I am currently working with colleagues from A+ Education, Institute of London and Oxford University on the pilot phase of the URLEY (Using Research tools to improve Language in the Early Years) research project.
The focus of the research is to test the premise that supporting teachers to understand and use research tools can improve the language skills of young children.
My background reading has caused me to reflect yet again on how young children develop and learn and what various facets of the educational establishment mean when they use such words as play, child initiated and adult led strategies.
The words we use to describe and give value to what we do are important and while we may think we are being clear – are we really?
Take the following quote from the recently published Effective Primary Teaching from TSC, in the section related to Reception and stating that a “strong reception year” has:-
“… a structured approach to teaching and planning for focused learning, rather than aimless activities.” .
This could be interpreted in a number of ways. In order to clarify there is a statement which attempts to explain what is meant by a structured approach (“not purely top down formal approach) and cites Ofsted’s definition of teaching in the Early Years. The last part of report related to teaching in Reception classes states:
“The important point though is that teachers’ structure and scaffold learning through their decisions about what pupils need to know; understand and be able to do next, and how best this should be taught, to achieve success”.
On the surface this is a great statement, who could argue that teachers don’t want to ensure that children achieve success? But look closer, what does “how best” mean? This is where I get twitchy – who’s best?
The TSC reports finding that there was:
“inconsistency in practice and approach which appeared to be because of differences in curricula and teaching expectations of Reception and Key Stage 1”
When making the decisions about how children access the competency, skills and knowledge to be active learner’s teachers need to know why they are doing what they are. The confident teacher knows her/his pupils well and selects from a range of evidence based developmentally appropriate strategies to further their learning. She/he is not pressured into adopting the latest trend; can clearly articulate their reasons for their choice of strategy.
They are an intentional teacher and one size does not fit all.