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Does 'intentional teaching' discourage actual teaching? Jennifer's next provocation

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“Do terms such as intentional teaching and child-led learning actually take away educators’ confidence to teach?”

In my last post for Amplify!, I talked about the perception of early childhood and care (ECEC) in the government and public eye.  This also gets me thinking about whether perception plays a role in how teaching and education practices are undertaken in services.

Something that I’ve noticed as I visit services in my consultancy work is that at times teachers and educators seem reluctant to take on a ‘direct’ teaching role.  They observe children, document in various ways, and establish learning environments and experiences.

Many teachers and educators now document their ‘intentional teaching’ experiences with set groups of children at set times throughout the day.  They explain this to be when direct teaching instruction, and therefore children’s learning, occurs.  At other times throughout the day, when children are engaged in play and learning, I’ve noticed that the same teachers and educators can take on an observer’s role, unsure of when they may contribute or engage.

Now I’m all for not taking over children’s play when doing so adds nothing, or detracts from, children’s creativity, imagination and learning.  But when children could benefit from intentional teaching questions, to deepen their thinking and open up further possibilities, or support in working effectively with their peers; opportunities are often missed.

Sometimes, when I visit centres, I see children flitting from one experience to the next, interrupting the play of other children and generally appearing to be lost, with this ‘‘hands off’ approach from teachers and educators prevailing.

The terms intentional teaching, children’s agency and the like are more evident than before through their presence in the NQS and the EYLF. But it sometimes feels like their use has relegated the practice of teaching to the bench, only to be called on for set game plays.

I’m in favour of anything that shifts practice away from developmentally inappropriate structure and routines in ECEC settings, but on the other hand I’m opposed to the narrow interpretation of these constructs that may affect the capacity of teachers and educators to exercise their wealth of pedagogical muscle.

I worry that my graduating university students, armed with the potential to be exceptional early childhood teachers, will be permanently benched when they make it to a team.

So, my second pondering is this:

“Do interpretations of terms in the National Quality Standard and the Early Years Framework such as intentional teaching, children’s agency and child led learning undermine the pedagogical confidence of teachers and educators?”

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Jennifer Ribarovski

Jennifer Ribarovski has over thirty years experience in the education sector, including playing a key role in the implementation of the National Quality Framework for both the NSW Regulatory Authority and the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA).

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5 thoughts on “Does 'intentional teaching' discourage actual teaching? Jennifer's next provocation

  1. Thanks for your response Nicole. I’ve seen and heard of similar scenarios! The interpretation of these terms can find their way into, and construct new understandings of practice, that can gain a lot of traction in the sector. These new understandings don’t necessarily align with the research or the intention behind the concepts. In my view, engaging frequently with the Framework documents and contemporary ECE theory, and working collaboratively and authentically to reflect on practice, is an effective way forward.

  2. Hi Jennifer, Another great question. As teacher educator I tell my students that all teaching is intentional! There seems to be a lot of confusion around teacher directed and child centred learning experiences or planned versus spontaneous experiences or free play versus provocation. As teachers we should always have some intention or outcome in mind even if this occurs on the spot and has not been written down. Without intention we lose direction, all that we do should be deliberate and thoughtful and informed by knowledge about the children and our educational beliefs and values. I find that many of my students think there is only one right way to do things rather than many ways of doing the right thing.

    1. Hi Maree,
      I so agree with “Without intention we lose direction” – Exactly what I discuss with my adult learners. It doesn’t matter if you intention is materialised, but it matters what YOU (educator) learn each day. This makes us grow as professionals!

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