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Pedagogy in care giving and educational contexts for young children

  • 20 Pages
  • Published On: 19-12-2023

Introduction

Learning and teaching are complex processes and most countries are still struggling with this fundamental issue. Pedagogy refers to the practice of educating and includes sets of instructional strategies and techniques which enable learning to take place. Also it enable acquisition of skills, knowledge, and dispositions within a particular social and material context. Countries like the UK have created the early year pedagogy which is used to educate children and promote their development. It is a technique that is used to provide opportunities for development and dictates how children interact. Among children interaction is the mental environment which is the societal influences upon mental health. Therefore, Pedagogy of Environment of Mind is the organized efforts to teach how natural environments function, and how to manage ecosystem and behaviour to live sustainably.

Therefore, the objective of this study will be to apply theoretical, philosophical, research, and historical perspectives to contemporary early year’s pedagogy in educational contexts and care-giving for young children. Also, it will explore the major pedagogic issues linked to the importance of relationships, children learning, collaborative cognition, the role of the environment, resources and curriculum, planning and assessment, as well as working in teams will be examined. Likewise, it will interrogate and consider the relationship between important learning approaches in early year’s education, particularly that inspired by Friedrich Froebel, particularly his concept of kindergarten.

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The importance of relationships in early years learning

In early childhood, stable, loving and responsive relationships are critical to a child's development. The relationships helps them to learn, think, communicate, understand, express emotions and develop social skills. When there is a positive relationship, a child feel safe and secure. Similarly, in their environment, pedagogy and curriculum are two critical factors that might define their development and relationship (Edwards and Gandini, 2018). According to Edwards and Gandini (2018), pedagogy simply describes the learning process or how learning occurs, while curriculum comprises of the content used in learning. These authors suggest that pedagogy and curriculum are defined by children’s views and needs, the role of families and educators and the relationship or inter-relationships between all of these people (Edwards and Gandini, 2018). Starting with respectful, positive relationships with young children, educators, families and teaching partners is vital for early childhood learning and development (Dahlberg et al., 2013). Active participation is possible with positive relationships because through this, children are invited and feel free to actively engage, explore and express themselves using language and other means (Dahlberg et al., 2013). Early year’s pedagogy encourage educators to assume an approach which starts with positive relationships (Dahlberg et al., 2013)

When children participate actively with potentially rich items, they are encouraged to express themselves and use many languages to inquire (Moss, 2009). By establishing a positive relationship, inquiries and questions can be raised collectively to make the best decisions on how to better educate the young learners. Education practitioners are encouraged to be careful observers and to document their observations for later interpretation and application in what is known as pedagogical documentation (Fleet et al., 2017). According to Bronfenbrenner, children need joint activity with an adult (one or more) who has an emotional relationship with the young individual (Elliott and Davis, 2020). This author claims that children should just be allowed to be and their rhythms and timings respected. Elliott and Davis (2020) note that valuing childhood is a vital aspect of life hence it is important to allow children to feel secure by experiencing a sense of belonging and the excitement of becoming. Educators should thus be engaged in a sustained and shared talking time with the children, playing and sitting with them, learning together, observing, listening, laughing, talking, and most important, connecting, both in groups and individually (Elliott and Davis, 2020).

Achieving this connection and level of interaction requires culturally competent practitioners with enthusiasm and passion (Reynolds and Duff, 2016). It requires educators who are sensitive to difference and are responsive to every child’s culture, strengths, interests, ideas and rights (Monroe and Ruan, 2018). Inter-relationships and relationships are important here because the community, educators, parents and children need to work together as a team in order to maximise the process of learning to the benefit of every child (Monroe and Ruan, 2018). Additionally, practitioners and all stakeholders engaged in the early learning need to allow children to choose when they play, what they use to play or engage and the period. By doing so and having high expectations on the children through challenging, supporting and encouraging them, children are motivated to learn (Kernan and Singer, 2010). These important relationships cannot just be created by having educators, community and parents who are willing to support children without having an environment which respect and reflect attitudes, delights and joys as well as the community cultures (Kernan and Singer, 2010).

The role of the environment

Leggett and Newman (2017) claim that the environment is key in extending and supporting children’s learning and development. Environments that are enabling make children to feel relaxed and are encouraged to engage in play (Leggett and Newman, 2017). Children feel secure and emotionally safe and can explore and be inquisitive concerning their environment and the things they touch, see, manipulate and manoeuvre (Leggett and Newman, 2017). The EYFS describes early year learning environments in three aspects including the indoor environment, the outdoor environment and the emotional environment, which play a key role in influencing early childhood learning and development (Moylett, 2013).

