Element 1.2.2 Educators respond to children’s ideas and play and use intentional teaching to scaffold and extend each child’s learning. (National Quality Standard)
This Element reminds educators to do more than simply notice children’s learning and congratulate them on it.
When you think about extending children’s learning, what do you think about?
My experience is that many educators think about ways to enrich or complicate what used to be called ‘activities’. These ways may be adding materials, suggesting new possibilities, making the experience more challenging, asking questions or planning a new related experience.
Typically educators focus on content—extending learning about something—soccer, babies, dinosaurs or the weather for example. In the ‘olden days’ (that is, before the EYLF, FSAC and the NQS) these would have been activities listed under program areas.
Extending children’s learning is about so much more than facts. It covers wellbeing, identity, connection and contribution to world and being a learner. Extending learning encompasses areas such as leadership skills, independence, negotiating, teamwork and ability to work with others. In other words, it includes learning dispositions.
Is there a tendency in planning to extend learning to think first about the content of an activity—in other words, is it more about extending activities rather than learning?
The definition of curriculum as ‘the child’s whole experience’ is recognition that significant learning is occurring throughout the day, not only in planned experiences. Learning occurs at arrivals, when children are making the transition from home and family, and again when they reunite with families and leave the service. Significant learning occurs at meal and snack times, rest and sleep times and in all the daily living experiences that occur in education and care services.
The quality of that learning is pretty much determined by the extent to which educators recognise the potential in those opportunities and capitalise on them. Recognising that there are many opportunities to extend children’s learning in all the areas outlined in the Learning Outcomes might mean that an educator, for example:
- plans for opportunities for children to show leadership
- changes the arrival routine to help a child separate more easily
- asks a child to befriend a child who is new and helps him to do that
- talks with two children in conflict about what is fair and helps them to resolve the conflict constructively
- changes the environment so that children can access their personal belongings
- introduces new foods and allows children to choose among several possibilities for morning or afternoon tea
- encourages a child to remove her socks and shoes by herself.
These practices would be familiar to most educators. However, are they viewed as valuable and legitimate ways to extend learning?
There’s a related risk, by the way, in over-attending to extending learning. Children need time to consolidate learning and to enjoy being able to do something that’s new or that they have worked hard to learn.
Is extending children’s learning sometimes confused with building on children’s interests?