1 Recognizing the Role of Early Learning Lab Schools in! Canadian Universities and Colleges
2 1 From the Editors In 2009, the faculty in the School of Early Childhood Studies at Ryerson University were inspired to organize a conference focusing on early learning lab schools. We felt that early learning lab schools play a unique role educating and caring for young children, mentoring early childhood education students, engaging in innovative curricula practices, and participating in research. We believed that we had much to share and learn about and from early learning lab schools in other universities and colleges across Canada. The success of our 2009 conference motivated us to co-host a 2nd conference in March 2012.These conferences were a result of partnerships between lab schools; the School of Early Childhood at George Brown College co-hosted both conferences and the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study, University of Toronto, co-hosted the second conference. We called these conferences Leading the Way the articles in this on-line publication which are based on conference presentations will describe how Canadian university and college early learning lab schools seek with great commitment to lead the way. You will read that the lab school teachers see themselves as part of a larger system of early childhood education and care. Indeed, because the mission of an early learning lab school is soundly tied to teaching and caring for young children, research and student learning in a university or college, the lab school is compelled to build thriving relationships with multiple stakeholders children and their families, university and/or college faculty and departments, researchers, and various levels of government, among many others. You will read that lab schools teachers are inquisitive and relentless in their exploration of new ideas the authors eloquently describe the pedagogical journeys they have undertaken to enrich their programs and to critically enhance their professional knowledge and practices. You will feel when reading each article the exhilaration that teachers and researchers in early learning lab schools experience when engaged in collaborative pedagogical inquiries and experimentation. These inquiries can be unsettlingly and often lead to more questioning and uncertainty. In their article, Our Learning Story: Journey of Transformation, Williams, Farzaneh, Simon, Salau, Francisco, and Perera- Jones (Seneca College, Ontario) metaphorically describe this process as standing united on the banks of a river, pausing to reflect where we have come from, who we are, who we want to become, and where we travel to from here. You will, of course, discover much more for in each article the complexities of managing, teaching and researching in an early learning lab school are untangled and in doing so pave the path for more complex reflections on theories and practices. An article by Bateman, Hankinson, and Whitty (University of New Brunswick) illustrates these processes of reflection as the authors and the children explore being outdoors in the woods at UNB. In another article, you will discover how Coronel, Feltoe, and Isnor (George Brown College, Ontario) use technology for observing and documenting children s learning and development to inform their curriculum. In their article, Watts, Moher, and the early learning lab school teacherpreceptors (Ryerson University, Ontario) describe the journey they took to redefine their program s philosophical and pedagogical approach to teaching and learning. Similarly, Elliott and Yazbeck (University of Victoria, British Columbia) share their story of two centres and their encounters with children that have challenged, changed, and opened up the way we work. As professionals associated with early learning lab schools you will want to explore the differences between a field placement and a practicum as described by Brophy, Callahan, Campbell, and Reid (University of Guelph, Ontario) and learn about the challenges encountered in the history of this lab school. You can also read about Grove and Lirette s (MacEwan University, Alberta) reflections on children and citizenship as they
3 2 uncover some of the complexities of teaching and learning with child citizens and Kind s (Capilano University Children s Centre British Columbia) work as an atelierista as she describes the evolution of her studio project. Our first on-line publication ends with Hodgins, Kummen, Pacini-Ketchabaw, and Thompson s (University of Victoria, British Columbia) article that reflects on their roles as academicsinstructors-pedagogistas-researchers working in childcare centres linked to university institutions (laboratory schools), their practice and research, and their work with pedagogical narrations. We end with this article as the authors leave us wondering about the implementation of new practices and new questions, paving the way for our next Leading the Way conference. As with our conferences, the articles in this publication are representative of the practices of professionals working in university and college early learning lab schools across Canada. Going forward, we hope we can develop a second on-line publication that features the important work happening in an even broader range of Canadian early learning lab schools. But for now this on-line publication is an important celebration of the exceptional contributions that early learning lab schools are making in advancing the early childhood education and care field in Canada. Rachel Langford PhD Aurelia Di Santo PhD School of Early Childhood Studies, Ryerson University The recommended citation for this publication is: Article authors. (2013). Article Title, in R. Langford & A. Di Santo (Eds.), Leading the way: Recognizing the role of early learning lab schools in Canadian universities and colleges (page numbers of article). Retrieved from
