Quality early childhood education for under-two-year-olds: What should it look like? A literature review

Publication Details

Recent years have seen increasing participation of under-two-year-olds in early childhood education. This literature review draws together relevant research evidence to better understand what quality early childhood education for children under-two-years of age should look like.

Author(s): Carmen Dalli, E. Jayne White, Jean Rockel, Iris Duhn with Emma Buchanan, Susan Davidson, Sarah Ganly, Larissa Kus, and Bo Wang, Victoria University of Wellington.

Date Published: March 2011

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Chapter 4: Quality Pedagogy for Under-two-year-olds: What is the consensus?


In this chapter, literature on pedagogy within infant and toddler early childhood education and care is reviewed within the context of (i) recent research in child development; and (ii) research on contemporary practice in centre-based out-of-home early childhood provision overall.

The key argument from contemporary literature is that pedagogy with under-two-year-olds is specialised, and that responsive relationships are as central to pedagogy as they are essential for optimum learning and development.

This chapter reviews pedagogically-relevant literature about intersubjectivity and related concepts, including the idea that the teacher is an attachment figure and "is the curriculum" with children younger than two years old. The nature of desirable teacher practices with infants and toddlers, the role of infant-toddler exploration, enquiry, and play, and contextual factors known to impact on teachers' ability to demonstrate these practices are explored. The final part of the chapter summarises issues reviewed and lists enablers and barriers to high quality pedagogy.

Chapter 3 introduced the notion of intersubjectivity as a key characteristic of the responsive caregiving or a "serve-and-return" (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2005) style of interacting implicated in optimum brain development. This concept pervades pedagogical literature published in the last decade; it takes centre-stage in much of the recent discussions about desirable practices in infant and toddler centres alongside the related constructs of attunement, sensitive responsiveness, interactional synchrony, and teacher presence. Edwards and Raikes (2002) and Johansson (2004) wrote of intersubjectivity as a relational 'dance' between adult and infant. In this dance the teacher takes on many roles: partner, attachment figure, observer, knowledge bearer, investigator, and mediator. Reciprocally, the child is seen as a partner who contributes and constructs knowledge and learning within a 'community of practice' approach (Rogoff, Turkanis & Bartlett, 2001; Wenger, 1999) that includes the caregiving adults, parents/whānau and community. The central argument from the contemporary literature base is that pedagogy for under-two-year-olds is specialised, focusing on specific relationships that are central to pedagogy and essential for optimum learning and development.

This chapter reviews pedagogically-relevant literature about intersubjectivity and related concepts, including the idea that the teacher is an attachment figure and "is the curriculum" with children younger than two years old. Literature is reviewed about the nature of desirable teacher practices with infants and toddlers, the role of infant-toddler exploration and enquiry, and play. Contextual factors known to impact on teachers' ability to demonstrate these practices are explored. The final part of the chapter summarises issues reviewed and raised for future consideration.

4.1 Defining pedagogy with infants and toddlers

The term pedagogy has only recently entered the discourse of early childhood education in New Zealand although its use in continental European scholarly discourses has a much longer history (Watkins & Mortimore, 1999). The New Zealand early childhood curriculum (Ministry of Education, 1996) - being inclusive of infants and toddlers - has been pivotal in shifting attitudes from a task-oriented view of practice towards what is now described as "pedagogy" (e.g., Rockel, 2009, p. 1). The introduction of a three-year early childhood teacher-education qualification in 1988 prompted teachers to theorise their practice with infants and toddlers and to start to see teaching and learning as a holistic endeavour that went beyond physical care.

Pedagogy has been variously described as both a science and an art, a combination of skills, knowledge, dispositions and associated strategies that reside in the domain of teacher practice, and can therefore be strategically employed to promote learning. As Loughran (2010) suggests:

…pedagogy is concerned with the relationship between teaching and learning. Understanding this interplay between teaching and learning and learning and teaching is an important shift in focus from teaching alone because it really means that the two exist together. The fact that teaching influences learning, and learning influences teaching, and the way that is done, offers insights into the science of education. (p. 36)

4.1.1 Learning and care are interrelated: intersubjectivity in a community of learners

The specific nature of pedagogy for infants and toddlers can be challenging to define for both teachers and policy makers since the unique characteristics of infants and toddlers and their associated learning require adults to re-vision taken-for-granted notions about the division between learning and care derived from their own most recent life experiences.

The nature of learning for very young children is both corporeal and complex, combining care routines and everyday experiences as curriculum (Leavitt, 1994; Løkken, 2006; Sansom, 2007). Additionally, infants and toddlers communicate in multi-modal semiotic ways that require adults to learn to know the child and their particular communicative idiosyncrasies (Elliot, 2007). Ishiguro (2009), Løkken (2000), Nyland (2004) and White (2009) have all noted that responsive adults need to be sensitive to gesture and 'body' in order to make communicative interpretations; this supports well-established findings from now classic research on how children's language learning is enhanced by contingent responses by adults (e.g., Bates & Tomasello, 2001). In an evaluation of a new curriculum for babies and toddlers in South Australia, Winter (2003) reported that pedagogical strategies worked best when adults established a good relationship with the infant, toddler, and their family, based on ongoing interactions. Relationships enabled teachers to achieve an awareness of the impact of their own (teacher) practices on the learner. The curriculum document's title "We can make a difference" (Department of Education and Children's Services, 2005) clearly focuses on teachers examining their beliefs and the need to constantly review their practice. The draft Australian National Early Years Learning Framework (DEEWR, 2008) identified that teachers provide pedagogical leadership when they:

… create a culture of consideration for the ethical implications of relationships and pedagogies … draw on a number of knowledge bases about children, learning and curriculum … [and] articulate their practice and its intentions clearly to children, families, colleagues, professionals in other disciplines, and the broader community. (p. 11)

A doctoral study within the New Zealand context likewise emphasises the importance of a culture of professional enquiry and self-review through exploring teachers' practical philosophy; Grey (in preparation) has found that self-review enhances a culture of ethical relationships within the centre that among other things enabled the teaching team to view children's competence more clearly.

That learning and care are interrelated and central to infant and toddler practices was a key point made by Smith et al. (2000) in a literature review report to the Ministry of Education a decade ago. Neurobiological research since then, discussed in the previous chapter, supports Smith et al.'s conclusion. The suggestion that there may be critical periods or significant windows of opportunity for brain development during birth to three years (see, for example, Fox, Leavitt & Nelson, 2010; National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2007; Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000; Shore, 1997; Siegel, 1999; Siegel & Hartzell, 2003) is now establishing a consensus in the literature that stable, responsive, caring relationships are central to the future well-being and development of very young children. This is true for infants and toddlers regardless of contexts: home or out-of-home (see Chapter 3).

Several writers (e.g., Bardige, 2006; David, Goouch, Powell & Abbott, 2003; Honig, 2002; Lancaster, 2002; Løkken, 2006; Nyland, 2004; Rockel, 2010; White, 2009) have argued that infant and toddler pedagogy holds a unique place in education and can therefore be viewed differently to teaching and learning with older preschoolers. Beyond the unique semiotic communication styles that justify this claim, researchers (e.g., Gonzalez-Mena & Widmeyer-Eyer, 2009) have noted that infant and toddler pedagogy is different to that with older preschoolers because of the increased physical caregiving demands that this age group places on teachers (Chapman, 2007; Fleer & Linke, 1999) and heightened levels of intimacy it entails (Dalli & Kibble, 2010; White, 2009). Beyond the demands of the everyday tasks involved in the physical care and the emotional nurturing of infants, researchers and scholars have argued that an 'ethic' of care (Dahlberg, Moss & Pence, 2007; Dalli, 2006; Rockel, 2010) shifts pedagogy away from a didactic stance towards activities and developmentally appropriate practice (Ministry of Education, 1993) to a dialogic emphasis that places the teacher at the centre of the curriculum. It is at the interface where teachers of infants and toddlers engage in intimate acts of intersubjectivity that high quality pedagogy with under-two-year-olds occurs (Elliot, 2007; White, 2009).

4.2 Key concepts about quality pedagogy with under-two-year-olds

As an experienced practitioner with infants and toddlers in several contexts in Turkey, North America, and Canada, Elliot (2007) conducted detailed interviews with seven practitioners in infant and toddler centres in Canada as part of her doctoral studies. She concluded that teaching under-two-year-olds involves highly specialised, skilled pedagogy which can be clustered under the central notion of intersubjective interactions. Elliot argued that the developmental concepts of emotional security, exploration and enquiry as learning and identity formation are linked to the establishment of intersubjective relationships and these can be more fully understood by drawing upon knowledge from a range of disciplines. This connects to the ideas about translational research reviewed in Chapter 3.

4.2.1 Intersubjectivity and related constructs

Johannson (2004) described intersubjectivity in early childhood education as:

A pedagogical encounter with the child's life world… encountering the child's life world involves approaching and trying to understand the child's whole being. Bodily experiences and expressions, as well as ways of relating to others constitute the components of a child's very existence in the world, and are as such significant for learning. (Johannson, 2004, p. 11)

As a pedagogical strategy, intersubjectivity relies on a range of strategies implicated in interpersonal communication. Research in the last decade has used terms such as:

  • joint attention (Liszkowski, Carpenter, & Tomasello, 2007; Wright, 2007)
  • presence (Bagdi & Vacca, 2005; Goodfellow, 2002)
  • intimacy (Gerhardt, 2004; Goodman, 2008; Vincze, 2007)
  • attunement (Carpendale & Lewis, 2006; Guilar, 2006; Meltzoff & Moore, 1998; Parker Rees, 2007; Rolfe, Nyland & Morda, 2002; Rommetveit, 1998)
  • interactional synchrony (Gonzalez-Mena & Widmeyer Eyer, 2009)
  • ethical awareness (White & Nuttall, 2007)
  • sensitivity (Thomason & La Paro, 2009)
  • self awareness (Johansson, 2004)
  • keen observation (Kingston & Wright, 2008; Lancaster, 2002; Moll & Tomasello, 2007; Ødegaard, 2007; Podmore, 2006; Rolfe et al., 2002; White, 2009).

