Published by CELA on 10 May, 2017

This is the third in our series of four provocations from educator, academic and consultant Jennifer Ribarovski.

You can read her two previous posts here and here.

Have children’s interests hijacked the curriculum, and diminished other opportunities for learning and development?

In my last blog, I talked about intentional teaching, the ways that this might be interpreted and potential impacts on the curriculum.  In this blog I’ll be discussing children’s interests from the same perspective.

While not new to the sector, the concept of children’s interests has been elevated through the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and the National Quality Standard.  The EYLF tells us that

“in order to engage children actively in learning, educators identify children’s strengths and interests, choose appropriate teaching strategies and design the learning environment” (p.9)

The EYLF expands on this by asserting that educators build on children’s strengths, skills and knowledge to ensure their motivation and engagement in learning.

When I reflect on this idea, I think about how all those components work together to influence curriculum.  What we know about children’s backgrounds, learning dispositions, culture, strengths and interests, and how we use our professional skills and judgement to provision teaching and learning.

What I notice – at times – as I visit services around the country is that children’s interests have gained pole position in curriculum. Interests are recorded, and then environments are changed or added to in response to those interests.

For example, if a child shows interest in trucks, then trucks are added to the sandpit, dramatic play area, block corner and so on.  Educators explain this to me as ‘following children’s interests”, and then observe whether children engage with the resources, and either retain or change them based on their engagement.  When I ask them about children’s learning, or their teaching role in supporting children’s learning, they explain this as ‘provisioning’ the environment.

There are some beautiful programs that are not shaped by children’s interests, but by the pedagogical skills and understanding of educators.

I’m not questioning the value of well-considered environments, but I wonder how much children’s thinking and learning is supported within this strategy.  Observing children’s play, and using our professional judgement to deepen children’s thinking and learning, either spontaneously or through future planned experiences, is more than just responding to children’s interests.

Many years ago, I worked with a wonderful educator who shared her interest in spinning wool with the children at her centre.  It was the educator’s interest, not the children’s, but it became a wonderful group interest that extended over the year, and built a real sense of community and achievement.

There are some beautiful programs that are not shaped by children’s interests, but by the pedagogical skills and understanding of educators.  One example of many are programs that see children visiting nursing homes, where their dispositions for learning are developed and go beyond their individual interests, to community interests.

So, my next provocation is this:

Have children’s interests hijacked the curriculum, and diminished other opportunities for learning and development?

Meet the author

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).

About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.

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