4 Being in the Outdoors! Jill Bateman, Rachael Hankinson, and Pam Whitty University of New Brunswick Early Childhood Centre Fredericton, New Brunswick 3 Since the inception of our demonstration classroom in 1975, the outdoors has been an integral part of our programming. This year Jill Bateman, one of our UNB educators with a longstanding and deep interest in the outdoors, and her colleague Rachael Hankinson (quickly becoming an outdoor enthusiast), have been experimenting with and deepening their understanding of their own and children s involvement in the outdoors within a forested space close by. Our overall intent has been to increase the time, pleasure, and learning we experience with children as we are together in the woods. Influenced by the growing movement of forest classrooms across North America (http://naturekindergarten.sd62.bc.ca/ proposal/) and the longstanding practice of being in the outdoors in Nordic countries, we have taken up the call to spend more time in wild spaces. In this paper we briefly describe some the changes, challenges, and learnings we have encountered in our time with children in the woods at UNB. On our ventures out to the woods, we carry a well-stocked backpack with a first aid kit, tissues, our cell phone to link with the office and parents, and sometimes we take additional pedagogical supplies. When walking in dense woods we teach the children to put their arms and hands in front of their face, and we carry pruners in our backpack in case we come upon a particular tangle. We are quickly learning which outdoor clothing works best heavy duty splash pants, pull-up boots, and warm mittens. We often take snack time outdoors in all weather, including winter, as long as it is warm enough to remove mittens. Only a dangerous wind chill can prevent our daily adventures outdoors. Finding a space in the woods Fortunately for us, the University of New Brunswick (Fredericton) has retained small sections of woods throughout the campus. When we first set out to find a spot that would work for us, we found that university students also spend time in the woods, and it might take a while to find just the right space for us. After visiting several forested areas on campus with and without the children we located our space, chosen for its ideal blend of features that include a clearing for sitting, singing, story-telling, reading, etc.; fallen trees perfect for climbing on; and quite importantly, close proximity to a building with bathrooms. Being in the woods uncovering our assumptions Spending time with the children in the woods brought to light some our assumptions of being outdoors. We share some of our surprises here, as well as our pedagogical responses. On our first forays into the woods, we were taken aback at how some children wandered away from us and out of
5 4 our sight. It startled us we assumed that they would stay within view. To help us all maintain sightlines with each other, we established a visible boundary with yarn. Once we all became more familiar with visual communication and related boundaries, we removed the yarn. The children now know they need to be able to see us. Of course, in the winter with the leaves off the deciduous trees, they can go further, and trailmaking in the snow adds a whole new dimension to our outdoor activities. When some of the children want to follow a trail, one of us goes along and encourages the leader to keep checking to make sure the back of the line is coming a good skill for hiking in the woods today and in the future. During our early visits to the woods, some children were eager to explore and investigate, while others seemed to have a hard time navigating the undergrowth. They appeared to be disoriented, which in hindsight may not be surprising as knowing the woods is different than knowing the playground, for example. We thought this disorientation might be linked to limited experience and comfort in the woods. We also realized early on that children might need time to become accustomed to the outdoors. With this in mind, we incrementally increased our time in the woods. For those children not interested in climbing or exploring, we brought clipboards, paper, notebooks, and pencils, and they settled onto our tarp to draw pictures and maps. Children who were uncomfortable started in this open space with familiar indoor activities and tools, and moved into the woods play when they were ready. Another surprise we experienced was related to dramatic play. Many children in our group are very play-oriented in our classroom and playground spaces; they create multiple and ongoing play scenarios daily. It is very exciting! When we first started visiting the woods, we were surprised that invented play scenarios were not part of our time in the woods climbing yes, play scenarios no. Play entered the woods as a response to the indoor activity of reading The Three Little Pigs in our classroom. Outdoors, the story came alive in the woods as the children spontaneously and collectively acted it out, trying on different roles and using natural props such as sticks for the stick house and large fallen trees for the brick house. We have learned that the woods is a great environment for storytelling and dramatic play! Pleasures of being outdoors We have found that multi-modal literacies are abundant in the woods. In addition to the traditional writing tools we take from the classroom to the woods, writing tools also consist of fingers in the sand or sticks in the snow. When we first brought our indoor art materials into the playground, we noticed that children who rarely created art in the classroom were painting and drawing in this new environment. In the woods, art is created from found natural materials. We have taken glue and paper outdoors, and after collecting natural items such as leaves and sticks, the children created nature collages. A few children created dirt art making borders for their pictures rubbing dirt into the paper. Opportunities for problem solving and leadership abound in the outdoors as well. A Rube Goldberg machine invention contest put on by UNB Engineering students fuelled interest in creating obstacle courses in the woods out of the natural debris. It is a passion with our children that has continued for months. The following examples illustrate problem solving and leadership. When one child s foot got stuck between two pieces of wood, her friends rallied and they all helped to
