ERG SES D 05, Children and Education
This paper aims to explore young children’s perceptions of pedagogical activities in early years settings. The findings are based on an empirical study in two reception classes (aged 4-5 years) in the north east of the UK. The rationale behind the study was that although the ethos of listening to children has been recognised in an international declaration (Article 12 of the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC, 1989)), which explicitly calls upon governments to acknowledge and act upon the views expressed by children about issues that have a direct bearing upon their lives, Devine (2003) comments that schools still operate within a predominantly adult-centred framework with little impact on the status of children within the system. Furthermore, Article 12 states that any child who is capable of forming his/her own views should be given the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting him/her and that due diligence will be afforded in accordance with the age and maturity of that child. However, the latter part of this statement may lead to ambiguous interpretation of what constitutes an appropriate age or level of maturity. Far from ensuring that all children are engaged in making decisions about their education, this could lead to children in the early years being marginalised if it is deemed they do not have the capacity to make informed decisions.
An exploration of the definitions of inclusion led to the emergence of the need for teachers to have a pedagogical understanding of effective education for all children that affords equity and participation (Nutbrown, 2012; Rouse, 2007). Pedagogy is often referred to as the practice of teaching but in the early years any adequate conception of educative practice must be wide enough to include the provision of learning environments for play and exploration and also an understanding of the impact the pedagogical activities can have on the children’s sense of inclusion.
A study conducted by Stephen (2010), elicited the views of children in the early years in relation to their learning opportunities and experiences. However, she implied that there was still more work to be undertaken about how the views of children can impact on the discourse between practitioners and their pedagogy and practice. Therefore, this research sought to elicit the views of children and share their thoughts with practitioners, so that the practitioners could reflect on their pedagogical practice in relation to inclusion. However, this paper will only present the findings of the first two research questions that relate to the children’s views.
The research questions were:
- In what ways do children in the reception class perceive pedagogical activities as promoting inclusion?
- In what ways do children in the reception class perceive pedagogical activities as hindering inclusion?
This research project adopted a constructionist and interpretivist approach since its main focus was on the elicitation of the children’s views about their experience of inclusive pedagogical activities. Therefore it was important to define inclusion and pedagogy at the outset. Inclusion was defined as: active involvement (Mittler, 2000); engagement (Laevers, 1994); learning and playing in collaboration with others (Booth and Ainscow, 2004); and recognising diversity (Barton and Slee, 1999). Pedagogy was defined as: the co-construction of learning in a careful juxtaposition of teacher and child-initiated activities (Siraj-Blatchford et al., 2002); working with children as emergent learners (Farquhar, 2003); a democratic approach (Sheridan, 2001); and co-agency, trust, value and respect (Hart et al., 2004). These definitions then informed the analysis of the data.
Barton, L. and Slee, R. (1999) Competition, Selection and Inclusive Education: Setting the Context. Inclusive Education, 3(1), 3-12 (Special Issue). Booth, T. and Ainscow, M. (2004) Index for inclusion: Developing learning, participation and play in early years and child care. Bristol: CSIE Farquhar, S-E. (2003) Quality teaching and early foundations: Best evidence synthesis Wellington: Ministry of Education. Available from http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/7707/bes-quality-teaching-early.pdf [Accessed 26 August 2014] Hart, S., Dixon, A., Drummond, M.J. and McIntyre, D. (2004) Learning without limits. Maidenhead: Open University Press Laevers, F. (1994) (ed.) Well-being and Involvement in Care Settings. Leuven: Research Centre for Experiential Education Mittler, P. (2000) Working Towards Inclusive Education: Social Contexts. London: David Fulton Nutbrown, C. (2012) Foundations for Quality: An Independent Review of Early Education and Childcare Qualifications- Final Report (Nutbrown Review). London: Department for Education Rockett, M. and Percival, S. (2002) Thinking for Learning. Stafford: Network Educational Press Rouse, M. (2007) Enhancing effective inclusive practice: Knowing, doing and believing, Kairaranga. Wellington: New Ministry of Education Sheridan, S. (2001) A comparison of external and self-evaluations of quality in early childhood education. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 9, 131-151 Siraj-Blatchford, I., Sylva, K., Muttock, S., Gilden, R. and Bell, D. (2002) Researching Effective Pedagogy in the Early Years. Nottingham: Department for Education and Skills Stephen, C. (2010) Pedagogy: The silent partner in early years learning. Early Years: An International Journal of Research and Development, 30(1), 15-28 UNCRC (1989) Convention on the Rights of the Child. New York: United Nations
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