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Annual National Conference - Session descriptions

Friday 11 May

5.00-6.00pm Seminar: Child-centred diversity in quality early childhood education and care

Dr Verity Campbell-Barr, Plymouth University; Dr Jan Georgeson, Plymouth University and Professor Paolo Sorzio, University of Trieste

Child Centred Diversity in Quality Early Childhood Education and Care is a European research project, involving partners from Croatia, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the UK. The project stems from the international recognition of quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) being a social investment strategy for supporting parental employment and providing the foundations to children’s lifelong learning.

Internationally those who work in ECEC are recognised as central to the quality of ECEC. Despite the continued focus on the importance of the ECEC workforce for the quality of services, structural attributes, such as initial qualification requirements, are variable across Europe, and professional development requirements, if present at all, are even more differentiated. Beyond these structural attributes are questions as to what constitute the knowledge, skills and attitudes required for a competent ECEC workforce.

The project focuses on the knowledge, skill and attitude of being 'child centred', questioning what it means, what it looks like and how it can be developed through professional training. In this presentation we explore interpretations of child-centred practice across the participating countries, drawing on observational data and supporting documentation. The findings demonstrate the challenges of identifying what it means to be child-centred given its multiple interpretations, but suggests that constructs of child centred practice can be grouped according to developmental, participatory and democratic perspectives.

The observations illustrate that the different interpretations are not mutually exclusive and are subject to national quality requirements, such as ratios and curriculum and assessment demands. The findings raise questions about the distinctions between child- and children- centred, and what it means to act 'in the child's interests'.

Saturday 12 May

How high quality language environments create high quality learning environments

Professor Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Temple University

There is a lot of talk about the 30-million word gap and the lack of vocabulary in low-income children. How do we best address this gap and help these children build a strong language foundation for language and literacy? Kathy will talk about how her research in this area builds on others by asking about the quality of language talk to young children.

Learning, Playing and Interacting: the adult role in supporting children’s thinking

Helen Moylett and Nancy Stewart

Effective early years teaching is not a transmission process, feeding knowledge into children’s minds with children as passive receivers. It is an interactive process. Children must do the learning work, and the educator’s role is to notice, reflect and act on the ways in which children are engaged, motivated and thinking. This keynote will explore how sensitive and playful interaction for language development can help children and practitioners develop their thinking and support progress in their learning.

Engaging in our own Sustained Shared Thinking: Practitioner/Teacher research in practice

Di Chilvers

In this keynote Di will share the development of the Talk for Maths Mastery Initiative and how this grew everyone's thinking especially after observing mathematically minded children in their child-led play and discussions.
Di works in partnership with practitioners/teachers over a period of time in what she calls  an Extended Professional Development Initiative (EPDI).  Iram Siraj has a much neater explanation of this process of working together as a ‘community of learners with a common commitment to reflective, critical practice and professional development’ (2006).  Working collaboratively on an identified focus, project or initiative means that the whole team or cluster can:

  • work together
  • think together
  • reflect together
  • develop together
  • understand together
  • create together
  • learn together

This is what we have been doing on various initiatives, across the country, including Talk for Reading, Talk for Maths Mastery and Sustained Shared Thinking.

Action research methodology and Being a practitioner-researcher: questions and next steps

Professor Chris Pascal and Discussion panel of researchers

Working together in groups as a ‘community of learners’ is a highly effective way to develop thinking and professional learning. The ‘community’ becomes a forum for developing ideas, sharing good practice and raising the quality of learning and teaching, with a common commitment to reflective, critical practice and professional development.

The session will include an introduction by Chris Pascal to the research methodology issues that practitioners might need to consider in formulating a shared programme of research, followed by a panel session where practitioner-researchers discuss their experiences of carrying out research with groups of colleagues.

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