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Allowing children to bring their ideas to play is key

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Turning problems into opportunities, taking the time to see the detail and asking in-depth  questions are essential in quality teaching practice, according to early childhood education consultant Kirsty Liljegren.

Ms Liljegren was speaking at the Goodstart Early Learning teachers conference, entitled Being a Teacher: Integrating Identity, Theory and Practice.

Ms Liljegren talked extensively about the need to ensure the climate of inquiry allowed children to bring their ideas to early learning, and that making assumptions about children’s play could lead to misunderstandings.

“As teachers, we need to observe children and their interests without jumping in or interrupting them too quickly,” she said.

“It’s all about taking the time to see the detail. You may observe a child playing with a truck and assume that she is playing with it because she likes transport.

“But in fact, it may be that she likes watching how the wheels move. Making assumptions means you may move the play in a certain direction which the child or group hadn’t intended. By observing what children are interested in, we can be more responsive to their learning needs.”

Ms Liljegren (pictured above) was joined in Sydney by Goodstart board member and Education Endowment Foundation chief executive Sir Kevan Collins, Semann and Slattery co-director Anthony Semann. Macquarie University’s Dr Kelly Johnston and Dr Belinda Davis joined in for workshops.

Goodstart employs more than 1000 early childhood teachers throughout the country and aims to increase that number by 2020 to ensure there are at least two teachers in each centre.

Goodstart general manager pedagogy and practice Sue Robb said the organisation’s most important resource was people, saying we needed to invest in our people so they are as skilled and knowledgeable as they can be to deliver the best early learning for our children.

Ms Liljegren said embracing discomfort in the teaching role was beneficial in encouraging growth.

“If we’re not uncomfortable in our roles, or are not rising to challenges or taking risks, we’re probably not learning to our best capacity. Facing problems and issues head on can become great opportunities for us professionally.”

She also said asking in-depth questions was essential in working with children and encouraging them to learn.

“The art of questioning is critical because it’s all about finding the questions which are worth asking. It’s important to always ask open ended questions and work out the best time to ask them without interrupting discovery.”

Rather than focusing on the product of children’s actions, Ms Liljegren said teachers should take the time to consider the process.

  • How are children using the materials?
  • How are they adjusting and refining their actions?
  • What questions do children appear to be exploring through their actions?
  • What learning processes are evident?
  • How do children resource their own learning?
  • How do children transfer and adapt learning from one context to another?

Teacher conferences are being held throughout the country. Read more about the teacher's conference here and here.


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