6 5 figure out a way to extract her foot safely. Another child loves taking his friends on treks through the woods, negotiating the dense underbrush and finding ways to navigate the terrain. On one occasion, happening upon the edge of a wooded area, he shouted, Stop! and threw his arms out to the sides to prevent his followers from entering onto the neighbouring parking lot. In another example, we asked the children to think about why we the two adults sank through the snow while they could walk on top; we later added snowshoes into the problem-solving outdoor adventure. Our ongoing learnings Play outside is more conducive to a flow between activities We have been intrigued at the different paths some of the selfdirected activities take. On one occasion a group of children spent time together following animal tracks after a snowfall in the woods. While talking about what kind of animal it could be (a mouse), suddenly Michael stopped to pick up a stick and told us he was writing the mouse s name in the snow. As he worked on making letters, another boy began to experiment with this mark-making in the snow, and a discussion about letters and words ensued. Many times we have been on our special tarp in the woods telling or reading stories when the children have asked to tell their own stories to the group. On one occasion the storytelling began to include more and more of the group until they drifted off the tarp to perform the story they were telling in the woods. We are more attentive to interests We have noticed that as educators, we are more attuned and attentive to the children s interests in the outdoors. Initially drawing from our own childhood memories when we enjoyed building forts and homes for toy animals, we encouraged this activity with the children. We were surprised to find that it failed. As we paid closer attention, we realized that this particular group of children are climbers. They love exploring fallen trees and navigating through the branches, balancing and helping each other along. We also watched an interest develop in maps and map reading on one of our field trips (when we were reading a bus map), leading the children to draw treasure maps for each other and have treasure hunts for hidden gems. Learning in all seasons We have seen learning occur in all types of weather. Playing in the rain, which tends to be avoided because of the mess, has shown us wide grins and raucous laughter from the children. Rainy days result in glorious
7 6 puddles for jumping in and building bridges, pouring drinks of chocolate milk and cooking soup. We aren t afraid of getting a little wet, and the children absolutely love the freedom to splash and explore water and how it moves. Additionally, the children have created beautiful pieces of art using watercolour crayons in the rain and were thrilled at the idea of doing art as the raindrops splashed around them. We are grateful for all kinds of weather and what it teaches us! Valuing unstructured time to play in nature Our most significant discovery thus far in our outdoor experiment is valuing unstructured time to play in nature. Children and adults alike feel a sense of timelessness in the woods and on our playground. Often we are surprised when we look at our watches to discover that the time has flown by. We keep to a relaxed schedule and are much more flexible in letting things happen than when we are faced with the classroom clock on the wall. We are adding many new features to our wooded space but we don t imagine that a clock would be a welcome addition! Contact: Pam Whitty Early Childhood Professor University of New Brunswick Fredericton, NB
8 Our Learning Story: Journey of Transformation! June Williams, Tanya Farzaneh, Maya Simon, Laura Salau, Lerna Francisco, and Niluka Perera-Jones Seneca College Newnham Toronto, Ontario 7 In 1969, Seneca College was one of the first institutions in Ontario to incorporate an early learning centre to enrich the Early Childhood Education program. Seneca College has two lab schools: K.O.L.T.S. (King Campus), and the Newnham Lab School, which opened its doors in 1992 at its current location in Toronto. The Newnham Lab School s designing principles were intended to meet the needs of students, faculty, and children. As a demonstration and observation Centre for the School of Early Childhood Education, the lab school s unique collaborative design effort among faculty, lab staff, and parents provides a superior curriculum and training environment for ECE students applying theory into practice. Learning and teaching should not stand on opposite banks and just watch the river flow by; instead, they should embark together on a journey down the water. Through an active, reciprocal exchange, teaching can strengthen learning how to learn. - Loris Malaguzzi (1993, p. 79), Italian Early Childhood Education Specialist, Quoted in The Hundred Languages of Children, Ch.3, by Carolyn Edwards, Our story We stand united on the banks of a river, pausing to reflect upon our journey where we have come from, who we are, who we want to become, and where we travel to from here. Looking back we notice small tributaries. These are the headwaters, the sources of our existence. We realize through the passage of time we have become wiser and stronger, our passion rolling through each ripple, catching the next, and passing it on. Reflecting on all the rivers and streams that have nourished us, we looked within to define our role as co-constructors of children s learning, recognizing that our views of teaching and learning have changed. Our view of the child has evolved into the image of a strong, capable learner a protagonist. Honouring and respecting the simple ideology that children are born eager to explore, discover, and make sense of their world, our role has shifted to one that supports rather than one that leads. The image of the child is founded with respect to his or her ability and desire to learn. This belief began with a shift in our curriculum and pedagogy as well as with the children s environment. Through this journey we have come to recognize the value of the environment as a third teacher where
