Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood
ISSN 1463-9491


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Volume 9 Number 4 2008

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CONTENTS [click on author's name for abstract and full text]

 

SPECIAL ISSUE
Early Childhood Education and the Arts
Guest Editor: FELICITY McARDLE

Felicity McArdle
. Editorial, pages 273‑274
Christina MacRae. Representing Space: Katie’s horse and the recalcitrant object, pages 275‑286
Jan Sverre Knudsen. Children’s Improvised Vocalisations: learning, communication and technology of the self, pages 287‑296
Jeanne Marie Iorio. Conversation as a Work of Art: will it hang in a museum?, pages 297‑305
Linda Knight. Communication and Transformation through Collaboration: rethinking drawing activities in early childhood, pages 306‑316
Claudia Gluschankof. Musical Expressions in Kindergarten: an inter-cultural study?, pages 317‑327
Sophie Alcock. Young Children Being Rhythmically Playful: creating musike together, pages 328‑338
Jan Deans & Robert Brown. Reflection, Renewal and Relationship Building: an on-going journey in early childhood arts education, pages 339‑353
Melinda G. Miller, Ellen L. Nicholas & Meaghan L. Lambeth. Pre-service Teachers’ Critical Reflections of Arts and Education Discourse: reconstructions of experiences in early childhood and higher education, pages 354‑364
Felicity McArdle. The Arts and Staying Cool, pages 365‑374

COLLOQUIA
Hannah O. Ajayi. Early Childhood Education in Nigeria: a reality or a mirage?, pages 375‑380
Enamiroro Patrick Oghuvbu & Theresa Edirin Atakpo. Analysis of Classroom Management Problems in Primary Schools in Delta State, Nigeria, pages 381‑388
Milimu Gladys Shaji & Francis C. Indoshi. Conditions for Implementation of the Science Curriculum in Early Childhood Development and Education Centres in Kenya, pages 389‑399
Joseph Agbenyega. Development of Early Years Policy and Practice in Ghana: can outcomes be improved for marginalised children?, pages 400‑404

BOOK REVIEW doi:10.2304/ciec.2008.9.4.405 VIEW FULL TEXT
Letting the Outside In: developing teaching and learning beyond the early years classroom (Rebecca Austin, Ed.), reviewed by Janet Robertson, pages 405‑406



Editorial

doi:10.2304/ciec.2008.9.4.273

VIEW FULL TEXT | BACK TO CONTENTS LIST

This special issue on the topic of early childhood education and the arts contains nine rich, reflective and passionate articles about experiences and practices related to the arts, but also goes beyond a narrow consideration of the field. For many of us, the arts are the obvious place to do critically reflective work. The earliest documented evidence of critical reflection on ways of seeing and being can be found in the rock paintings done by Indigenous Australians, and artists have continued to work at prompting us to look again, and see things from different angles and through different lenses. Modernist artists of the twentieth century set out to disrupt the established ‘rules’ for art at the time. When Marcel Duchamp scribbled a moustache on a reproduction of the Mona Lisa, he used art to shift ways of seeing the discursive constructions of art and self. Later, postmodern philosophers used words.

Creativity is enjoying good press at the moment. Industry is calling for creative thinkers and designers … but not the ‘messy creatives’ – rather, the business model of creativity which produces profit and gain. Indeed, a Google search will quickly locate tips for corporate managers who need to constrain some of the more messy aspects of ‘the creatives’. Creativity is also frequently appropriated to enhance the mediocre and justify the mundane (Pink, 2005). Teachers explain their reluctance to teach young children any art skills or techniques, in the name of children’s delightful ‘creativity’ – others describe what they see as a ‘concentrated episode of colourful, rather manic activity’ (Claxton, 2006, p. 352). Government policies call for educators who are more creative, or more innovative, without anybody being clear on what this might look like (Winslett, 2009, forthcoming). At the same time, governments impose more and more measures, standards, scores and defined ‘deliverables’ on these same educators.

