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Critical reflection in early childhood education: a framework for personal and professional empowerment Diti Hill

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Critical reflection in early childhood education: a framework for personal and professional empowerment Diti Hill. FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE

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Critical reflection in early childhood education: a framework for personal and professional empowermentDiti Hill

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FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE
  • In theorising practice and practising theory, are we able to see reflection as embedded deeply in our teaching, rather than something that we do to it afterwards?
  • Can we see teaching itself as an ethical and political commitment (Dahlberg and Moss 2005); a commitment mediated by reflection on technical and taken-for-granted day to day events and experiences?

(Theory to practice continuum Diti Hill July 2006)

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JOHN SMYTH (1993)Smyth, J. (1993). A socially critical approach to teacher education. In T. Simpson (Ed.). Teacher Educators Handbook 1993. Brisbane: QUT.

  • One of the wonders of the world is that as human beings, we have an enormous tolerance for incoherence and contradiction. We have elevated to the level of an art form, the capacity to lead our lives in one kind of way, while construing them in a completely different way.
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Being socially critical means starting with reality, with seeing injustices and contradictions, and beginning to overturn reality by reasserting the importance of learning.
  • Only when teachers take an active reflective stance are they able to challenge the dominant ‘factory’ metaphor of the way many early childhood centres are conceived, organised and enacted.
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Untangling taken-for-granted practices requires breaking into well entrenched and constructed mythologies that may not always be easily dislodged.

smyth s framework for reflection
Smyth’s framework for reflection
  • DESCRIBE
  • INFORM
  • CONFRONT
  • RECONSTRUCT

CONFRONTING: being able to subject the theories about one’s own practice to interrogation and questioning, in a way that establishes their legitimacy.

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Describe
  • It was a nice sunny day and we were outside in the playground. ‘M’ crawled towards the basket ball hoop and started exploring it. He was hanging on to the basket and touching the net. Soon ‘I’ came to join ‘M’. They both started playing together with the basket. I brought a basket full of balls and kept it besides the basket ball hoop. I put a few balls into the basket and then stepped back to observe. Both of them started playing with the balls.
  • What is your ‘teaching’ role here? You must identify, focus on and describe YOUR teaching more clearly here, in order to reflect on it.
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Inform
  • This spontaneous play was exciting for me as it was the first time I saw two babies playing together and enjoying each other’s company. I think that they both are very social and like to play in groups. This also tells me that both ‘M’ and ‘I’ have the ability to concentrate if they are interested and enjoying the play. This experience is important to me because it made me realize that I was not thinking appropriately for their age.
  • HERE is the focus of your reflection! Did you have a perception that these children could not play with the balls like this? What do you mean by ‘appropriately’? THIS could be the starting point of your reflection. This is about you and your role in the learning-teaching process.
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Confront
  • I believe in socio-cultural theory, therefore encourage children to play in a group and think that both spontaneous and planned possibilities can give great learning experiences to children. I am impressed by Vygotsky’s concept of Zone of Proximal Development or ZPD. I believe children learn a lot from the people who surround them- peers, teacher, family and whanau, community. I keep my approaches flexible and change according to the child’s interest and learning environment. I believe children learn more in groups but with babies it is very challenging because of their interests and routines. I took the children’s lead in my practice- at first they were exploring the basket hoop, then they started playing with the balls and enjoyed throwing the balls. I would link this reflection to Te Whariki Strand 5- Exploration, Goal 1—Children experience an environment where their play is valued as meaningful learning and the importance of spontaneous play is recognised.
  • Does your confronting address the fact that you underestimated what these babies could do? What is so challenging about babies’ interests and routines? What does the quote from Te Whariki say about your own teaching here? Is socio-cultural theory only about learning in groups? What does Vygotsky’s theory of the ZPD mean for your practice in this scenario? So was this interaction ‘planned’ or ‘spontaneous’?
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Reconstruct
  • This was a valuable experience for me as I saw the interests moving from the hoop to the balls. I could see their great interest in balls and will have these resources in different varieties like paper, clay, big, small etc.
  • Here you evaluate the activity and suggest new materials rather than focus on reconstructing your own teaching and the learning-teaching process evident in the reflection. Has your perception of what babies can do changed? What is your teaching commitment to these two children?
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Theory, pedagogy and reflectionCurtis, D. and Carter, M. (2008). Learning together with young children: A curriculum framework for reflective teachers. St Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.

To enter into a style of teaching which is based on questioning what we’re doing and why, on listening to children, on thinking about how theory is translated into practice and how practice informs theory, is to enter into a way of working where professional development takes place day after day.

(Sonya Shoptaugh, page 9)

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