9 children are researchers and builders of theories, initiators of inquiry and investigation through their explorations of beautiful quality materials. Our centre s aesthetic appreciation is founded in the belief that children desire and require beautiful materials to help them develop their own aesthetic awareness. Every item is chosen with relevance and purpose. Inspired by Reggio Emilia founder Loris Malaguzzi and his respect for children and their spaces, we have transformed our beliefs and views of teaching and learning. Initially, our research led us to books, photos, and stories of his approach. For example, theme-based displays were cast aside for more authentic natural elements. Through the transformation of the environment we noticed a change in the children. They were building a deeper connection to the space. The centre is now not just a place with simple things, but where we embrace an ideology and belief that respects the learners. Our curriculum has always tried to incorporate and model that of the School of ECE; we work with faculty to design and implement exceptional quality care. Our philosophy was inspired by theorists from John Dewey to Vygotsky and maintains a strong connection to the schools and beliefs of Reggio Emilia. This has led to our own interpretation and representation of the principles that guide our beliefs and steer the direction of our curriculum. A recent highlight for the educators at the Lab School was the privilege of meeting, sharing, and being inspired by Lella Gandini, United States Liaison for the Dissemination of the Reggio Emilia Approach. While touring our school, Lella interacted with the children, reviewed documentation, explored, and collaborated with us. Her visit affirmed the power and beauty of our program and the work we do. She was one wave, one ripple that seemed to propel us forward faster, in anticipation of the next bend down the river. Collaborating with faculty of the Bachelor of Child Development Program has enabled us to delve more deeply into constructivism theory and the theories of Big Ideas. Our curriculum has always been based on the idea to follow the children s interests through play. Over the past two years we have shifted our curriculum to truly understand, interpret, and analyze the what, how, and why we do what we do. The strength of the teacher s voice has matured; we have learned to truly listen with our ears, our eyes, and most importantly, with our hearts. Through our reflective practice we have come to understand the deeper relationship we have with children. On our journey, a noticeable change occurred in our documentation. We shifted from narrating experiences and skills towards revealing a truer sense of the child s voice through our interpretations. As we began to analyze and collaborate on the children s experiences, we were able to see their learning demonstrated through their relationships with peers, teachers, materials, and the environment. This process is shared and developed, allowing children to revisit and extend their learning. It was through more meaningful connections among educators that our documentation revolutionized, becoming richer, more authentic a living, breathing testament to the children s learning. Lella Gandini reminded us of yet another key element in documentation: the verbal story. Verbally sharing the process plays an important role by exposing the underlining meaning within the documentation. This reminded us once again in the value of relationships, collaboration, and the need to share the learning through a variety of languages, photos, anecdotes, and voices of the children, teacher, and parent. 8
10 9 Looking down from the banks of the river, we are in tune to our voice. Our reflection honours the voices of all: the children, the parents, and the Early Childhood Educators. We are beginning to understand and interpret the underlying philosophy of Reggio Emilia. Relationships between and among children, families, educators, students, co-workers, materials, and the environment are all interconnected. Thus emerges a support network centralizing on the child. Our team has grown, now comprising not only the educators of the lab school, but also faculty, student teachers, parents, and the Seneca community. As we grow, we learn and expand together. We push off once again from the river bank. Paddling, we synchronize our oars, encouraging each other to keep tempo, celebrating our accomplishments while supporting each other s strengths through challenging rapids. Respect is given to the changing river landscape. We embrace the uncertainty, knowing that it is part of the journey. With hopeful hearts we share our dream to continue to be a part of Seneca s Strategic Plan, to mentor and inspire future and current educators, and to contribute to the wider community. We hope our passion, dedication, and commitment will inspire a new generation of educators. We listen to the river a new adventure is taking hold, the hidden current is flowing rapidly, and new water is surging. Where it will take us, only the river knows. Seneca College Newnham ECE Lab School Staff, 2013 June Williams, Manager, RECE Tanya Farzaneh, RECE Maya Simon, RECE Laura Salau, RECE Lerna Francisco, RECE Niluka Perera-Jones, RECE References Malaguzzi, L. (1993). History, ideas, and basic philosophy: An interview with Lella Gandini. In C. Edwards, L. Gandini, & G. Forman (Eds). The hundred languages of children (pp ). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing.
