In this journal, six articles are presented from across Australasia that generate discussion about the health, development, learning and wellbeing of children from a number of perspectives. At a first glance, this may not be your perception, as some of the papers don’t have children as the focus of the research but policy, educator reflective practices or family partnerships. However, they all have an effect, in some way, on the way in which early childhood education and care strengthens the best interests of children.
O’Connor, Nolan, Bergmeier, Williams-Smith and Skouteris report findings from a study aimed at building educator capacity to support parent–child relationships. In this descriptive qualitative study, they argue that parent–child relationships are well established as a factor in children’s developmental outcomes. In a focus group, educators were asked about their knowledge of parent–children relationships and to consider the extent to which they understood their own role in fostering this relationship. They found that educators understood the importance of establishing quality relationships with parents as part of their role in promoting children’s social and emotional development. The educators had varied depths of knowledge about the influence of parent–child relationships on children’s social and emotional development, and many were hesitant in supporting the parent–child relationship. This study shows that educators’ use of implicit knowledge to interpret parent–child interactions was strong. The authors suggest that building explicit knowledge through reflection, beliefs and the integration of theories may deepen educators’ understanding and provide the resources needed to support parent–child relationships.
Beutler and Fenech provide a compelling analysis of the Australian Government Jobs for Families Child Care Package. Using Bacchi’s ‘What’s the Problem Represented to be’ (WPR) methodology, the two main components of the Package—the Child Care Subsidy and the Child Care Package—were the focus of analysis, to describe the potential impact of the Package on parents’ childcare choices. The authors illustrate that in policy and supporting documents, early childhood education and care is positioned as a function of workforce participation rather than education for young children. The extensive research that shows the benefits of early childhood education for children they found are a ‘notable silence’. The analysis of the Package through the WPR approach revealed influences that may affect parents’ childcare choices and provide ECEC advocates with other arguments to contest the Package. Buetler and Fenech argue that this situation entrenches rather than addresses disadvantage, as those families with steady and reliable work will be more able to access services than those without. It is well recognised that physical activity benefits young children’s wellbeing and supports the development of motor skills.
Strooband, Stanley, Okely and Jones report on the fidelity of an intervention with educators called ‘Jump Start’. Jump Start aims to increase the provision of physical activity in early childhood education and care settings by early childhood educators. Fidelity was influenced by the commitment of centre directors to the intervention—including recognising educator leadership in enacting the program. This study suggests that physical activity interventions in early childhood education and care can be costly, and that renewed effort is required to identify innovative means of enabling educator participation in such programs.
Continuing opportunities for physical activity in childhood, Ward reports the findings from a project showcasing children’s visions for an outdoor play space. This study employed a strong focus on children’s rights to participate in research and their environmental agency. This work shows how children’s perspectives on outdoor play and physical activity can be shared via their drawings and opportunities for discussion. Findings suggested that children value opportunities for speed and risk taking in their play, especially climbing and playing with natural materials and water. This work proposes that the environments in which young children live and learn are significant for promoting opportunities for physical activity and environmental stewardship.
Foong, Nor and Nolan investigated the individual and group reflection by Malaysian pre-service teachers’ pedagogical approaches to support this process. Interviews, direct observations and documents such as student teachers’ teaching portfolios, their reflection journals and assessment forms were analysed. The findings suggest that Group Dialogic Reflection (GDR) with a mentoring teacher and supervisor from the Initial Teacher Education (ITE) provider, offered opportunities for increased problem-solving, connecting theory and practice, and understanding multiple perspectives in their work with young children. This study challenges conventional practice in ITE in Malaysia regarding individual reflection and calls for the use of collective reflection as a way of bringing the practice of early childhood education and care into a stronger relationship with the tertiary sector.
Singh and Zhang used an interpretative frame informed by social constructivism to investigate Pacifika parents’ views on early childhood education in New Zealand. Qualitative methods of questionnaires and semi-structured interviews were utilised to explore different perspectives and experiences of three Pacifika families in relation to their day care involvement. They found that Pacifika families value bi-cultural learning experiences for their children, and that opportunities for building a relationship with early childhood education and care services was important to families. The parents also described that educators who are understanding of different cultures makes a difference to families and the positive development of their children. Once again, the articles presented in the Journal from across our region demonstrate how research can generate discussion, action and movement to advocate and act in the best interests of children.
Dr Lennie Barblett
Edith Cowan University
Australasian Journal of Early Childhood—Volume 43 Number 1 March 2018.
Don’t forget, the Australasian Journal of Early Childhood is tax deductible for early childhood professionals.