Approaches to Early Childhood Curriculum Essay
Approaches to Early Childhood Curriculum
In the state of New South Wales, Australia, good Early Childhood Teachers and quality early childhood teaching and learning environments are views as distinguishable for the diversity awareness and inclusive approaches to gathering information. The NSW curriculum framework, within which the aforesaid principles are maintained, was introduced in 2002 (Stonehouse). In the present critical analysis the important concepts of the NSW curriculum framework in relation to stakeholders, authentic curriculum and diversity and equity are discussed.
Besides, other reference materials (The Orb Web Model Corsaro 1993; Theory of Multiple Intelligences Gardner 1993; Ethos of Attachment concept Lambert & Clyde 2000; Dispositions as Educational Goals concept Katz 1991; Lambert & Clyde 2000; Reggio Emilia Pre-School framework; the modern social constructivist approach Bruner 1973) are used to support, contrast and underline the concepts being presented in the core document. The same year when the NSW curriculum framework was introduced, Marjory Ebbeck stressed that the Australian pre-school service providers were sometimes unlucky to miss the local needs (Ebbeck 2002 p.
2). The NSW curriculum framework (NSW CF) vividly established the participants of educational process, paying special attention to the levels where children’s service providers should operate. The document did not use directly the definition “stakeholders,” though it is easy to point out seven communities being included in the quality Early Childhood Environments of New South Wales, Australia. One of the important positions among the stakeholders is given to extended family such as grandparents, uncles and aunts.
They are acknowledged to participate in the cognitive and socialising process with the pre-school children in the centre of the learning model, especially with those babies, who are raised within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Stonehouse & Duffie 2001 p. 87). Thus, a prominent shift in attitudes towards extended families is done. To understand this let us recall Wilcoxon, pointing in 1987 that the adopted views of grandparents were then stereotypical (p. 289). In 1987 the researcher stressed the importance of the relationships between extended families and pre-school children only at critical stages of children development.
The modern CF underlines the significance of such connections in everyday life. Children, regardless of the age, are treated by the NSW CF as valuable members of the community (Stonehouse & Duffie 2001 p. 17), as citizens who have the same rights and responsibilities as adults (ibid. ). More than this, the NSW CF approach suggests that there are multiple processes, both intellectual and physical, which help the child to become a valuable citizen, which are called connections (Stonehouse & Duffie 2001 p. 24).
Those connections are sustained mainly by a stakeholder whom the authors call professional (Stonehouse & Duffie 2001 p. 17). This is an adult regardless of qualifications who deals with children in children’s services. However, from the literature analysis it is evident that the NSW CF, though, pointing eleven links within the early education system of NSW, has not achieved the final goal of connecting all the stakeholders. Tayler, Farrell & Tennent admitted low level of satisfaction within Australian families with service systems which are called fragmented, single-purpose and non-flexible (May 2003 p.
2) especially in rural and outer metropolitan areas. The Feedback from the consultation paper “Towards the Development of a National Agenda for Early Childhood” stressed that pre-school children, their families and local communities depend on the welfare organisations (October 2003 p. 4), which should take the collective responsibility to provide children with love, security, health and learning. In the NSW Childhood Curriculum Framework the revolutionary view of curriculum is introduced.
It is seen as the conscientious actions that every professional makes to provide children’s well-being and learning with the participation of a child himself (Stonehouse & Duffie 2001 p. 157). Jokovich pointed that community consultation (2000 p. 25) was effective in developing the curriculum in this definition. It seems to echo to a certain extent with Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences (The MIT), which identified a core curriculum as a system of well-known concepts (“Frames of Mind” 1993 p. 6) and so-called electives.
Howard, however, built a three-component model, consisting of the kinds of intelligences being involved, first, the major transmitting agents or stakeholders, second, and the general context or environment, third (“Frames of Mind” 1993 p. 333). What the NSW CF shares with the aforesaid theory is the diversified environment within which the curriculum is structured, though the NSW CF encapsulates a larger number of stakeholders (seven against three of a learner, a teacher and a peer). Besides, Howard concentrated on three kinds of intelligences, while the NSW CF stressed eleven major actions being called the curriculum.
