Inside the minds of children

I wonder how many of you in New Zealand have been watching the wonderful British television series titled “The secret life of babies”? This is a fascinating series that shows the power of video as a research tool – one I have very much come to appreciate.

Watch/re-watch this episode: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/content/tvnz/ondemand/shows/t/the-secret-life-of-four-year-olds.html with the lens of working theories in mind.

The concept of working theories offers a positive view of the complex ways in which children were learning to socialise with a new group of same-aged peers. Complement the commentary and interpretations of the researchers watching the video as it unfolded by considering: What were their working theories on how this educational institution functions? What were their working theories about how to make, be, and maintain, friends? Alongside the ABCs, watch two boys negotiate and re-negotiate their friendship and problem-solve important ideas.

Working through these kinds of ideas is complex and provides important dispositions about ways to be a citizen in a democratic society. As the commentary at the beginning notes, the learning – and growing language capacities that accompany learning –  that takes place from 4-6 sets children up for adulthood. What more argument do we need for the importance of early childhood education?

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Research on working theories: Hedges and Cooper (2014)

Well it’s been a while – happy new year, welcome to 2016 and the year of the monkey. I’ve had a busy start to the year and no time to get to my blog but have been encouraged by greater numbers of people gradually accessing it – and hopefully reading its posts. So that has provided some incentive to keep it up this year.

The Inquiring minds, meaningful responses: Children’s interest, inquiries and working theories project was a follow-up to my earlier small-scale study. It was funded by the Ministry of Education through the Teaching and Learning Research Initiative fund. Small Kauri ECE Centre and Myers Park KiNZ generously agreed to continue on the working theories journey and to explore other ideas about children’s interests and inquiries too.

The title of the project was the working title of my PhD and a manuscript that never saw the light of day so I was very excited to use it at last. It has been interesting to see the idea of “meaningful responses” being spoken about and written recently as an alternative to “planning” which has been a word many early childhood teachers don’t identify with well.

I was delighted to have Maria Cooper along for the ride as co-researcher – her expertise in infant and toddler pedagogy and her reputation and relationships with teachers in the sector is superb. Together with our teacher-researchers we generated an enormous amount of data that enabled us to make our best efforts to delve into children’s worlds, understandings and thinking.

music-818459__180An important aspect of the study was the selection of children and families that the teachers visited in their family homes to gain further insights. This meant the project aligned with the original intentions of projects employing funds of knowledge as a framing as visits to family homes were an important aspect of the associated methodology.

Rather than provide a summary of our project, I invite you to access the final report written for a practitioner audience. Future posts will explore some of the findings, presentations and publications in more depth by sharing snippets of these.

Hedges, H., & Cooper, M. (2014). Inquiring minds, meaningful responses: Children’s interest, inquiries and working theories. Final report to Teaching and Learning Research Initiative. Retrieved from http://www.tlri.org.nz/sites/default/files/projects/TLRI_Hedges%20Summary%28final%20on%20website%29.pdf