Building a Successful Foundation for Early Learning

Principals and Kindergarten teachers from across the Diocese attended a Professional Learning Day for a new Action Research Project called Successful Foundations.

The Professional Learning Day, presented by Kim Moroney, Education Officer, Early Learning for the Catholic Schools Office and Dr Cathie Harrison, Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Education from Australian Catholic University provided information for principals and Kindergarten teachers around the philosophy of the project and explained the project’s link to the Early Learning Policy.

The aim of the project is to support the implementation of the Early Learning Policy into schools by strengthening classroom practices. This will be done by providing a positive play-based transition for early learners to school and helping to establish collaborative relationships between children, families, teachers and the community.

In 2019, 12 schools will pilot the program in the first five weeks of Kindergarten including:

  • Holy Spirit Infants School, Abermain
  • St Columba’s Primary School, Adamstown
  • Rosary Park Catholic School, Branxton
  • St Patrick’s Primary School, Cessnock
  • St Aloysius Catholic Primary School, Chisholm
  • St James’ Primary School, Kotara South
  • St Patrick’s Primary School, Lochinvar
  • Holy Family Primary School, Merewether Beach
  • St Joseph’s Primary School, Merewether
  • Our Lady of Victories Primary School, Shortland
  • Corpus Christi Primary School, Waratah
  • St Mary’s Primary School, Warners Bay

During those five weeks, students will be given a 60-minute learning block at the beginning of each day to engage with a variety of open-ended, play-based learning provocations. During this time, information around students’ strengths, interests, learning dispositions and learning needs through observations, images and work samples will be collected and collated. This will then be shared with other participating teachers across the Diocese.

This time gives students the opportunity to actively demonstrate their funds of knowledge, build relationships and become familiar with the context of the school. It also provides teachers with the chance to become familiar with students and their families.

Teachers will implement learner-centred pedagogies and use innovative approaches for their assessments during those first five weeks. These learner-centred pedagogies include:

Careful listening: being fully present and open to the various ways students demonstrate their understanding, knowledge and theories. Teachers will observe to see when students are able to link one piece of information with another to build meaning. They will also provide for pauses and silences in class to give students the opportunity to lead the learning as students often remember and understand better that which they discover for themselves.

Thoughtful questioning: provided students with thoughtful and open-ended questions to allow them to share their perspectives, ideas and understandings.

Reflective responding: this involves reflecting and analysing student responses in order to understand and become increasingly responsive to each child’s interests, needs and strengths, helping to individualise learning.

Personally engaging, active and creative assessments: these will engage students in authentic, culturally relevant, and meaningful experiences that allow children to interact with each other and provide diverse opportunities for social connection and collaboration.

Imaginative in possibilities: teachers need to remember that students use many languages, codes and symbols to represent their understanding and present their theories on why things are the way they are and the importance of being open to the many possibilities of the diverse languages used by students.

“The day was filled with research about transition to school, the importance of play and the importance of the environment,” said Kim Moroney.

“It was a day of conversation and collegiality where participants could engage with provocations which were meaningful and thoughtfully set up to create spaces of research, engagement, learning and wellbeing.

“Kindergarten teachers Louise Walsh (St Columba’s, Adamstown) and Bridie Stanger (Holy Family, Merewether Beach) worked with me to create the provocations that were set up on the day and I am grateful to them for the many hours they dedicated to working with me to ensure the integrity of this innovation for Catholic schools.”

The information gathered from the initial Action Research Project will be used to further develop the Successful Foundations resource, which will then be implemented further across the Diocese in 2020.

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