Teaching Philosophy

I am motivated by my drive for excellence, and am committed to teaching and inspiring future early childhood educators; promoting their knowledge and understandings and engaging them through my student-centered pedagogy. I believe learning is an inherently creative process that engages cognitive, affective and physical domains, as mediated through social and place-based contexts. Based on my recognition of the arts as an integral part of society, the pedagogical processes I have developed in the undergraduate and post graduate early childhood and primary school teacher education programs that I co-ordinate and deliver are creative, interactive and responsive; they also aim to enliven the learning process and foster reflective, critical and lateral thinking. By involving my students in meta-knowledge development through multiple learning dispositions, I encourage them to view situations through individual and numerous cultural lenses to expand their perceptions and further, to apply their learning to their sense of identity, to their immediate place in the community and more broadly, in their region and as active global citizens.

My teaching builds on the ecological[1] and ‘funds of knowledge’ approaches espoused by Bronfenbrenner and Riojas-Cortez & Bustos Flores[2] and emphasizes ‘place’ and the students’ lived experience of it. Place encompasses the individual, family, community and natural environments upon which we all depend,[3] and includes the other than human elements. When students reflect on their own childhood and consider their image of the child, and how children learn, they do so informed by the values of their families and networks, the places in which they played and materials they used. This process, while seemingly simple, provides access into deep self-knowledge that helps to identify, for each student, the values they bring to their studies, their entrenched beliefs and contemporary ontologies that may reinforce or challenge them. My teaching thus acknowledges and incorporates the human, social, non-human and material realms of being and challenges students to build their critical understandings of the multiple factors that may impact their teaching and their future students.

Students in my subjects learn through pedagogies that embrace a unique combination of strategies and modalities that are situated in place and environment (including social context), in embodied experience and through engaging in arts modes including music, drama, dance, visual and media arts. This multisensory experience engages students through a range of learning dispositions and encourages creative and high order thinking[4][5] which are expected, and critical, professional attributes of our future educators [6] . My emphasis on each student’s place, community and environment means they are active participants and agents in co-constructing their learning experiences in multiple (shared, face-to-face and online) learning environments. My approach also enables the unique and diverse contributions of students to be heard, considered and valued; this is a key aspect of my pedagogy as the student cohorts reflect the culturally and ethnically diverse population of the areas in which I teach with many being the first in their family to attend university.

The early childhood subjects that I currently co-ordinate and teach include Creative Teaching and Learning, Introduction to Pedagogical Leadership and Learning Environments. I also coordinated Engaging Children in Curriculum and Fostering Creativity in Children’s Learning in earlier iterations of our postgraduate courses. All subjects have substantial components of blended learning and require diverse and engaging online learning materials that can be accessed at any time by all students. Each subject actively prompts students to continually examine their own philosophy and beliefs about learning and teaching. This reflective practice, also a key attribute of leading educators[7], develops future educators who are active members of their community, who embrace diversity and approach teaching as a creative, life-long, life-filled process. The quality and efficacy of my teaching has been recognized through linked awards for professional development and a research fellowship – and both affirm my effective teaching practice and vision to support excellent teaching practice.

A pedagogical innovation in all my subjects, and most prominent in Creative Teaching and Learning, is encouraging students to develop their own teaching materials. This departure from the established process of accessing ready-made syllabus materials allows the students, as future professional educators, to provide and co-construct meaningful, relevant, engaging and accessible learning experiences and materials that reflect the lives of the children with whom they work. Pre and post graduation, each student will work with a unique group of students in an early childhood setting or school. Both the student cohort and wider setting will represent a combination of demographics including age, socio-economic circumstances, culture and ethnicities, learning exceptionalities and family make-up. An educator who continually and actively tailors teaching materials to reflect children’s interests, learning dispositions and current understandings creates a readily accessible entry point that promotes engagement with the content and active, collaborative learning[7][8].

[1] Bronfenbrenner, Urie. “Ecological Models of Human Development.” In International Encyclopedia of Education, 37 – 43. Oxford: Elsevier, 1994.

[2] Riojas-Cortez, M. , and B. Bustos Flores. “Supporting Preschoolers’ Social Development in School through Funds of Knowledge.” Journal of Early Childhood Research 7, no. 2 (2009): 185.

[3] Somerville., M. “The Critical Power of Place.” In Critical Qualitative Research Reader, edited by G.S. Cannella and S. Steinberg, 67-81. New York: Peter Lang, 2012.

[4] Gardner, H. Frames of Mind. New York: Basic Books, 1983.

[5] Wright, Susan. Children, Meaning-Making and the Arts. Frenchs Forest: Pearson, 2012.

[6] Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. In National Professional Standards for Teachers. South Australia: Education Services Australia, 2011.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Arthur, Leonie, Bronwyn Beecher, Elizabeth Death, Sue Dockett, and Sue Farmer. Programming and Planning in Early Childhood Settings. 6th ed. ed. South Melbourne: Cengage Learning Australia, 2014.

[9] Ward, K. “Creative Arts-Based Pedagogies in Early Childhood Education for Sustainability (Efs): Challenges and Possibilities “. Australian Journal of Environmental Education 29, no. 2 (2013): In press.

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