Group Time Experiences: Belonging, Being and Becoming Through Active Participation Within Early Childhood Communities
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The National Quality Standards (NQS) as part of the Australian National Quality Framework were developed in 2011 and included several references to the organisation of small and large groups within early childhood settings (ACECQA 2013). The NQS act in tandem with the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) (DEEWR 2009) and are the basis by which early childhood centres are assessed for accreditation in Australia. This paper draws upon current research with early childhood educators as they struggle to understand the new concept of ‘intentional teachers’ within this new regime. There also appears to have been a dramatic shift in the understanding about how large and small groups operate within centres. As the accreditation process unfolds, some early childhood centres have been advised to abandon large or whole group work. At the core of the EYLF are the notions of ‘being, belonging, becoming’, locating young children as part of a community of learners within a democratic society. It therefore appears that tensions and contradictions are emerging between the fundamental principles of the EYLF as they are juxtaposed against the requirement of the NQS. Critical Pedagogy of Place provides a theoretical framework in which to interrogate the ways some early childhood educators interpret intentional teaching both in terms of the organisation of spaces in early childhood centres and the organisation of the children as they inhabit those spaces (Gruenewald 2008). This paper argues that the possible abandonment of large group experiences runs the risk of disconnecting children from their communities and the relationships they form as social participants. Furthermore, it is argued that whole group experiences are crucial elements that facilitate a child’s identity and active citizenry.
KeywordsGroup time Intentional teaching Community Belonging Standards Early Years Learning Framework
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