Each volume of our journal brings a rich tapestry of research investigations or commentaries and this volume is no different. In this issue of AJEC, every article brings something singular and readers will take away something special from their reading. For some, their focus will be on the framing theories or research methods, while for others it will be the research outcomes and how they can be used to influence policy or inform practice. It is a delight to bring this journal to you as it shows there is much to investigate, theorise, find, discuss and debate in early childhood.
Two research projects that have sought to look at responsive practices amongst a number of allied services are described in the next investigations. Barratt-Pugh and Rohl evaluate a family literacy program, Better Beginnings, which is a State Library of Western Australia initiative involving strong cooperation between the local government and child health professionals. The program was developed ‘to encourage parents to share books, songs and rhymes with their babies and young children’. Mothers from four diverse communities completed an annual survey over four years, with 10 of these participants interviewed. The researchers found that mothers were positive about the program, noted the ongoing nature of their book-sharing practices with their children and attributed changes to their family literacy to this program. Another investigation that supports the linking of services for children is the Moss, Harper and Silburn article on the examination of a transition-to-preschool program in Alice Springs after a two-year period. They found that where there is significant linking of services for Aboriginal children and their families that are locally relevant, such responsive support assists children in attending preschool programs. The authors suggest that this model should be widely shared to other Aboriginal primary health providers across Australia to assist in closing the gap in disadvantage.
New ways of conceptualising methodological tools are highlighted in the work of Knight and colleagues as they present their investigation focusing on the methodological effectiveness of intergenerational collaborative drawing. A team of eight researchers trialled this approach to drawing with young children, peers and tertiary students and in doing so came together as a ‘community of scholars’. The authors suggest that researchers need ‘responsive methodological tools to ask new questions and conduct rigorous, ethical research’. They also suggest ways in which this method might benefit research with young children.
Keeping children in the research frame, Mayne and Howitt use established data in their meta-analysis of 506 peer-reviewed articles from 10 international early childhood education journals from 2009 to 2012 (inclusive). They focused on child status with research, researcher perspective of children involved in research and respectful research culture within early childhood research. They found a large gap between rights-based early childhood research literature and the way in which research with young children is being reported. To that end they have developed a Rights-based Research Accountability Framework that will be of interest to all researchers who work/research with and for young children, alongside areas to be addressed to promote more inclusive approaches. In their article, Staton, Irvine, Pattinson, Smith and Thorpe also draw upon existing scholarship to explore the issues and tensions associated with sleep/rest in early childhood education and care services in the context of the National Quality Framework and more specifically, the National Quality Standard. They conclude that there is a need for more research, debate and discussion of ‘consultative solutions to ensure that sleep/rest practices best serve children, families and educators’.
Leadership, pedagogy and change management are high on the agenda in the current early childhood climate, and Stamopoulos reports on a study involving 17 teacher leaders and their journey across a year using a Professional Leadership and Action Research (PLAR) Training Model. Mixed methods were used to evaluate the model and describe the way that it was used to build pedagogical knowledge and leadership capacity of the teacher leaders. McLean, Jones and Schaper also use the experiences and understandings of a teacher in their study. They use an early childhood educator’s familiarity with children’s literature and play-based pedagogies to foster inquirybased pedagogical approaches to science in early childhood. A sociocultural theoretical perspective frames the study as one teacher’s experiences and the meaning of those experiences are explored. The authors present a model for children’s literature as an invitation to science inquiry and find that science inquiry skills were evident in the open, modelled and purposeful play contexts provided.
Displaying the richness of the research tapestry, Anderson studies an existing large-scale data set on grade repetition focusing on students aged five to eight years. The methods of descriptive statistics and relative risk ratio were employed to assess the relative risk of grade repetition for boys. It was found that boys are over-represented in grade repetition in the year prior to school and in all early year levels of school. The factors that contribute to the disproportionate overrepresentation of boys are discussed, and recommendations for future policy and practice are suggested.
Boyd uses qualitative methods to investigate how educators implement policies that support health and wellbeing, and practice sustainability with regard to food. Directors, educators, parents and children are interviewed and a tension between centre policies and parents’ decisions and values regarding food was found. Golemac and Hallowell studied parents who have children with food intolerance and their perspectives of their children’s behaviour and learning when on a diet the children could tolerate. Through parent self-reporting, the authors found that parents perceived their children’s behaviour, learning and family relationships had improved. They also report that parents found it difficult to communicate food tolerance management to extended family and children’s care and education services.
Staying with the theme of physical wellbeing, Shoval, Sharir, Zaretzky and Shulruf present their investigation into the free-choice motor activities of kindergarten children and the impact on these skills. One hundred and fourteen children from three kindergartens in a district in Israel were tested (pre and post) and observed in indoor and outdoor environments. The authors found that children had better achievements where they had access to balance facilities both indoors and outdoors, and where children were able to freely choose social types of motor activities.
Garvis and Pendergast use an interpretivist paradigm to examine 25 pre-service teachers’ perceptions of working with infants and toddlers, with the results revealing that most perceived they only had a partial knowledge of children in this age group. The authors question the adequacy of pre-service teacher education courses preparing graduands for employment in working with children from birth to age three. With a different theoretical approach, Zhang uses grounded theory to drive the investigation of the meaningful involvement of parents in early childhood education. This study aimed to identify elements that constituted ‘meaningfulness’ of parent involvement, and through interviews found that there was interplay between the dynamic of involvement, the type of involvement activity and the impact of that involvement.
You will agree that the rich variety presented in this journal shows that researchers in the early childhood field around the globe are pushing the boundaries of our evidence base. They have probed, thought, framed, implemented, analysed, theorised, made models and recommended. Now the tapestry that is this journal lies ahead—what will you take away from your reading?
Edith Cowan University
Australasian Journal of Early Childhood —Volume 40 No 4 December 2015
Don’t forget, Australasian Journal of Early Childhood is tax deductible for early childhood professionals