The modern social constructivist Jerome Bruner described the ideal curriculum as the knowledge system which is clear and understandable by all the participants regardless of their cognitive dissimilarities with the participation of an adult or a peer (1983 p. 181). The NSW, however, seems to concentrate not on the transition of knowledge itself, not on the content or subject matter, but on the actions of professionals and their roles in providing pre-school children with knowledge, connections and safety.
The preschools of Reggio Emilia unlike the NSW CF seem to discern between “atelierista” (artist) and “pedagogista” (curriculum specialist) (Abramson, Robinson, & Ankenman 1995 p. 197), while the NSW CF points out that the professionals “control the power that parents and children have” (Stonehouse & Duffie 2001 p. 18), while according to Emilia educators the professional working with children is seen as the mediator and learner in the project work, on which the curriculum is centred (Abramson, Robinson, & Ankenman, 1995 p.
198). Curriculum in Lambert & Clyde’s (2000) conceptualisation is described as the ethos of attachment or the in-built connection systems between children and professionals aimed at the progress in learning. Such a description does not contrast the NSW CF approach where the links between the participants of pre-school learning are flexible and reciprocal. There corresponds also the awareness of multiple connections being introduced in the Orb Web model.
Also a very important clue to the NSW CF understanding is given by the notion of dispositions to learning (Katz, 1991), when the curriculum and teaching strategies are chosen to strengthen desirable dispositions and to weaken undesirable ones (Meyer 2001 p. 161). In relation to the last concept for analysis – diversity and equity – the NSW CF introduces a key definition “to honour diversity. ” It means to respect all the stakeholders of the Early Childhood educational process regardless of their cognitive or social background (Stonehouse & Duffie 2001 p.
93). There is no direct reference to the concept of equity, though the professionals are called to introduce to children the moral implications of what is right and wrong, which implicitly stands for equity. The conflict between the real and the educational environment in this relation is stressed: “Children and families from groups that are not afforded power or sometimes even acceptance in the larger community can find in a children’s service a place where they can be powerful and respected,” states the author of the NSW CF (2001 p. 28).
All the researchers reviewed seemed to share the understanding of diversity in this or that conceptualisation. Bruner, for example, also never paused to acknowledge the concepts of diversity in his research (1983 p. 174). Gardner, though, unlike the author of the NSW CF, was not optimistic speaking about equity and success in learning, pointing that there is a tension between these notions (The Theory in Practice 1993 p. 61). Against the framework of disposition theory, Katz acknowledged that children are especially responsive to the judgments of other participants of the learning process (Meyer 2001 p.
161). The researcher stressed that the positive dispositions are to be molded by teachers. The NSW CF seems to extend the list of those who are able to help the children in the dispositional firmament to all the list of stakeholders in this or that degree. The document also does not insist so straight-forwardly in the didactic role of a teacher, so far as the child is born with the disposition to learn and socialise. The Orb Web Model (Corsaro 1993) unlike the aforesaid theory of Katz stresses a non-linear, active development of a child, which is grounded on interpretive reproduction.
Such a model is close to the NSW CF model which is multiple in links and their direction, in the awareness of diversity. Wohlwend suggests following Corsaro’s approach teaching children the social language of friendship. And here the link to the NSW CF is evident. Not a point of contradiction forms the approach by Reggio Emilia with its unique philosophy of a child as an individual with diverse rights and potentials (Abramson, Robinson, & Ankenman 1995 p. 197). However, the RE approach rejects a portrayal of children as dependent or needy, while the NSW CF acknowledges the diverse backgrounds of children in the local of the NSW environment.
More than that, the NSW CF seems to follow the Gender Equity Curriculum Support Paper (1997 p. 2) in inviting educational establishments and professionals to encourage all children (girls and boys, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children of diverse language and cultural backgrounds, as well as those with special needs) to participate actively in the curriculum. To put it in a nut-shell, the NSW curriculum framework (NSW CF) seems to stick to the constructivist, holistic and global approach, being popular in the modern educational community.
