IECS Autumn Research Seminar Series 2016: Making Teaching Visible

The 2016 IECS Autumn Research Seminar was held on Saturday, 14 May. The theme for this seminar was Making Teaching Visible. There were two keynote speakers  - Helen Hedges and Daniel Lovatt - and a selection of workshops and papers.

Keynote address

Presenters: Associate Professor Helen Hedges and Daniel Lovatt, Auckland University

Session Title: Making theories visible in teaching and learning: Our working theories about working theories

Abstract: Our national early childhood curriculum Te Whāriki sets out two innovative outcomes termed “learning dispositions” and “working theories”. Both constructs emphasise the holistic way in which children learn. They are complex notions that rely on teacher knowledge, interpretation, reflection, and team dialogue, alongside strong partnerships with families, in order to be recognized and made visible as valued outcomes. This keynote will focus on the notion of working theories as the less well understood of the two outcomes. It draws on findings from a two-year Teaching and Learning Research Initiative that explored children’s interests, inquiries and working theories. We will outline the construct of working theories: its origins, purposes and related examples. We will then analyse one vignette of a child’s working theories to make visible the interrelated components of knowledge, skills and strategies, and attitudes and expectations. We will discuss ways teachers responded to the developing working theories to make the teaching and learning that occurred visible.

Workshop sessions

Session title: Promoting children’s social-emotional competence: Strategies for teachers

Presenter: Karyn Aspden and Tara McLaughlin, Massey University

Abstract: Promoting social-emotional competence in early childhood is critical for young children’s engagement in early learning experiences, success at school and later-in-life well-being.  In this session we will discuss teaching practices that early childhood teachers can use to support children’s emotional literacy, social problem-solving and conflict resolution skills, and social interaction and friendship skills.  Teaching practices discussed in the workshop are from a 2014 research study to examine practices that are valued by New Zealand early childhood teachers.  Taken together, these teaching practices can help teachers support all children to gain key skills and competencies for positive self-esteem, strong social connections, self-regulation and resiliency.

Session title: “I need somewhere quiet to go by myself”: Teachers supporting children’s rhythms in diverse built environments

Presenter: Ann Pairman, Victoria University of Wellington

Abstract: This workshop draws on research examining children’s lived (or everyday) experiences in four spatially diverse all-day ECCE centres. Data will be shared about children’s experiences creating and using indoor space in response to both their own and centre rhythms, and how teachers help shape these practices. Teachers’ governance of space use varied across the centres, partly in response to constraints and enablers within built environments. This interactive workshop will invite participants to share their experiences of working in spatially diverse centres, to identify ways these spaces influenced their practice and to consider the (sometimes invisible) role of the teacher in relation to children’s experience of privacy.

Session title: Teacher power and the risky terrain of children's working theories

Presenter: Janette Kelly, University of Waikato

Abstract: ECE teachers regularly respond to, and provoke, children’s working theories about the natural and social worlds. In an effort to contribute knowledge to the construct of ‘working theories’ itself (found in the New Zealand curriculum framework Te Whāriki, Ministry of Education, 1996), and teachers’ strategies for extending children’s thinking, Looking at research examples from Aotearoa New Zealand and Sweden, I will show that teachers’ responses and silences are affected by five key issues: time, risk, power, subject matter, and the culture around sharing [all of] children’s learning with families. There is increased risk in navigating working theories about the social world, as opposed to the natural world, due to the nature of young children’s early theorising about sensitive topics. This risk affects how working theories are dealt with in terms of time (right away-later-never), and power, as teachers regulate children’s ideas by giving voice to, or silencing them (public display-revising-censoring). This workshop will also draw on participants’ experiences and teaching strategies for handling working theories in science and social science spheres. There is much can be learned about ECE pedagogy in this complex terrain.

Session title: Making children’s learning theories visible through intentional teaching in the visual arts.

Presenter: Lisa Terreni, Victoria University of Wellington

Abstract: This workshop examines ideas and theory in relation to intentional teaching in visual arts education for young children in early childhood contexts.  This pedagogical approach is one which can enhance opportunities for children’s thinking and working theories to be made more visible.  Using teaching stories from ecARTnz, a New Zealand magazine of professional practice in visual arts education, teaching and learning practices will be analysed and discussed.  Participants will also develop ideas in relation to their own practices in visual arts education.

Session title: The invisible hand: Interfaces between teachers' authority and children's peer culture

Presenter: Anita Mortlock, Victoria University of Wellington


Farmer, McUliffe, and Hamm (2011) state that through the very act of teaching, teachers influence children’s relationships and experiences with each other. Often this influence is unseen and unintended, hence the description of the teachers’ hand being an invisible one. This session will explore the ‘invisible hand’ and some of the consequences that can occur for children’s relationships with each other, as well as for their learning. It is based on the findings of a recent doctoral project.

Session title: Making teaching visible: Challenges and opportunities for intentional teaching

Presenter: Sue Cherrington, Victoria University of Wellington

Abstract: Early childhood teaching is complex work that involves both deep thinking and warm, responsive interactions that are adjusted moment by moment in our engagement with children.  In this workshop we explore some of the challenges that early childhood teachers face in making their teaching visible, together with tools and opportunities that we can draw on to be more intentional in our teaching. Participants are encouraged to bring examples of their intentional teaching and to share strategies that they have found helpful in building intentional and visible teaching.

Session title: Children’s working theories: Teaching today for future learning

Presenter: Associate Professor Helen Hedges and Daniel Lovatt, Auckland University

Abstract: This workshop will present examples of teachers’ efforts to engage with children’s working theories. Participants will discuss related teaching strategies and issues that arise in attempts to respond to children’s working theories. Engaging with children’s working theories in ways developed in this workshop might assist teachers’ efforts to recognise, interpret, and support these innovative outcomes in early childhood education. Participants are asked bring along their own examples of children’s working theories to consider too.

Session title: The Pacific language nest: Voices from Pacific communities to assist in strengthening culturally responsive teaching with Pacific children and families in early childhood education

Presenter: Ali Glasgow, Victoria University of Wellington

Abstract: The Pacific language nest service has provided a significant cultural presence in the early childhood sector in Aotearoa New Zealand since its inception in the early 1980’s. This presentation outlines the findings from an ethnographic case study research with the Cook Island, Niuean and Tokelauan language nest communities.  A key aspect of the research explores the Pacific language nest philosophies and programmes which promote culture, language and traditional practices.

This workshop will discuss findings from the research which outline culturally responsive teaching practices that support the language, cultural and traditional practices to enhance a sense of belonging and identity for Pacific communities in Aotearoa New Zealand. Participants are invited to contribute ideas and strategies that they employ in their settings. The collective understandings and strategies gained will strengthen teachers’ abilities to implement culturally responsive practice for Pacific children and families in early childhood education.