 Enabling environment where children feel free to explore (Langston, 2021)

Rich indoor environments have an almost immediate impact on the quality of development and learning when it is appropriate, interesting and comfortable for the children using it (Jechura et al., 2016). A rich indoor environment becomes a child’s second home where they can play, eat and even sleep. It is thus imperative for the indoor environment to be attractive, secure and safe and a place which makes the young learners happy to be in, learn and play confidently (Jechura et al., 2016). Indoor spaces should be planned carefully and should be flexible enough to accommodate the changing needs and interests of children (Jechura et al., 2016). Resources to be used to plan for and develop these settings should both be of high quality and attractive and should reflect the fascinations that young children usually have (Jechura et al., 2016). In these learning environments, children should access resources like jigsaws, dolls, cars, tiny clothes that they can use to dress up the small items, pencils that can be used for making marks, chalks, felt pens and blocks that children can use to construct small buildings (Jechura et al., 2016).

Image: Indoor space with creative resources to support learning (Langston, 2021)

Learning and playing helps children to respect and understand, the environment and the interdependence of humans in the environment. Therefore, the outdoor environment creates space for learning and is important to those children who learn best through active movement. For children this environment also promotes development through their environment and play thus promoting exploration, risk-taking, discovery and connection with nature. Besides, studies have proved that children benefit immensely from outdoor learning (Ernst and Tornabene, 2012).

Indoor space with creative resources to support learning (Langston, 2021)

For instance, the study reveal that, the environment promotes development which is critical next part of their life. As a result, educators encourage always providing children access to outdoor areas except during bad weather (Ernst and Tornabene, 2012). According to Ernst and Tornabene (2012), allowing children to be outdoor gives them the chance to explore different places unlike when they are inside. They get the chance to breath in fresh air and use their senses to explore and appreciate different things, colours and noises (Ernst and Tornabene, 2012). Ernst and Tornabene (2012) opine that outdoor spaces supports children’s confidence, gives them a chance to experience large scale play and to be creative and develop problem-solving skills while they are with others. Outdoor spaces allows children’s physical activity to be enhanced and they use language more than when they are indoors (Ernst and Tornabene, 2012). With readily available outdoor resources like logs, crates, rocks and old tyres, children’s imagination is highly stimulated and they start to create different things. Outdoor spaces become active learning areas for the children (Ernst and Tornabene, 2012).

Image: outdoor spaces fir children to play and learn (Langston, 2021).

Emotional environment

Harvey et al. (2012) claim that the environment also consists of the emotions of the staff and children and parents who are in it. These authors claim that emotional environment consists of an invisible measure of people’s feelings that can either be negative or positive seen in happy or sad children, teachers or parents (Harvey et al., 2012). These researchers claim that it is crucial to create an environment that maintains a positive feeling in parents, children and educators and one in which everyone feels safe knowing that people are available to offer help and support when they are overwhelmed. In such environments, teachers can also show the young children how to express themselves by talking about how they feel instead of covering or hiding their feelings (Harvey et al., 2012). These authors claim that expressed feelings are much easier to solve or deal with unlike those that are hidden and left unresolved (Harvey et al., 2012).

Children’s learning

Logue (2007) state that learning should be a natural process that allows children to engage and explore everything around them as they grow their creative, emotional, social, physical and intellectual capacities. Teachers should thus use intentional teaching or a process that involves purposeful, thoughtful and deliberate decision-making, planning and actions to facilitate the best teaching, learning and child development (Logue, 2007). It is recommended that educators should work hard to comprehend theories that can guide their decision-making in the teaching process (Logue, 2007. Another thing that should guide them in this process is current research (Logue, 2007). Additionally, they ought to be aware and have knowledge of the children they are teaching, especially the contest of community and families and how this influences learning (Logue, 2007).

It is also important for the teaching process to be guided by the intent and content of early childhood learning and education framework, as well as the critical principles of practice (Wood and Attfield, 2005). Teachers should focus on the development of concepts and skills which are relevant to every child (Wood and Attfield, 2005). The learning process should holistically integrate numeracy and literacy-specific skills to every child (Wood and Attfield, 2005). The learning and teaching process should comprise of intentional teaching that maximises each learner-initiated learning opportunity (Wood and Attfield, 2005). The learning process should also incorporate active promotion of challenging and worthwhile experiences that trigger imagination and creativity (Fleet et al., 2017). According to Fleet et al. (2017), flexible teachers who shift between roles and situations and use different approaches to engage children in the learning process are useful in a child’s development and learning. These are the educators who also use thoughtful documentations of a child’s learning, accompanied by analysis and reflection, planning for the future, encouraging imagination, intuition and creativity in children (Fleet et al., 2017).

