I was reading Moss (2010) the other day as I always find his writing to be a good reminder about the expansive nature of early childhood knowledges, and that our knowledges are not one set entity—they are fluid, dynamic and ever-changing. Moss reminds us that it is the professional task of early childhood educators to develop their knowledge base by questioning, employing different perspectives and acknowledging the diversity that exists. He writes:
Rather than embodying and reproducing a body of professional knowledge, the educator needs to start from acknowledging the multiplicity of paradigms, the diversity of knowledges and the plurality of values that exist in the world. The educator needs to appreciate the range of disciplines, theories and practices available, and to understand her or his responsibility to decide where to situate herself or himself in this complex and diverse range of possibilities: perspective can be a choice; it need not be a necessity (Moss, 2010, p. 15).
The Australasian Journal of Early Childhood welcomes the idea that early childhood professional knowledges are interrogated and viewed from multiple perspectives, and that such practices assist in broadening knowledge and thinking. In this issue, there are research projects that assist with this as they describe and push theoretical and pedagogical perspectives, and give recommendations from findings about practice and pedagogy.
Roberts reports qualitative research that explores the key enablers and barriers in early childhood environments encountered by early childhood educators and professionals and by children and families who were experiencing vulnerability and disadvantage. Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used to analyse semi-structured interviews to uncover that empathy, time and trust are key to relationship-building and underpin values that guide effective practice. Roberts has developed a new model of the Core Elements of Effective Engagement that can assist early childhood educators and professionals in their understandings of the wider context of vulnerable families; stimulate discussion of the enablers and barriers for families experiencing vulnerability and disadvantage in early childhood settings.
Through a constructivist–interpretivist paradigm, Higgins and Cherrington focus on the use of ePortfolios as a parent–teacher communication tool. Through a case study design, they found that the ePortfolios facilitated different levels of communication between parents and teachers, and gave a wider perspective of children’s learning. Given the 24-hour access to the ePortfolio, parents could view them in their own time and could add their own stories and comments; this led to a strengthening of the parent–teacher relationship. It was also found that it gave parents the confidence to talk to teachers about their children’s learning.
Whitington and McInnes, in their study, use a socio-constructivist theoretical approach informed by neuroscience and sociological research. In the Wellbeing Classroom Project, children’s (aged six to eight years) wellbeing was supported using a ‘classroom as community’ approach to inform the thinking and actions of the adults involved. Over a year, an up-skilled teacher employed a number of strategies and a common set of resources that assisted children in transforming abstract ideas into interpersonal interactions, and led to building a sense of community. Furthermore, introducing parents to the strategies and resources strengthened the school connections and extended the community beyond the classroom.
The study by Fordham and Kennedy describes a research project conducted over a two-year period, framed by social constructivism, using ethnographic and phenomenological methodologies. The focus of the research was the Early Years Education Program (EYEP) provided for vulnerable children and families by the Children’s Protection Society. The study found that the EYEP had a strong emphasis on sustaining parental engagement achieved by a gradual and individualised process of child and family orientation; genuinely involving parents in the development of their child’s education and care plans, and supporting the ongoing professional development of educators. Implications of the findings are given for universal early childhood services working with children and families experiencing vulnerabilities.
A rights-based approach was adopted by Wastell and Degotardi using a participatory theoretical framework to find out how young children understand and express their experience of ‘belonging’ in their early care and education setting. A group of 28 children (aged three to five years) were given multiple expressive opportunities that enabled the recording of diverse modes of communication, and allowed for the documentation of children’s conceptions. The research confirms that young children are indeed capable of conceptualising and expressing complex cognitive concepts like ‘belonging’. These children’s conceptualisations of ‘belonging’ included two main ideas: ‘belonging through people’ and ‘belonging to place’, and showed that children are capable of articulating an understanding of a conceptual word and being experts on their own lives.
Fleer, Harrison, Veresov and Walker share the pedagogical outcomes of a pilot project where teachers used playworlds (Lindqvist, 1995) to embed executive function (EF) into their programs. This study took a cultural–historical conceptualisation of development, where executive functions were viewed as being holistic functions in social practices. The researchers found that teachers needed more information about EF; re-thought their pedagogical practices and designed pedagogical practices for developing EF in playworlds, transitions and their play-based programs. By designing pedagogical practices for embedding EF in activities in their programs, teachers increase the likelihood of children’s engagement that promotes the development of their EF.
The Starting School Study used a strengths-based approach underpinned by the theoretical understanding that the transition to school is a socially constructed experience. Kaplun, Dockett and Perry, drawing on a bio-ecological approach, interviewed two cohorts (2009–2011) of mothers identified as experiencing one of the nine criteria of risk and having a child starting school. The authors drew the conclusion that, ‘where the clear communication of stakeholders’ expectations, entitlements, opportunities and aspirations were acknowledged, and stakeholders’ respective roles were respected and supported, partnerships developed that supported mothers’ involvement in school for children’s wellbeing, safety and learning’.
Hinton, Degotardi and Fenech investigate parental use of the National Quality Framework (NQF) in making informed childcare choices. Using a national survey and case studies, the researchers found that parents’ knowledge of the Framework is low, and their use of NQF quality ratings to inform early childhood education and care (ECEC) decision-making is even lower. It was apparent that parents had limited knowledge of the NQF and quality ratings, and that the tools were not always used in the ways intended. The objective of using the NQF and quality ratings to assist parents in choosing high-quality services has not been realised at this stage.
In this qualitative study, Deans, Klarin, Liang and Frydenberg describe the implementation of a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) program entitled ‘COPE-R’ by a practitioner who was part of the research team. A case study methodology was used to capture the voices of the children and the teacher. The team found that the children who engaged in the COPE-R program demonstrated increased social–emotional skill development. This was evident through being able to identify, recognise emotions and give voice to social–emotional issues, enact relational empathy and demonstrate care for the environment and others.
Phillips and Moroney draw the Australian data from Civic action and learning with young children: Comparing approaches in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. This article describes the evidence of the civic capacities of young Aboriginal Australian children in an ECEC centre. Communitarian citizenship theory framed the study, and through participant observations, children were observed demonstrating civic actions as defined by the civic concepts. Cultural values were found to shape civic action.
Lastly, Corr, Cook, LaMontagne, Davis and Waters gathered data by semi-structured interviews to provide a contextual understanding of family day care educators’ mental health and its evaluation by both educators and management. Using Hochschild’s emotional labour theory, they found that educators’ mental wellbeing is often undeclared, yet is imperative to the provision of quality ECEC services. Based on their findings the researchers call for changes to be made to the NQF to support educators’ wellbeing.
So after reading these research contributions with different perspectives, paradigms, methodologies and findings, can you, in Moss’s words, decide where to situate yourself ‘in this complex and diverse range of possibilities’?
Dr Lennie Barblett
Edith Cowan University
Lindqvist, G. (1995). The aesthetics of play: A didactic study of play and culture in preschools. Uppsala studies in education, 62. Stockholm, Sweden: Uppsala University.
Moss, P. (2010). We cannot continue as we are: The educator in an education for survival. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 11(1), 8–19.
Australasian Journal of Early Childhood—Volume 42 Number 4 December 2017.
Don’t forget, the Australasian Journal of Early Childhood is tax deductible for early childhood professionals.
Click here to purchase this issue of the Australasian Journal of Early Childhood.