Case Study:

Angela’s Beach Kindy progettazione

Teacher: Angela
Site: Wombat Preschool Centre
Year level: Early Learning

Context

With an extensive career in early and primary years education and leadership behind her, Angela currently works as an early childhood educator at Wombat Preschool Centre. Angela has worked at this site for five years, and feels supported by a collegial and collaborative team.

Wombat Preschool Centre serves a rural community located about two hours from metropolitan Adelaide. The preschool caters for 36 children aged between 3 to 6 years. Many of the families using the service are facing complex socio-economic issues which include lack of employment and housing opportunities, and residential transience. Children attend the centre on a fortnightly roster, two full days one week and three full days the next. Attendence is above the state average.

Wombat Preschool Centre is located on the traditional lands of the Narungga Nation. In 2018, State Government signed the Buthera Agreement (Government of South Australia 2018) which commits  state departments to supporting Narungga social, educational and economic engagement.

The pedagogical challenge

Angela collaborated with her colleagues to identify a current pedagogical challenge: To deepen children’s understanding of and connection with their local surroundings as they recall and share their prior knowledge of Narungga land and familiar community landmarks.

In doing so, Angela and her colleagues endeavored to:

  • Enhance children’s curiosity and motivation for their own decisions making through educator provocations
  • Engage in deep listening to document children’s thinking and voice to share with peers and families
  • Broaden children’s wondering of their natural environment
  • Strengthen children’s optimism and persistence to investigate their learning further.

The action research question

How does our Beach Kindy learning enhance children’s curiosity, communication and collaboration?

Links to Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

  • Connect strongly to children’s life worlds
  • Recognise cultural difference as an asset for learning
  • Provide high intellectual challenge
  • Support the performing of learning and multi modal literacies

Links to the Reggio Emilia approach

  • Environment as an educator
  • Child as competent and capable
  • The pedagogy of listening
  • Environment, space and relations
  • Learning as a process of individual and group construction
  • 100 languages

What Angela did differently

Angela made several deliberate adjustments to her pedagogy in order to children’s curiosity, communication and collaboration:

  • Initiate conversations, before and after Beach Kindy,with individual children and families for insight into their own connections within their community including the beach.
  • Intentionally provide provocations for children to communicate their knowledge and connections with local landmarks within the community, including the beach.
  • Introduce scientific tools (such as binoculars and torches) and relevant vocabulary for children to use as they discover, investigate and explore their ideas and thinking.
  • Question and reflect on her pedagogy in relation to the questions she asked children, the waiting time she provided for them to respond, and her deeper understanding of the words ‘enhance’ and ‘collaboration’.

Angela also created opportunities for small and large group discussion with the children. On arrival at the beach, children discussed as a group and also individually expressed how they were feeling in order to gain some insight into their thinking and decision-making at the beach on that day. Once back at the preschool centre , the children were gathered into small or large groups to recall and share their discoveries and learning, and to discuss any items they had found to add to a communal ’treasure box’. Discussions and conversations were recorded and later critically analysed by the teaching team. Critical analysis provided opportunities for multiple perspectives to inform further planning of intentional teaching moments and for Angela to obtain feedback on her engagement in a pedagogy of listening and co-constructive practices with children. The team also considered and evaluated other factors that impacted on the learning (e.g. weather conditions, energy levels of children, familiarity with the routine, or new children to the centre).

Data collection included:

  • Written jottings and personal reflections for duration of six weeks.
  • Educator conversations at staff meetings
  • Photographs and audio recordings of intentional teaching moment
  • Pedagogical documentation
  • Families’ written comments and perspectives after reading pedagogical documentation and as they reflected on their child’s learning at Beach Kindy
  • Photographic and audio-recorded evidence of children’s engagement and learning

Outcomes for the children and their families

  • Children initiated positive and trusting relationships with educators and peers through their curiosity and opportunity to practise and revisit their experiences.
  • Children showed and expressed increased independence and curiosity as they prepared themselves for Beach Kindy and discussed predictions and possibilities about what might happen.
  • Children broadened their relationships and communication with peers as they noticed and shared their discoveries and experiences together.
  • Opportunities arose for leadership and increasing collaboration as children co-operated together as a group, mindful of others capabilities and preferences.
  • Families were welcomed and open to share conversations about their child and how they were feeling about their day enabling staff to listen to and consider their home perspective.

Outcomes for Angels and her colleagues

Angela’s prticipation in the project enabled her and her colleagues to validate and reinforce their practice in a number of areas:

  • Assuming the role of educator as ethnographer: ‘We learn from the children’
  • Setting up the learning experience and letting the children bring their cultural knowledge and diversity to the experience
  • Providing a challenging and stimulating environment for children to work together and be involved with supporting peers
  • Acknowledging and embracing child voice—reinforcing the Pedagogy of Listening
  • Being ‘in the moment’ with the child—establishing connections and building positive relationships with children and families
  • Valuing and the opportunity for everyone (adults and children) to explore and question the curiosities of the natural world
  • Challenging, reflecting on and evaluating their approach to teaching and learning—seeking feedback from other educators and experimenting with different technologies and pedagogical documentation

And reflecting on action research:

  • Research is curiosity, not knowing, and being comfortable about not knowing.
  • Opportunity to reflect on, fine tune or validate practise.
  • Current research and professional reading is accompanied by focussed discussion and questioning.
  • Opportunity for differing perspectives in a broader context.
  • Increased confidence to initiate and pursue an Action Research model in the future.

Conclusions

As a consequence ofher participation in this project, Angela and her colleagues  at Wombat Preschool Centre intend to:

  • Continue to reflect on, plan for and embed culturally responsive pedagogies as a part of everyday practice
  • Continue to engage with families and community and building educator confidence to do so
  • Build deeper community connections
  • Build stronger individualised relationships with each family, including Narungga families
  • Collaborate with local sites interested in exploring culturally responsive pedagogies

Reference

Government of South Australia (2018) The Buthera Agreement between Narungga Nation Aboriginal Corporation and the Government of South Australia.

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