Within studies using these constructs, researchers have identified that teacher interactions that achieve intersubjectivity are likely to occur within relationships that exhibit: emotional engagement; alertness; reflective presence; respect; engagement in critical reflection; and dialogue (Goodfellow, 2002; Macfarlane, Noble & Cartmel, 2004; Parker-Rees, 2007). Goodfellow's (2008) use of the term 'presence' captures the idea that teacher interactions are concerned with physical as well as emotional presence (or attunement), active listening processes, and an ability to orient oneself "towards the nature of the professional-child relationship and the child's experience rather than focusing on techniques and strategies" (p. 18).

Different theoretical perspectives have been used in research which has argued the importance of intersubjectivity, including attachment theory (Gevers Deynoot-Schaub & Riksen-Walraven, 2008); cultural psychology with its emphasis on communicative exchange, meaning-making, development and learning as active constructing within social practices (Hobson, 2002; Lemke, 2007; Rogoff, 2003; Stetsenko, 2004; Wright, 2003); critical feminist perspectives examining teachers' practice as 'emotional labour' (Goodfellow, 2008; Leavitt, 1994; Manning-Morton, 2006); recent phenomenological 'experiential' perspectives that emphasise presence, attunement and empathy with a child's life world within a democratic pedagogy that involves dialogue with children and adults (Eriksen Ødegaard, 2006; Langford, 2010; Løkken, 2000; Rinaldi, 2001, 2006; Stephenson, 2009); and the dialogic study of toddler assessment by White (2009) as already discussed.

A related concept is the idea of a 'pedagogy of listening' which has emerged from the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education (e.g., Rinaldi, 2001). In a culture of listening, the key idea is that children's views are respected. For example, Rinaldi (cited in Dahlberg & Moss, 2005) explained "listening" as "welcoming and being open to differences, as recognising the importance of the point of view and interpretation" (p. 99).

Within the New Zealand context, another important concept is expressed in the term 'ako' (Tamati, 2005) which places the teacher and learner in a reciprocal learning relationship. White (2009) has further described intersubjectivity as an aesthetic act that requires adults to "linger lovingly" with infants and toddlers so that they can be appreciated as unique personalities.

Several studies (Dalli & Kibble, 2010; Rockel, 2003; Shearsby & Thawley, 2002; Theilheimer, 2006) have argued that a primary caregiver system and high ratios provide the optimum conditions for intersubjectivity to occur since in such conditions the teacher is more likely to take the time needed to 'know' the young child better (and the child to know the teacher) in order to promote learning. Others have suggested that intersubjectivity evolves out of meaningful relationships that are achieved through sensitive and attuned practice over time (Chapman, 2007; O'Malley, 2008; Tardos, 2007; Walker, 2008; White, 2009). There is much overlap in these ideas, despite the diverse theoretical influences. In all cases, intersubjectivity is overwhelmingly posited as a central tenet of quality pedagogy.

4.2.2 Infants and toddlers as active social partners: interactional synchrony in learning encounters

Research findings over several decades have supported an understanding of infants and toddlers as active and sophisticated participants in the social processes of learning and development, actively seeking emotionally satisfying and engaging relationships (Bremner & Fogel, 2004; Kaye, 1982; Mahler, Pine & Bergman, 1975; Stern, 1985). Current developmental research continues to provide empirical evidence demonstrating infants' and toddlers' propensity, desire, and ability to engage in satisfying communication and involvement with others. Cumulatively the research findings support the socio-cultural thesis that learning and development is a social practice (Fleer, 2010; Rogoff, 2003; Vygotsky, 1998; White, 2009), and that infants and toddlers therefore require a rich social environment (Tomasello, Savage-Rumbaugh & Kruger, 1993) that enables them to participate in an ongoing reciprocal engagement (Bennett, 2008; Trevarthen, 1998). The establishment of joint attention has been found to be implicated in the development of a range of human cognitive and social abilities including increases in communication and language (Liszkowski et al., 2007; Moll & Tomasello, 2007), cooperative activity (Warneken, Chen & Tomasello, 2006); and imitation (Tomasello et al., 1993).

In an attempt to understand more clearly the verbal and non-verbal interactions that take place between infants and adults, Jaffe, Beebe, Feldstein, Crown and Jasnow (2001) undertook a microanalysis of social interactions between four-month-old infants and their caregivers. The researchers wanted to measure the synchronicity, linkage and coordination of their interactions, which they described as in their monograph title as "rhythms of dialogue". The cognitive development and security of attachments of these infants were then tested at age 12 months. The results of their study showed a correlation between the nature of early interaction and subsequent cognition and attachment relationships. As Warner (2002) suggested, this finding is significant because it demonstrates that attuned interactions can indeed enhance learning potential from a very early age.

The link between positive caregiving and learning was evidenced in another study by Jaffee (2007), this time involving 1,720 three- to twenty-four-month-old at-risk infants who had been removed from their biological families because of extreme dysfunction. Following placement in new caregiving relationships, with selected and trained caregivers, Jaffee reported that higher language scores were recorded when the amount of cognitive stimulation increased; for those children for whom the amount of cognitive stimulation did not increase, lower than expected scores were reported. Jaffee argued that since child characteristics were not found to contribute to the nature of interactions they experienced, these findings are significant for caregiving practice. They suggest that it is the caregiving environment, and the nature of interactions that take place within it, that has the potential to improve or limit learning.

The idea that pedagogic practice exists in "a social world where individuals meet in interaction" (Bengtsson, 2002, cited in Johansson, 2004, p. 230) brings in the notion that pedagogy is a learning encounter that teachers create. In this view 'curriculum' is enacted in the space of children's embodied, everyday experiences, which occur in close relation and interrelation with others. Here ideas about intersubjectivity merge with the phenomenological notion of a person's 'lifeworld' being constituted by experience in the world. This makes learning the outcome of the experience of mutual engagement with the same object of attention. These new understandings of pedagogy offer a useful contrast to more traditional views of learning that are frequently based on developmental and maturational perspectives.

4.2.3 Secure, responsive relationships: the teacher as attachment figure

The establishment of consistent, secure, responsive and reciprocal relationships between infants, toddlers and their teachers is a strong theme in pedagogical literature about working with infants and toddlers (e.g., Gallagher & Mayer, 2008; Gevers Deynoot-Schaub & Riksen-Walraven, 2008; Honig, 2002; Klein & Feldman, 2007; Lee, 2006; Manning-Morton, 2006; Parker-Rees, 2007; Tardos, 2007). In their investigations of secure relationships, most researchers have traditionally drawn on attachment theory with other perspectives, like phenomenology, sometimes invoked as a way of looking more intently at individual children's lived experience, or lifeworld, within the group culture of an early childhood service (e.g., Dalli, 1999; Erikson Ødegaard, 2006; White, 2009). These authors identified that recognising that the very young child has preferences for whom to be with is central to shared meaning-making between teachers and infants or toddlers.

Definitions of attachment emphasise that it is an emotional bond that develops over time, and distinct from the notion of an instantaneous biologically-based process that is hypothesised to occur in mothers shortly after birth, during a hypothesised maternal sensitive period (Sluckin, Herbert and Sluckin, 1983). By contrast to the term 'bonding' which is defined mainly as something that happens in adults (Schaffer, 1994), attachment is defined as the gradual growth of a feeling of mutual love and emotional dependency between caregiver and child (Ainsworth & Bowlby, 1991). While earlier attachment research implied there was a need for a substitute maternal figure within an exclusive caregiver relationship in an early childhood service, more recent interpretations incorporate culturally bound practices that are inclusive of intimate, continuous and supportive relationships with others in the context of group care (O'Malley, 2008; Rogoff, 2003; Walker, 2008). Despite challenges over the last couple of decades from various theoretical and cultural positions that argue, for example, that attachment theory serves to perpetuate societal expectations of motherhood (e.g., Burman, 1994; Eyer, 1992; McCartney & Phillips, 1988; Singer, 1992) without acknowledging support for parenting from others in the community (e.g., Rockel, 2010; Sims, 2009), it is clearly evident that attachment theory maintains a legitimate place in research on development and learning for under-two-year-olds, particularly its notion that children use sensitive responsive adults as "a secure base from which to explore the world and as a haven for safety" (Ainsworth & Bowlby, 1991, p. 337). This place has been recently strengthened by the conclusions of two key meta-analyses (Ahnert, Pinquart, & Lamb, 2006; De Wolff & van IJzendoorn, 1997), which, having reviewed the findings of 40 and 66 investigations respectively, have confirmed that secure caregiver-child attachments are promoted by regular interactions with sensitive and responsive caregivers.

hnert et al's (2006) meta-analysis is also relevant to this study because its results clarify some of the conditions which facilitate attachment relationships between adults and infants and toddlers in out-of-home childcare settings, such as group size, adult:child ratio, and caregiver sensitivity. In other words, where children are in small groups, or where adult:child ratios are favourable, sensitive caregivers are able to monitor children's emotional needs and respond more readily than in larger group settings or where ratios of staff-to-children are less favourable. Also, within the studies included in the meta-analysis, secure attachments between children and caregivers in home-based early childhood settings were predicted by the same factors as secure attachments between children and home adults, that is, by the adult's responsiveness in a one-on-one context. In centre-based early childhood settings, on the other hand, the meta-analyses showed that the children's relationships with the caregivers "were predominantly associated with measures of the care providers' behaviour towards the group as a whole" (p. 673). Noting that infant-caregiver attachments in home-based early childhood settings had been shown to improve by caregiver participation in training programmes, but that no equivalent training had been identified for caregivers working in centre-based early childhood settings, Ahnert et al. suggested that research was needed that focused on the relationship between caregiver sensitivity and group dynamics.

