How Does Learning Happen?
On April 25th, Ontario’s Ministry of Education released a new Early Learning Framework called How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years. http://www.oise.utoronto.ca/atkinson/UserFiles/File/Policy_Monitor/ON_25_04_14_-_HowLearningHappens.pdf
It is a learning resource for early years settings such as childcare, child and family support programs, and before-and-after school programs. In some ways, it is a departure from the previous early years curriculum framework, Early Learning for Every Child Today (2007). http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/topics/earlychildhood/early_learning_for_every_child_today.aspx
In addition to a statement of principles and guidelines for practice, the older document includes a section referred to as the continuum of development which has separate sections for infants, toddlers, pre-school/kindergarten and school-aged children. Each age group is further divided into five domains, social, emotional, communication, language and literacy, cognitive and physical. Each domain includes a list of specific skills, what educators might see that would indicate that skill, and suggestions for how educators might support those skills. In other words, it is quite detailed about how children develop and how educators can support them. The new document, How Learning Happens does not have this developmental section. It appears to be inspired by New Zealand’s national early childhood curriculum Te Whariki. Like Te Whariki, How Learning Happens focuses on children’s relationships, well-being and inquiry learning, and educator’s collaboration and critical reflection.
As a professor of early childhood education, I think a combination of the emphasis on reflection, relationships, and inquiry learning from Te Whariki and the continuum of development from Early Learning for Every Child today would be helpful, the latter particularly so for new early childhood educators. Over the last 25 years I have seen similar swings in the school curriculum in Ontario. When I first started teaching elementary grades in the late 1980’s, there was an incredibly open-ended primary curriculum which allowed excellent teachers to run fabulous programs, but left less informed and skilled teachers with little to go on (and some less than effective programs). We then had a conservative government in the mid to late 1990’s who introduced a much more prescriptive and reductionist curriculum, making it more difficult to be creative and to integrate the curriculum, but it could be argued that it supported new teachers. Now, with the school curriculum revisions in the last few years, and the new full-day kindergarten play-based curriculum document, we are moving back towards less prescriptive outcomes, subject integration and inquiry learning. I think new educators/teachers need support and explicit guidance, and more experienced, knowledgeable educators/teachers need more freedom to be creative and spontaneous. The question is, how you capture this in a one-size-fits all curriculum document?