11 Recording Early Learning Observations (RELO)! Veroushka Coronel, Sue Feltoe, and Margaret Isnor George Brown College Lab Schools Toronto, Ontario 10 RELO (Recording Early Learning Observations) is a web-based software program developed by Professor Marie Goulet at George Brown College s School of Early Childhood. Working in collaboration with the Early Childhood Lab School team and the college s Information Technology Department, in 2008 Professor Goulet s vision became reality providing a software tool that enables Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs) to observe and document children s learning and development for the purpose of informing curriculum planning. The basis of RELO is an Ontario document entitled Early Learning for Every Child Today or ELECT (Best Start Expert Panel on Early Learning, 2007). This document is an early learning framework for Ontario s early childhood programs, containing within its pages the principles that guide quality early childhood programs, plus a continuum of development. The continuum is based on five over-arching domains of development: physical, emotional, social, communication, language & literacy, and cognitive, as well as root skills specific capabilities, processes and competencies that exist within a domain. Although the continuum is divided into larger age-related sections (infant, toddler, preschool/kindergarten), individual children s skills may appear at differing points along the continuum as they learn and develop. ELECT is intended to be a strength-based model of development with an emphasis on skills a child is currently working on or developing. Based on this framework, the RELO tool was designed as a user-friendly interface for RECEs, parents, and other staff members to record and document children s learning. RELO supports several of the principles outlined in ELECT: Principle # 2: Partnerships with families and communities families are able to access their child s profile of development at any time with a simple, unique password. RELO further enriches the dialogue with parents and families about their child s progress and their child s current skills. The benefits to families include ease of access and the ability to retrieve their private child s file from any webenabled device at any time. This accessible program encourages family contributions and sharing of observations, promoting a reciprocity of learning that supports the notion of continuity between home and childcare. Principle #4: A planned curriculum supports early learning educators can collect and organize observations in a meaningful manner. This informs curriculum planning and implementation that is child focused, related to theory, and based on the interests and skills of the individual child. Benefits to educators include RELO s user-friendly interface and informative reports that help to clarify and highlight patterns of development for individual children and groups of children that are recorded in the program. As RECEs, we understand that learning is never isolated to the childcare centre; we know that development takes place in the context of families and communities, respecting that parents and families remain the experts on their own children.
12 11 Using the RELO tool, family members are invited to share observations of their children s learning in day-to-day situations, thereby providing valuable information on child development outside the structure of a formalized childcare centre. Below is a visual of the online format that RECEs and parents will use to submit observation entries about a child: As in the example (see Image 1), when choosing the Observation tab users will be provided with drop-down menus for both Domain and Skill(s); the selections outline the sequence of skills that children at different ages can be expected to acquire across the five broad developmental domains. A quick reference guide provides examples of indicators that support the educators and families in placing their observation in the most likely domain and skill. Domains (five broad areas or dimensions of development): 1. physical 2. emotional 3. social 4. communication, language & literacy 5. cognitive Root Skills: specific capabilities, processes, abilities, and competencies that exist within a domain Image 1 Indicators markers of what a child knows or does which show that the skill is emerging, being practiced, or being elaborated Interactions examples of adult-child communications, contacts and joint activity that support the child s accomplishment of the indicators and related skill development The RELO tool also has a pictorial observation option where the user can capture the child s learning in a very concrete/visual way that supports a deeper understanding of how learning occurs in both planned and natural processes. The RECEs are able to print detailed reports of the development of a child within their group, which informs their curriculum planning to ensure the needs of the individual within the larger group are being met. We are excited to continue using the RELO webbased program to enhance research possibilities in the field of early childhood education, from seeking a better understanding of the patterns of children s play to gaining insight about families who use this tool and their understanding through exposure to child development in a more concrete and succinct way.
13 12 References Best Start Expert Panel on Early Learning (2007). Early learning for every child today: A framework for Ontario early childhood settings. Toronto, Ontario: Ministry of Children and Youth Services.