A more recent study underpinned by an attachment theory perspective is also useful in further elucidating the dynamics involved in interactions between infants and toddlers and their caregivers in group-based early childhood settings. Conducted in the Netherlands by Gevers Deynoot-Schaub and Riksen-Walraven (2008), the study involved an analysis of the quality of interactions between 70 children, their childcare caregivers and three peers during structured play in their childcare centre at age 15 months and 23 months, and between the children and their primary caregiving parent at home. The key findings included that the quality of interaction with the centre caregivers at age 15 months, judged in terms of caregivers' supportive presence, and respect for the children's autonomy, was significantly poorer than that between the children and their parents. However, by 23 months this finding had changed so that the quality of caregiver-child interaction was no longer poorer and in some respects was better than that between parents and children. These findings applied even when children's caregivers had changed over the intervening period of the two observations, so that they could not be explained as a function of the caregivers becoming more familiar with the children. Additionally, at both age points, the children were observed to express more negativity towards their parents at home than towards their caregivers at the centre. These unexpected findings prompted the authors to suggest that, firstly it may be easier for caregivers to establish and maintain intersubjective relationships with older children, and secondly that since the second year of life is one of overall rapid development, it could be that the children became more oriented towards their peers, and hence less dependent on the adults around them, making them easier to manage in a group setting.

Gevers Deynoot-Schaub and Riksen-Walraven's (2008) finding of more negativity at home (replicating findings in earlier studies cited by the authors) led them to suggest further research into the differences between age groups. Since the children had been observed at home on days when they had not attended their childcare setting, an earlier hypothesis that home was the place for which children "saved" (p. 187) any distress "for expression with their primary attachment figures" (p. 187) could not be supported. From a pedagogical perspective the authors noted that the high level of teacher supportive presence that they had observed with 58 percent of the very youngest children indicated that very high quality care for young children is possible. However, the fact that 42 percent of 15-month olds received inadequate caregiver support also led them to question whether group care, under the conditions they observed, was the most appropriate for very young children. This question was especially significant for those of a difficult temperament which other studies had already established as being more at risk of lower quality care than peers with an 'easier' temperament (De Schipper, Tavecchio, Van Ijzendoorn, & Van Zeijl, 2004). The authors suggested two options for how the care of very young Dutch children in group situations could be improved: (i) decreasing the number of children per caregiver down to the 3 children per 1 adult ratio recommended by De Schipper, Riksen-Walraven and Geurts (2006) in their experimental study within the same Dutch context; and (ii) improving caregiver education so that it went beyond the current norms of secondary vocational training level that did not specifically prepare trainees for work with very young children.

4.2.4 Attachment relationships as curriculum

Research from an attachment theory perspective emphasises the notion of relationships-as-curriculum. Translating research into implications for practice, Honig (2002), for example, argued that "building secure attachments can be considered a prime goal in early childhood education" (p. xi) because secure attachments have been found to be related to long-term emotional well-being, social competence, and emotional regulation. Conversely, poor attachments have a long-term negative impact on learning and development as well as on emotional regulation (see also Gloeckler, 2006).

Lee's (2006) qualitative study of the relationship-building process for three infant-teacher dyads in a university-affiliated early childhood education setting in New York City, provides further evidence of the need to promote caregiving adults' understanding of the importance of attachment relationships with infants and toddlers. Using observations, video recordings, and interviews with teachers, Lee collected rich descriptions of various phases of the relationship development process between the teachers and infants in naturalistic settings. Lee's analysis revealed that interactive and relationship-oriented behaviours occurred during the consolidated relationship phase and included: following the child's point (or focus) of attention; use of sensitive judgments about involvement; emotional connection and investment in the relationship; and mutual enjoyment and delight. Lee concluded that early childhood education professional preparation programmes should promote the study of relationships and emotions and "develop practicum courses that make theory and practice come together" (p. 148).

Within the New Zealand context, the value of responsive attachment relationships as the basis for infant and toddler pedagogy was explored in at least three recent projects funded within the Centres of Innovation (COI) action research programme. For example, Bary et al. (2008) used a case study approach to show how the centre developed an Attachment Based Learning (ABL) programme for infants and toddlers which enabled better relationships between teachers, children and families. Similarly, the A'oga Fa'a Samoa COI, examined how the 'key teacher system' through which children remained with the same teacher throughout their time at the early childhood centre, worked in relation to the centre's focus on enhancing the use of Samoan language, the children's identity within the programme, and particularly to ease the transition to school (Podmore, with Wendt Samu & the A'oga Fa'a Samoa, 2006). In the Childspace Ngaio Infant and Toddler Centre COI, the teachers' focus on peaceful-caregiving - as curriculum (Dalli et al., 2009) highlighted the centrality of the teachers' sensitive attunement to children's cues, as primary caregivers, in creating peaceful and responsive relationships with children and their parents. In all three studies, the presence and actions of sensitive, attuned adults was the result of planned actions on the part of teachers working within an action research model: Their results demonstrate the practical significance of adopting attachment theory concepts in daily practice, and the importance of reflective action in implementing innovative pedagogy.

4.2.5 Sensitive responsiveness, joint attention and engagement

Working within a more overtly socio-cultural theoretical framework, but with concepts that also derive in part from attachment theory, Smith (1999) argued that the building of close and nurturing relationships, shared meanings and experiences during joint attention sequences are pre-requisites for the establishment of intersubjectivity, or a meeting of minds. Similarly, Gallagher and Mayer (2008) have suggested that pedagogical interactions with infants and toddlers need to be gentle, responsive and individualised, involving sensitive and timely adjustments, as well as responses that are contingent on children's verbal and non-verbal cues, temperament, cultural background, interests and current 'zone of proximal development' - Vygotsky's (1998) famous ZPD. Adult positive affect, communicated for example via body language and tone of voice, are also understood to play an important role in establishing intersubjectivity and secure relationships.

Australian Berenice Nyland (2004) likewise emphasised that joint attention episodes are a key 'state', or learning format, for young children and play a significant role in early language development, including the acquisition of both lexical and conversational skills. This view is also promoted in Tomasello's influential research in which he and his colleagues continue to demonstrate the ways very young children learn in concert with others (Bates & Tomasello, 2001; Call & Tomasello, 1999; Hare, Call, & Tomasello, 2006; Moll & Tomasello, 2007; Tomasello, 1997, 2001; Tomasello, Akhtar, Dodsen, & Rekau, 1997; Tomasello, Carpenter, & Liszkowski, 2007; Tomasello et al., 1993). Tomasello's studies provide compelling evidence of infants' propensity for sophisticated, engaged and satisfying communication. In one investigation of infant pointing, Tomasello et al. (2007) highlighted the fact that:

…when an adult reacted uninterestedly, infants ceased pointing for him. Our interpretation is that infants understood E's [the experimenters] attitude about the reference is different from their own, that is, as not wanting to share their interest in the referent. (p. 19)

These findings establish that adults' sensitive engagement has clear significance for infants and toddlers, as they seek to share commonality but also to establish and maintain the fact that their interests are sometimes different to those of their adult caregivers (see also Stephenson, 2009; White, 2009). Based on their findings Tomasello and his colleagues have suggested that extended periods of joint attention where adults focus on non-verbal (e.g., pointing), as well as verbal communication with infants during routines, are likely to promote earlier language development and greater social as well as cognitive interest. Additionally, joint attention was found to be more successful when it was motivated by a child's point of interest rather than the teachers' (Liszkowski et al., 2007). This suggested that infants' intentional communication already resembled adult dialogue and therefore comprised a "full communicative act" (p. 19; see also Southgate et al., 2007).

4.2.6 Interactions as meetings of body and mind

The recognition from neurobiological research (see Chapter 3) of the interrelated nature of the brain and the body, as well as the importance of a social partner, is increasingly leading researchers Meltzoff, Kuhl, Movellan & Sejnowski, 2009; White, 2009) to focus on children's learning with their body as an existentialist phenomenon of synchronicity. For example, in White's study, the innovative use of a video camera incorporated into a hat worn by a toddler vividly showed how the toddler's experience at an early childhood centre involved constant movement with her whole body in space, and a constant seeking out of social partners. This point is also highlighted in Løkken's (2000) careful observations of toddlers in Norwegian early childhood education settings. As Løkken (2006) put it, for the very young child, the modus operandi is the body. White (2009) points out that it is imperative that the teacher interprets such acts and responds in the most appropriate manner.

