All children have the best start in life to create a better future for themselves and for the nation

Jan Deans
Suzana Klarin
Rachel Liang
Erica Frydenberg
University of Melbourne

This paper reports on a social emotional learning (SEL) program entitled COPE-R and the role of the teacher in supporting young children’s developing social and emotional understandings, particularly around caring and empathy. Thirty-eight four- and five-yearold children and their teacher from an inner-Melbourne city long day preschool program participated in the research. The teacher was also a member of the research team hence the study falls within the realm of practitioner-research, which aims to shed further light on the role of the teacher in designing, implementing and evaluating challenging programs for young children. A qualitative case study methodology was employed to ensure that the voices of the children and the teacher-researcher were centrally located in the research. The data included the teacher-researcher’s program plans and reflective journal notes, children’s drawing-tellings and transcribed child interview data. Findings highlight the capacities of the participating children to engage in the COPE-R program and to demonstrate increased social emotional skill development—as evidenced through being able to identify and give voice to social emotional issues, enact relational empathy, demonstrate care for others and the environment, and recognise emotions in self and others. Also, the findings provide insight into the role of the teacher in implementing the COPE-R program, which enabled the participating children to give voice to a range of social and emotional issues including empathy, reciprocity, generosity, kindness and joy.

Australasian Journal of Early Childhood—Volume 42 Number 4 December 2017.

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