In Queensland, Australia, a recent curriculum reform foregrounded creativity as one of the new basics (as opposed to the old basics of reading and writing). And yet the arts barely get a mention in the documents. Words like multiliteracies and visual literacies have replaced the word ‘arts’. This special issue was the result of a call to bring the arts to the table, and the articles featured are full of rich and challenging ideas, offered in the spirit of prompting other ways of seeing children, their art, and our approaches to arts education in particular, and pedagogies more broadly. The articles are provided in written form online and some of the authors have used images/pictures, and one has included music. If we could perform a dance to express the ideas into the edition, we would! Yet the contributions also go beyond the arts. Each contains sophisticated and rigorous critical analysis as well as suggestions for all those who engage with the processes of teaching and learning, and this issue makes a rich contribution to the thinking of all readers of Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood.

In the first article, MacRae shares a staged analysis of ‘Katie’s Horse’, an artwork completed by a girl aged four years. Through her analysis, MacRae provides a critique of Piaget’s work that is possibly a new way of seeing how discourses shape ‘reality’, and how we might look differently at an everyday activity for many young children – drawing.

Knudsen’s contribution introduces Foucault’s technologies of the self into this special issue. Through close observation and rigorous analysis of some capturing of young children’s improvised vocalisations in Sweden, this article outlines how this phenomenon can be understood as learning and as communication.

Iorio continues with her inquiries around thinking conversation as art, and the art of conversation – an integral component of pedagogy with young children. She has previously, in CIEC, proposed child–adult conversations as aesthetic experiences. In this article, she re-examines excerpts from child–adult conversations from her research conducted in Hawaii, and negotiates the possibility of naming child–adult conversation as art, in order to recognise child–adult conversation as an aesthetic experience.

Knight challenges the more traditional, hands-off pedagogical practices in arts education. Her study of collaborative drawing experiences, where the teacher draws with the children, questions, among other things, how a certain aesthetic quality has come to be expected of children’s artworks. This article is an account of reflexive arts pedagogies, and how they can work to improve communication and understandings between adults and children.

Gluschankof also examines the musical expressions of young children, in two kindergarten settings in Israel. This study engages with concepts of culture and suggests that each kindergarten develops a particular style of musical play, and that inter-cultural issues can include those that are idiosyncratic to specific peer cultures, and the beliefs and practices of the adults involved.

Alcock’s study of children’s play makes links between play and art, although insisting that the specifics of art are not lost in the more general understandings around play. This article suggests that rhythm pervades young children’s creative and communicative playfulness.

Deans & Brown’s article documents a number of significant events where the children in an early years setting in Melbourne, Australia, engaged with the arts as ways of making and communicating meaning, and as a space for relationship building between individuals and communities. Reflections on these events examine the image of the child, symbolic languages, emergent curriculum, the role of artist/teacher and the impact of socio-cultural values on arts pedagogy and practice.

Miller, Nicholas & Lambeth establish links between the arts, learning in the arts and critically reflective practices, through an account of teaching and learning in Unit X – a compulsory arts unit in a four-year teacher education course. Possibilities for promoting critically reflective practices in teacher education are recommended, alongside a call for more systematic modes of reflective inquiry in a teacher degree programme.

Finally, McArdle develops the verandah metaphor for re-thinking the place of the arts in education, in order to make space for some of the institutionalised ambivalence in arts education. Four sites of practice are examined, where contingencies come into play, and where current practices act to both enable and constrain our ways of working with young children. The article concludes with some new (messy) possibilities for seeing and thinking about arts education.

There are other art forms not represented in this issue, and hopefully other authors will be prompted to add their voices to the conversation in future issues. Meanwhile, we hope that this issue provokes more debates and discussions around contemporary issues in early childhood. For those of us who are interested in issues around culture, race, ethnicity, diversity, and critical reflection, it is impossible to ignore the arts as a powerful site with much to offer, through teaching, learning and research.

Felicity McArdle
School of Early Childhood, Queensland University
 of Technology, Kelvin Grove, Australia

References

Claxton, G. (2006) Learning to Learn, the Fourth Generation: making sense of personalised learning. Bristol: TLO.
Pink, D. (2005) A Whole New Mind: moving from the information age to the conceptual age. New York: Riverhead Books.
Winslett. G. (2009, forthcoming) Innovation and Higher Education: resistance as a component of innovation. Unpublished Doctoral Thesis, Brisbane, Australia: Queensland University of Technology.