14 Engaging in Reflective Practice Considering Partnerships with Multiple Stakeholders in a Lab School Environment! Kim Watts and Catherine Moher in collaboration with ELC teachers: Linda Hart, Leslie Cunningham, Karen Wong, Angelique Sanders, Maurice Sweeney, Maria Wysocki, Andrea Thomas, and Sanja Todorovic Early Learning Centre, School of Early Childhood Studies, Ryerson University Toronto, Ontario 13 Ryerson University s Early Learning Centre (ELC) is an early learning and care centre serving 66 children and their families from the university and local community. As part of the School of Early Childhood Studies, the ELC s objective is to model theory-to-practice as a laboratory school and offer field placement opportunities currently to over 130 students per year. The ELC welcomes Ryerson students registered in undergraduate observation and curriculum courses and graduate level research courses to observe and interact with the children who are enrolled in the centre s toddler, preschool, and kindergarten programs. The teacher-preceptors serve as guest speakers for various early childhood studies courses. Observation booths in the centre and a live feed camera situated in one of the university s classrooms offer observation mechanisms for both undergraduate and graduate students. These experiences provide student teachers, the ELC children, and teacher-preceptors with learning and teaching opportunities. Over the last several years, the ELC teacherpreceptors have been engaged in a reflective process of redefining the program s philosophical and pedagogical approach to teaching and learning. In March 2012, we were invited to share our experiences in a presentation at the 2nd National Early Learning Lab School conference. A unique feature of this reflective process is how we consider and include ideas and recommendations put forth by our many stakeholders and partners the children, families, the School of Early Childhood Studies, the Gerrard Resource Centre (GRC) (also a Ryerson University lab facility), and external community organizations such as the City of Toronto and the College of Early Childhood Educators. This paper presents the information shared at the conference and our experiences with the notion of change and sustainability. Background: The Process of Change Our teaching and learning philosophy is driven by the vision and mission of the School of Early Childhood Studies. To understand the reflective process undertaken by the teacher-preceptors, we highlight the context which influenced our decision to redefine this teaching and learning philosophy. Provocations for change included: School of Early Childhood Studies: vision and mission School of Early Childhood Studies Director: her leadership and mentorship Early Learning Centre and the teaching team s core beliefs External stakeholders expectations
15 14 The establishment of the Ontario College of Early Childhood Educators School of Early Childhood Studies: Vision and Mission The University supports the ELC as a site for current and innovative research. Typically four to six faculty-driven research studies and graduate/ undergraduate student research projects are conducted at the ELC over the course of a year. Research is carried out predominately from the School of Early Childhood Studies and departments such as Nutrition and Psychology. Teacher-preceptors act as facilitators for these projects and at times are involved as participants. It is a fine balance ensuring that all stakeholder needs are met. One particular challenge in facilitating the process is the difficulty in scheduling when projects occur simultaneously. We have learned from such initiatives that the benefits far outweigh the challenges. For example, from 2011, the ELC teaching team has worked with Dr. Roma Chumak-Horbatsch to pilot the Linguistically Appropriate Practice (LAP) program based on her research and subsequent book entitled Linguistically Appropriate Practice (Chumack-Horbatsch, 2012). The applications in this program served multiple functions and provided an excellent vehicle in connecting the home and the ELC. Further, the LAP program supports and acknowledges children s diversity and their inclusion in their various communities as critical to their optimal development. This project also engaged parents. After a presentation at our Parent Advisory Committee, a Language Committee was formed. This successful program built a bridge between home and the ELC and increased parent engagement in the classroom as families shared their stories and songs from their diverse culture of languages. Director of the School of Early Childhood Studies: Her Leadership and Mentorship The School of Early Childhood Studies Director, Dr. Rachel Langford, has inspired the ELC teacher-preceptors to view themselves as the main stakeholder in the reflective process. Over several months we were encouraged by Dr. Langford s approach of inquiry and contemplation to delve into provocations and devise strategies that were to become the cornerstone of our own redefined pedagogies. This also included a reflection process that celebrated our multiple perspectives. We began by exploring and examining our beliefs about children, families, and pedagogy. This process included journal writing where we captured our thoughts and feelings about the process of change. We discovered that our program did not fully represent our beliefs about teaching and learning; our pedagogical approach was missing a holistic view of children, and we realized that family input was peripheral. We recognized that we needed a practice that better reflected our beliefs. Early Learning Centre and the Teaching Team s Core Beliefs By engaging in this reflective process we determined that our collective core beliefs include the following: Children are born with an innate curiosity and a determination to understand the world around them. Each child is unique and must be provided with learning opportunities that are adapted to individual needs, interests, and learning styles.
