This report will discuss my experience and reflect on my practice in a 3-5 years establishment. It will focus on my ability to support each individual child as active learners and relate my observations of the children to theory.
Active learning can be defined as 'learning which engages and challenges children's thinking using real-life and imaginary situations' (Scottish Government, 2007). This was updated in 'Building the Curriculum 2' as 'being where the learner is responsible for instigating, planning or managing what they do' (Scottish Government, 2010). These both mean that children are involved with planning and contributing ideas for experiences and activities. These are taken from their own views and comments made within the setting or at home. It also means that learning should be more play based to allow the learner to experience a range of educational, social and emotional circumstances.
It can be seen in observation 8 that I supported active learning within my placement setting as this activity was built around the children's ideas. Additionally it was discussed in the first instance because a child in the nursery was about to have a new baby brother or sister. This activity worked well as all the children were enthusiastic to create the new home corner and they were able to lead the experience, I did however feel that some of the children were too excited to concentrate and be a successful contributor to the activity. I gave the children the choice of what the home corner was going to be turned into, but the baby theme led from a child's particular interest. I can justify the decision to make the experience child led as Marion Dowling says that in the Early Years Foundation Framework Handbook it states that no more than 20% of evidence in assessments should be from adult-directed activity. 'This gives practitioners expressed permission to focus on child-initiated activities where inclinations and attitudes are richly exemplified.' (Dowling, M. 2010). It can therefore be seen from this that the advice given is to make as many experiences as possible not adult directed and to make them child led. From this experience I shall aim to continue to make most learning experiences child led but I will reflect back on this experience and remember some of the chaos that was caused by the excitement of the children at the thought of being in charge. I think however that if this was continued in this setting that it would become easier as it would be part of the routine, the children in the nursery were used to a very similar routine and by breaking it I caused a commotion - this is something that could perhaps be introduced so that the children to not become too dependent on a fixed pattern in the day. I do however accept that routines are important and necessary for some young children.
This activity takes on Bruner's social constructivist theory as the children were learning from each other through social interaction. Those that knew nothing about babies were able to gain some knowledge from their peers. Child led learning can also be seen in observations 10, 11, and 12 as these experiences were taken from the reading of the story and the discussion afterwards in observation 9. I had previously observed a staff member in a previous placement taking this approach to discover the children's ideas and interests and I decided use this experience to lead the learning.
I believe that I was able to support the children in my placement as active learners through the opportunities that I provided and the feedback given from my mentor. She said that I have 'an excellent knowledge of early level experiences and outcomes and demonstrated this by her focussed, well planned activities which the children were eager to participate in'. This shows that my mentor was aware of my enthusiasm and the knowledge that I had to help to promote the Curriculum for Excellence and therefore active learning.
Michelle Graves says that a pitfall in many early educational establishments is the concern that children are not able to play freely due to a certain number of children allowed in one area or only a certain amount of resources provided. This can 'create too much frustration for children who want to play at an area that is 'full''. (Brickman, 1996) It can be seen in observation 10 (apple printing) that this was a problem as I was only given a certain amount of space and resources to provide my experience in due to other planning arrangements. This meant that some children were being turned away from the activity as it was very popular. This popularity was positive in one sense as the children were eager to participate but on the other hand it was not beneficial as some children could not partake in the activity when they wanted to due to lack of space. Next time I shall try to create a larger area for art activities so that more children can be included and on a larger scale I shall consider this more when planning for any future learning experiences to ensure the inclusion of all the children.
When taking into account the target that was set for us ( APPENDIX) I feel that I have covered all areas of this. I can show this from my mentor report as she said that have a 'quiet demeanour when working with the children and this worked well as she built positive, caring relationships with them and provided them with excellent experiences of early level learning activities and play' it also stated that I had an 'excellent knowledge of early level experiences'. Both these extracts show that I was able to learn about and develop children's interests using the Curriculum for Excellence.
In order for children to become effective active learners some 'deep play' is required. 'Deep play is playing with fire. It is the kind of play that even permissive institutions for educating young children cannot happily live with, for the mandate requires them to carry out their work with due regard to minimising the chagrin concerning outcomes achieved.' (Woodhead et. Al 1991 in Wood and Attfield, 2005). This quote quickly identifies what deep play is and the problems with it. The setting that I was in however fully supported deep and spontaneous play and it was not to be disturbed if observed. An observation of this can be seen in Observation 3 where the children made wands using construction materials. This had not been the planned outcome of providing the construction materials but the activity was child led and they took it where they wanted to without being disturbed. Even though I played very little part in this activity (just helped child at beginning) I believe that I helped to support the children as active learners as I did not intervene when I observed meaningful play. I felt however that even though the nursery staff were very enthusiastic in promoting deep play that this was the only time I observed them not moving on to something else to allow it to carry on. For myself in the future I will aim to try to ensure that provisions are made for children who are deeply involved in play to be left to their activity.
My placement report, which can be seen in the back of this essay as an appendix, was very positive and it made me more confident in my abilities as a childcare practitioner. As it was all positive the only reflection that I can take from my mentor is to keep performing to the same standard or higher. I will however reflect on comments and help that she has given me throughout my placement which I have noted in observations, such as my ability to involve parents more with my theme (this can be seen in observation 11).
In conclusion, I feel that I have effectively supported active learning within my placement setting, through my use of child initiated and child led activities. I received a very positive mentor report which has ensured me that I am on the right track to becoming an excellent early years worker who is able to support children's learning successfully.