First, it pioneers in establishing multiple levels on which the participants of the NSW Early Childhood educational process should operate, as well as in prescribing the important position to extended family, and in centering a child within the constructed model. Such a conceptualization of children echoes with the one being adopted in Reggio Emilia preschools, for example, though in relation to the number of stakeholders the NSW CF vividly contrasts against all the theories being reviewed except Corsaro’s web model.
Second, unlike Bruner’s or Gardner’s conceptualizations of the curriculum, the NSW Childhood CF treats the curriculum as the system of professional actions, not as the cognitive content. The methods being discussed in the NSW CF does not correspond also with Emilia’s project-centred curriculum. It seems that the most close link the curriculum analysed shares with Corsaro’s web model of role plays. However, all the theories and approaches being discussed share the clear awareness of a child being a valuable participant of the curriculum.
Third, all the approaches being analysed share the understanding of diversity in cultural, cognitive and other sense. The NSW CF, however, seems to take into account the suggested unhappy surroundings of NSW, Australia, unlike Emilia’s approach which seems to exclude the social diversification of children. With Gardner’s MIT the NSW approach shares the discernment between cognitive ability to adopt knowledge and equity in relation to the rights of all children to participate in the learning process.
The concepts of the ethos of attachment and dispositions also seem echo with the NSW CF in acknowledging the diversity in cognitive, curriculum and socio-cultural sense. List of References Abramson, S. , Robinson, R. , & Ankenman, K. (1995, Summer). Project Work with Diverse Students: Adapting Curriculum Based on the Reggio Emilia Approach. Childhood Education, 71 (4), 197-202. Australian Capital Territory Department of Education & Training and Children’s, Youth & Family Services Bureau. (1997). Gender Equity, Curriculum Support Paper.
ACT Across Curriculum Perspectives Australian Government Task Force on Child Development, Health and Wellbeing. (2003, October). Towards a National Agenda for Early Childhood – What you told, Feedback from the consultation paper ‘Towards the Development of A National Agenda for Early Childhood. ’ FaCS1396. 1003 Bruner, J. (1983). In Search of Mind: Essays in Autobiography. New York: Harper & Row. Ebbeck, M. (2002). Global Pre-School Education: Issues and Progress. International Journal of Early Childhood, 34 (2), 1-11.
Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice. New York: Basic Books. —. (1993). Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic Books. Jokovich, E. (2000, Spring). The NSW Early Childhood Curriculum Framework. Rattler 55, pp. 25-27 Meyer, J. (2001). The Child-Centered Kindergarten. Childhood Education, 77 (3), 161. Porter, L. (2002). Educating Young Children with Additional Needs. Crows Nest, N. S. W. : Allen & Unwin. Stonehouse, A. , & Duffie, J. (2001).
NSW Curriculum Framework for Children’s Services, The Practice of Relationships. Essential Provisions for Children’s Services. NSW Department of Community Services, Office of Childcare. Tayler, C. , Farrell, A. , & Tennent, L. (2003, May). Children, communities and social capital: New ways of thinking about early childhood service provision. Our Children the Future 3, Strand Five: Children’s Wellbeing, Session 5. 05B, 3 May 2003. Adelaide Convention Centre. OCTF3. 1-10. Retrieved 21 May 2003. Wilcoxon, A. S. (1987, February).
Grandparents and Grandchildren: An Often Neglected Relationship Between Significant Others. Journal of Counseling and Development, 65, 289-290. Wohlwend, K. E. (2004). Chasing Friendship: Acceptance, Rejection, and Recess Play First-Grade Children Frequently Blurred the Line between Acceptance and Rejection While They Worked through Peer Relationships within the Complex Social Web of Playground Friendships. Childhood Education, 81 (2), 77+. Retrieved October 8, 2005 from Association for Childhood Education International database.