Collaborative cognition

Siraj-Blatchford (2009) note that collaborative cognition is how a team of individuals or learners can think together by focusing attention, remembering, deciding, imagining, learning and judging together. Siraj-Blatchford (2009) note that collaborative cognition entails being co-constructed and social where educators and children work together to understand and find different ways to learn through shared action and thinking.

Image: collaborative cognition in early childhood learning (Stonewall day care, 2018)

In collaborative cognition in early childhood education, educators can engage children and their parents in relevant, purposeful shared process of decision making (Siraj-Blatchford, 2009). Educators can also model different ways of sharing ideas considering other people’s ideas. They can also make sure that children have the chance to engage or participate in all learning experiences which are co-constructed and social (Tan, 2010). Educators are encouraged to use

collaborative cognition in early childhood learning (Stonewall day care, 2018)

hand, children are allowed to negotiate their roles, responsibilities and rights, contribute ideas and actively participate and listen to others as they acquire and enjoy different learning experiences (Tan, 2010). Children are encouraged to cooperate positively in groups in learning. They are also allowed to seek being involved in negotiating and choosing learning experiences (Tan, 2010). According to Tan (2010), collaborative activities and social interaction in children provides children valuable, distinctive and complementary learning opportunities and a chance to have conceptual development.

The importance of children working in teams

It is important for educators to instil the spirit of collaboration and teamwork in children because later in life, or even during their entire life, they will work in a team (Stacey, 2009). While individuals work in teams either in their professional or personal lives, young children can learn the importance of teamwork at school and at home (Stacey, 2009). The classroom environment can be used by educators to teach young children how to be team players and develop team building abilities which will be useful to them in adulthood (Stacey, 2009). Educators can start building the team spirit by allowing different children to speak openly about their dislikes, likes and cultures so that everyone can learn to remain sensitive of difference and respect everyone’s culture (Taylor and Giugni, 2012). Educators can also guide them and help them to learn and play together and inspire everyone to learn about others (Stacey, 2009). By learning and playing as a team, children learn and develop critical social skills, good character and self-esteem they will need to be successful members of society and teams in workplaces (Stacey, 2009).

Teachers can help children develop teamwork skills by putting them to work on a single project, like a craft or an art project, or complete puzzles together (Reynolds and Duff, 2016). Sports can also help educators to instil teamwork skills in children, allowing children to take part in physical activity, exercise their minds and bodies and develop emotional connections with other children who are members of their team (Reynolds and Duff, 2016). Through sporting teams, children can learn to be collaborative or cooperative (Siraj-Blatchford et al., 2002).

Image: Solving a puzzle as a team (Smallworld, 2018)

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Resources and curriculum for early childhood education

 Solving a puzzle as a team (Smallworld, 2018)

The pedagogical approach and curriculum for children emphasises play and age-appropriateness, and requires educators to use practise and different approaches flexibly (Neuman and Danielson, 2021). Different theorists underpin pedagogical principles, guidance and policies based on different ideas (Semmar and Al-Thani, 2015). Vygotsky and Piaget are some of the well-known theorists who have influenced early childhood curriculum and pedagogy significantly (Semmar and Al-Thani, 2015). Piaget came up with what is known as psychological constructivism where learning is mostly individual and occurs on universal stages (Semmar and Al-Thani, 2015). According to Piaget, the formation of logic and construction of universal knowledge occurs from self. Piaget believed that individuals experience independent discovery and exploration (Semmar and Al-Thani, 2015). On the other hand, Vygotsky contributed significantly to the concept of social constructivism where learning takes place when a person participates a team or a group (Semmar and Al-Thani, 2015). Vygotsky came up with what is known as the proximal development zone in which individuals learn through scaffolding (where adults extend the children’s knowledge and thoughts) and learns to solve problems or challenges with someone’s help (Semmar and Al-Thani, 2015). Vygotsky emphasised that learning in children is a guided discovery and exploration (Semmar and Al-Thani, 2015). Despite these differences, both Vygotsky and Piaget were both interested in how individuals develop and believed that young children are responsible or play a critical role in discovering new schema or understanding (Semmar and Al-Thani, 2015). Additionally, both of these theorists believed that children actively engage in the learning process, the discovery and exploration of their environment and acquisition of new knowledge (Semmar and Al-Thani, 2015). These two theories have develop my understanding of children environment and the pedagogy of environment of mind which is critical for further development of early childhood pedagogy and curriculum. Besides, it has improved my competence to work with children at their early childhood.

