COI Massey Childcare Centre: Ako Ngatahi - Teaching and Learning Together as One: From Leadership to Enquiry Teachers’ work in an Infants’ and Toddlers’ Centre

Publication Details

This report describes the Centre of Innovation action research project carried out in the Hoiho Section at Massey Child Care Centre Inc Palmerston North, between February 2005 and August 2007.

Author(s): Raewyne Bary, Caryn Deans, Monika Charlton, Heather Hullet, Faith Martin, Libby Martin, Paulette Moana, Olivia Waugh, Barbara Jordan & Cushla Scrivens, Massey Child Care Centre Inc, Massey University.

Date Published: February 2008

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Executive Summary

This report describes the Centre of Innovation action research project carried out in the Hoiho Section at Massey Child Care Centre Inc Palmerston North, between February 2005 and August 2007. The Hoiho Section of this centre was selected as one of the four centres in the second round of Centres of Innovation. Its defining characteristic was an innovative Attachment Based Learning programme for infants and toddlers (ABL), centred on relationships between  teachers, children and families,  within a community of practice framework. At the heart of this programme  was the way in which leadership systems, including distributed leadership, supported the teachers' work with children. Children's enquiry was chosen as a focus for studying the children's learning and the ways in which the teachers supported this learning. The principal research question was: "In what ways does educational leadership, within a community of practice, impact on infants' and toddlers' disposition to enquire?"  

The research was structured as a collaborative action research process, where the lead was taken by the teacher researchers, supported by the research associates. The research team consisted of the director of the Massey Child Care Centre, the manager and the assistant manager of the Hoiho Section, the five teachers in the section and the two research associates.They were supported by an Advisory Group of parents, teachers from other sections in the centre, and teachers from other early childhood care and education centres in Palmerston North. The ideas of this group helped to inform the team's reflection. 

A case study approach was used to investigate the research question. Three children were chosen for the first round of action research, and a further three for the second round. Video recordings, field notes and journal entries were the principal method of data gathering. These were written up and the data analysed using the framework of the attachment-based learning system (ABL), leadership and enquiry to develop an understanding of the links between the organisational systems, the teachers' work and the children's enquiry. An advantage of video recordings was the ability to revisit the data in the light of further understandings and ideas. This helped the teacher researchers to frame up ideas and working theories as the action research progressed. Further data were gathered through the teachers' reflective journals. The data analysis was used to develop a framework for identifying the markers that underpinned a vi  disposition to enquire in infants and toddlers. These were: security, resourcefulness, resilience and reciprocity. 

Data were further analysed using Rogoff's three planes of interaction: community/organisational, interpersonal and personal (Rogoff, 1998). In the organisational plane the ways in which distributed leadership was promoted and the ways in which formal leadership supported the system were studied. Teachers' work was found to be underpinned by an organisational culture that supported and sustained an emergent, distributed educational leadership system, valued research-based teaching and trusted teachers to work collaboratively. In the interpersonal plane, the ways in which teachers worked together to support children's learning were identified. Principal among these were: sharing expertise and knowledge; questioning and challenging; engaging in critical reflection; and establishing support networks and trusting collaborative relationships within the teaching group.

In the personal plane for teachers, they demonstrated a deeper understanding of the processes of leadership and took responsibility for leadership especially in curriculum matters. A number of teaching strategies were identified that supported the children's learning. These included identifying infants' and toddlers' independent exploration and supporting them through uncertainty in a number of ways. In the personal plane for children, infants' and toddlers' disposition to enquire was found to be embedded in their feelings of security, for both relationships and domain knowledge. When they did not feel secure, their enquiry behaviour diminished. The children's disposition to enquire, demonstrated through their resourcefulness, resilience and reciprocity, persisted though their transition to another section of the centre.

As a result of the study the teachers have a better appreciation of the value of research in informing their practice, and greater skills in research methods. They have a greater understanding of their own teaching methods and intentions and have added to their repertoire of teaching skills. They have become more able to articulate the ways in which they support the families they work with as key teachers, and are more aware of the ways in which they collaborate with other teachers. Massey Child Care Centre's Centre of Innovation project has strengthened, deepened and affirmed teachers' understandings of infants' and toddlers' learning and of the educational leadership systems that support this. They are better able to articulate their philosophy and practice and have developed as teacher researchers.

As the teachers have become more aware of the theoretical underpinnings of their teaching, they have developed a model that has clarified for themselves the mutually constitutive vii processes that underpin their teaching and its outcomes. Their model depicts their understanding that outcomes for infants and toddlers in relation to their disposition to enquire are the result of attention to all aspects of the centre: a system of distributed leadership that enacts their philosophy of trust; empowerment of all participants in the centre; and the maintenance of security for infants and toddlers, parents and teachers.

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Enquiries about this publication can be made to: Massey Child Care

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