Working with infants and toddlers: what discourses shape educators' understandings and practices
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 21:49 authored by Belinda Davis
Infants are attending long day care centres in Australia in significant numbers and spending increasing lengths of time in these environments.The nature and quality of infants' early experiences is relevant to their development across a range of domains, including intellectual, social, emotional and physical. Educators working with infants in long day care centres can potentially play a significant role in shaping infants' experiences and thus influencing their current and future development. Yet the manner in which early childhood educators of infants interpret and implement curriculum has not been widely researched. Using critical discourse analysis as the informing framework, this study seeks to explore how educators talk about, and interact with, the infants in their centres, as they endeavour to implement the Australian early childhood curriculum, the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF). Four types of data were analysed in this study. First, a detailed textual analysis of the language used in the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) was undertaken, in order to determine how infants and toddlers are referred to in this document, and the implications for the educators’ interpretation of the curriculum. Secondly, drawing on the findings of the textual analysis, six infant educators were interviewed about the EYLF and the influence it has had on their practice. From these transcribed interviews, themes were developed around the visibility of infants in the curriculum and the manner in which the educators strive to implement it in relation to discourses of care. Thirdly, the educators were videorecorded as they went about their daily work with infants in their centres. The language used by each educator when questioning infants was closely analysed, as questioning is promoted in the EYLF as a pedagogical strategy which can potentially enhance children’s learning. Finally, each educator was invited to reflect on her practice as she watched some of the video clips of herself working with infants. The analysis of each type of data (the language of the curriculum, interviews with educators, their language use with infants, and their reflections on their practice) contributed to the overall findings. The findings suggest that the language of the EYLF has rendered the learning and development of infants and toddlers relatively “invisible”. The educators expressed concerns about the language of the EYLF and had difficulty interpreting and implementing it in their daily practice. In demonstrating some of the specific ways in which language, curriculum, and educators’ understandings and practices are closely interconnected, this research has contributed new insights into the manner in which curriculum documents, such as the EYLF can impact upon early childhood educators and influence their pedagogical practices, with implications for the learning and development of infants in long day care.