ON MAKING EARLY EDUCATION TRULY CHILD CENTRIC AND PERSONAL, NOT COPY AND PASTE
Educa recently interviewed Kelly Goodsir, a provocateur and thought leader in the Australian early childhood education sector. After years in various roles in New Zealand and Australia as a teacher, assessor and educational leader, she now has a consulting business.
The focus is on supporting quality improvement, educational practice, leadership and change.
The Intentional Adult Role in Play
Kelly whole-heartedly believes in play-based learning, where the adult role is intentional within children’s play. Educators set the environment, use their knowledge of children and what is good to pursue in learning. And then they purposefully interact in order to challenge, strengthen and support the play.
The educator’s role is not just about sitting back, supervising or seeing to the tasks of the early childhood classroom. It is about having an intention to challenge children – their sense of fairness, ability to collaborate, and to develop their social attributes.
It is vital that we are able to see children developing positive dispositions and nurture these in their everyday play.
Kelly moved to Melbourne, Australia in the mid-1990’s, she immediately noticed that early childhood services did not engage any type of educational or learning framework to guide their pedagogy and practices back then. This proved challenging for Kelly with her New Zealand teaching background and engagement with Te Whariki the New Zealand curriculum.
One of the distinct differences she noticed was the need for planning and the emphasis on developmental learning that drove what was worthwhile to engage in the program.
Kelly remembers in some cases early childhood services were planning 2-3 weeks ahead. This created some tensions for Kelly as she always considered the child as a learner first, not their development. This has significant implications for how an educational program is put into place.
Breaking Away From One Size Fits All
Kelly found the developmental approach to teaching and learning reinforced a cookie cutter approach to pedagogy and often positioned children into a one size fits all model.
Kelly found this to be a challenge. Her teaching background in NZ was founded on the ecological model of Urie Bronfrenbrenner, which views children as a unique learner with their own identity. She remembers that a number of educators found it difficult to work with her in those early stages of her move to Melbourne, finding her approach quiet flexible and emergent launching off ‘teachable moments’ to develop her program.
Communicating A Child’s Full Story
Over the course of Kelly’s career and in particular when she travelled around Australia as a validator assessing quality under the old system with NCAC she noticed significant differences between what educators spoke about and what they wrote about.
There was a real disconnect in translating the complexities of relationships within documentation. When speaking with educators about children and their learning there was an engaged, animated and sense of knowing that was communicated however when reading that same child’s observations developmental learning was the primary topic. This was the start of what Kelly knew would become a driver in her own consultancy business years down the track.
Her introduction of learning stories, where educators write a narrative assessment to the child immediately changed this dynamic for the services Kelly became involved with. She was a pioneer of learning stories theory and practice across Australia as a result.
An Advocate for the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF)
Kelly was excited when the EYLF was introduced in 2009. For her, it provided a framework to make visible her own educational philosophies within the Australian context.
The EYLF was somewhat familiar to Kelly from the outset as it had significant similarities to New Zealand’s early childhood curriculum, Te Whariki. Specifically the structure of the document, the emphasis on play-based learning, value of partnerships with families, and viewing teaching and learning in the context of the whole child.
Kelly had observed when the EYLF was first introduced, many used it too rigidly, which can often happen when a new pathway has been laid. Instead of finding meaning within the principles, practices and outcomes of the EYLF for pedagogy and learning there became a temptation to copy and paste outcomes as part of the documentation process.
EYLF As A Reference Tool
Instead, Kelly proposes the EYLF be used as a reference tool for reflection:
- What does this mean for what I am doing in the classroom?
- What am I not doing and could introduce?
- How do I see the many ways children demonstrate the learning outcomes?
- What do I need to learn more about as a teacher to give life to this framework, to my program?
Another value the EYLF provides is a common language nationally. A shared pedagogy as educators and teachers across Australia find ways to make meaning and delve more deeply into various aspects about teaching and learning.
However Kelly is quick to also point out that is no longer reasonable to say that this EYLF is new to us anymore. After all, it has been 8 years since its conception. She feels it is important each educator takes responsibility for delving deeply into this framework. And not get comfortable sitting on the tip of the iceberg.
Kelly helps her clients find ways to keep engaged and researching the EYLF pedagogy so they may keep the bar high and honour the true intent of such a framework.
Kelly’s Leadership Philosophy
A talking point which you can read more about on her blog.
To help early childhood services think more deeply about why they do what they do Kelly applies the following 4 philosophies within all her training and coaching:
- Create thinkers not followers
- Be a learner — keep transforming what you do
- Create a common language it will propel you forward, the EYLF is a great example of this
- Be unique, don’t reproduce! This applies also to how educators document learning stories – there are always ways to evolve.
Australian Early Childhood Education
The move to a commonwealth approach has been helpful and positive, however, there needs to be more strategy around the up-skilling of qualifications in early childhood. There is enough research in the field to show that quality outcomes for children will always be better with:
- Higher qualified staffing
- Lower ratios
- Small group sizes
The vast differences in qualification status within the early childhood profession directly affects the quality of teaching in the classroom. It can create a hierarchical approach which often places a larger responsibility on those few with higher qualifications. They not only drive the educational program but they teach and lead learning amongst their immediate colleagues.
A higher proportion of degree trained teachers within all age groups of early childhood services would create a shared load in the design and implementation of the educational program. In addition to this a structured mentoring program to provide guidance to those ‘learning’ the ropes in early childhood would benefit all.
Furthermore, higher salaries for teachers with degrees would also help teachers who love early childhood education stay in early education, rather than move to primary for financial reasons.
Kelly Goodsir Profile
Kelly started out her career straight from highschool and gained her Teaching Diploma in NZ in 1997. This was just as NZ was rolling out its ground-breaking Te Whariki curriculum and when the learning story concept had started. She led her own early childhood service at the age of 21. She was an early mover in what was an exciting period in New Zealand early childhood education.
After a number of years teaching in New Zealand she moved to Australia. This provided an opportunity to experience other early childhood roles outside of direct teaching. She spent 3.5 years as a validator for the Australian government, delivering quality assurance around Australia. She has been delivering training and professional development since 2007, leading educational change across large single site and multi site services on numerous occasions.
In 2016 Kelly self published and launched her first children’s book called “My Family is a Team” which addresses mental illness amongst families and provides a language for teachers to discuss this very important topic. She is not only a passionate pedagogical leader but also an author with a number of new projects coming up.
Kelly Goodsir Consultancy Pty Ltd
Kelly has launched her new website since starting full-time in her own business in 2017. Her website provides a brief overview of her services which include:
Coaching – 1:1 with Leaders, Educational leaders and/or classroom teams
Training – Large group workshops across a variety of educational topics
Consultancy – self-assessment and quality improvement
Projects – short term specific projects to support learning
Strategic Educational Change – 6-12month capacity building across educational programs
Read more about Kelly Goodsir and here consultancy at www.kglearning.com.au (testimonials and descriptions)
Study Tours to New Zealand
Kelly provides study tours to New Zealand which focuses on pedagogy and practice in the New Zealand context. Group sizes are kept small so that reflection and dialogue can be kept intimate. Typically each study tour visits a number of services over 4-5 days. They focus on features such as bicultural curriculum, risk, learning stories and documentation to mention a few. There are also professional learning days. These tours are for teachers, educators, educational leaders and leadership teams.
Kelly gained her degree in early childhood teaching at Melbourne University in 2010. She is currently undertaking her Masters in Educational Leadership with Macquarie University.