Pedagogy in Early Childhood Education: The Art of Teaching and Learning

By: Diane Kashin, Ed.D, RECE and Cindy Green, RECE. I (Diane) don’t remember when I first heard the word pedagogy but if memory serves me well, I started to really think about the term when I began to study the Reggio Emilia Approach to early learning in the late nineties. I kept coming across the term pedagogical documentation and I was provoked to learn more.

Origin of the TermI must admit at first, I wasn’t sure how to pronounce pedagogy (ped·​a·​go·​gy) or pedagogical (ped·​a·​gog·​i·​cal) and I felt intimated to use the terms. Over the years, I have encountered many early childhood educators in my home province of Ontario who seem to be in the same pedagogical boat! How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years was published in 2014 and there is now the expectation for early childhood educators to take on the role of pedagogical leaders. Recently, I had the privilege of presenting a series of workshops in a municipality a few hours east of where I live. Directors of child care programs had designated a staff member to be a pedagogical leader and the municipality hosted a dinner followed by a workshop that I facilitated. Each person in the room stood up and introduced themselves and I wasn’t surprised when those who had assumed the role of pedagogical leader could not pronounce pedagogical. Nor was I surprised when I asked the group the question, “what is pedagogy?” and no one answered. Since then I have felt compelled to write this blog post and I hope it helps others come to terms with terms. If we think of pedagogy as the art of teaching and learning it is different than what we know as curriculum. We need to come to terms with terms. How Does Learning Happen? defines both curriculum and pedagogy and reminds us that both are shaped by our views of children.

Coming to Terms with Terms

Pedagogy is how we approach curriculum. What should children be learning? How do we decide the content of the learning? How will they learn? According to How Does Learning Happen? the focus should not be on “teaching a body of knowledge or a predetermined set of topics”. Educators are to “engage with, observe, and listen to children”. They are to discuss with others, including families and children, “the possibilities for further exploration in increasingly complex ways. All are co-learners, constructing knowledge together” (p. 15). This is a process with inherent complexity and is not easy. Especially if pedagogy is a new term for you. When I was studying to become an early childhood educator, I did not hear the word pedagogy or pedagogical. When I ask educators today, they too are not familiar with the terms. The expectation now is that they embed the province’s pedagogy into their daily practice, but they are not sure how. When I visit programs I am often told by educators that they are “doing How Does Learning Happen?” and they point to a bulletin board with a few photos and the words, Belonging, Well-being, Expression and Engagement displayed. Yes, these are the foundations of learning but without an understanding of pedagogical approaches, how will learning happen? The four frames of thepedagogy (ped·​a·​go·​gy) or pedagogical (ped·​a·​gog·​i·​cal)  Kindergarten Program (2016) grew from the four foundations for learning in How Does Learning Happen? In this graphic from that document it is evident that the six pedagogical approaches that support learning are built on the foundations/frames.

From the Kindergarten Document

In my last blog post I wrote about an experience I had presenting to kindergarten teaching teams at a particular school board. When I asked the group to reflect on the six pedagogical approaches and choose one that they wanted to learn more about, on the most part they all chose pedagogical documentation. As I walked around and spoke to the attendees some admitted that they did not understand, nor could they pronounce the word, pedagogical. I told them to welcome this uncertainty as the impetus to learn. It is okay not to be certain. If we see ourselves as researchers, we are supposed to be in a position of uncertainty. From this place theories can be built that inform practice. Let’s start but not end with the foundations/frames and build upon this base to create our own pedagogy of teaching and learning that is ongoing, collaborative and complex. In the spirt of collaboration, I turn to my friend and colleague Cindy Green who adds some important reflections to consider about how learning happens.

In our work with educators, we recognize that some are struggling with how to translate the big ideas in How Does Learning Happen? into their daily work with children and families. We are intentionally inviting educators to go deeper, to think about what a capable and competent child says and does and how they follow their natural curiosities, eager to develop relationships and test out their theories. As professionals, we have a responsibility to reflect on and make meaning behind how the foundations of learning truly support our pedagogical practice and intentional curriculum directions. Yes, children are in a better position for learning when they feel a sense of belonging and well-being and they will be more apt to engage and express themselves but what might this actually look like in the day to day life of a child involved in an early learning program? What is our role and that of the family in terms of how learning happens? Pedagogical leaders and educators alike need to ask these questions. It matters!

One thought on “Pedagogy in Early Childhood Education: The Art of Teaching and Learning

  1. Thank you for bringing forward terms such as, Pedagogy and pedagogical. I wonder if one is related to the ‘how’ of the work and the other is related to the ‘what’ of daily encounters. Both terms are related to the underpinnings of documents supporting our learning in relation to others. I wonder if our evolving understanding of who the child is in relation to our evolving growth is more about the relationships we cultivate in observing and listening. So perhaps Pedagogy and pedagogical are relationships with children, adults and learning.

    Liked by 1 person

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