Representing Space: Katie’s horse and the recalcitrant object

doi:10.2304/ciec.2008.9.4.275

VIEW FULL TEXT | CHINESE ABSTRACT 中文摘要 | BACK TO CONTENTS LIST

This article is a practitioner’s attempt to resist habitual ways of interpreting and responding to young children’s drawings. Early art education as a discipline is shot through with complexities, including wider shifting social discourses. This article specifically explores the continuing and powerful effect that Piaget’s developmental approach has had on ways that teachers expect children to represent the world. The critique of Piaget examines how his stages of cognitive development intersect with an account of perspective that naturalises the claims it makes to represent the world. Critical analysis of responses to a child’s drawing draws attention to the ways that this normative and perspectival approach frames readings of the drawing. In order to create new ways of thinking about the drawing, the article offers a material critique of the logic of representation. In this alternative account the object that has been drawn stubbornly refuses to stand in for the real. Difference rather than resemblance is introduced into the reading of children’s drawings.

 

Children’s Improvised Vocalisations: learning, communication and technology of the self

doi:10.2304/ciec.2008.9.4.287

VIEW FULL TEXT | CHINESE ABSTRACT 中文摘要 | BACK TO CONTENTS LIST

The intention of this article is to explore, challenge and expand our understandings of children’s improvised vocalisations, a fundamentally human form of expression. Based on selected examples from observation and recording in non-institutional settings, the article outlines how this phenomenon can be understood as learning and as communication. This is supplemented by suggesting a third possible approach which places these vocal forms within the frame of understanding implied by Foucault’s term ‘technology of the self’. This theoretical perspective entails recognising improvised vocalisations as tools used to ‘act upon the self’ in order to attain or reinforce a certain mental state or mood – happiness, satisfaction, anger or longing – in short, as a way in which children learn to know the self as a self. In line with a Foucauldian perspective is also a focus on the negotiation of power and how music serves as an empowering agent in children’s everyday social interaction. Finally, informed by Vygotsky’s approach to understanding the relationship between language and mental development, the author discusses the gradual disappearance of improvised vocalisations.

 

Conversation as a Work of Art: will it hang in a museum?

doi:10.2304/ciec.2008.9.4.297

VIEW FULL TEXT | CHINESE ABSTRACT 中文摘要 | BACK TO CONTENTS LIST

Arts are an expectation in early childhood classrooms – traditionally, visual art, music, drama, and movement. The variety of understandings of art and aesthetic experiences shape approaches to arts education, particularly with young children. Attempts to define the aesthetic experience refer to the presence of an object, most commonly a work of art. The object becomes central to the human response within the aesthetic experience. Through the analysis of data documenting conversations between a child and an adult, the author have previously proposed child–adult conversations as aesthetic experiences. In this article, she re-examines excerpts from child–adult conversations from her research, negotiating the possibility of naming child–adult conversation as art, in order to recognise child–adult conversation as an aesthetic experience. This article continues the conversation around thinking of conversation as art, and the art of conversation – an integral component of pedagogy with young children.

 

Communication and Transformation through Collaboration: rethinking drawing activities in early childhood

doi:10.2304/ciec.2008.9.4.306

VIEW FULL TEXT | CHINESE ABSTRACT 中文摘要 | BACK TO CONTENTS LIST

This article is a study of the arts in early childhood as a way of learning, for both children and their teachers. The author suggests that drawing can be a powerful tool for collaborative approaches to pedagogy. When teachers draw with children, pathways of communication can be opened, and the collaborative exercise can trigger processes of transformation for both adult and child. In order to present challenges to more traditional, hands-off pedagogical practices in arts education, this article is an account of reflexive arts pedagogies, and how they can work to improve communication and understandings between adults and children. Within the educational contexts of Australian preschooling and primary schooling, the author examines the process of collaborative drawing, and how this can enable a process of transformation. Her analysis, and the accompanying examples of reflexive practices, combine complementary lenses, socio-cultural and postmodern, that she sees as working in harmony to produce new possibilities, in arts education in particular, and, more broadly, in early childhood education.