16 15 Learning must provoke inquiry, critical thinking, and above all else, a joy of being. A comprehensive understanding of children s development coupled with observations of what they express as their paths of discovery unfold are essential for intentional teaching to occur. Understanding the whole child will promote learning and development. If we, as teacher-preceptors listen and see, children will tell and show us what they want to learn. Through reflective practice, we can examine children s main inquiries and interests. As coinvestigators with the children, their families, and their community, we collaboratively develop our program. We value diversity, equity, and inclusion. These principles are integral to our program. Families are the most important influence in children s lives. Rich partnerships between teacher-preceptors and families strengthen our ability to meet the children s needs and to understand their personal contexts for learning. Upon reflection of these core beliefs, we discovered that our approach to social constructivism had shifted to an outcomes-based and developmentally focused program. From , we created a developmental continuum which continues to be an excellent tool for articulating child development. Program planning emphasized developmental goals that we had established for the children based on observations. However, we found that this approach breaks up the child s learning into finite skills, thereby compartmentalizing each area of development. As our goal was to explore the children s main inquiries, we took an inquirybased approach to planning. We now develop projects in consultation with the children that support their learning, leading to many interesting discoveries and exciting opportunities for the children. The teacher-preceptors had acknowledged the need for a shift in their beliefs and practice, expressing a desire to let things go referring mainly to classroom rules and an activity-focused program. We now offer the children the opportunity to lead their learning. The diagram below was developed for a presentation we delivered at the International Innovations in Early Childhood Education conference in Victoria, B.C. in July of It illustrates our cognitive shift from a goal and developmental outcome focus for the children s learning to a more bottom up approach which follows the children s main inquiries. As we were engaged in this reflective process we were also in the position to articulate our curriculum to student teachers. During our Leading the Way presentation, the teacherpreceptors noted: We are experiencing challenges articulating our process to students while we are still developing it. We are modeling what we are trying to achieve. We are becoming researchers and learners with the children and students. The way we are looking at children is helping us to reflect on how we interact with our students to encourage them to become critical thinkers. External Stakeholders Expectations Families as Stakeholders Families supply a wealth of resources that provide a context for children s learning. As a result of the LAP project, we began to experiment with new ways to further increase parent engagement and to be more responsive to the voice of parents. The Parent Advisory Committee began to take its direction from parent feedback, and based on this information, we changed our approach to how we communicate with parents about their child s learning. Portfolios for each child were created that include children s stories, photographs documenting their experiences, their artwork, as well as quarterly reports highlighting the child s strengths and next steps in learning. These portfolios also offer parents the opportunity to share stories and information with their children and the teacher-preceptors.
17 16 Community as Stakeholders Like all early learning and care programs, the ELC is influenced by policy development and the City of Toronto s Operating Criteria that assures quality assurance with centres that have a purchase of service agreement with the City. All programs serving children and families in the province of Ontario have been affected by the movement towards the development of integrated models of service delivery. The release of the Ontario Early Years Framework (McCain, Mustard, & McCuaig, 2013) announced the move of all early learning and care and family support programs to the Ministry of Education. This had implications for the ELC as well as the Gerrard Resource Centre (GRC) and the School of Early Childhood Studies family support program. It also prompted a more concerted effort to integrate the two lab centres as we work toward actualizing our beliefs and core values about family partnerships and parent engagement. The Operating Criteria as set out by our local municipality has been an ongoing impetus for reflection by staff. Linda Hart, ELC teacherpreceptor, writes do they [Operating Criteria principles] really celebrate the child as being capable, self-directed and a competent learner? Do they recognize the professional abilities of teachers to be responsive to children and to scaffold their learning? In order to promote higher order thinking the teacher must be comfortable in letting go of controlling children s learning and begin to observe, document, facilitate, and plan provocations that challenge children. It is at this point in the teaching process where teachers must find a balance in planning intentional, guided activities and in planning provocations that will add depth to children s experiences in which they practice critical, convergent, analytical, and divergent thinking. If we are truly allowing children to own and guide their learning, how can we as teachers preplan all experiences and claim we are following the children s lead? With close to 50% of our revenue coming from the City of Toronto, how can we follow our mission and vision and still reflect the requirements necessitated by this stakeholder? Does the Operating Criteria reflect current research in early education, and is it adaptable to the various teaching and learning approaches being used in the field? These are questions with which we continue to struggle.
18 The Establishment of the Ontario College of Early Childhood Educators While we considered other impetus for change, we examined the recently established Ontario College of Early Childhood Educators Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, enacted in February When asked to present at the 2011 Association of Early Childhood Educators of Ontario conference about this document from a child care perspective, we remarked that now our career has finally been recognized as a profession, and we have a new motivation to further examine our ideals and pedagogy. With this recognition came a heightened sense of responsibility as a lab school to demonstrate exemplary practice in the field. Operational changes, mainly due to staffing, freed money in our budget for group reflective meetings. Our team engaged in several sessions to discuss our interpretation of the document, and in the process we began to examine our own beliefs and practices about teaching children, supporting families, and about ourselves as educators. As part of an institution that values professional learning, we were able to examine the implications of the document and believed that we could sustain the increase in accountability for professionalism, learning, and leadership. Opportunities for professional growth, such as attending and presenting at conferences during the remainder of 2012, were numerous, and each opportunity provided our team with a chance to further reflect on our pedagogy. 17 References Chumak-Horbatsch, R. (2008). Early Bilingualism: Children of Immigrants in an English-Language Childcare Centre. Psychology of Language and Communication, 12(1) Chumak-Horbatsch, R. (2012). Linguistically Appropriate Practice. (1 ed.). Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press Inc. Ontario College of Early Childhood Educators. (2011). Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice: Recognizing and Honouring our Profession McCain, M.N., Mustard, J.F., & McCuaig, K. (2011). Early Years Study 3:Making Decisions, Taking Action. Toronto: Margaret & Wallace McCain Family Foundation. As we engage in reflective practice we find ourselves on a path to a philosophical approach that breaks away from our previous notions of teaching and learning. Through more holistic, inquiry-based, and reflective practices, we find that we are continually engaged in thinking about our pedagogical approach and how we engage with families, thereby offering children meaningful and authentic learning experiences.
