Education is thinking and Thinking is education

Education is thinking; Thinking is education

The best child protection is a community that is engaged with providing a safe and stimulating place to facilitate holistic approaches to pedagogical practice that provides the best opportunities for people exercising their powers. This means mutually recognising and respecting our rights as adults to actively defend the right of children to be in a safe place. Mutual respect is made possible when the community’s members share a safe space to communicate with each other about the meaning and purpose of learning and teaching, and defining the place as a safe place for evolving and productive pedagogical practice.

Learning to be powerful; Powerful to be learning

To empower others implies that those who facilitate this historical and epistemological process are themselves exercising power. A highly engaging curriculum can only by provided by highly engaged teachers and learners. Highly engaged and knowledgeable learners and teachers are powerful people.

A highly engaging curriculum acknowledges human being as a species being – Nature, an objective, global, scientific view; and as an historical and epistemologically organised social construction – Second Nature, the subjective and particular cultural window with a landscape defined partially by the objective window of a global scientific view.

Appropriately localised curriculum content provides sequentially organised and integrated content that is meaningful and procedurally purposeful. This is achieved by defining essential concepts or Big Ideas that persist as from that are metaphorically intertwining, as expanding flux, that spirals out from beginning to end – K to 6.

Theory and practice.

It is worth noting that the key theorists associated with early childhood are not early childhood theorists as such. Rather there are theorists who most influence the practice of early childhood educators primarily because as theorists they have a cogent view of human cognitive and social development from birth to adult. There is a danger that others who were or are not directly engaged with early childhood and the compulsory years of education have less to offer. For example, Paulo Freire’s development of learning and teaching methods for adult literacy provided extraordinary insights into the social and political dimensions and purposes of education per se. Given his profound impact on pedagogy and practice it would be mistaken to exclude such figures from the early years ‘pantheon’. The same can be said for Malaguzzie of Reggio Emilia and Penelope Leach.

Developing empathetic systems.

As an approach that is both exemplary and comprehensive the Reggio Emilia experience has overwhelmingly the most to contribute to hypotheses and practices of Early Childhood practitioners and educators. The approach developed in Reggio Emilia for early childhood education can be defined as exemplary because as practitioners they have a system with a clearly defined purposes and goals, are able to operate and develop practice according to the needs of children, rather than the overt interference of any politician’s whim, and most significantly, out of reach of powerful social and economic forces that are antithetical to the interests of good child development and childhood.

This is most evident when here in Australia our current Minister of Education has expressed her government’s belief that education is to provide the means for the corporations’s single-minded pursuit of profits. In essence the approach developed by Reggio Emilia, while not a blueprint, provides an example of what it means to pay close attention to providing a safe place for pedagogical practice and in so doing demonstrating the provision of a child-centred antidote relatively free from the economic imperatives of corporate-mass-media-culture.

The social and cultural contexts of learning and teaching.

Understanding human activity as social and cultural provides the ‘philosophical’ foundation for child-centred pedagogical approaches to learning and teaching. Education ideally is a partnership between, educators, children, and parents all of whom are acting in the best interests of all children. Educators particularly take the greater share of this responsibility because they are to provide for needs and develop relationships not only within their own pedagogical space but those too of their immediate community and ultimately the system.

All good learning is driven by curiosity. Sharing, discovering and applying mutual concerns in regards to pedagogy assists to organise the curriculum and pedagogical activities, and ipso facto our learning community. Children too learn by asking questions about their relationships with others and their place within The World around them. As soon as they can speak coherently this curiosity is articulated as questions, Who, What, Where, When, How and Why? We know that children come to school with their own experiences and knowledge. Parents, and particularly early years educators should recognise and account for this in their pedagogical practice.

Valuing curiosity and imagination

Learning proceeds from experience and inquiry thereby providing the foundations for the ongoing development of intelligent cognitive and social behaviours, or habits, for the transition into the compulsory the middle to upper primary years.

Key Assumptions of Experiential and Inquiry learning. The place of Dialogue with Children and building strong foundations for good habits.

Education is essentially learning to think. Young children live imaginatively and have ideas largely unburdened by facts. It is critical to keep curiosity and the desire to learn from this curiosity alive. The desire to know, ask questions and seek answers underlies the key purpose of all our learning.

Educational play-based -productive (cognitive) activity is an important element of our classrooms. A ‘play-based’ approach provides for the use of the arts in all aspects of their learning wether it is literacy, numeracy or imaginative play. The Philosophy with Children program adds an equally important ingredient to all aspects of their learning and our teaching.

By encouraging the skills of respectful and sincere dialogue between children and their teachers, and the teachers themselves, the importance of dialogue, questioning and thinking are emphasised and explicitly stated and connected. Equally there are profound connections between inquiry, philosophy, the arts, the natural environment and becoming literate. Education is essential for active citizenship and productive democracy.

The Development of children: there are two distinct lines of development:

the Natural and Cultural.

  • Natural – biological growth and maturation of physical and mental structures.
  • Cultural – learning to use cultural tools and development of human consciousness that emerges through cultural activity.
  • Children’s cultural development occurs first as social or interpersonal plane and then on the individual or psychological plane.
  • People are social-beings and the creations and makers of their social, cultural, and historical contexts.
  • Social interaction and participation in authentic cultural activities are necessary for development to occur.

The place and role of language and dialogue in human culture

The acquisition of language is the most significant milestone in children’s cognitive development.

  • Language is the primary cultural tool used to mediate activities and is instrumental in restructuring the mind and informing higher order and self-regulating thought processes.
  • Language plays a crucial role in forming minds as it is the primary means of communication and mental contact with others.
  • Language is the major means for representing social experience and is an indispensable part of our thoughts.
  • Language is the bridge between our social-cultural worlds and individual mental function.
  • Mental abilities develop out of the need to communicate and function as a collective.
  • The development of the individual and complex, higher mental functions occur through social interaction

Education, Development and Sociability

  • Formal education and other cultural forms of socialisation are key to developmental pathways toward adulthood
  • Thinking is contextualised and collaborative – it emerges from particular activities and social experiences. Forms of thinking are products of specific contexts and cultural conditions. Higher forms of thinking are socially and culturally contextual – members of these contexts share them.
  • To understand the development of individuals it is necessary to understand the social relations of which the individual is a part.
  • Social influences are ever-present in cognitive skill development.
  • Social engagement is a powerful force in transforming children’s thinking.
  • School and associated literacy and numeracy activities are a powerful context for shaping and developing thinking and action.
  • Mastery of academic tasks assist in transformations of memory, concept formation, reasoning, problematising and problem solving.

Zone of Proximal Development or Scaffolding and other minds.

  • The social and cognitive are essential aspects of each other.
  • Ways of understanding reality are similar across human beings we all have the same biological equipment for interpreting experience: The human brain and body.
  • Thinking is not bounded by the individual brain or mind and body inseparably joined (intertwined) with other minds.
  • Thinking is a profoundly social phenomenon. Social experiences shape the ways we interpret and think about the world.

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