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My philosophy, built from the sociocultural theories of Lev Vygotsky, will use many strategies and techniques that assist a child through the learning and development process. There will be many opportunities for the social interactions that Vygotsky thought were fundamental to the child's learning. He counted all interactions as social learning opportunities whether they were with teachers, family members, older adults or even younger more knowledgeable peers. (Web-based: Learning theories knowledge base, 2010) The child's participation in these interactions will show how they are learning and how much they have learnt. Vygotsky founded an area that was later called the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) where the child did all of their learning. This area was the difference between what a child knows already and what they can know with assistance. My philosophy includes this area as a vital component for the children's development and learning. The child learns with assistance from other skilled learners or educators, in an environment with appropriate learning experiences and resources, and with cultural, social and historical influences. They learn the problem solving skills and tools for thinking, as well as the knowledge required to be able to master the skill. (Wood & Attfield, chapter 4, 2005).
Play has a very important role in the education of the child; it helps them to make sense of the world and their part in it. Through play, children learn a wealth of knowledge and skills related to such things as language, social interactions, problem solving, mathematical and scientific applications, along with creative imagination. How do children learn? They learn by being active; they learn by organizing their own learning experiences; they learn by using language and they learn by interacting with others. (Fisher, 2002) Learning experiences will occur in any environment at any time throughout the day. These areas will include: sand and water, play dough, music and movement, construction, collage, messy play areas, books and storytelling, dress up, drama and make believe play, manipulative play, exploration, carpentry, blocks, nature and science, and physical activities. My role as an educator is to ensure that these environments are all provided for the children along with an unending supply of quality resources. Safety in these areas will be well maintained by the supervisory staff and training in first aid will be a requirement.
My personal views on play will shape this area of my philosophy. I believe that play can be used in a totally holistic approach to the child's developing awareness and knowledge, and that children need free play to be able to learn and develop in areas such as physical, language, creativity, problem solving and social skills. Play empowers the child to take charge of their own learning, when and wherever they may be, and play can be used as learning opportunities by family and community to connect with the child. I also believe that children learn through play how relationships with other people, places and things work, and that play has a very important role in the education of the child; it helps them make sense of the world. The child should play in whatever area they chose, decided by their interest and knowledge, and play just for itself, is a great thing for a child to indulge in and gives them opportunity to explore, investigate and participate with others. (Gee & Meredith, 1987)
Our educator's role in this play based centre is very important and will be primarily based within Vygotsky's ZPD. This area of learning is where the strategies of scaffolding, modelling and co-construction will be invaluable tools for the educator as well as ensuring that adequate resources are available for putting them into action. Scaffolding will offer the educator a great opportunity to discover what the child knows and to plan for future learning experiences which will extend the child's knowledge in the areas of interest. Modelling is another strategy which the educator will use to assist the child in gaining an idea of what is required. The strategy of co-construction will give the child the opportunity to do things the way they want, or tell a story the way they want it told, with minimal assistance, but using the teachers prompts and encouragement to inspire and stimulate the thinking. (Arthur, Beecher, Death, Dockett and Farmer, 2007) Our educator will plan experiences based on the child's interests, continuing on a theme as long as it holds the attention of the child. I believe the continuation of a learning process from the early childhood setting to the home environment of the child is an important part of the child achieving their goals. For example: when a child is extending the knowledge of numbers at an early childhood centre, the educator can use items known to be in the family setting (children, animals) to help relate to the numeracy. This can then be reinforced by the family when the child is at home.
My philosophy will place great emphasis on the collaboration between the setting and the child's parents/ whanau and community and the recognition of parents as the child's first teachers. Communication, verbal encouragement, guidance and support between educators and the child's family are an important part of the partnership between them. Support for the planning from the people the child is in constant contact with, is good for the well-being of the child. Support from the centre, for the cultural and social aspect of the family is good for the well-being of the family. (Perry, 2005)
The Te WhÄriki Curriculum for Early Childhood will be my bible as I forge out my philosophy. Te WhÄriki is a bicultural and inclusive document that quite clearly sets out guidelines providing the structure for teachers and educators to supply the children with the knowledge, skills and attitudes they require to achieve their goal of becoming lifelong learners. The Principles, Strands and Learning Outcomes all weave together in a magnificent document that supports all teaching practices in the early childhood setting. It also outlines planning, evaluation and assessment principles and some reflective questions for teachers to use. (Te WhÄriki, 1996) Cultural beliefs, traditions, customs and practices of the children will be encouraged. Children will be encouraged to share these cultural differences with others, and to learn other children's cultural backgrounds. This will be done through language, play, puzzles, books, games, visits from family members and learned knowledge.
The planning will be a crucial area as it is here through supported learning that the child will achieve goals through new skills and knowledge. Though my philosophy will take the play based approach to learning, planning will be a challenge and will take the form of 80% spontaneous planning through child initiated events and interests and 20% teacher initiated learning experiences. Observations will be a big part of teaching requirements. Through observation, we can learn what a child is interested in, and how much they know about the subject, making planning for extending that knowledge meaningful. Planning will also take into account the importance of play and how it empowers the child to take charge of their own learning, wherever they may be. (Arthur, Beecher, Death, Dockett and Farmer, 2007)
Reflection, evaluation and assessment will be my teacher's greatest tools, to be used constantly to create a perfect learning environment that will enrich and educate the children in our care. Reflection of our own actions will give us all the ability to consider how our teaching has worked, if it has worked and how we can improve it next time. (Diggins & O'Connor, 2007) Teacher's knowledge of the workings of the Te WhÄriki curriculum will assist in their ability to determine how and what to reflect on. Discussions, assessments and evaluations with and for their peers will help refine the procedures they use for planning programmes and to ensure they are using the correct pedagogical process. (Wood & Attfield, 2005) Teachers will be encouraged and supported in their professional development and be given opportunities to take their own education levels higher. Teacher's who are committed, trustworthy, supportive, and have a positive attitude can have a big impact in a centre where the main focus is on the child. The rewards for their efforts will be seen in the child's achievements and in the knowledge that they have made an invaluable difference to the lives of their students.