Focusing in a different way on very young children's physicality as an integral part of teachers' interactions with very young children, Manning-Morton (2006) drew on neurological research that supports the idea of "physical care as a key aspect of professional practice" (p. 45). She noted that for participants in a process-oriented professional development project based in London, called 'Key Times', "the manner in which babies and young children are held and touched is internalised and becomes part of their sense of self" (p. 45). Manning-Morton (2006) argued for the theoretical bringing together of mind, body and emotion as an integration of the human organism and suggested that the theoretical 'boundary-crossing' currently happening among disciplines such as neuroscience, psychoanalysis and developmental psychology (or translational research, to use Cicchetti and Gunnar's (2009) term) may offer a more useful professional knowledge base for future early childhood practitioners since neither the mind nor the body, nor cognition and emotion, are discreet parts of the human learner. Manning-Morton's reflections call for an awareness that pedagogy with infants and toddlers is not just about a 'meeting of minds' but a meeting of bodies and minds.

Australian Joy Goodfellow (2008) also noted the particular characteristics of effective pedagogy with infants and toddlers as involving subtle and sophisticated strategies, including emotional labour. She argued that more detailed work was needed with video and text that can be viewed and re-viewed in order to illuminate its complexity and the sophisticated teaching role that effective work with infants and toddlers entails.

4.2.7 Infant-toddler agency: exploration, enquiry and play

Research from within a socio-cultural research framework emphasises the notion of infant-toddler agency. This refers to the ability of the young child to exercise effect on the world through the expression of mind and body in reciprocal acts; agency makes intersubjectivity possible (e.g., Eriksen Ødegaard, 2006; White, 2009). Agency is displayed by infants and toddlers when they use gesture and voice to communicate with others in the knowledge that they can have an impact on their environment and other people, and vice versa. In the context of the New Zealand curriculum, pedagogy that promotes agency is considered consistent with socio-cultural notions of teaching and learning that are based on reciprocity and relationship (Rockel, 2010).

The physical movement that allows an infant to explore can be understood as an unfolding process for gross motor development (e.g., Resources for Infant Educarers, 2006) that then becomes a catalyst for learning through exploration in a holistic sense. Rockel (2010) illustrates the mutuality of such an experience for teacher and infant in the context of an early childhood setting in New Zealand:

Jenny lay on her back using her legs, toes, fingers and arms - the whole concentration of her body on the purpose of manipulating a large ball. She glanced across to show me her satisfaction and pleasure in doing this. I returned her smile with a smile and a nod acknowledging that I recognised her endeavours but not distracting her from her own goals [Teacher's diary]. (p. 101)

Infants use their agency to explore with their body in order to further their learning. Rockel (2010) states that infants "use all resources at their command: nuances of sound, volume and pitch; ranging from the subtlest of expressions to the dramatic expression involving the whole body of waving arms and legs or arching the back" (p. 101). The responsiveness to such communication signals indicates how the teacher and child can move forward in their understanding of one another.

Pikler's ideas published in the English translation (Pikler, 1994, cited in RIE, 2006) support this claim, suggesting that through free movement an infant is learning how to learn:

While learning during motor development to turn on the belly, to roll, creep, sit, stand and walk, he is not only learning those movements, but also how to learn.He learns to do something on his own, to be interested, to try out, to experiment. He learns to overcome difficulties. He comes to know the joy and satisfaction which is derived from this success, the result of his patience and persistence. (p. xxiv)

Seen in this light, as Piaget (1950) also argued, infants have an immediate capacity to learn, and a teacher's pedagogical task is to understand what this learning involves and respond accordingly. The interactive connection between brain and movement has been confirmed by neurobiological studies (e.g., Thelen & Smith, 1996) creating the need for pedagogical practice to recognise it also and incorporate the insight in practice (Gonzalez-Mena & Widmeyer Eyer, 2009).

A study which explored the interactive influence between brain and movement involved a comparison between the interactions of 18 12-month-old children with a human adult, and those of three young chimpanzees, across four cooperative activities, problem solving and social games (Warneken et al., 2006). A key component of the experiment was adult withdrawal from interaction at a given point. All children sought at least once, with a "communicative attempt" (p. 640) to re-engage the adult at each withdrawal. The researchers suggested that this could be interpreted as children attempting to "reinstate a shared goal" (p. 640). By comparison, the chimpanzees made no attempts, ever, to re-engage the adult, leading to the interpretation that "these results are … evidence for a uniquely human form of cooperative activity involving shared intentionality that emerges in the second year of life" (p. 640).

The researchers suggested that this type of cooperative activity is what enables both cultural transmission and cultural creation: "the achievement of results in interaction with others that could not be achieved alone" (p. 661). The findings of this study point to 'uniquely human' possibilities and developments that arise out of young children's intersubjective drive to seek out expert partners for cooperative social activity. As Warneken et al. (2006) further noted, the interconnection with shared intentionality also assists the developing linguistic expertise:

… cooperative interactions with shared intentionality require the formation of a joint goal: both participants are aimed at the goal and they also want the other to be aimed at the goal along with them. They also require the forming of joint intentions, at some point translated into coordinated action, to achieve the goal. (pp. 660-661)

These findings are pertinent to this review especially in light of Nyland's (2004) evidence in an Australian study that teachers seldom recognised the communicative agency of very young children and, as a result, underestimated their potential for learning. Nyland argued that the teachers were influenced by views of the infant as needy, instead of seeing them as protagonists in their own development. Similarly, White (2009) discovered that in a New Zealand education and care context the teacher had limiting views of the toddler, and privileged verbal language over the range of body movements and gestures that a toddler deployed for intersubjective purposes. When these acts were subsequently discussed with the toddler's teacher, greater understanding and appreciation of the toddler ensued. This, in turn, influenced the nature of the curriculum offered at the centre so that instead of promoting 'activities' that were typically suited to older children, the teacher started to recognise the significance of free-form movements, intimate overtures and carnivalesque acts for learning (see also the work Brennan, 2005). Furthermore, the teacher realised the importance of dialogue with parents and toddlers themselves in planning a curriculum that would facilitate exploration. By appreciating more, the teacher was then able to expect more. In this way, the efforts of the teachers were rewarded through the development of more meaningful encounters with agentic toddlers.

The agentic body: infants' and toddlers' physicality

The importance of working with the 'agentic body' as central to pedagogy has been argued also in New Zealand by Sansom (2007). Introducing the notion of the body as curriculum, she draws attention to the need that teachers acquire the sensitivity to recognise agency in a child's physicality. Using Pinar's (2004) notion of currere to signify that curriculum is a living, breathing curriculum of humanity, Sansom argued thata different perception of curriculum can be provided by addressing what it means to include the whole self (the body and mind) and, in so doing, re-conceptualise a pedagogy of the body. Through this reconceptualisation there is the possibility of recovering the myriad ways in which young children learn and are present in the world. This would also reflect the underlying principles of holistic development (kotahitanga) and empowerment (whakamana) found in the preliminary intentions of New Zealand's early childhood curriculum Te Whāriki (Ministry of Education, 1996). Sansom argued that when currere is adopted as an understanding in curriculum it enables teachers to pay attention to the young child's holistic presence for the purpose of becoming more attentive to their everyday experiences. By being attentive to children's bodily perspective, teachers can recognise children as "corporeal, intentional, active, feeling, reflective" beings (Leavitt & Power, 1997, p. 71), thereby validating and empowering the body and the child. This is a new area of research area in which there is a growing focus on movement and gesture in infant and toddler experience (Capone & McGregor, 2005; Carpenter, Nagell, & Tomasello, 1998; Crais, Watson, & Baranek, 2009; Gillen, 2000; Hoiting, 2007; Kendon, 2004; McNeill, 2005; Roth, 2001; Southgate, van Maanen, & Csibra, 2007; White, 2009; Winter, 2004).

4.2.8 Pedagogy and play

Research on play is beginning to discover infants and toddlers as fascinating subjects. For example, Kowalski, Wyver, Masselos and De Lacey (2004) investigated pretend/symbolic play across 12 early childhood centres in Sydney. Starting with the hypothesis that this type of play is beneficial for cognitive development, a key finding from their study was that, for toddlers, symbolic play occurred more frequently and at more complex levels in mixed age settings. Furthermore, the provision of play materials was found to assist repetition and increase symbolic play.

Using a completely different approach of studying in-depth, an 18 month-old toddler's "play" activity in a group-based early childhood setting, White (2009) found that the toddler's symbolic play was based on careful observation of older peers/adults and their engagement with everyday objects. Such play was then artfully employed as an intersubjective strategy to facilitate communication with adults, rather than as a lone cognitive act. White therefore argued that it is often in not knowing - and instead trying to aesthetically understand, in dialogue with toddlers and their families - that the greatest insights about toddlers' learning in play are discovered.

In a separate study of play and learning for under-three-year-olds conducted as part of an international study of play, White, Ellis, Stover, Rockel and Toso (2009), invited parents and teachers to discuss their interpretations of video-ed play experiences of six 15 to 22-month-old toddlers in a range of New Zealand early childhood education contexts, including a Samoan language nest and Māori immersion settings. The video data showed toddler play to be characterised by engagement with artefacts, activities and the environment, as well as observations of adults and peers followed (or preceded) by mimicking and repetition, and movement across space. Discussing their role in the toddlers' play, teachers described it as facilitative, as providing resources and interactions that responded to their understandings of the toddlers' interest and engagement with "people, places and things". At times, the teachers chose not to intervene in play situations in the belief that the toddlers were exploring independently, thus trusting the toddlers to be agents of their own learning, with sensitive support that included passive engagement and observation as well as active intervention, modeling and scaffolding. The authors concluded that regardless of the pedagogical strategy employed, both the teachers and the toddlers displayed an intentionality that afforded a high degree of agency to the toddler. This finding suggests that pedagogy of this nature involves a repertoire of approaches rather than a specific technique, and that teachers need to select appropriate pedagogical strategies according to their intimate knowledge of the learner (Stover, White, Rockel, & Toso, in press).

