You are here

Annual National Conference 2017 - Now there's a thought: exploring the potential and power of children's thinking


Friday 5 and Saturday 6 May 2017

Hosted by the Sunderland branch


Friday, 5th May - Pre-conference visits and welcome events

1.00-3.30pm  Visits to local schools and settings 

5.15-9.00pm  Visit to the National Glass Centre Sunderland, entertainment and supper

Saturday 6th May - Main conference programme

9.45am           When children are better (or, at least, more open-minded) learners than adultsProfessor Alison Gopnik

In the past 15 years we’ve discovered that even young children are adept at learning , and that they construct everyday theories in much the same way that scientists construct scientific theories, Recent studies in our lab show that young children may actually sometimes be more creative and exploratory learners than adults are.  Younger learners were actually better at inferring unusual or unlikely principles than older learners. I'll relate this  to evolutionary ideas about human "life history” and the function of our exceptionally long human childhood, and to neuroscience findings about the negative effects of frontal control on wide exploration, and the advantages of young brains for wide-ranging learning.

11.45am         Quality pedagogy and play matters: using the SSTEW scale to improve quality interactions and child well-being during playProfessor Iram Siraj

Iram will present evidence on why quality matters - in particular ‘process quality’, she will introduce the popular and evidence based  SSTEW scale - which is being used in many studies across the world. It is also being used by educators to improve quality alongside professional development which enhances educators’ ability to support children in their play and during their learning. Iram will demonstrate this through her discussing her research studies in Australia, Hong Kong and the UK and demonstrate high quality pedagogy of this nature using DVD examples.

2.00pm           Listening to children's mathematics: opening up a culture of mathematical enquiry - Elizabeth Carruthers

There is much evidence to support the view that young children have enormous curiosity and capacity to learn. They come to school and nursery with open, questioning minds and a wealth of mathematical experiences. However, research also tells us that this mathematical knowledge is not always recognised and often the set curricula takes over with little regard of children's previous experiences.

In her presentation, Elizabeth will put forward an argument for a more open, mathematical pedagogy that takes into consideration children's own mathematics and their ability to lead and make sense of mathematics in their own way. She will include findings from her current research and will illuminate this with her every day living experiences of working alongside children, families, staff and governors at Redcliffe Nursery School.

2.45pm           Thinking is making: developing a studio spaceDr Kathy Ring

The act of making is as much a cerebral as a physical engagement, indeed the physical and intellectual can be seen as interdependent. For all makers the choice of materials and methods of manufacture are integral to the making process. As can be seen in the pre-schools of Reggio Emilia, choices practitioners make about the provisioning and organizing of materials for their children reflect the shared values of their learning community. These choices reflect their knowledge about, understanding of and sensitivity towards the young child as a thinker and learner.

What kinds of materials are able to offer young children ongoing challenge? Kathy’s presentation uses images and video, taken from the ongoing action research project ‘Creating Studio Spaces in the Early Years’, to celebrate the rich interaction of children and intelligent materials and to recognize the gulf in values, thinking and understanding that can exist between ‘The Messy Area’ and ‘The Studio Space’.

Download full conference programme

Speaker biographies

Alison Gopnik

Alison is a professor of psychology and affiliate professor of philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley. She is an internationally recognised leader in the study of children’s learning and development and was the first to argue that children’s minds could help us understand deep philosophical questions. She is the author of several books including Words, thoughts and theories (coauthored with Andrew Meltzoff), The Scientist in the Crib (coauthored with Andrew Meltzoff and Patricia Kuhl) and The Philosophical Baby; What children’s minds tell us about love, truth and the meaning of life and, most recently, The Gardener and the Carpenter.

Iram Siraj

Iram is Professor of Education at University College London and the University of Wollongong, Australia, Iram’s recent research projects have included the major DCSF 17-year study on Effective Pre-school, Primary and Secondary Education (EPPSE 3-16, 1997-2014) and of the influential Researching Effective Pedagogy in the Early Years project (REPEY).  She is a member of the OECD IELS study (2016-2020) which will look at children’s development in an international context across the world. Recently she undertook reviews of the Implementation of the Foundation Phase for the Welsh Government (2014) and the early years workforce for the Scottish Government (2015). Her recent quality rating scales include The Sustained, Shared Thinking and Emotional Well-being (SSTEW) scale (2015, Siraj,, Kingston, & Melhuish).

Elizabeth Carruthers

Elizabeth is a National Leader of Education and is Headteacher of Redcliffe Nursery School, Children’s Centre, National Teaching School and Research Base, Bristol. She has taught in all phases of education but her focus for the past twenty years has been on birth to eight years. She has published articles and books on mathematics education and her work with Maulfry Worthington was recommended by the Williams Mathematics Review, 2008. She is presently studying for a PhD in Mathematics Education, at Bristol University,  partly funded by the Martin Hughes Scholarship Fund. 

Kathy Ring

Formerly Senior Lecturer in Early Years Education at York St John University, Kathy is an Early Education Associate and independent consultant.  She is the co-author of Making Sense of Children’s Drawings (OUP, 2003) and contributed to Mark Making Matters (DCSF, 2008).  Her research investigates the environmental factors that impact upon young children as meaning makers. Kathy is currently involved in action research with early years practitioners developing studio spaces within their settings.

Alison Gopnik
Iram Siraj
Kathy Ring
Elizabeth Carruthers
Event type: 
Annual National Conference
St Peters Campus, University of Sunderland, St Peters' Way, Sunderland SR6 0DD. Room: Prospect Building PR007
Saturday, 6 May, 2017

Members: £130 (Saturday only), £160 (Friday and Saturday)

Non-members: £185 (Saturday only), £215 (Friday and Saturday)

We recommend that you book online to ensure your booking is received immediately, but you can also download our flyer and booking form.

50 In stock
One per line
For each delegate please state their full name and work titles (separated with a comma)