This week’s post has been written by one of our regular contributors, Karen Matthews, who is an early years practitioner. Thanks once again Karen for a great post!
Many areas of life are spurred on by trends or hot topics and the early years sector is no different. It’s all too easy to get drawn in by a ‘current trend’ or the latest craze, buzz word or concept, so what can we do to ensure that our vision and ethos is right for the children in our settings? How can we evolve and be reflective, whilst keeping at the forefront the aim of providing the best care and education for our particular group of young children?
My journey in early years started with a naive idea that I wanted to work with children and a B-tec National Diploma, back when I was 16, to my recent completion of a Masters in Early Childhood Education. In this time, I have seen many changes in policy; from desirable learning outcomes in 1996 to the current framework, which has been revised a number of times and of which a further revision is imminent. Combining work and study through these developments has given me the opportunity to explore and reflect upon many theories, ideas, thoughts and concepts.
Early years practice has evolved alongside policy, as has my own practice during my journey; scaffolded by academic study as well as experience, over more than 25 years I have explored and reflected upon my pedagogy. Using the metaphor of the human body; the skeleton, is my drive and passion to be the best early years advocate that I can be, my muscles are the qualifications and the skin is my experience, without which, for me the qualifications would not make sense
I have realised that, more than ever, there is a need for practitioners and all those involved in early years, to be continually reflective; of themselves and their pedagogy, their practice as well as developments in the early years sector. There is a wealth of exciting developments in the early years sector, for example, Channel 4’s ‘Old Peoples home for 4 year olds’, ‘Loose parts’ and ‘In the moment planning’ to name but a few; and whilst very beneficial these developments often come with specifications or requirements which can be prescriptive. Moreover, these raise the question as to whether we need embrace one single idea or simply take from a concept the elements that work for us, or more specifically, our current groups of children.
The recipe for high quality early years practice requires knowledge of the unique needs of a group or individual children, combined with an understanding of approaches and methods to draw upon and I would advise caution in adopting a single approach, method or philosophy. Instead, knowledgeable, reflective practitioners who can select from their extensive knowledge base the strategies that meet the needs of the current group because “No theorist has all the answers in respect of explaining the development of children’s understanding. Each casts some light on the problem and offers a slightly different emphasis. Some have been more influential than others and, in due course, new theorists will come along with new perspectives on human understanding” (Alfrey, 2004, p. 2).
Reading recently about the work of Malaguzzi (Holland, 2017) a single paragraph mentioned the names of eight theorists that had inspired his work; having a range of theories, philosophies, ideas and concepts to draw upon allows us the opportunity to really meet the needs of the individual child. We are fortunate to have a metaphorical tapestry of theories and theorists to draw upon.
What do you think? What is your own pedagogy or philosophy and what ideas and concepts do you draw upon?