Monday, May 28, 2012

Raising quality in early childhood education

The recommendations from the ECE advisory groups; Improving quality of ECE services sector-wide and Improving quality of ECE services for children aged less than two years have been announced by the Minister of Education today.

Hekia Parata
25 May, 2012
Raising quality in early childhood education
Education Minister Hon Hekia Parata has today released a series of recommendations on how to improve the quality of early childhood education (ECE).
The recommendations are the findings of two advisory groups which were established in January of this year to focus on improving the quality of ECE services, particularly for those children under the age of two.
“I welcome the recommendations and thank the advisory groups for identifying many practical solutions that can be implemented quickly.”
“All of our children deserve high quality ECE. The pre-school years are too critical in terms of learning and development to allow anything else. Parents need to be assured that their children are attending a quality service,’’ says Ms Parata.

“I have asked the Ministry of Education to provide me with advice on the recommendations.

“This will include considering which of the recommendations can be implemented in a shorter timeframe and which will require further work.

“I plan to make a further announcement in August to outline the next steps for these recommendations.”

The full recommendations of the Sector Advisory Group on improving quality for under two year olds in ECE are available at the following link

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Celebrating divergent thinking

ELP facilitator Lorraine Sands writes:

I hope that I can capture for you the vitality of the learning I witnessed. I imagine many of you will have heard of Beyblades as they seem to be a world wide phenomenon.  Earlier this week. I was visiting a relatively small rural community and with a little time to spare, I thought I’d just pop into an early childhood centre to catch up with some teachers I hadn’t seen for  a while. Whaea Tracy and I were chatting when a little guy came up and asked if I would like to see his Beyblade. We all know how impossible it is to resist requests from animated, intensely interested children and so I turned to give my full attention expecting to see him demonstrating his prowess with these toys. Instead he disappeared momentarily and returned with some magnetic geometrically shaped blocks. I was fully alert now as this was intriguing. Manaaki placed 5 triangles on the table and clicked the magnets into place, lifted these into a 3d model so they formed the bottom half of a diamond and finally placed a pentagon shape on top to give it strength. He then threw his version of a Beyblade onto the ground where it spun with considerable speed, dancing merrily across the floor. I was stunned for I felt I had witnessed a 21st century learner in action. All the best  of that 20th century pioneering spirit we love in New Zealand, that number eight wire, can do attitude, using whatever is around  to solve whatever problems need to be solved, with a 21st century twist! This creative inventor had  seen a possibility. By knowing how one thing worked he had leaped a thinking chasm, making some completely unrelated materials work in a similar way!

That kind of divergent thinking is to be celebrated. It’s the kind of thinking that will grow the ‘knowledge enconomy’. We’ve continually heard this rhetoric from political parties, yet there seems less detail  about how this ‘playing around with ideas’ can be embedded into learning throughout  a child’s education. Guy Claxton gives us some powerful notions around “Building Learning Powered Schools”. Slit screen teaching where thinking about thinking is highly visible alongside increasing knowledge and skills. His book is worth having in your libraries.  Manaaki then set about making another of his Beyblades, for of course they are designed for having races with other people and his intention was for us to work with him to see how fast we could make them go. Collaborative and competitive in one go, happy to share his knowledge so we could have fun together. He was clearly working as a leader and as a team member.The attributes for a successful 21st learner just kept stacking up.

These are the magic moments that need documenting and so I fetched my camera. Manaaki, ever vigilant for another learning experience wanted to take his own photos and figured out how to use my camera in quick time. Spinning tops of course lose their vivacity in still photos so we switched to video mode. I left promising to send him the DVD so he could show his mum and dad at home on their TV.

What did I come away with that day?  I listened to Alison Gopnik this morning on National radio (it will be worth getting the pod cast of this), talking about how essential it is for children to be viewed as scientists who make predictions about the world and test their theories. This playing around with ideas feeds their growing intelligence. She said that structured learning is detrimental to children in their early years. The challenge for us is to make our environments into vibrant learning settings where children’s curiosity can flourish with support from teachers who promote making mistakes as a way to learn. This means children will be learning at the cusp of their experience and skills stretching these far and wide.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Leading educators ‘inspirational’

“The Courier”, Timaru, April 26th, 2012 page 8
Leading educators ‘inspirational’
By Lynne Bruce
TEACHERS from South Canterbury and Waimate attended a professional development day last week at which they heard from world renowned early childhood education leaders.
Margaret Carr, from Waikato University, and Wendy Lee, Director of the Educational Leadership Project, on their first visit to Timaru, shared the latest research from their ‘hot-off the press’ book Learning Stories: Constructing learner identities in early education.
Teachers were excited to know more about how this research impacted on their narrative assessment and planning for learning (“learning stories”) to ensure children develop their ‘learner identity’ to be successful life-long learners.
Teachers said the presenters were ‘top-of-the-line’, ‘motivational’ and ‘magical’.
One teacher said it was inspirational having such influential educators share their knowledge and experiences so ‘we can be the best teachers we can’. Another stated it was an honour to finally meet Professor Carr, who had so strongly influenced her own teaching. Professor Carr was a co-author of the national ECE curriculum Te Whariki, whose later research on dispositions for learning guided the development of school key competencies.

Leading educators: Waikato University Professor Dr Margaret Carr and Educational Leadership Project Director Wendy Lee address Timaru area kindergarten teachers last week about supporting children’s learning.