At the moment the news is changing hour by hour, day by day. In this environment stories change and we don’t always have the time to catch up. And knowledge brokering is not the same as advocacy. So when ECA shared a mainstream media article a few weeks ago, about a new study, our Facebook audience response was strong and diverse. We were delighted to see the engagement on such important issues. In this blog ECA’s DR KATE HIGHFIELD catches up on some of the issues.
A few weeks ago ECA shared a newspaper article online. The article sent me searching for the original study—a small study of five and six-year-old children at school that suggested a link between children’s handwriting ‘automaticity’ and their reading skills a year later. For me, as an early childhood educator, the media article sparks an interest and reminds me of the importance of writing, painting and mark making. It also evoked the importance of building young children’s fine motor skills through play to enable children to feel confident in writing and mark making. As the research was based in schools I didn’t feel that it had immediate or urgent impact on the work of early childhood services in the years before school, although it did seem to offer a point of reflection.
Reading the article was also a reminder that the way the mainstream media cover these issues doesn’t always reflect the research in full. Nor does it encompass all the angles and the complexity of professional practice in the early years. When ECA shared the news item online (as part of our regular information brokering role—not as advocates for this approach in prior to school settings) it created a strong reaction among early childhood professionals. These ranged from support for this idea to confusion around the use of the term ‘kindergarten’, as well as arguments against formal handwriting at this age or use of a time goal for writing.
ECA was heartened to see a strong response from early childhood professionals. It shows that the sector and individuals in the sector are reading, considering and advocating where needed.
As we consider any research it’s crucial to read and interpret methodologies and findings with our context and our children in mind. Many studies can’t be generalised to all contexts and many education journalists are not in a position to interpret studies with this in mind. Small studies, surprising findings, speculative commentary are all part of what we weigh up as each of us seeks to use evidenced-based practice in our own context.
The experience is also a reminder to the team at ECA that when we are sharing current news articles the terminology does not always translate smoothly, with the same meaning across the nation. Where possible we will try to avoid confusion by highlighting potential differences between states and territories in critical terminology. And while it’s not always possible for us to be across every term in every region we appreciate when you let us know or share your clarifications and insights with each other, as you did online in the recent discussion.
In sharing quick media stories throughout the week we invite you to consider them in a number of ways:
- As a spotlight on new and emerging research
- As an update on how early childhood issues and studies are being covered in the mainstream media and ‘explained’ to the community
- Simply as ideas to think about actively, ideas to promote rich, robust professional and ethical discussions
- Or, sometimes, a shared article is a prompt about directions or issues that might warrant your individual advocacy or a sector-wide response—whether to your local community, politicians at different levels of government, educational or other policy decision-makers.
Thank you to everyone who takes the time to read and respond online and share ideas.
If you’d like to read more about advocacy and research:
- Advocacy in Action –Every Child 1704 page 10
- The Spoke article by Dr K Johnson on research impacting practice
- ECA’s Advocacy –
To read more about handwriting and fine motor skills development
- Unpacking writing : A kindergarten class’s journey – Every Child 1802 – page 6
- Victorian Department of Education and Training’s toolkit on “Writing with children” https://www.education.vic.gov.au/childhood/professionals/learning/ecliteracy/emergentliteracy/Pages/writingwithchildren.aspx
- A conversation article on touch screens and handwriting https://theconversation.com/we-cant-say-if-touchscreens-are-impacting-childrens-handwriting-in-fact-it-may-be-quite-the-opposite-92609
We will be uploading more to read more about handwriting and fine motor skills development soon.