08 SES 11, Coherence, Collaboration and Partnerships in Health Education
Within the field of early childhood education, there are many competing perspectives on what constitutes good practice and how this should be reflected in policy reform. In terms of early years pedagogy, there has been a growing international movement towards ‘developmentally appropriate’ practice, which emphasizes the value of age-appropriate, participative, experiential, small-group, outdoor learning experiences (e.g. Bertam and Pascal, 2002; Walsh et al, 2010). Indeed, in the context of Wales, a new curriculum for children aged 3-7 (the Foundation Phase) was introduced in 2008 echoing these principles, drawing on early years evidence from Scandinavia, Reggio Emilia and New Zealand (DCELLS, 2008ab; Maynard et al, 2013; NAfW, 2003; OECD, 2004).
Although the Foundation Phase is statutory for all children aged 3-7 in Wales, there has been considerable variation in implementation across schools, classrooms and pre-school settings (Taylor et al, 2013). This paper, part of an overarching national evaluation of the Foundation Phase, exploits this variation to assess which pedagogical approaches are more or less associated with children’s involvement and wellbeing in the classroom.
Specifically, this paper examines relationships between involvement/wellbeing and the following developmentally appropriate pedagogical approaches: child choice, experiential experience, explorative experience, physical activity, outdoor learning and small group learning. Assessing these relationships is important because there is still much national and international policy debate concerning the value of different approaches, and how they apply to different year groups. For example, the Foundation Stage in England advocates such approaches until the age of 5, whereas the Foundation Phase in Wales advocates such approaches until the age of 7. There is also considerable variation across other European countries.
There also remains considerable academic interest in identifying effective early years pedagogy (e.g. Bowman et al, 2001; Siraj-Blatchford and Sylva, 2004; Whitebread, 1996; Whitehead, 1993). Indeed, previous research suggests that the pedagogical approaches under investigation might be positively associated with involvement and wellbeing, (e.g. Maynard et al, 2011; Walsh et al, 2010), but it is unclear to what extent these relationships will differ, and how each will compare to more formal pedagogies such as direct whole-class teaching.
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