 

Musical Expressions in Kindergarten: an inter-cultural study?

doi:10.2304/ciec.2008.9.4.317

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In a study conducted in kindergartens in Israel, three ‘cultures’ converge: the kindergarten, the community, and the home. The differences among the two kindergartens in this study do not reside solely in the urban vs. non-urban and Jewish vs. Arab. They also reside in the contexts created by the adults as a result of their beliefs about childhood, music, play, and education, and how these beliefs are expressed in their behaviours. This account draws on a larger ethnographic study conducted in a number of kindergarten settings. The aim of this larger study was to describe and understand the self-initiated musical expressions of children aged four to five years, who bring various cultural identities to the early years setting. The sites under scrutiny in this article were two kindergartens in Israel: a non-urban state-sponsored Jewish kindergarten, and an urban Arab kindergarten in a church-operated school. The evidence showed that the musical expressions of the children in the study shared many characteristics. It also showed that differences reside, not only in the culture of the community they belong to, but also in the culture of the kindergarten. This included the physical environment, the degree of structure in the timetable, and the attitudes and rationale of the staff. This article suggests that each kindergarten develops a particular style of musical play, and that inter-cultural issues can include those that are idiosyncratic to specific peer cultures.

 

Young Children Being Rhythmically Playful: creating musike together

doi:10.2304/ciec.2008.9.4.328

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This article explores young children’s rhythmic, musical, aesthetic and playful creative communication in an early childhood education centre. Young children’s communication is musically rhythmic and social. The data, presented as ‘events’, formed part of an ethnographic-inspired study conducted by the researcher as a participant observer. Cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT) framed the methodology, with mediated activity as the unit of analysis. Critical and related aesthetic theory inform the data analyses, providing open ways of appreciating diversity in young children’s aesthetic experience. The collaborative nature of young children’s rhythmic musicality is explored and the article suggests that rhythm pervades young children’s creative and communicative playfulness.

 

Reflection, Renewal and Relationship Building: an ongoing journey in early childhood arts education

doi:10.2304/ciec.2008.9.4.339

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The established place of the arts within early childhood education is rarely questioned. Nevertheless, social, cultural and political shifts in values, beliefs and practices impact on approaches to the arts, as early childhood practitioners grapple with increasingly complex views on how children learn and what factors impact on their learning. This article maps some of these shifts over the past 15 years, at one Early Learning Centre (ELC) in Australia. The centre has created and regularly re-conceptualised its vision for the place of the arts in the lives of young children. Curriculum is informed by a layered and multidimensional theoretical framework, where the arts are integrated into the children’s learning, and theories are considered as collections of partial truths. The article documents a number of significant events where the children engaged with the arts as ways of making and communicating meaning, and as a means for inquiry-based learning, for developing their artistry and as a space for relationship building between individuals and communities. Reflections on these events examine the image of the child, symbolic languages, emergent curriculum, the role of artist/ teacher and the impact of socio-cultural values on arts pedagogy and practice.

 

Pre-service Teachers’ Critical Reflections of Arts and Education Discourse: reconstructions of experiences in early childhood and higher education

doi:10.2304/ciec.2008.9.4.354

VIEW FULL TEXT | CHINESE ABSTRACT 中文摘要 | BACK TO CONTENTS LIST

This layered account of arts education is produced through the three authors’ critical reflections of experiences in their own early childhood education, and their pre-service teacher education. The first layer establishes links between the arts, learning in the arts and critically reflective practices through an account of teaching and learning in Unit X – a compulsory arts unit in a four-year teacher education course. The second layer is a recall of early childhood arts experiences and how these informed our identities as artists, students of the arts and critically reflective teachers. Possibilities for promoting critically reflective practices in teacher education are recommended, alongside a call for more systematic modes of reflective inquiry in a teacher degree program.

 

The Arts and Staying Cool

doi:10.2304/ciec.2008.9.4.365

VIEW FULL TEXT | CHINESE ABSTRACT 中文摘要 | BACK TO CONTENTS LIST

Art can be messy. Teaching art can be messy. Teaching can be a messy process. The art of making a space for the playfulness and messiness of teaching requires courage and letting go. This article develops the verandah metaphor for re-thinking the place of the arts in education, in order to make space for some of the institutionalised ambivalence in arts education. Four sites of practice are examined, where contingencies come into play, and where current practices act to both enable and constrain our ways of working with young children. The article concludes with some new (messy) possibilities for seeing and thinking about arts education.

