Current Issue

Inclusive early childhood education: Pedagogy and practice

Volume 5, Number 4 - November 2018

Editoral

The Aotearoa New Zealand early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki: He Whāriki Mātauranga mō ngā Mokopuna o Aotearoa: Early Childhood Curriculum (Te Whāriki) (Ministry of Education [MoE], 2017) defines inclusion as comprising gender and ethnicity, diversity of ability and learning needs, family structure and values, socioeconomic status and religion. The Te Whāriki definition of inclusion is reflected in this Inclusive early childhood education: Pedagogy and practice edition of He Kupu. The articles featured in this edition cover the broad spectrum of inclusion.

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Practitioner Researcher

Father’s Day is coming up and the teaching team decide to celebrate all fathers. However, there is a slight dilemma. What do you say to George who has two mothers and no father? How will you explain this to Charlotte, whose only known father figure ever since she was born is her granddad? What do you tell Wiremu, Paul and Sophia, who are being raised solely by their mothers? This is the reality of families today. Children come from diverse families and the nuclear family model of the 1950s and 1960s - a mother, a father and a child or children, is only one of the many family structures.

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A professional educator situated in a cultural context significantly different from their own may encounter many opportunities and challenges that can influence their participation in this learning and professional community. In order to overcome cultural barriers that could potentially hinder their teaching instruction and professionalism, a teacher in this situation must acknowledge the traditions, values and beliefs of the predominant culture. Through accepting the differences and actively seeking ways to effectively engage with their colleagues and classroom pupils, a teacher can learn how to be an active and valuable member of this community to ultimately benefit the learning environment they intend to create.

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An inclusive environment requires teachers to respond to children’s strengths, interests, and needs and to remove any social, physical, or conceptual barriers serving to exclude children from full participation. A sociocultural view of development, supported by current research in neurobiology and language development, emphasises the importance of reciprocal and responsive relationships, rich in verbal communication. For children still developing language knowledge and skills, the time required to accompany and scaffold their learning journey within early childhood settings can present a social barrier. This article outlines the shared learning journey of a young boy and an emerging teacher (myself) in such an environment, highlighting the importance of practising ako within a credit-based, child-led curriculum approach.

Please note, this article has been written and published with the permission of Junior, Junior’s parents, and his early child care setting. Junior is an imagined name, chosen by Junior to be used in the article, to protect his right to privacy.

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Inclusive practices in early childhood in Aotearoa New Zealand could be defined as teachers acknowledging and celebrating the diversity of children and families/whānau, and removing obstacles to their engagement in a rich, full curriculum (Ministry of Education [MoE], 2017). The rights discourse guides teachers’ practices as they acknowledge children’s right to agency and full participation, and modify both their practices and the environment, to support equitable outcomes (Cologon, 2014a; Moffat, 2011). However, research indicates that it is the outdoor classroom that encourages the calm, attentive, inclusive relationships that children with diverse needs and their teachers and parents/whānau seek. In the outdoor classroom, their inclusion and belonging can be cultivated.

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Commentary

With rapid globalisation taking place in the past few decades, and as a result of opening doors to migrants and refugees from all around the world, early childhood centres in Aotearoa New Zealand are rich in cultural diversity. Although the early childhood curriculum is a treaty-based bicultural document, it also recognises children’s unique individualities and sociocultural backgrounds as a valuable source of learning. The childcare centre involved in this reflection is blessed with children and their families and staff from rich culturally diverse backgrounds. The learning program in accordance with the centre’s philosophy is designed to be as equitable as possible in order to respond positively to this diversity. This includes language, cultural artefacts, music, celebrations and parental involvement in the centre. This Reggio Emilia inspired centre has implemented an inclusive culture for global citizenship using a number of strategies discussed in this reflection.

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Special Edition

In today’s globalised, interconnected world, the mobility of people across physical and virtual spaces and time has a significant influence on the young generation. It is critical for teaching professionals to create inclusive learning spaces that accommodate the diversity of families, including those from distinct religious and socio-economic backgrounds. This article looks at inclusion through a human mobility paradigm, which implies that all places are tied into “at least thin networks of connections that stretch beyond each such place and mean that nowhere can be an island” (Urry, 2007, p. 209). Some studies emphasise that the more mobile and fluid identity is, the more successfully the person integrates in the societal experiences (Bello, 2014; Butcher, 2009; Nowicka, 2007). This article stresses the importance for teaching professionals to develop an understanding that the notion of identity in the twenty-first century undergoes constant reconstruction, thus calling to perceive and accept children as global citizens by embracing transformational, inclusive teaching approaches and environments.