These New Zealand findings contrast markedly with those reported about the play activities of toddlers by teachers and parents in countries such as Australia and America who participated in the play study (Fleer & Pramling-Samuelsson, 2009). In these contexts, pedagogical strategies during play encounters with toddlers emphasised provocation and the strategic promotion of scientific concepts. Pedagogical strategies were therefore more directive and focused, based on teacher observations of children at play and aligned to traditional theories rather than the socio-cultural orientations evident in the New Zealand practice. It is interesting to note that the country most closely aligned to New Zealand pedagogy, Sweden, shares with New Zealand a national curriculum framework based on similar values (albeit using a terminology of democratic outcomes for children in Swedish society).

Peer play as a pedagogical encounter

Løkken (2006) has described the playful style of toddlers as joyful and corporeal and beyond the grasp of teacher knowing but instead, located in the peer culture. Taking a slightly different angle but also referring to the fact that play is often seen as outside of the teacher's pedagogical domain, Wood (2007) has commented that play is often "marginalized in pedagogical discussions with adult-directed activity taking precedence" (p. 307). However, as White (2009) has argued, infant and toddler play does represent another intersubjective encounter where the teacher's contribution is essential since under-two-year-olds require support to learn specific genres of play in a group setting (White, 2009).

Similar arguments were made by Fabes, Hanish and Martin (2003) who investigated the effects of peers on childcare adjustment. However, having explored peer conflict between peers in infancy and toddler age through recording uninterrupted activity and exploration with peers across the 8 to 22 month age range, Licht, Simoni and Perrig-Chiello's (2008) demonstrated that conflict between peers was consistently motivated by the need to explore, not possess. They found that conflict was only evident when activities were interrupted and exploration thwarted. These findings put a different light on earlier investigations of toddler conflict which tended to suggest that negative physical encounter is inevitable for children of this age group.

Despite the prevalence of peer activity in early childhood education contexts, there are few investigations of the pedagogical role of the teacher in this area of under-two-year-olds' intersubjective experience. The work of Løkken and others (e.g., Dalli, 1999), however, suggests that further investigation is warranted since it is evident that there is much yet to understand about infants' and toddlers' learning in these group contexts. This is clearly exemplified by the findings of the COI study at Greerton Infant Toddler Centre (Greerton Early Childhood Centre, 2010; Sands & Lichtwark, 2007) which had children's questions at the heart of the investigation. This study included the notion of teaching children to ask questions in relation to domains of knowledge. The teachers focused on children's indications of "question asking" and "question exploring" by generating working theories about the body and sign languages that the pre-verbal infants and toddlers used to express their curiosity and their developing understandings about the world. Teachers reported that as a result of their investigation they were able to develop a clearer consensus about the nature of pedagogy offered to infants and toddlers (Sands & Lichtwark, 2007). They noted:

Infant and toddler settings must be places of intrigue, places of high expectation where there is a willingness to get involved in deep investigations, where children and teachers drive the learning as passionate learners finding out together. (p.7)

These findings are also in tune with those reported by Parker-Rees (2007) in his literature review of the role of imitation in the early stages of social interaction. Parker-Rees explained that babies are social well before they are able to construct an identity of their own and obtain valuable information about the culture from the difference between what they do and how familiar adults respond. He argued that adults act as social mirrors, and that children adapt as part of a creative process; he expressed concern that understandings of pedagogy remain dominated by a rather narrow, systemiSing approach to the profiling of individual intellectual abilities. According to Parker-Rees, this limits the extent to which enjoyable, ongoing interactions and relationships can develop in "busy" early childhood education settings. He lists a number of suggestions about how teachers can be supported in their awareness and understanding of babies' propensity for "full-on" creative engagement with others.

4.2.9 Centre-home partnerships: minimising discontinuities

Taking a different tack to arguing that children are competent active agents of their own development, Raban (2001) argued for a curriculum that is informed by strong family and community partnerships. She challenged the view of 'readiness' or needing to wait for children to show an interest in, for example, literacy, numeracy, or musical activity before introducing them to these culturally-valued knowledges. In recognising the significance of early experiences she explained how experience modified the structure of the brain and the complexities of the linkages necessary for later learning. Raban's focus was on a curriculum that builds further learning to ensure that discontinuities between home, preschool and school are minimised for most vulnerable groups of children.

The significance of centre-home partnerships is evident in a year-long study of music experiences for children aged 17 to 20 months (Suthers, 2004). The study concluded that participation and commitment by staff were crucial to the effectiveness of the curriculum. However, as a result of programme demands, the toddlers were only offered music sporadically; Suthers argued that these toddlers missed out on important opportunities for self expression, individualised responses and sociable interactions as well as development of cognitive/physical/social/language and music skills. This is a significant argument given that musicality is present in infants at birth and is related to the skills implicated in responsive and intersubjective interactions (Trevarthen, 1998). Clearly, the more recent literature reported in this study signals a shift in thinking about infants and toddlers as thinking, feeling and highly competent people who learn in metacognitive ways within and beyond the early childhood education context.

In summary, this section has presented research and scholarly articles arguing that pedagogy with under-two-years-olds is realised in the establishment of intersubjectivity between children and their caregivers who are present, supportive and sensitive. This argument emerges from research which by and large has been influenced by understandings from attachment theory, in particular the view that teachers' or caregiving adults' responsive interactions with very young children are crucial for establishing relationships that promote the overall well-being of the corporeal and social under-two-year-old.

4.3 Effective teacher practices: Presence and attunement

In this section the focus is on literature that deals with how optimum learning can be achieved through effective pedagogical practices.

4.3.1 Continuity of caregiver / primary caregivers

Continuity of caregiver means that infants and toddlers remain with the same teacher during a significant part, if not at all, of their first years in a programme (Hegde & Cassidy, 2004). In the United States, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC, 1991) recommends that "every attempt is made to have continuity of adults who work with children, particularly infants and toddlers" (NAEYC, 1991, p. 40). Nonetheless, this is very rarely practised in the United States (Cryer, Hurwitz, & Wolery, 2001).

The current professional recommendation of continuity of caregivers for infants and toddlers is consistent with research cited above about interactional synchrony as well as the view from attachment theory that attachment relationships, and security between a child and a teacher, may positively relate to other areas of development, such as socio-emotional development, cognitive development, and language development (Eric Digest, 2003; Hegde & Cassidy, 2004). Various benefits of continuity of caregiver have been reported including: overcoming emotional problems (Chirichello & Chirichello, 2001); alleviation of anxiety (Hanson, 1995); and more self-confidence (Groves, 2000).

Theilheimer (2006) considers continuity of caregiver to be a necessary component of a high-quality childcare setting. She has advocated a primary caregiving system as a way of establishing an environment in which meaningful and lasting relationships can develop, not only between caregivers and children but also between caregivers and families. She argues that as the family and primary caregiver get to know each other better, they build the relationship that will help the family and the child separate from each other when it is time for the child to stay alone at the centre. Theilheimer argued that children are more likely to accept a new place or person when they sense that it meets with the approval of a loved one.

Theilheimer (2006) noted that having a primary caregiver system means that the caregiver expects to adapt to the child instead of making the child adapt to the centre. In a primary caregiving system the caregiver can take time to find out how a child likes to fall asleep, prefers to be fed, and reacts to touches, smells, and sounds. As babies quickly learn to anticipate their interactions with the people they know best, they are able to feel secure and understood, and soon become able to move beyond the primary caregiver to investigate the world.

By contrast, high caregiver turnover, or abrupt changes in caregivers, have been found to have a disruptive impact (Howes & Ritchie, 2002; Raikes, 1993) on attachment relationships between children and caregivers. A well-cited work by Howes and Hamilton (1992, cited in Cryer et al., 2005) found that with multiple changes in caregivers, toddlers were likely to try and re-create the quality of the relationship with a previous caregiver rather than respond to the behaviour of the new caregiver; they also reported a relationship between the number of caregiver losses experienced by a preschooler and the likelihood that the child will be socially withdrawn or aggressive with peers (Howes & Hamilton, 1993). Furthermore, transitions from familiar to new classrooms of teachers were found to be associated with increased distress in infants and toddlers (Howes & Hamilton, 1993, cited in Cryer et al., 2005).

In a more recent study, Howes and Ritchie (2002) suggested that prolonged separations from familiar caregivers, and repeated detaching and re-attaching to people who matter, are emotionally distressing and can lead to enduring problems. In their own study of 38 infants/toddlers (aged 8 to 26 months) who transitioned from familiar to new classrooms without continuity of caregiver, Cryer et al. (2005) identified some specific factors that may mediate children's experience in making transitions. For example, they found that not all children showed increased distress on moving to a new class (about 60 percent of the children showed no distress), and when there were heightened levels of distress, this diminished by the end of a few weeks. They concluded that: (i) children can adapt to a new environment over a month's time; and (ii) there are individual differences within children, as well as environmental ones that are likely to influence children's distress levels during transitions. The differences related to two variables: (i) the age of the child; and (ii) the quality of the early childhood provision within their pre-transition classroom.

