Response from Edith Cowan University. Name: Associate Professor Carmel Maloney Dr Jenny Jay Associate Professor Caroline Barratt-Pugh Dr Lennie Barblett Ms Mary Vajda Ms Belinda Nelson Organisation: Early childhood teaching team at Edith Cowan University Address: ECU School of Education Bradford Street, Mt Lawley, Perth, 6050. Phone: ***** Email: ***** Consultation questions – National Early Years Learning Framework Purpose of the framework What philosophy would you want an Australian framework to use? (eg. would it focus on ages and stages of development; a socio cultural approach; or domains of learning eg physical, social, emotional and cognitive?) What form or format should the Early Years Learning Framework take that would be most useful to you in guiding your programming for young children? How prescriptive do you think the Early Years Learning Framework needs to be? Do you have a preference for the actual length of the Framework? What type of supporting documents/resources would be most valuable for parents and others working with young children (e.g. family day carers, playgroups)? Do you have any views on the format and size of such documents? Do you see any issues with the implementation of the Early Years Learning Framework in all education and care settings from July 2009? What suggestions would you offer to overcome these issues? Questions 9.4 1. This framework should take a socio cultural approach to learning and development that will enable it to be situated in an Australian context. Research into how children learn emphasises the relationship between learning and development and the importance knowledge of children’s prior experiences within a social and cultural context. This approach is fundamentally moving beyond a DAP approach and embraces new thinking about the role of children’s social and cultural experiences in learning. Therefore, the framework should incorporate an understanding of child development from an ecological and socio-cultural viewpoint. The philosophy should view the child as an active and competent participant in his or her own learning. 2. This question was very ambiguous and has been taken to mean the physical shape or outward appearance of the framework. Form: Whilst the framework has been proposed as having a 0-5 years focus, there should be strong links and supporting documentation for the transition years of 5-8 years. It should not be written in year levels, but phases of development within the early childhood phase. The content should not be placed in curriculum learning/subject areas but should be organised around themes of learning that speak to practitioners, for example; knowledge of the world, social and emotional development, relationships, communication etc. The document should be presented in a range of forms that are easily accessible to all practitioners, including paper based for easy access. The document could contain video examples, case studies, questions that can be used as the basis for discussion and for professional development. In addition, materials and resources should be available on line with some sections in Word format so they can be download and used as part of ongoing professional development. Whilst the framework must be accessible and ‘speak to’ a range of practitioners, there should also be opportunities to extend knowledge and understanding through links to research documents, other professional readings, examples of exemplary practice and a directory of resources so that sources of information are readily available and can be accessed. 3. The Framework should be mandatory across the country in all settings that cater for children 0-5 years across all government departments, but not prescriptive in its implementation. There needs to be consistency between states, and flexibility so that implementation and adaptation can occur to suit various social, cultural and linguistic contexts. Principles should be broad and mandatory based on effective early childhood pedagogy reflected in the research but able to accommodate the diversity of contexts. 4. It is recommended that a comprehensive, single package containing all the information related to the quality framework should be developed. An outline of regulations (key points) accreditation principles, requirements, and the learning framework could be included. Both print and CD formats should be included and these should be updated regularly and distributed to all services. An Internet based information ‘booth’ that connects to a repository of information on the full range of services, requirements, and literature, located in libraries, community services, and post offices (similar to ATM machines), should be developed. Flyers for parents and the public on key topics such as early childhood development and learning, linked to the latest research be made available in doctor’s surgery, health clinic, community services. 5. The greatest issues with the implementation by July 2009 will be staff development, training and qualifications. Staff, at all levels, will require extensive and comprehensive in servicing, training and support before they are expected to implement the framework. It cannot be expected that the framework will be developed and automatically taken up by practitioners without support for professional development. Centres and services will need to prepare a plan for understanding and implementing the framework. The implementation needs to have connections with training institutions so that new graduates have current knowledge to share with colleagues in the field. Leadership in centres and leadership training, will need to be a priority. Clear strategies for how the implementation of the framework will link with 4, 5, 6 and 7 years olds in the school sector, to ensure continuity of experience and transition processes is another issue to be addressed. Strong communication and relationships will need to be built across the sector 0-8 years to ensure continuity of experiences, opportunities for enhancing learning and development and early diagnosis of potential problems. It is disappointing that more has not been outlined in the consultation paper related to 6-8 years and this transition period. A recent publication from the Bernard Van Leer Foundation says: “ Why, despite the internationally accepted definition of early years 0-8, do early childhood professionals and policy makers almost always ignore 6-8 year olds and consider early childhood development (ECD) as pertaining to the preschool years.”1 It will be necessary to scaffold new knowledge and understanding over time, taking into account the unique needs of each context. Training should be centre based led by practitioners level of understanding and practice to ensure new ways of thinking, and understanding are meaningful and sustainable. It is well recognised that early childhood is an important, yet complex area of learning and development and if we want to lift the standards and status of the field, we need to scaffold the growth of learning for the practitioners. A barrier to implementation will be the gap between what is known and what is new, therefore, the implementation should be related back to practitioners’ own contexts and practices. Reflecting on what is and what can be different will be part of the process of adjusting to new ways of learning. Questions relating to research findings Do you believe the analysis of research literature to be accurate and comprehensive? Are there any other issues or trends in research, relevant to the development of the framework? 