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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Issue 58 Autumn 2015
6 How do we act as intentional educators? Knowing why you are talking in a particular way to a child and the likely impact this will have on the child's learning or why you have planned a special experience and the likely impact this will have on a group of children's learning is central to being an intentional educator or teacher. Being intentional about our pedagogy or practice is about knowing why we do things and what we think will be the impact on children's learning and development as the following example shows. Being intentional could mean following a baby's gaze and interest in leaves blowing in a tree, and then deciding to share the baby's interest with actions and words - by picking the baby up, moving closer to the tree and saying something like:"I can see the leaves too. The leaves are moving with the wind. Will we touch the leaves?" In this example, if we asked the educator, "What were your intentions for the baby through this shared experience?" the educator might respond: Sometimes, I might just lie down near a baby and stare at the leaves without saying anything. Sometimes I pick a baby up and encourage the interest in the movement of the leaves by sharing the interest and putting words to it. I find that can help the baby to focus more. Whatever action I take, I like to show that I enjoy sharing the experience. This sort of experience helps to support a child's learning about the world, and how experiences can be shared and enjoyed with others. While the baby doesn't understand all the words I might use, he/she is tuning into language and how it flows and connects with our actions. This is also an example of how an educator balances the teaching and learning experiences. Sometimes, the educator lets the baby take the lead or guide the learning and he/she follows by lying quietly next to the baby so that they are gazing at the leaves together. Other times, the educator follows the baby's lead first and then takes the lead by picking the baby up and focusing the baby's attention on the leaves by using words and actions. The baby in turn might lead or guide the experience again when the educator quietly follows or repeats the baby's actions with the leaves. There is a wonderful sense of unhurried time in this type of quality teaching and learning experience. In the past, we often focused on the quantity of the experiences we provided for children such as having lots of 'table top' activities available for preschool children. As a preschool teacher I can remember spending a lot of time ensuring that all the 'table top' activities were working well which meant there wasn't much time for unhurried conversations with the children or time for the children to explore less things in more depth as they moved from one activity to another. Intentional teaching means thinking deeply about the quality of the education and care experiences we provide, rather than focusing on the number of activities we are setting up each day. In summary Every day we are expected to act with intention, or with a purpose in mind, in order to improve outcomes for children. We do this in different ways including: • balancing our practice between following and leading teaching and learning with children. If we always take the lead, children will get the message that only adults can teach and that their interests are not important for supporting learning. If we always follow the children or stand on the sidelines without being actively engaged with the children, we risk limiting their learning and we miss opportunities to learn from and with them (Siraj-Blatchford & Sylva, 2004). • knowing the reasons why we do or say particular things, or how we set up the environment and plan for routines and experiences. Unless we know the reasons why we do things, we are likely to do the same things every day, week or year within a cycle of 'taken for granted practices' that never extend or enrich children's learning because they have limited connection with their interests, strengths or abilities. • understanding the impact of what we do and say on how children learn and what they learn about themselves, others, their community and the world. Educators are in a powerful position where their actions and words can have a deep and lasting impact on every child's learning, development and wellbeing (Hattie, 2010). Intentional teaching requires learning to take time to reflect on what you are doing and why, and on the impact of all aspects of your program on children's learning, development and wellbeing. Reflecting on these matters with children, families and colleagues will help to ensure a more collaborative and responsive approach to learning and teaching. References: Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), (2009). Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Canberra, ACT: DEEWR. Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), (2011). My Time, Our Place: Framework for School Age Care in Australia. Canberra, ACT: DEEWR. Hattie, J. (2010). Visible learning: what's good for the goose... Shine (Issue3), DEECD, Victoria. Siraj-Blatchford, I., & Sylva, K. (2004). Researching pedagogy in English pre-schools. British Educational Research Journal, 30(5), 713--730.
Reflections Issue 57 Summer 2014
Reflections Issue 59 Winter 2015