By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE. Pedagogy is defined as the method and practice of teaching. For early childhood educators it is about the understanding of how learning takes place and pedagogical approaches employed to support learning. It is different than curriculum which is the content of the learning (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2014). An emergent curriculum assumes that the content of the learning is derived from the interests of the children . As I am often asked to support educators who are moving from a theme approach to an emergent curriculum, I am continually reflecting on where to start. Do you begin with the curriculum or with the interests of the children? I would suggest that you do neither. Begin with pedagogy and the pedagogical approaches that are grounded in the image of children, families and educators as competent and capable. At the top of the list of the approaches recommended by Ontario’s pedagogy for the early years, How Does Learning Happen? (2014) are responsive relationships.
From Australia, the term pedagogy is described as the holistic nature of early childhood educators’ professional practice (especially those aspects that involve building and nurturing relationships), curriculum decision-making, teaching and learning. Relationships are key as explained in this article that speaks to the importance. If “location, location, location” describes what is most important in real estate, then the mantra “relationships, relationships, relationships” can be applied to early learning environments. Relationships are the heart of pedagogy. This I know from Mr. Fred Rogers.
Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people ~ Fred Rogers
We need to begin with positive, respectful, mutually caring relationships. To establish these relationships what is essential is active participation of all the subjects of education – children, families and educators. Start with relationships that support children’s sense of belonging and well-being. Then invite children to explore and actively engage while expressing themselves in a hundred languages and hundred, hundred more. My theory is that by taking this pedagogical approach, the curriculum will be revealed in authentic and meaningful ways. Once strong reciprocal and responsive relationships are in place curriculum can become authentic and meaningful. Connections and bonds between people enable teachers to really see children’s interests and understandings but it takes time. It takes time to understand the strategies they already know to stay calm, alert and focused. It takes time to see the way they engage with one another and materials. It takes time to see the processes they use for learning about their worlds. Take the time to think deeply about children and from the brain let your thoughts travel to your heart.
My concern is that curriculum does not co-exist with pedagogy and therefore the educator’s mind is not engaged. My other concern is as Malaguzzi so eloquently put forth that we leave our hearts out of the equation. When we see children and families as co-learners and co-constructors of the curriculum we engage the heart and the mind in our pedagogical approach to early learning.