With regards to age, younger children showed more distress than older children, leading Cryer et al. (2005) to suggest that the ages of children should be considered when deciding whether to move them to a new class or teacher. Cryer et al. also proposed that the age of the child might act as a proxy for other more specific variables that affect children's distress at transition. For example, older children might have experienced more changes in caregiver due to teacher turnover, and may have adjusted to separating from caregivers. They suggested that future research could provide practitioners with more exact information on optimal ages or developmental stages to consider when moving children, or it might provide clarification on why age appears to be important.

In terms of the quality of the children's pre-transition classroom, Cryer et al. (2005) found that a higher global quality score on the ITERS was associated with less child distress in the initial classroom compared to children in lower quality classrooms. After the transition, however, the children in higher quality pre-transition classrooms were more likely to show increased levels of distress irrespective of the ITERS quality of their new classroom. They argued that if it is assumed that children's levels of distress increase when moved to a new class because they are leaving a teacher to whom they have become attached, then this finding implies that on average, children are more likely to become attached in higher rather than lower quality classrooms. They noted also that it is still unknown whether the heightened levels of distress are harmful, or have a long-term negative effect on children's development (FPG Child Development Institute, 2005).

Continuity in the caregiver-child relationship has many advantages for children, parents and teachers: It builds up more secure and trusting relationships between children, parents and teachers, and the familiarity that it creates makes caring for some children easier (Hegde & Cassidy, 2004). However, parents interviewed by Hegde and Cassidy reported that not having an opportunity to know different caregivers was a potential disadvantage, and some felt threatened by the primary caregiver's relationship with their baby, worrying that it might supplant their own place, a finding reported also in the Childspace Ngaio Infants and Toddlers COI project (Dalli et al., 2009). Recognising the different perspectives, researchers have suggested that continuity of care should be an option rather than a necessary part of each child's and family's experience (Chirichello & Chirichello, 2001). In other words, they point out that no parent or child should be forced to enter into a long-term relationship, and parents should be given the option to voice any concerns they have regarding this practice, and seek modifications (Hegde & Cassidy). Hegde and Cassidy also suggested that it will be highly beneficial if future research investigated whether some teachers and children would benefit more than others from continuity of care.

As a pedagogical practice, continuity of caregiver, such as through primary caregiving, or a key worker scheme, faces many challenges (Hegde & Cassidy, 2004). In the US, approximately 30 percent of the teachers are estimated to leave the early childhood teaching profession annually (US Department of Education, 1997) making continuity of care nearly impossible. Additionally, staff absences on sick or annual leave, and times at the beginning and end of the day when not every staff member (Miller, 1995) mean that there are times when a child's caregiver may not be present at the same time as the child. Proponents of continuity of care have suggested various strategies to counter these difficulties, such as ensuring there are secondary caregivers (Kibble, Cairns-Cowan, McBride, Corrigan, & Dalli, 2010) for each child, avoiding taking new children only in the youngest group, or overlapping staff so that if a staff member leaves, children are never left with a stranger (Rolfe, 2003). Cryer, Hurwitz & Woley (2003) have pointed out that keeping children with the same teacher is more likely when multi-age groups are used, because having a birthday or reaching developmental milestones does not force a change in class. However, continuity of caregiver can be used also with same-age groupings. For example, teachers and their children may use the same physical space through their years together or they may move from one classroom to another. In settings with multiple teachers, all teachers and children might move together (e.g., Podmore et al, 2006) while in another setting, a subgroup of children might move with only one of the teachers.

Explaining the implementation of their primary caregiving system with infants and toddlers, the Ngaio Childspace Infants and Toddlers COI argued that continuity of care through a primary caregiving system required a team approach that all staff took on board so that it was able to function at the three different levels of (i) interactions between children and teachers; (ii) a pedagogical system that structured and supported the teachers' work (e.g., through the nomination of a secondary caregiver for each children; agreement to work to the children's rhythms not to the clock); and (iii) responsive relationships between teachers, children and parents (Dalli & Kibble, 2010).

Theilheimer (2006) suggested that programmes can schedule caregivers' hours such that all the people known to a child won't be absent at the same time. Additionally, she advocates that each time a new caregiver steps in, this should be explained to the child to acknowledge the relationship between child and primary caregiver and to respect the child's ability to understand that relationship.

Rolfe (2003) adds the suggestion of gradual transition processes that are long enough to allow the young child to become familiar with the new childcare environment before a separation from the attachment figure occurs. This means that children can visit their new setting and teacher before moving between age-groupings within the same centre, or their new teacher can visit them a few times so that they can get to know each other. Hegde and Cassidy (2004) noted that parents could be asked to stay with their child for extended periods of time and children time in the new classroom can be gradually increased to make the transition smoother.

In sum, the pedagogical practice of continuity of caregivers is reported in research as a desirable strategy with the potential of significant benefits for maintaining synchronous and attuned relationships between children and their caregivers. At the same time, debate continues about the practicalities of its implementation.

4.3.2 Responsive interaction and attunement during routines

Within the New Zealand context, the search for practices that would result in continuity in relationships and the type of attunement and intersubjective relationships discussed earlier have led many practitioners to explore the ideas of Dr. Emmi Pikler, a Hungarian paediatrician and reformer of caregiving practices in an orphanage in Budapest, and her student, Magda Gerber, founder of the Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) approach in the United States. Gerber's (1979, cited in Hammond, 2009) approach to joint attention is that nurturing moments in care create a meaningful context for adult and child interactions. These are times when adults handle infants gently (or otherwise), informing the children of the caregiver's attitude toward them. Hammond (2009) explains:

The gentleness or roughness with which we lift, carry, and manipulate their bodies determines how willing they are to open themselves to us, and to the world, because we represent their world in the beginning, and we are their primary link to the rest of it. How human culture is first conveyed to infants is quite literally in our hands. (p. 11)

Gerber and Pikler studied infants and toddlers over many years and believed that the prime opportunity to engage in close interactions with very young children was during care routines such as mealtimes, nappy-changing and preparation for sleep, a view argued also by several writers in the New Zealand early childhood context (e.g., Dalli et al., 2009; Deans & Bary, 2008; Freeman, 2008; Rockel & Peal, 2008). These intimate moments, Gerber argued, create an opportunity for joint attention interactions in which shared meanings can develop through the attunement necessary for cooperative action (e.g., in feeding an infant on one's lap, changing a nappy) assisted by conversation (Dalli & Kibble, 2010). Within this perspective, the full attention offered during care routines is balanced with the notion of play as the domain of the child (Gonzalez-Mena & Widmeyer-Eyer, 2009), and with the belief that infants as learners require opportunities to make their own discoveries while the caregiver remains fully available nearby, without directing the action (Hammond, 2009).

Teachers at Childspace Ngaio Infants and Toddler Centre in Wellington explored the potential of Pikler's and Gerber's approach to enhance joint attention by focusing on their use of primary caregiving (Dalli et al., 2009) as part of their peaceful-caregiving-as-curriculum pedagogy. By documenting their interactions with very young children through video recordings of care moments, and analysing their interactive strategies during those times, the teachers were able to identify the specific behaviours they used to achieve intersubjective interactions with pre-verbal under-two-year-olds in their group setting. The behaviours were attuned to children's bodily, vocal and paralinguistic communication cues and recurred in an interaction pattern with three components: (i) an invitation by a teacher; (ii) followed with a suggestion; and (iii) concluding with an engagement in an activity or joint attention sequence in which the teacher and child cooperate in achieving a shared goal. The teachers labelled the pattern "being responsive with our ISE" with ISE being an acronym for the three components of the pattern - invite, suggest, engage - as well as a mnemonic homonym for eyes, on which the teachers depended for the intent observations that enabled their attunement (Dalli & Kibble, 2010).

Both within the New Zealand context (Stuart with Aitken, Gould, & Meade, 2008) and the Australian one (Brannock, 2004) studies have highlighted that the ability to work with infants and toddlers, including establishing and maintaining intersubjectivity during routines, is not one that can be taken for granted. For example, evaluating local assessment practice Stuart et al. reported that teachers of under-two-year-olds commented on the difficulty of reporting moments of shared understanding with children of this age (see also Blaiklock, 2008; Cooper, 2009; Education Review Office, 2007). Similarly, Brannock reported incongruence between teacher beliefs about how toddlers learn and teacher practices during routine situations speculated that the incongruence could arise out of an inability to articulate how children learn.

But challenges in generating shared meaning between teachers and very young children also arise from the environmental conditions in which teachers work. White's (2009) study has demonstrated the futility of simply knowing about the need to establish intersubjectivity and signals that teachers need to work in conditions that are conducive to full attunement. Routines, rosters and other imposed systems act to disrupt the relational intimacy necessary to achieve high levels of mutual understanding and appreciation. Similarly, attitudes, ideologies (e.g., stereotypical views of toddler capabilities that limit or support what the teacher can see or hear) and whether the prevailing mindset embraces degrees of uncertainty, contingency or provisionality (see also Dahlberg & Moss, 2005), all influence whether the subtle messages (and genres of communication) offered by very young children can be picked up. As a teacher in Elliot's (2007) study explained:

So much care is nonverbal. Attachment is maybe not demonstrated through language all the time. They are not saying "I love you," but it is about a baby who rolls over to the other side of the room and then quickly glances back at you. And you have in that glance, you are completely connected to them and they are completely connected to you. Then they move on and they go somewhere else. Or, just a glance, or a smile, or a quick touch. It may not be a huge moment. It is a huge moment, but it is not a demonstrated, overt moment. (p. 85)

Research of this kind points to the interconnected nature of environmental conditions and teacher action. It suggests that the achievement of attuned teacher-child relationships requires a wholistic pedagogical approach aimed at the teacher in context (see also section 4.4).