1 Arnold, C., Bartlett, K., Gowani,S. & Merali,R. (2007) Is everybody ready? Readiness, transition and continuity: Reflections and moving forward. Working papers in early Childhood Development, Bernard Van Leer Foundation. Do you support a focus on language and communication development, social development and play- based learning in the framework? How would you define the roles of the educator and the child in the learning process in the framework? Questions 10.5 1. There needs to be a greater emphasis on young children’s learning, including mediated learning and play as having many differing purposes, forms and outcomes. The role of the adult needs to be more explicit in the document and linked to a socio cultural approach to learning. Importance of the environment, as being stimulating and responsive, one that values children, learning and families could be expanded further. Environments should be established that provoke and support learning for all children including those with diverse needs. 2. The above foci need to be further expanded because as stated they appear narrow and limited. Whilst they are important to include there is also a need to clearly define the cognitive aspects of learning, the skills, concept formation, knowledge and understandings and dispositions that will be developed through a learning framework. If ‘play-based learning’ is meant to refer to cognitive skills then this is too narrow, and therefore requires further expansion. Language and communication should spell out the importance of developing relationships and interpersonal skills at all levels, child-child, child-adult, adult- adult. 3. The role of the adult is very limited throughout the document and will need to be more clearly articulated. Research says the role is much more than a facilitator. The role of the practitioner is on a continuum from Co-constructor of learning at one end to the explicit teachable moments at the other end. The definition must reflect the complexity of the role and how it plays out differently with different children and different contexts. The role also depends on what is being learned. Foundations for the framework What would you want included in the framework’s vision for early learning and children? Would you support that values and rights, as proposed, should underpin the framework? What other values or rights would you want included and why? Questions 11.4 1. The vision for this framework should be distinctly Australian. It should reflect Australia’s diverse cultural society. Diversity has to inform the development of curriculum. This should be at the front of the document. It is our opinion that this question should come first. An overall vision is needed before developers can decide what and how this vision will be enacted. Children being valued as competent and independent learners and global citizens. Recognising what children bring to the learning situation and environment. We must value the use of children’s knowledge, and ways of learning particular to different cultures to inform planning. Building the framework How should the curriculum framework provide guidance and strategies to meet the various learning and development needs of children including those with special needs, English as a second language, and/or challenging behaviours? Is it appropriate for a child’s learning to be assessed? If yes, how should children’s learning and development outcomes be assessed? How would you ensure the curriculum framework is appropriate for all educators, regardless of qualifications? What kind of professional development will need to be provided in order to support educators in using an Early Years Learning Framework? Questions 12.4 1. The framework should outline broad themes and principles of learning. Components of curriculum (language development and communication is the driving force for other areas of the curriculum) should have clear indicators that practitioners can observe and teach where appropriate, although they should be broad and overlapping to apply to a wide range of contextual and individual differences. Effective practice /strategies as suggestions for planning, teaching and resourcing would guide practitioners in preparing effective environments and learning opportunities. Suggested assessment strategies (eg; Look listen and note) are also recommended. 2. It is essential that children’s learning be assessed for future development or for early intervention. Assessment should be broad, multifaceted, and implemented over time in a range of situations. Standardised testing is not appropriate for this age group. Rather, documentation of teachers’ observations using a range of strategies to capture what children know, and can do, and for purposes of early diagnosis of concerns should be used. Where deep concerns about a child’s development is noted more intensive specific assessment may be required. 3. We feel strongly that this should be a high quality document delivered by qualified staff, albeit staff may be at different levels of qualifications. Long day care centres catering for three and four year olds should have a trained teacher deliver the program. Therefore the document should not be ‘dumbed’ down in any way. 4. PD should be based on the best way of bringing about change and should be practice based learning and where possible, centre based. It should not be top down, but rather contextually relevant. PD cannot be a one off, but must be ongoing, targeted to the specific needs of staff. The professional development will be critical in the successful uptake and implementation of the framework. It will need financial support from the government and an in-service model must be carefully researched and planned to ensure success. Finally, do you have any additional comments you wish to make? This framework needs to have a clear rationale in which the early learning framework is situated. What is the vision for Australian children? What do we want this framework to achieve? When these questions are answered then the development of an early learning framework can become the driver to achieve the goals or the vision. The consultation, while most welcome, has been superficial and rushed. There was not enough time to discuss the issues and to hear from all groups attending the consultation. Another question that needs careful consideration in our state is how the Federal government will ensure all early childhood settings comply in using the early learning framework? In Western Australia our non-compulsory years before school are four and five year olds who are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Education and Training who have mandated and legislated the use of the Curriculum Framework (1998). It is essential that all early childhood settings that cater for four and five year olds follow the new early years learning framework regardless of location. The Curriculum Framework (1998) operating in WA is soon to be influenced or indeed, superseded by the National Curriculum Framework. There has been no discussion during the consultation on how this National Curriculum Framework which is designated to serve children from K-12 will link with the Early Years Learning Framework. Teachers of 3, 4 and 5 years olds working in schools in WA will quite possibly be confronted with three different frameworks to work from; a scenario which may very well be faced by other states. This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed, or the dichotomy of care and education will be further entrenched.
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