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Early childhood education (ECE) in Aotearoa New Zealand highlights partnership between teachers and parents as crucial to children’s educational success. This article critically questions the implementation of a partnered approach, as espoused by the national early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki: He Whāriki Mātauranga mō ngā Mokopuna o Aotearoa: Early Childhood Curriculum (Te Whāriki)(Ministry of Education [MoE], 2017). Specifically discussed is parent inclusion in the assessment of children’s learning, drawing on the findings of an empirical study which investigated parents’ and teachers’ perceptions concerning the role of the parents in sociocultural assessment practices (Pennells, 2017). In particular, the findings noted a disparity in knowledge levels regarding the sociocultural approach to learning. Tensions relating to two-way communication and the power to participate are discussed. This article provides an opportunity for reflection encouraging the reader to consider how partnerships in the process of assessment are genuinely inclusive of parents.

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The medical model and the social model are two different discourses of disability that affect how society perceives individuals with impairments. The medical model relies heavily on the medicalisation of disability. Whilst the social model promotes that an individual has an impairment but it is societal barriers that create the disability. Although there are many discourses in disability, this article discusses the medical and social model, both dominant models in education. These discourses can impact and influence policy and practice in society and determine how individuals with impairments are responded to in an educational setting. This paper also reflects on how the social model came to underpin inclusive education philosophy and examines current arguments concerning the theoretical and practical implementation of both models in society. In conclusion, a combination of the positive aspects of each discourse and a balance in real-life application would be advantageous to individuals with impairments and society as a whole.

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Today’s Aotearoa New Zealand is rich with over 200 spoken languages (Ministry of Education [MoE], 2017). Many of these multilingual speakers are children, which places an importance on language within early childhood education [ECE] settings (Podmore, Hedges, Keegan, & Harvey, 2015). Pre-colonised Aotearoa New Zealand was rich with a variety of dialects of te reo Māori being spoken by the indigenous Māori people. The influence of colonisation and assimilation which came with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 brought with it the dominance of the English language as Māori were confronted with the ‘same rights and duties of citizenship as the people of England’ as outlined in article 3 of The Treaty of Waitangi (as cited in Wilson, 2016). For most of the nineteenth and majority of the twentieth century, Aotearoa New Zealand English became more widespread with the differing dialects of te reo Māori being safeguarded within the homes and communities of Māori rather than everyday society (Berryman & Woller, 2011; Ka'ai, 2009). In today’s ECE setting, te reo Māori is now recognised as one of three official languages in Aotearoa New Zealand, although its use is not compulsory. Early childhood teachers are more than likely to encounter children who speak English as an additional language [EAL] as well as children speaking and understanding te reo Māori within an ECE setting. With an urgency placed at a political and societal level to redress indigenous language issues, education particularly within ECE, can be seen at the forefront to bring about change to future practice. This calls for ECE teachers in Aotearoa New Zealand to be responsive in creating rich learning environments that are culturally and linguistically accommodating for Māori learners as well as EAL learners.

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Book Reviews

This book, written by experienced United States early childhood educators Allen and Cowdery, provides valuable guidance on inclusive practice for teachers, student teachers, parents and specialists working with children with special needs. It is divided into four main sections and comprises 19 chapters, each of which begins with specific learning objectives and ends with a short quiz reviewing the main points covered in the discussion; a helpful way to re-examine the wealth of information that the book covers.

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Who is a New Zealander today? The increasingly multicultural character of Aotearoa New Zealand does not offer a direct answer to this. On the contrary, growing complexity of the social world and the place of individual identity in it provokes multiple discussions and excursus into modern understanding of the shift of national identity, new perspectives of belonging and the notion of home.

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Editors Phil Foreman and Michael Arthur-Kelly have vast experience in the field of education and specifically inclusive education.  Phil Foreman is an Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Newcastle and Michael Arthur-Kelly is currently a Professor in the School of Education at the University of Newcastle. They, along with several contributors, have produced a text that outlines a clear philosophy of inclusive practices and how this can be achieved within an educational setting.

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Contributors

Binky Laureta, Chelsea Bracefield, Christine Vincent-Snow, Elizabeth Hargraves, Galina Stebletsova, Janice Pennells, Kim Jenson, Priya Subasinghe

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