 

Early Childhood Education in Nigeria: a reality or a mirage?

doi:10.2304/ciec.2008.9.4.375

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Education is the right of every child and must not be denied it for any reason. This has been the assertion of the World Summit on the state of global children, which has led to the inclusion and expansion of early childhood care and education in the global Education for All programme (EFA). As Nigeria has pledged its commitment to this, with the recent inauguration of the policy on this educational arm, this article therefore examines the situation on the ground, on the prospects, and on the problems, and gives recommendations that could make the educational programme a reality in the nation in the interest of the children.

 

Analysis of Classroom Management Problems in Primary Schools in Delta State, Nigeria

doi:10.2304/ciec.2008.9.4.381

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This article identifies classroom management problems, their causes, and possible ways to reduce these problems in primary schools located in Delta State, Nigeria. A total of 600 teachers selected from twelve local government areas participated in this study. Data were collected in a checklist containing 27 items and a two section questionnaire containing 19 items. Three research questions and three hypotheses were formulated and tested using percentage, bar and pie charts, chi-square and analysis of variance at 0.05 level of significance. The study revealed that common classroom management problems were related to students shouting, calling names, sleeping and talking/engaging in discussion during lessons. Identified causes of these problems were seen as originating in: overcrowded classrooms; parent neglect of the health conditions of children; and an unhygienic and below-standard teaching and learning environment. School location does not significantly influence teachers’ views on identified causes and possible ways to reduce classroom management problems in primary schools in Delta State, Nigeria.

 

Conditions for Implementation of the Science Curriculum in Early Childhood Development and Education Centres in Kenya

doi:10.2304/ciec.2008.9.4.389

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Cognitive development and teaching have highlighted the importance of learning based on the relationship among individuals and the learning environment. Teaching and learning of science in early childhood development and education (ECDE) can only be effective if adequate facilities, materials, equipment and activities are put in place. Teaching of science in ECDE centres in Kenya is faced with numerous challenges, hence the negative influence on children’s learning of the subject. This raised the question of whether we have appropriate conditions for implementation of the science curriculum in ECDE centres. This study investigated conditions for implementation of science in 115 ECDE centres managed by 230 teachers in Kakamega Municipality, Kenya. It used the ECDE facilities checklist, the ECDE classroom science materials/equipment checklist, the ECDE classroom science activities checklist, and the ECDE teacher classroom science questionnaire to analyse the availability of science materials, equipment, class size and activities for ECDE children in the classroom. Each teacher was videotaped for two consecutive days during science activities. Their attitude towards science curriculum was measured by the use of an attitude scale. The findings of the study indicated that three-quarters of the ECDE centres had appropriate general facilities. However, a majority (91.2%) of ECDE centres lacked adequate and quality classroom science materials/equipment. The activities that the ECDE teachers engaged in were mostly unrelated to science activities (85.7%), even though they had a favourable attitude towards the science curriculum. This study is significant because the resulting findings will influence practice in early childhood education by informing policy makers on prevailing conditions for implementation of the science curriculum. On the theoretical side, the findings will contribute to the development of teaching and learning science materials, science equipment and a children’s science curriculum tool kit.

 

Development of Early Years Policy and Practice in Ghana: can outcomes be improved for marginalised children?

doi:10.2304/ciec.2008.9.4.400

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Even though several attempts have been made by the government of Ghana towards its goal of eradicating child labour, poverty, and marginalisation in educational outcomes for all children, the condition of disadvantaged children remain terribly devastating compared with those of more advantaged children. This article discusses the extent to which two new major Ghanaian education policy initiatives impact on this situation – namely, the introduction of early childhood care and development (ECCD) and the capitation grant (CG) policies. The article raises concerns regarding corruption, mismanagement and lack of proper monitoring of the policy implementation process and argues that the current trend seems unlikely to deliver the type of outcomes necessary to end marginalisation and suffering of children in Ghana. It proposes inclusion of parents and community participation in all aspects of the policy production and implementation processes.

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