One important concepts learned from these theories is scaffolding it is recommended that educators offer scaffolding-focussed learning settings where they only help children with activities that are beyond their current capabilities to cause greater positive influence on their development compared to learners in more child-centred or teacher-directed learning environments (Pesco and Gagné, 2017). From these theories, it is also clear that play-based learning is given priority and is considered an effective approach of enhancing children’s academic and socio-emotional development (Pesco and Gagné, 2017). In support of these points of view, research suggest that guided free play is highly effective in triggering or stimulating learning in children (Pesco and Gagné, 2017).

Therefore, it is recommended that educators understand and develop the environment of children to promote effective child development inspire imagination and creativity among children (Zamani, 2016). For instance, educators can use sources like templates, graphs for gap analysis, planners, risk assessment and staff training to equip environment with necessary resources for children to develop. Also, displaying pictures numbers, and lettering have also been found to be beneficial (Zamani, 2016).

Friedrich Froebel (1782 to 1852) promoted the development of what he termed as the kindergarten or the kids’ garden (Manning, 2005).

A child playing in the school forest (Early Education, 2021)

According to Froebel, play is an important human development expression in a child and is a free expression of a child’s soul and what is in it (Manning, 2005). Froebel believed that play allows children to understand their surroundings by directly experiencing it. According to Froebel, it is vital for educators to comprehend observation principles and be able to observe children and how they view the world in order to offer them guided freedom and to consider their environments (materials and people) and how they influence their behaviour (Quinn and Greenfield, 2018). Froebel’s concepts led to child initiated actions under the guidance of an adult who provide them with sensitive guidance and freedom (Quinn and Greenfield, 2018). Froebel also contributed immensely in the development of imaginative and symbolic play, which are all at the core of early childhood pedagogy and play (Quinn and Greenfield, 2018).

Based on Froebelian principles, childhood is an important aspect of life and is not just a preparation for one’s adulthood. Therefore, education for children should also be focused for the child’s present moment and not simply a preparation or training for their later life (Quinn and Greenfield, 2018). Moreover in a child’s life, everything is connected or linked and thus learning should not be compartmentalised (Quinn and Greenfield, 2018). Froebel emphasised the fact that intrinsic motivation, seen in self-initiated and self-directed child activity should be valued and that what a child can do is the beginning of their learning or education (Manning, 2005). According to Froebel, people surrounding a child, including other children and adults, play an important role in the child’s learning and development as they interact. Froebel highlighted three important things in the quality of early childhood education, including the child, their environment and the understanding or knowledge which a child learns and develops (Manning, 2005). From these principles, it is important for educators to offer a child what is needed now and allowed to make their decisions and choices regarding what they are interested in learning (Manning, 2005). The educator must thus be able to nurture a child’s feelings, ideas, embodiment and physical development and recognise when a child needs space or needs to focus on something they feel is appropriate for them (Manning, 2005).

Planning and assessment

The EYFS recommended two forms of assessment including the on-going assessment and the summative assessment (Brodie, 2013). The first one is recommended to allow educators to make decisions concerning what children have learned daily to help children move forward in learning. It entails planning with a parent and a child about what the educator should cover next based on what the child has understood so far (Brodie, 2013). The second form of assessment, the summative assessment, occurs about twice, the first one occurring after about 24 months and the second one after about 36 months (Brodie, 2013). The results from the summative assessment are recorded and educators and parents use it to identify the weaknesses and strengths in the children to understand their learning progress and need (Brodie, 2013). The results also help in planning for the child’s early years learning needs to allow them to learn and play happily and to develop knowledge and skills (Brodie, 2013).

Conclusion

Both outdoor and indoor settings play a key role in a child’s learning and development. It is important for educators to understand how to create enabling indoor learning environments that inspire imagination and creativity in children and allow them to form connections with their peers. Outdoor learning environments is also important as shown by Froebel and other important theorists who suggest that it allows children to use their senses and learn from it. Early childhood educators should understand important developmental and learning theorists and the principles they postulate to guide them in creating pedagogy and curriculum that children themselves have contributed ideas based on their interests and imaginations, and see the world from the young individual’s perspective. Through a guided and freedom-based learning, either indoor or outdoor, children will be able to acquire important skills necessary for them to navigate their childhood and important for later life.

References

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