19 18 An Approach to Student Training: Opportunities for Emergent Learning! Kathleen Brophy, Judy Callahan, Rachelle Campbell, and Lorna Reid University of Guelph, Ontario History of Experiential Learning at the Macdonald Institute At the turn of the 20th century, there was an increasing expansion of opportunities for vocational and educational advancement in response to the view that social problems could be solved through further education (Snell, 2003). At about this time in 1901, Adelaide Hoodless, president of the Hamilton Normal School of Domestic Sciences and Art, approached philanthropist Sir William Macdonald to support the development of a domestic science program at the Guelph campus of the Ontario Agricultural College. The program would promote applied and practical education into rural areas (Snell, 2003). The Macdonald Institute was thus established in 1903 and opened in 1904 as a school for rural women operated by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the Ontario Agriculture College in Guelph, Ontario. The Institute focused on teacher training with an emphasis on domestic science. Students completed their teaching observations and practice teaching in the nearby Macdonald Consolidated School, initiating a tradition of practicum education for women on the campus (Snell, 2003). By 1932, a half day nursery school was operating at the Institute to facilitate the observation of children and offer guidance for their mothers. In September 1959, the Macdonald Institute Nursery School was opened providing half day programs for children in the community (Snell, 2003). Macdonald Institute students observed the children and analyzed their behaviour as they engaged in daily activities. The school was renamed the Family Studies Laboratory School in 1968; here a practicum experience was provided for students enrolled in the new Child Studies major in the Bachelor of Applied Science degree program. In 1990 the University of Guelph Child Care and Learning Centre (CCLC) opened on campus delivering child care services for members of the University and Guelph community. At this time, a series of pilot studies were conducted to develop a model that would enable students in the Child Studies major to complete their practicum within the CCLC. After successfully developing such a model, in 1996 the Family Studies Laboratory School closed its services for children and families, and the practicum for university students was transferred to the CCLC. Experiential Learning The University of Guelph Child Care and Learning Centre (CCLC) embraced this training component of their mandate. The practical hands-on experience provided valuable opportunities for student and staff professional development by linking research, theory and application. Research in the field of teacher
20 19 training (Berliner, 1988) has long recognized that the complex world of human relations is dynamic and essentially a creative process, and that professional training cannot be based solely according to a list of competencies that have been previously defined (Brophy, Ryan & Stuart 1998). The primary goal of professional training beyond the provision of relevant knowledge and specific competencies is the creation in each student of a sense of themselves as professionals (Brophy, Ryan & Stuart 1998). One of the primary ways that students can experience the development of a professional identity is through the experiential courses offered in their respective programs. In particular, students must be placed in settings where their sense of themselves and their understandings of professional practice are required to undergo reconstruction and reintegration (Brophy, Ryan & Stuart, 1998). The various ways this can be accomplished may be viewed on a continuum that focuses on the intensity of the supervision provided. While all such approaches are used in training programs for early childhood educators, it is the distinction between the latter two approaches field placement and practicum that will be further developed (Unpublished Department Memo, Lero et al, 1993). Field placements provide instructional opportunities in service settings where students learn through observation and develop skills by working alongside professionals. However, student learning is limited by what the field supervisor and/or the agency judge as appropriate experiences in which students can be engaged (Unpublished Department Memo, 1993). In the field placement model, the course instructor meets with students in weekly seminars to discuss issues that have arisen in practice and to guide students in the resolution of such issues by providing personal insights and theoretical knowledge. The faculty/course instructor observes students in their placements anywhere from one to three times per semester and supports the work done in the field, but is not directly involved. There is a reliance on the onsite supervisor to provide direct feedback and instruction to students regarding day to day practice. Previous and/or concurrent coursework is expected to help the students function in their field placements. Faculty cannot arrange or structure student learning experiences, but they can offer their support. Although the course instructor will monitor the quality of the experiences provided in the field placement setting, and may support, troubleshoot, and evaluate the quality of the environment and the supervision provided, there is often great variability across settings and the resulting quality of student experiences. The role of the onsite supervisor becomes vital in providing support (Unpublished Department Memo, 1993). The practicum model such as the one offered at the CCLC offers a more direct approach to education in professional practice. Here students work within a context that has been specifically designed to offer instruction in practical and professional aspects of early education and care. In particular, the faculty/course instructor and the INTENSITY OF SUPERVISION None Low Medium High Volunteer/paid Observation in real settings Coop work Field placement Practicum