The term pedagogy refers to the holistic nature of early childhood educators’ professional practice (especially those aspects that involve building and nurturing relationships), curriculum decision-making, teaching and learning. When educators establish respectful and caring relationships with children and families, they are able to work together to construct curriculum and learning experiences relevant to children in their local context. These experiences gradually expand children’s knowledge and understanding of the world.
Educators’ professional judgements are central to their active role in facilitating children’s learning. In making professional judgements, they weave together their:
- professional knowledge and skills
- knowledge of children, families and communities
- awareness of how their beliefs and values impact on children’s learning
- personal styles and past experiences.
They also draw on their creativity, intuition and imagination to help them improvise and adjust their practice to suit the time, place and context of learning.
Different theories about early childhood inform approaches to children’s learning and development. Early childhood educators draw upon a range of perspectives in their work which may include:
- developmental theories that focus on describing and understanding the processes of change in children’s learning and development over time
- socio-cultural theories that emphasise the central role that families and cultural groups play in children’s learning and the importance of respectful relationships and provide insight into social and cultural contexts of learning and development
- socio-behaviourist theories that focus on the role of experiences in shaping children’s behaviour
- critical theories that invite early childhood educators to challenge assumptions about curriculum, and consider how their decisions may affect children differently
- post-structuralist theories that offer insights into issues of power, equity and social justice in early childhood settings.
Drawing on a range of perspectives and theories can challenge traditional ways of seeing children, teaching and learning, and encourage educators, as individuals and with colleagues, to:
- investigate why they act in the ways that they do
- discuss and debate theories to identify strengths and limitations
- recognise how the theories and beliefs that they use to make sense of their work enable but also limit their actions and thoughts
- consider the consequences of their actions for children’s experiences
- find new ways of working fairly and justly.