Sunday, February 12, 2017

An Educated Nudge - Lynn Rupe

Last year I heard Guy Claxton speaking in Rotorua. During his seminar one of the teachers present suggested that they could stand aside to allow the environment to teach the children. Guy Claxton replied that while the environment is certainly a teacher it is the teachers job to give the children an ‘educated nudge’. That is, to take the learning a little deeper. This has stuck with me over the year as I have thought about the part teachers play in the emergent curriculum.
The term emergent curriculum has been used for quite some time now and still there is confusion around what this might look like for teachers. Or some teachers are still unsure where to
start planning using an emergent curriculum approach. I have been reading the book ‘The Play’s the Thing’ by Jones & Reynolds (2011) and in there they define the emergent curriculum as:
“a seeming paradox: an intentional course is implied by the use of the word curriculum, derived from the Latin currere, meaning to run a course or make one’s way around a known route. But paradoxically, the course of this curriculum is not known at the outset. It is emergent - that is, its trajectory develops as a consequence of the logic of the problem, the particular connections that develop as participants bring their own genuine responses to the topic and collaboratively create the course to follow out of these multiple connections.” (Wein, 2008, pp.5-6)

When I read this definition of emergent curriculum I can see quite quickly how this could be a very confusing term. On one hand it talks of knowing the path that will be taken however, the emergent part of the phrase means that there is no definite path to be taken. There are a couple of words that really stand out for me in this definition these are - own genuine responses,
 collaboratively and multiple connections.
Firstly let us think about the two words, curriculum - the known part, and emerging - the unknown part. As teachers often we know the path educationally and developmentally that we want children to take. We know the stages of development, social learning, mathematical concepts and literacy and skill acquisition that need to be part of the curriculum therefore we already have a determined pathway to follow. I think this is where the environment sits. It is up to the teacher to plan for an environment rich with possible lines of inquiry and research. An environment that will assist children’s developing understanding in all curriculum areas. This is the knowledge we bring with us in our kete.

However, what we do not know are the energies, passions and spirit that children bring with them everyday into our settings. Sir Ken Robinson’s closing words in one of his TED talks are, “everyday children lay their dreams at our feet, and therefore we should tread softly”. This is the unknown part of the path. This is the area that ‘own genuine responses’ sits. As teachers it is part of our professional practice to set up an environment that invites children into experiences based upon the knowledge that we have in our kete and the kete of the children. It is the genuine responses from the children that allows these experiences to grow and for new learning pathways to flourish. Also this is when we are listening to what children are saying with their words and actions and considering possibilities and opportunities for further learning based on the energies, passions and spirit that the child brings with them, in their kete.
Children’s and teacher’s kete are filled with past knowledge and experiences, passions, dream and interests all of which when put together create a path that has yet to be walked as combinations each day will be different. The emerging interest can come from what each person within your centre brings by way of passion, knowledge or interest. Wendy Lee once said in an article about leadership in early childhood that “People are drawn to the enthusiasm, passion and energy of others.”
Sharing our interests and passions with children can inspire them make a genuine response of interest. There are other areas as teachers that we draw on, Jones & Reynolds (2011) write that “Curriculum also emerges from the things, people, and events in the environment, and from all the issues that aries in the course of living together day by day.”
Having heard the ‘genuine response’, dream or passion that children have shared then together teachers and children will consider ways in which this can be grown. Collaboratively children, teachers and families will find multiple ways of deepening the learning for children. This collaboration can be kanohi ki te kanohi or through assessment of the learning, as Fleet, Patterson & Robinson wrote in their book Insights:
“Teachers, children and families are able to interpret, reflect and contribute to the happenings of the kindergarten because documentation (learning stories) invites a dialogue among them. This dialogue creates multiple perspectives and interpretations.”
This is where the ‘multiple connections’ sit. It is a space that teachers create which allows everyone to talk about what learning is happening, what passion is being investigated and how this can be shared across differing areas of a child’s life.
Thinking back to Guy Claxton and the educated nudge - adding this to the environment and the passions, energies and spirt that children and teachers bring to their day, you have a wonderful recipe for the emergent curriculum. An example of how using an emergent curriculum approach works was given by Sir Ken Robinson in an article when he wrote about Hans Zimmer an Oscar-winning composer who loved to play the piano but was not interested in rote learning. Many schools tried to educate Zimmer through their education model of curriculum area defined learning - and he was thrown out of eight of them.
The move to an emergent curriculum means taking the environment, the passion, energies, spirit and interests of the children, teachers and whānau and giving it that ‘educated nudge’ from the teacher (or the child) so there is a deepening of learning.


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