A case study: How is higher-order thinking in young children understood, supported and sustained by educators within three ECEC preschool settings?
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 02:31 by Judith A. Skerritt
Despite educator support of children’s higher-level thinking being a stated requirement of the Early Years Learning Framework for Australia (EYLF) (DEEWR,2009), the document provides little accompanying information to guide practice.There is open acknowledgement of compromises and assumptions made when developing the EYLF, not least the view that educators would already possess key knowledge of concepts outlined or would have access to this information from more experienced colleagues (Sumsion et al., 2009). This study questions whether this presumption is justified in relation to higher-order thinking. It argues instead that more needs to be known about the specific understandings and practices of educators in relation to children’s thinking complexity, particularly given evidence pointing to concerning levels of instructional support linked to cognitively challenging experiences (Tayler & Thorpe, 2012; Tayler, Ishimine, Cloney,Cleveland & Thorpe, 2013; Tayler, 2014). A multi-case study was designed to investigate the higher-order thinking beliefs and practices of three educators from preschool services rated as ‘exceeding’ in Quality Area 1 of the National Quality Standard (ACECQA, 2013), the area where support for thinking complexity should be visible. Five visits to each educator occurred. Data collection involved video-recorded teaching interactions, audiotaped educator interviews, secondary document analysis (e.g. portfolios) and field notes. While higher-order thinking was frequently noted, it tended to serendipitously emerge as a by-product of educator attention to, and promotion of, child interest. Progressive planning and assessment of children’s cognitive understandings and thinking growth over time was not observed. With results confirming a close educator alignment with the EYLF, a refinement of this framework and/or aligned resources may be warranted in order to reposition a progression in child thinking as a core educator concern.