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Reflections Magazine : Issue 50
6 A perceived danger is that too narrow or singular focus on learning in the early years could lead to a downwards push from schools -- what some refer to as the "schoolification of ECEC" (OECD, 2006: 62). Many were worried when the Australian Government decided to develop a national early years curriculum framework. How would this reflect contemporary early childhood theories and practice? How would it recognise and support play as a context for learning? Personally, I think the EYLF has responded very well to these challenges, building on our historical foundations to offer some new ways of thinking about play and learning. For example, the EYLF introduces the term 'play-based learning' (DEEWR, 2009: 46), distinguishing between more traditional notions of 'free play' and play as a planned context for learning. To clarify, free play is generally seen to be extended time for pretend play that is mostly child-initiated. It is freely chosen, personally driven and intrinsically motivated (Grieshaber & McArdle, 2010). The role of the educator in free play is more about providing the environment and resources to facilitate play and learning. In the past this was often construed as to "support but not to disturb" (Pramling-Samuelsson & Johansson, 2006: 48). While there is no suggestion that free play is no longer needed or important, the idea of play-based learning places greater emphasis on the educators' role and how they extend and challenge children's thinking and play. A fairly recent landmark study in the United Kingdom has provided impetus for this new way of thinking about play in ECEC. The Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) Project (Sylva, Melhuish, Sammons, Siraj-Blatchford & Taggart, 2004) was a longitudinal study that sought to identify the characteristics of high quality preschool programs, looking at how these contributed to children's learning and successful transition to school. Findings placed emphasis on the role of educators in promoting effective learning. Critical factors included the quality of adult-child verbal interaction during play, engagement in sustained shared thinking, and achieving a balance between child and adult-initiated play experiences. Play-based learning and intentional teaching Picking up on these findings, the EYLF promotes the role of educators supporting play-based learning through intentional teaching. Now I want to debunk a few myths about what intentional teaching looks like in ECEC. I visited a service recently to find that they were interpreting this as importing school-like activities with quite narrow learning outcomes. Play-based learning and intentional teaching were seen to be two quite different and unrelated things. The children would engage in their own play and then be called to the mat or a table to be 'taught' something. There were some dubious links made to children's perceived interests and/or the EYLF learning outcomes, however these activities were almost Findings placed emphasis on the role of educators in promoting effective learning. " "
Reflections Magazine Issue 51