By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE. I have often been asked where I get the topics for my blog posts. Usually it is what I am currently thinking about – something that I see as a trend in early childhood education pedagogy and curriculum. I have written about trends and buzz words before as I find them fascinating. I come across these words, ideas, and concepts while reading my news feeds on Facebook and Twitter. I have long been a supporter and advocate for the use of social media for professional learning. Sometimes, I stumble upon an idea that intrigues me when searching for something else when preparing for a class or writing a chapter for an upcoming book on outdoor play and nature. This happened recently when I read about professional vision. Professional vision in teaching is the specialized knowledge that helps us to make sense of day-to-day practice. This occurs through attention and knowledge-based reasoning (Mulholland, 2016). According to Seidel & Stürmer, 2014, professional vision is the use of knowledge to notice and interpret significant features of situations as they occur in the learning environment. The three aspects of professional vision identified by Seidel & Stürmer (2014) are:
The more an educator is able to describe, explain and predict everyday situations, coupled with professional knowledge gained from experience and professional learning, the greater the positive impact there will be on practice. One problem as I see it, is there has to be the motivation to enhance professional knowledge through professional learning. Experience alone is not enough. Professional learning is another concept that I have long found fascinating. Based on my own self-activated professional learning, I have come to realize that for me, I learn best when I am not a passive recipient of knowledge being transmitted to me in workshops. I found out that there is a big difference between professional learning and professional development. I am grateful for this resource that I stumbled upon years ago.
My latest wonderings are about the concept of “child-led” teaching and learning. Having worked in early childhood education for over three decades, I wonder if this term is the same as child-directed? In any case, I caution against the creation of a dichotomy between teacher-led and child-led. As in a previous post, I support continuum thinking. I look forward to thoughtful dialogue and discussions on this topic with others as the quote from Lev Vygotsky that guides my practice is: “It is through others that we develop into ourselves”. I welcome comments on this blog while I continue to ponder and make meaning. This post from Denita Dinger comes at the perfect time as I continue on this quest to build professional knowledge and in turn professional vision. I am excited about this summer for an opportunity to discuss the concept of child-led with two educators from Australia, Dannielle Gibson and Sally Cook who will be attending The Rhythm of Learning in Nature. I am curious about their perspectives on the concept of child-led learning. This is the third year that the York Region Nature Collaborative is hosting this week of professional learning. A week that involves participant led and collaborative professional learning in nature. There are still spaces available if you would like to join us! Here is a photo of #Rhythm2016 participants:
This year, the week-long Rhythm of Learning in Nature will culminate in a full-day workshop, A Tapestry of Play and Learning where our broader community of educators will share in the Rhythm experience and how it shaped the material invitations and installations at Tapestry (save the date; August 12th, 2017). The Tapestry of Play and Learning will be free to all #Rhythm2017 attendees. I can’t wait for the opportunity to share my current pondering. As thoughts are swirling around my head I wonder about why the concept of child-led intrigues me. I am beginning to see a connection with all learning. For professionals and children, if we strive for self-activated learning would the learning be more meaningful and joyful? For children, it is self-activated play. I plan to delve more deeply into the book, From Play to Practice: Connecting Teacher’s Play to Children’s Learning to continue on my own quest for professional knowledge and vision. The book focuses on my passion for self-activated play and advocates for adults to play to understand children’s play. My musings, have also led to a new tangent – the idea of agency as in my searches to learn more about the practice of child-led, I came upon this article, Creating Spaces for Children’s Agency: ‘I wonder…’ Formulations in Teacher–Child Interactions. I also want to learn more about agency. Cindy Green and I heard the term often when we were in Australia last year but it is not a word we hear often in our own contexts. Agency is a concept that refers to “children being afforded decision-making opportunities through which they can influence their worlds”(Houen, Danby, Farrell & Thorpe, 2016, p. 262). I am thinking that children’s agency is important but so is agency in relationship to professional learning. What I find fascinating is to consider that “agency is co-constructed through the unfolding sequences of talk, with contributions from both teachers and children” (Houen, Danby, Farrell & Thorpe, 2016, p. 262). This would suggest that there is a balance between child and teacher-led teaching and learning. The balance in practice would come from professional vision. Creating spaces for learning for adults and children requires co-construction. It is not completely learner-led. I think the term child-led oversimplifies something very complex. I am putting child-led on a shelf and will return to it at some point but for now my thoughts focus on agency, professional vision and passion. After I gave Cindy this blog post to read prior to publishing she posed a very interesting question. Has it been professional vision that has kept us so passionate after all these years? Or is it agency? We were both supposed to retire a few years ago! Yet we keep going!