Deconstructing early childhood practices

In this one blog, we bring you three perspectives on translating research into practice. Dr Andi Salamon, Leanne Gibbs and Mandy Cooke share their insights about using the ‘theory of practice architectures’ in three very different early childhood contexts. Though each author focused on different aspects of early childhood education, they all used the theory of practice architectures to frame or analyse their research. There is plenty here to spark ideas for your own context.

 

The theory of practice architectures (TPA) (Kemmis et.al, 2014) has been used in research to identify practices in early childhood, primary, secondary, and tertiary education, and unpack the conditions that enable and constrain them. With the overarching aim to achieve ‘praxis’ (wise and moral action for the greater good) in education, the TPA highlights connections between individual practitioners and their sayings, doings, and relatings (practices), and social sites of practice and their cultural-discursive, material-economic, and social-political arrangements (practice architectures) (see Figure 1.). Whilst individual educators can work toward positive transformation of practices, it is by evaluating and changing the practice architectures that true and sustainable transformation is possible (Kemmis, 2008). Here, three researchers talk about their use of the theory.

Dr Andi Salamon: Educators’ beliefs and babies’ capabilities

My research focused on educators’ beliefs about babies’ capabilities and how these influenced their practices (you can read about it here). I used a map of the TPA framework in collaboration with educators to identify the discourses, philosophies, and theories (cultural-discursive arrangements) that influenced their beliefs, as well as the related material-economic and social-political arrangements. The TPA was especially helpful to see how educators’ subsequent practices, became arrangements that enabled and constrained babies’ and children’s own practices (Salamon, 2017). The TPA helped educators reflect critically and deconstruct taken-for-granted beliefs to see how they influenced practice, and children’s experiences, in ECE.’

Leanne Gibbs: Organisations developing leadership

My research investigated the emergence and development of leadership within Australian ECE sites that had achieved an Exceeding rating in every quality area, standard and element. By using the TPA, I was first able to identify the effective practices of emerging and positional leaders, and then, most importantly, the organisational arrangements that made those practices possible. My methods embodied emergence, collectivity and innovation (you can read about one here); all hallmarks of the TPA. The findings can help organisations reflect on their arrangements—how they enable the emergence and development of leadership, and create the potential for high quality ECE.’

Mandy Cooke: Positive risk taking

My research explored positive risk-taking in ECE. I used the TPA to explore educators’ risk-taking practices, and the organisational arrangements that enable and constrain them. By viewing educators’ risk-taking practices through the frame of the TPA, I aligned their risk-taking with praxis—that is, morally and ethically informed decision making about what is ‘best’ for children and societies (Kemmis & Smith, 2008). Through the framework of the TPA, I identified a range of conditions that work positively toward educators taking risks that support their own professional growth and development, the development of children as competent and empowered individuals and acts of advocacy and activism.

Using the TPA can help identify how organisations create the conditions for quality ECE pedagogy to emerge and develop, for example, through beliefs about babies, effective leadership and risk-taking. Though the focus of each of these studies was different, they illuminated the ways practices and practice architectures are inextricably linked. Identifying the arrangements of ECE settings that enable and constrain educators’ practices is central to achieving praxis, by optimising children’s education for living well, to help create a world worth living in (Kemmis, 2020).

Author Bios

Andi is an early childhood teacher and Senior Lecturer who teaches education studies at Charles Sturt University. The research discussed in this blog was from her doctoral study, which became the springboard to her 2019 Jean Denton Memorial Scholarship research project. Andi is an advocate for infants’ rights and quality early years experiences. She brings her passion to uphold children’s optimal learning into practice with pre-service teachers.

Leanne is Senior Manager of Engagement and Translation at Early Start, University of Wollongong. She is researching leadership emergence and development within ECE settings and is preparing her PhD thesis with Charles Sturt University. Leanne loves talking about ECE leadership…even with those who don’t!

Mandy is an experienced early childhood and primary educator. She is currently in the final stages of a PhD at Charles Sturt University. The research discussed in this blog forms part of her doctoral studies exploring educators’ perspective and practices of risk-taking, with a view to inspiring positive transformation of educators’ practices. In addition to risk-taking, Mandy’s interests include educator practices, creativity, play, children’s rights and nature pedagogy.

References

  • Kemmis, S. (2008). Enabling praxis: Challenges for education (Vol. 1). Sense Publications.
  • Kemmis, S. (2020). Personal communication.
  • Kemmis, S., & Smith, T. J. (2008). Enabling praxis: Challenges for education. Sense Publications.
  • Kemmis, S., Wilkinson, J., Edwards-Groves, C., Hardy, I., Grootenboer, P., & Bristol, L. (2014).
  • Changing practices, changing education. Springer Science & Business Media.
  • Salamon, A. (2017). Infants’ practices: Shaping (and shaped by) the arrangements of early childhood
  • education. In S. Kemmis, K. Mahon, & S. Francisco (Eds.), Exploring education and professional practice – Through the lens of practice architectures. Springer.

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Andi Salamon

Dr. Andi Salamon is an early childhood teacher with 20 years of professional early childhood education (ECE) experience. She graduated from her doctorate in 2016 and teaches education studies at Charles Sturt University based in Bathurst. Her research expertise, experiences as a practitioner and leadership role as a director in ECE contexts come together in her work, and she values making her research accessible to educators working with infants in ECE settings. An advocate for infants’ rights and quality early years experiences and pedagogy for all children, Andi brings her passion to uphold children’s optimal learning to her work with preservice teachers.

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