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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Issue 59 Winter 2015
12 Philosophy is a huge component of early childhood practice and to begin my Masters investigation of this, I needed a map - for guidance. The 'map' I chose came in the form of an instrumental case study. This form of case study focuses on deepening one's understanding about a specific issue by gathering information about the lived experiences of the participants (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2000). How our personal beliefs and philosophy impact on our work with children and families was the specific issue that this case was intending to investigate. The map of this professional issue about philosophy began to be sketched out. At the heart of this map were two questions and from these a search of literature was undertaken. This initial literature search highlighted three key areas: Theories of Attachment; Belonging; and Personal Philosophy and the EYLF. Two of the areas that spoke to identity in the study were 'Belonging' and 'Personal Philosophy and the EYLF'. These two areas while separate, were also very close in their relationship. In the following part of this paper these two themes will be outlined and discussed. Belonging, Personal Philosophy and the Early Years Learning Framework Thinking about 'Belonging' led to reflection about my 'Being' as a Steiner educator. In this state of 'being' I hold a specific picture of childhood that ultimately influences how I interact with children. This reflection has brought me to questions about philosophy, especially how an educator's beliefs and personal philosophy impact on the actions of working with children and families. The concept of belonging spoke to the process of exploring identity through critical reflection and this understanding arose through reflecting on the following statement by McMullen (2010, p.10): I often urge my students to welcome opportunities in which they face some cognitive dissonance and are forced to question or revisit their long-held beliefs. I tell them that it is good to shake up old, dusty assumptions about how things are supposed to be. Yet when faced with such a challenge myself, I almost ran from it. I came to value this experience precisely because it exposed me to people with beliefs and practices in sharp contrast to the field's widely accepted and my own deeply held understanding of best practices. It helped me reflect on and confirm what I believe in a way I never had before. This statement has been highly important to me throughout the process of undertaking the research, as it has emphasised how much can be learned from being open to the views of fellow colleagues. Being open to difference is a starting point for deepening early childhood practice, and supporting this belief was the following statement that emerged in the literature. Valuing difference means difference is recognised and talked about. Excitement is shared with others about difference, and difference is enjoyed. There is no longer a need to be embarrassed with difference. Difference can be talked about openly and questions asked. There no longer needs to be a pretence that we are experts. It is appropriate to ask questions; to not know but be willing to find out. The Early Years Learning Framework suggests that educators ask questions and reflect on their practices of working with children and families (Council of Australian Governments, 2009, 2010). So I did this, and asked the following questions in relation to the background literature of this research: • How do we defne our personal philosophy within the context we work in? • What is outside the boundary of practice? On the map of this research these questions led me to interview four educators about their beliefs and practices of building relationships with children. While working with the participants, a process of personal reflection occurred that enabled me to look differently at my philosophy and the way I worked with children and families. A strong aspect of this process was the action of listening to the stories that the participants told and 'co-crafting' a narrative that gave insight into their practice. Writing the stories about the essence or 'being' of each educator was a highly reflective process and some specific questions guided this. When I wrote each educator's story, I asked: • Who is this person? • What beliefs are held about relating to children? • What perceptions are held about Rudolf Steiner’s philosophy of education? • How does this person perceive the EYLF? While these questions strongly informed each participant's story, they also wove through the narrative of personal reflection that I documented throughout this research. Giving space to listen to this thread has been a personal outcome of this research. Tracing a Self-Narrative -- Using a Map Metaphor for Reflection In this research, the starting point for writing the participant's story came from sharing a conversation through an interview. However, in this paper I am proposing a different starting point: a map where educators can begin to craft their own story to use as a tool for critical reflection. Reading maps can be complex as they hold different signposts and landmarks. An important place to begin a process of reflection, is by identifying the signposts that are on our individual 'journey map'.
Reflections Issue 58 Autumn 2015
Reflections Issue 60 Spring 2015