4.3.3 Autonomy with connectedness

Thomason and La Paro (2009) reported on research carried out as part of the preliminary validation of the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) (Pianta, La Paro & Harme, 2008) measure of process quality which focused on optimum teacher-child interactions in toddler settings and up to grade 3. In seeking to develop a refined construct of quality teacher-child interaction for toddlers that respected the toddler's need for "autonomy with connectedness" (p. 285), the developers of the CLASS identified the following key dimensions of teacher-child interaction that had not been reflected in earlier measures: positive climate; negative climate; teacher sensitivity; regard for child perspective; behaviour guidance; and language modeling.

These dimensions highlight the multi-faceted challenge for teachers to be attuned to infants' desires in order to support their sense of agency and enquiry. They also reflect the fact that teacher actions are affected by, and affect the context in which they work. This reiterates the point argued in the preceding section.

4.3.4 Practices with under- and over- one-year-olds

A literature review (Stephen, Dunlop, & Trevarthen, 2003) commissioned by the Scottish Executive on the development of under-three-year-olds and compiled with a view to highlighting implications for out-of-home care, distinguished between suggested practices with infants under one year of age, and toddlers over one year. Stephen et al. (2003) stated that for under-one-year-olds, out of home provision requires:

  • consistent caregiving by one adult or a very small number of adults able to form a warm relationship with the child and to respond sensitively to the infant's changing needs and preferences and developing pride in achievement
  • minimising staff turnover and changes of carers
  • a focus on responding to infants as individuals with their own needs
  • communication about the changing ways and temperaments of babies with parents who know their own child, the carer and routines of the care environment well. (p. 5)

Turning their attention to toddlers (in their second year of life), the authors proposed that toddlers need caring environments that offer:

  • opportunities to extend knowledge and understanding through intimate, consistent and confident relationships
  • structured adult-child conversations in the context of games that develop categorising and symbolic coding
  • talk between adults and children that considers the past, present and future, and extends and shares imagination
  • an environment rich in things to explore, opportunities for physical movement, dance, song, rhyme, story telling and creative activities
  • a sensitive and flexible balance between encouraging children to express their thoughts and feelings and to reflect on discovery and what they know
  • encouragement to toddlers in pretend play in groups
  • care by adults who know the narrative style of the children they care for and the level of communication and language used by each child
  • sensitivity to differences in children's social and cultural backgrounds while encouraging regard for the culture and norms of the playroom
  • staff who are prepared to take a receptive and imitative part in children's projects
  • caregivers ready to respond positively in differences in children's temperaments and preferences
  • staff who attend to the development of pro-social behaviour as well as children's emotional well-being and learning. (p. 6)

Through separating suggested practices on the basis of age, the authors present a nuanced view of adjustments in teacher practices required to take account of incremental differences in autonomy and competence that become visible as babies into mobile and autonomy-seeking two-years. Throughout the age range, however, the key message is that infants and toddlers "need constant and affectionate company, and good quality care depends, therefore, on stable and intimate relationships with carers who know each child well" (Stephen et al. 2003, p. 9).

David, Goouch, Powell and Abbott (2003) in their research brief to the UK Department of Education and Skills compiled to inform The Framework to Support Children in their Earliest Years and carried out at the same time as that by Stephen et al. (2003), similarly wrote:

Babies come already 'designed', or 'programmed' to be deeply interested in the people and the world in which they find themselves. They are incredibly observant and selective, as well as being extremely clever at interpreting what they witness. They learn best by playing with things they find in the world, and above all by playing with the familiar people who love them. (p. 150).

In this way both Stephen et al. (2003) and David et al. (2003) offered a framework of suggested practices around the same key concept that no matter the age of the learner, they need to have adults willing and able to engage with them in attuned interaction on an ongoing basis, to read their cues, and to facilitate their engagement in the world so that they can extend their knowledge. This point is re-iterated once more in the next section.

4.3.5 The teacher is the curriculum

A doctoral study by Gloecker (2006) carried out within a North American context, investigated how teacher interactions with toddlers were related to the early development of emotion regulation in toddlers. Using a case study design, Gloecker observed three lead toddler teachers/caregivers interacting with eight to ten children in each of three classrooms, conducted interviews with the teachers and the parents, and assessed the children's temperament. Analysing the combined data, Gloecker identified the following teacher responses to the children's emotional displays, including when they were crying or upset:

  • being both physically and emotionally present to the children
  • providing warm, responsive, predictable care
  • spending a large part of the day sitting, kneeling or bending down on the children's level
  • a steady stream of both verbal and non-verbal (emotional) communication that is positive and warm
  • narrating what is happening, explaining, and giving advance notice for changes in activities
  • language that is respectful and responsive
  • appropriate use of warm, sensitive touch
  • engaging in many, ongoing reciprocal interactions where teachers stop, look and listen for the child's response
  • looking and listening with attention to what children are saying
  • consistent primary teachers/caregivers
  • offering choices
  • labeling and describing emotions
  • daily routines that build a sense of safety and security
  • setting limits in ways that model and teach children appropriate social skills and self-regulation
  • offering comfort and support for children's emotions in ways that model for them strategies for how to take care of themselves and calm themselves down
  • emotional protection and fairness
  • distraction
  • inviting participation in activities rather than requiring it
  • creating space or access for children to come and be near, around or in lap of teacher/caregiver
  • calling children by their names
  • allowing time for transitions
  • engagement in shared activities that are fun, enjoyable and provide a sense of delight, emotional connection and create meaning between teachers and children.

Although Gloecker's analysis was focused primarily on identifying practices that laid the foundation for toddlers to learn emotion regulation, it is clear that these practices have much in common with components of teacher behaviours that several authors cited in this chapter have noted to be associated with responsive attuned relationships (e.g., Dalli et al., 2009, David et al., 2003; Stephen et al., 2003). The study provides further empirical support of the pedagogical effectiveness of attuned, responsive teacher interactions with under-two-year-olds.

Overall, the work reviewed in this section illustrates the consistent emphasis on the desirability of caregiver proximity, presence, commitment, engagement and responsiveness to the infant and toddler and to their embodied experiences in early childhood group settings. There is consensus in the literature that good pedagogy for under-two-year-olds is primarily based on positive interactions marked by intersubjectivity that is maintained over time. Practices that are conducive to such pedagogy focus on teachers being fully present physically, emotionally, cognitively and linguistically. In other words, it is not the activity or the resources by themselves that constitute curriculum, but the teacher herself, in concert with the infant or toddler. From this standpoint, the teacher is the curriculum.

4.4 The teacher in context

In pedagogy of the nature that is being portrayed in contemporary literature, it is clearly necessary for teachers to draw on a broad repertoire of relational strategies to engage intersubjectively with infants and toddlers.

4.4.1 Teacher knowledge and work environment

Johansson's (2004) investigation, involving 105 teachers and approximately 450 toddlers (1-3 years) from 20 municipalities across Sweden, provides insights into some of the relational strategies teachers need not only in interacting with children but also in managing the relationships between: their understanding and perspectives on the child; their knowledge of learning and development; the quality of the learning encounters; and the impact of overall centre atmosphere on learning encounters. Johansson found that positive interactive experiences were associated with pedagogical encounters in which teachers positioned the child as partner in the learning process, while controlled or unstable interactive experiences were associated with teacher views of children as incompetent and irrational. Within an interactive atmosphere, the teacher showed sensitivity and presence in the lifeworld of the toddlers, and a strong physical and mental involvement in the child's action and experiences.

Johansson's findings provide supportive evidence for an argument that teachers need to be equipped to critically evaluate and identify implicit and explicit theories in their practice as this would enable them to select the most appropriate pedagogical strategy at any given moment, rather than learn to deliver a prescribed programme of activity. This study points to the need for rigorous theoretical engagement and reflection in teacher preparation, and provides insights into pedagogical perspectives that are associated with responsive interactions.

An aspect of responsive interaction has been described by Im, Parlakian and Sanchez (2007, p. 66) as "culturally informed teaching". Teaching of this nature refers to the expertise of the adult in engaging with, and encouraging, participation from children and their families from diverse cultural groups. This is especially important given the increasing numbers of cultural groups represented in early childhood education services, and the additional emphasis placed on teacher relationships with parents of under-two-year-olds. For instance, in a study by Chen and McCollum (2000) the perceptions of 13 Taiwanese mothers regarding the development of social competence in their 12-month-old children showed marked differences in expectations which would be important for an early childhood practitioner to understand and appreciate in their pedagogical practice.

Engaging with the notion of responsive interaction from a teacher educator perspective, Degotardi and Davis (2008) have suggested the need to explore alternative models of teacher preparation. They argued that an understanding of unique infant and toddler characteristics, temperaments and personalities, as well as an exploration of personal relationship histories, and attitudes to intimacy should be included (see also Gallagher & Mayer, 2008; Honig; 2002; Lee, 2006) . Several writers (Lee, 2006; Liszkowski et al., 2007; Parker Rees, 2007; Thomason & La Paro, 2009; Warner, 2002) have suggested that adults preparing to work with under-two-year-olds need support with practicum experiences to develop and build their awareness of infant and toddler communicative expertise (see also Churchill, 2003; Gallagher & Mayer, 2008; Nyland, 2004; Parker-Rees, 2007; Rolfe et al., 2002) and Smith (1999) added that teachers also need to reflect on the special significance of joint attention and family engagement. In other words, this body of literature suggests that such practices are not intuitive and that they are, in fact, highly specialised.

