation’ and ‘redshirting’. This study highlighted the socioeconomic gap in children’s access to opportunities that parents believed could give children a learning advantage in the preschool years.
Play in the early childhood setting was researched in two papers: one relating to unstructured play and the other to creative play. Harman and Harms investigated the amount of time four-year-old children spent engaged in unstructured play. Based on an online survey of 564 Australian parents, children were found to engage in 3.05 hours of unstructured play per day. Children who attended an early education program, playgroup, or both activities were found to participate in more unstructured play than children who did not attend either of these. Factors impacting the level of unstructured play are presented. In Lee and Wright’s Australian study on how one-to-one interactions with kindergarten children can support their creativity, three four to five-year-old children were videoed with drawings and transcripts captured during their play. Allowing children agency, suspending disbelief and active listening were some of the educator roles that were found to enhance children’s creative experiences.
The use and importance of evidence-based information was highlighted in two papers. Challenging our complacency, Ken Blaiklock critically analysed five national/international reports that have been used to highlight the high quality of early childhood education in New Zealand. Limitations associated with each report led to Blaiklock suggesting that there is insufficient empirical evidence about children’s learning and wellbeing to support the claim that NZ is a world leader in early childhood education. White, Fleer, Anderson and Moore performed a thematic and content analysis across eight Australian evidence-based social emotional learning programs in preschool to identify commonalities. A wide range of target skills, implementation skills, and instructional and rehearsal procedures were identified as being common across the programs.
Alison M. Marchbank conducted a phenomenological study on the roll out of the Australian National Disability Insurance Scheme to understand the transition process for early intervention service delivery. Perspectives were obtained from one pilot rollout site where six administrators from two agencies’ delivery services were interviewed. Three themes central to the understanding of the transition process emerged to illuminate the impact on the agencies’ organisation and management of service delivery: the business model, the funding stream and staffing capacity.
In the final paper, Campbell, Smith and Alexander utilised feminist post-structuralist concepts of discourse and relations of power in their study on spaces for gender equity. Fifteen Australian preschool educators participated in an online survey about their pedagogical understandings and practices of gender, gendering and feminism. The findings highlighted the conflicting images of the child as both an innocent individual and as a political partner. Educators were found to use their understandings of feminism to negotiate spaces for gender equity work.
The richness and diversity of these papers, divergent findings, and ‘questioning the taken for granted’, highlight the importance of AJEC as a national and international journal. Will the information you take from these papers challenge your thinking, leading to an enhanced kaleidoscopic image of early childhood education and care?
The University of Western Australia
Australasian Journal of Early Childhood—Volume 42 Number 3 September 2017.
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