IECS Autumn Research Seminar Series 2015: Diverse Diversities

The IECS Autumn Research Seminar was held on Saturday 16th May 2015. The theme for this seminar was Diverse Diversities with two keynote speakers – Professor Marilyn Fleer and Dr Alex Gunn - and a selection of workshops and papers.

Keynote addresses

Presenter : Professor Marilyn Fleer, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Session Title: Pedagogical positioning in play to support children’s conceptual development: Teachers being inside and outside of children’s imaginary play

Abstract : There are relatively few studies of the pedagogical roles adults take from inside children’s imaginary play. What is mostly assumed in research, and generally in practice, is for teachers not to interfere in children’s play and to take only a passive role in their play. Most do not expect teachers to be inside children’s play, supporting the development of their play competence. In this presentation, I will examine the range of ways teachers position themselves in relation to children’s play. The concept of subject positioning will be used to give a more nuanced way of thinking about the role of teachers in children’s play (and beyond). A typology of play is presented that includes teacher proximity to children’s play; teacher intent is in parallel with children’s intent; teacher is following the children’s play; teacher is engaged in sustained collective play; and teacher is inside the children’s imaginary play. This typology has been developed from my research and the research will also be discussed in the contexts of the playworlds literature.

‘Conceptual Play’: Foregrounding Imagination and Cognition during Concept Formation in Early Years Education

Session title: Post-structural theorizing in the context of Te Whāriki: Working with difference and diversities

Presenter: Dr Alex Gunn, University of Otago

Abstract: Considerable scope for working against injustice, inequity, discrimination and oppressions of the everyday exists within Te Whāriki and early childhood education, yet often, when faced with a challenge, we resort to thinking and practice that does little to shift any inequitable status quo. For me, this seems partly due to our reliance on historical and modern forms of thought—we try to be fair but treat everyone the same; we look to know people (ourselves and others) through stable and readily identifiable categories: boy/girl, abled/disabled; our discomfort with difference may make us shy away from change. In this presentation, I plan to bring to the discussion different theoretical tools with which teachers may grapple, should they want to disrupt institutionalised and normalised thinking and practice. I will draw from my own research and work of others to bring queer theory and post-humanist thinking to the fore.

Workshop sessions

Session title: Diversity in New Zealand early childhood education: Challenges and opportunities

Presenters: Sue Cherrington and Mary Jane Shuker

Abstract: This workshop draws upon data from a national survey of early childhood education services as part of the Diversity of Diversity in Early Childhood research project undertaken by early childhood lecturers in the Faculty of Education at Victoria University of Wellington. We share practitioners’ perceptions of the challenges and successes they encountered when working with children from diverse family backgrounds, and explore the attitudes and dispositions that enable educators to truly welcome, acknowledge and embrace diversity within their services.

Session title: The participation of disabled children and their families in early childhood care and education: What can we say and do?

Presenter: Bernadette Macartney

Abstract: This round-table session, facilitated by Bernadette Macartney, co-convenor of the Inclusive Education Action Group (IEAG,, will contribute to the development of an eight-page flyer for families, teachers and others about inclusive education in early childhood education. The focus of the flyer will be on the rights and participation of disabled-labelled children and their families in early childhood education and the implications of these for guiding teachers’ thinking and practices. The IEAG is asking for input and advice from people working in the field about what information and issues should be highlighted in the document. This will likely include discussion of what inclusive early childhood is and what it involves, identifying and responding to current barriers families and teachers are experiencing and some reflective questions/statements/exercises teachers and teams could use to deepen and develop their understandings and practices.

Bernadette invites your feedback about items that could be addressed in an ECE Inclusive Education flyer for teachers, whanau, professionals, community etc. Please contact Bernadette.

Session title: Leaders growing leaders

Presenters: Debbie Ryder and Gwen Davitt

Abstract: This workshop presentation will be based on a study being undertaken by lecturers at Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand (formerly Te Tari Puna Ora O Aotearoa). The study aims to demonstrate the diverse ways in which effective early childhood leaders support the leadership development of themselves and their collegial teaching and administrative staff. The research will explore how leadership capacity development is sustained in early childhood education (ECE) settings in Aotearoa New Zealand. As well as a grounded theoretical approach, Māori and Pasifika research principles will be integral to the methodology of the investigation. The research is based on the use of diverse qualitative and quantitative procedures that aim to generate a model/framework that explains sustainable leadership development in early childhood settings within the context of Aotearoa New Zealand. The workshop presentation will explain how, through a three-phase research design, both ‘theories-in-use’ and ‘espoused theories’ of leaders and their teaching teams will be studied. The study aims to provide insights and recommendations to policy makers and tertiary education institutions about leadership development practices and the design of early childhood education leadership programmes. Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand will also use the outcome of this study to add to the evidence-base of their Postgraduate Certificate in Leadership (ECE) and Postgraduate Diploma in Leadership (ECE) programmes.

Session Title: Facilitating critical thinking in initial teacher education early years’ student teachers

Presenter: Tui Summers

Abstract: Tertiary providers are using various strategies to develop student teachers who are critical thinkers. Research in this area reports limited success. This presentation covers research being conducted between two early childhood initial teacher education providers in Christchurch. The research involves developing critical thinking in student teachers through a ‘learning and sharing circles’ method that has been used successfully with early childhood teachers in Sweden and Canada. It is argued that the teaching profession needs teachers who are more than ‘technicians’ but critical thinkers—able to make wise decisions around curriculum and pedagogical practices.

Session Title: Implementing a commitment to social, cultural and ecological justice in early childhood care and education

Presenter: Jenny Ritchie

Abstract: In this session, examples from three Teaching and Learning Research Initiative studies and a range of different early childhood care and education centres from around Aotearoa will be provided to illustrate how some teachers, with guidance from Te Whāriki, are delivering pedagogies that reflect their commitment to social, cultural and ecological justice in early childhood care and education. There will be opportunities during the workshop for collaborative discussion and sharing of pedagogical strategies.

Session Title: Towards the development of Māori and Pasifika infant and toddler theory and practice

Presenters: Lesley Rameka, Ali Glasgow, Feauai Burgess, Bridget Kauraka, Saddie Fiti, Patti Howarth, Tracey Mansell, Ani Tuheke

Abstract: Early childhood has an important role in building strong learning foundations to support the development of competent and confident learners. Although teachers want the best for their students, achieving this is a complex process. One of the reasons early childhood services fail to meet the needs of Māori and Pasifika children, according to Bevan-Brown (2003), is that teachers are unaware of the role culture plays in learning and therefore lack understanding of how to address culture within their teaching (see also Mahuika, Berryman, & Bishop, 2011; Mara & Marsters, 2009). Key to educational success for all children is the acknowledgement that children are culturally located, and the recognition that effective education must embrace culture. This presentation will report on the first phase of a Teaching and Learning Research Initiative project, which involved the collection of pūrākau/stories about traditional infant and toddler care and education knowledge and practices that the case study services have collected from within their whānau and communities, and initial thinking on the implications for infant and toddler care and education.