Further evidence in support of the argument for relevant teacher preparation, and the importance of specific teacher qualities, is provided in Manlove, Vazquez and Vernon-Feagans's (2008) report of a study that investigated the nature of teachers' thinking about child development and their observed interactions with infants and toddlers. Manlove et al. reported that in supportive work environments, trained teachers provided higher quality care regardless of the levels of complexity of their thinking. In other words, complexity of thinking about child development, in itself, was not related to overall rating in caregiving interaction. However, in working environments which were described by teachers as "unsupportive", greater complexity of thinking was associated with significantly more sensitive care. These results suggest that (i) teachers' complex thinking can help teachers overcome the effects of an unsupportive working environment, and that (ii) in seeking to enhance pedagogical environments for children, it is important to consider the teachers' working environment as contributing to the equation.

The working contexts of adults in early childhood settings for under-two-year-olds have been addressed from yet another focus by Goodfellow (2008) in the Australian context and Manning-Morton (2006) within the English one. Both have highlighted that adults who work with infants and toddlers face a dilemma in reconciling high levels of emotional engagement and physical labour with notions of educational professionalism that promote optimal distance from "the client" as a way of working.

In sum, research reviewed in this section supports the findings from a national survey of a stratified random sample of licensed New Zealand early childhood centres (Dalli, 2008) in which teachers working in education and care centres reported that a high quality "professional" approach to their work required a high degree of professional knowledge that spanned a range of competencies, including the ability to build collaborative relationships with families, colleagues and outside agencies, and a clearly articulated pedagogical style. In elaborating on the pedagogical style they saw as professional, the following response was typical:

Get down to [children's] level, using calm and appropriate language with children. Showing respect by listening and planning from observations recorded; Focusing on them at all times possible, varying their [teachers'] style depending on situations, guide rather than show, learn rather than teach. (p. 148)

This practice-based evidence of what New Zealand teachers perceive to be quality professional practice emphasises the same concepts of sensitive responsiveness that child development research has shown to facilitate good outcomes for children, and in particular children aged under two years. This suggests that there is a good basis of understanding within the New Zealand early childhood teaching community of what constitutes high quality practice.

4.4.2 Structural supports and constraints

Infant and toddler pedagogy, with its emphasis on intersubjective relationships, takes place in a range of early childhood education contexts.

Recognition that the early childhood context is a key contributor to quality pedagogy in longstanding. High staff turnover (Gallagher & Mayer, 2008), status and working conditions (Sims, Guilfoyle & Parry, 2005), adult:child ratios (Gallagher & Mayer, 2008; Gevers Deynoot-Schaub & Riksen-Walraven, 2008; Lee, 2006; Nyland, 2004) and group size (Frank, Stolarski & Scher, 2006; Girolametto, Weitzman, van Lieshout & Duff, 2000; Lee, 2006; Thomason & La Paro, 2009) have consistently been reported as having a significant impact on teachers' ability to demonstrate the practices necessary for effective infant and toddler pedagogy. Johansson's (2004) experimental research, combined with the work of Rolfe et al. (2002) and Smith (1999), support arguments in favour of improving ratios, and limiting group size. Additionally, Parker-Rees' (2007) suggestion that specialised training programmes are needed to support teachers in engaging in infant and toddler pedagogy which emphasises intersubjectivity, is supported by a number of other writers (Gevers Deynoot-Schaub & Riksen-Walraven, 2008; Klein & Feldman, 2007; Manlove et al., 2008; Thomason & La Paro, 2009). Klein and Feldman have added that teachers need to structure infant and toddler programmes to maximise one-to-one interactions, which, as argued earlier (see Chapter 3) have been found to facilitate the successful 'reading' of infant and toddler cues and joint attentional initiations (Lee, 2006; Liszkowski et al., 2007).

In many New Zealand settings, infants and toddlers are separated into different rooms or buildings where age-specific learning is expected to take place; in others a mixed-age context is promoted in which infants and toddlers engage in family-like multi-age learning contexts. There is little evidence to suggest one is better than another for infant and toddler pedagogy, despite assertions to the contrary (O'Hara-Gregan, 2010). In what remains one of the few New Zealand studies on this issue, White's (1995) study with toddlers across 100 New Zealand centres suggested that mixed age settings (described as those catering for combined groupings of infants, toddlers and young children aged birth to five years) scored significantly higher in peer interactive opportunities while single-age settings (described as separate age groupings) performed better in relation to safety features. White's study concluded that the quality of each centre is not solely determined by age composition, and that other variables such as adult:child ratios, teacher training, experience and education, teacher involvement, as well as the organisation of the environment, all have a major impact.

In 2009, the New Zealand Education Review Office (ERO) reported on the quality of education and care in infant and toddler centres. While acknowledging the diversity of service types for the different age groups of children, the report looked specifically at children under the age of two years in infant and toddler centres. Their findings were reported from a review of 74 centre-based early childhood services, licensed to take only children under the age of two, with ERO reports completed between February 2005 and January 2008. The majority of services were in private or corporate ownership with limited parent involvement in the management of the centre. The report stated that while most teachers used their interactions to encourage children's language and social skills and to respond to their interests, in some centres teachers were more focused on managing tasks:

In a few centres routines were not so responsive. In these centres, teachers were often unaware of the needs of individual children for sleep, food and toilet, and routines were based on managing groups of children. (p. 6)

The report noted that there was no requirement for teachers in infant and toddler centres to be specifically trained in this area yet teachers sought to participate in professional development designed to develop practice with this age group. ERO identified the need for teachers to improve teaching practices through more critical reflection and evaluation of the programme. Structural features of these education contexts, however, were not considered. This is despite the fact that ERO's earlier methodologies emphasised these aspects of quality in their reviews (Collins, 2007) and an earlier study of quality for under-two-year-olds (Smith, Ford, Hubbard, & White, 1995) had previously and compellingly identified the relationship between structural elements and quality early childhood education.

White's (2009) study has highlighted the point that teachers can be so committed to their external accountabilities to the state and/or management that they spend a disproportionate amount of time on paperwork and structures, such as rosters and efficiency schedules, which can have a negative impact on their relationships with very young children. This point was also discussed by Deans and Bary (2008) as they described their discovery during their COI project that the roster system in place at their centre was constraining their ability to engage in quality pedagogical relationships with the infants and toddlers in their care:

Almost anyone can follow a roster; in fact it is easy to follow a roster. They define and direct our movements, but you have to be a sincerely passionate, attached, 'in tune' teacher to hear and see infant and toddler communication. (p. 33)

It seems that there is a tension between structural elements of the teacher's work environment and processes that support or thwart effective pedagogy. Lessons from research reviews carried out in Scotland (Stephen et al., 2003), Canada (McCain & Mustard, 2007) and the United Kingdom (David et al., 2003), combined with evidence from within New Zealand, suggest that it is important to consider the role the environment plays in children's experiences in early childhood settings.

4.5 Concluding comments

Various studies are providing insights that are beginning to move our understandings about quality interaction and pedagogy beyond baseline descriptions of desirable interactions as being "warm and responsive" to the broader concept of intersubjectivity. Reflecting on the Australian context, Goodfellow (2008) warned that if there is a limited understanding about what the nebulous phrase "warm and responsive" refers to, particular interventions to improve the quality of interactions may not be specifically focused or appropriately informed and, as a result, may not effect desired change. Thomason & La Paro (2009), in the development of the quality interaction measure CLASS (Pianta et al., 2008) designed for use across the toddler to Grade three age group, also identified limitations in current understandings and constructs of 'quality interaction' as represented in existing widely-used measures of interaction quality. Degotardi and Davis (2008), who examined teacher interpretations of infant behaviour, found much in this area that is under-studied in relation to the thinking that informs teachers' actions.

Within the New Zealand context, evidence from ERO reviews shows that serious gaps do exist in the provision of high quality early childhood provision for under-twos. Yet, there is also research evidence of very good practice in some specific local settings (Bary et al., 2008; Dalli & Kibble,2010; Podmore et al., 2006) and of a good understanding among the early childhood teaching community about what high quality pedagogy should look like (Dalli, 2008).

Research reviewed in this chapter points to the impact that structural and qualitative process variables can have when they work together to support (or undermine) an early childhood environment characterised by intersubjective, engaged, and supportive teachers.

A key message from the research reviewed is the overwhelming desirability of a relationships-based approach to pedagogy with infants and toddlers. Both New Zealand and international research and scholarly writings emphasise that relational practices that build a sense of security, through attachment figures, can be relied on to be attuned and attentive.

Such pedagogy calls for knowledgeable adults who have the skills, capacity and emotional literacies essential to 'read' and respond to infants and toddlers.

The body of literature reviewed in this chapter demonstrates that merely noticing or even acknowledging the attentional focus of an infant or toddler, albeit in a warm manner, is an insufficient response, since it is now evident that infants are aware of the psychological state of others (Meltzoff et al., 2009) and are keenly watching, imitating, interpreting and re-interpreting the acts of adults (White, 2009) as well as peers (Løkken, 2000). Instead, what is needed are attuned adults who are present to the child and willing and able to engage with them. In this way, teachers are influenced as much by the learners as the learners are influenced by them - a concept embodied in the New Zealand term 'ako' (Tamati, 2005).

White & Johansson (in press) argue that the amount of research undertaken with infants and toddlers as learners to date has been thwarted by perceived difficulties in accessing infant and toddler 'voice'. However, as shown in Chapter 3, innovative new methodologies are revealing the full potential of infants' and toddlers' capabilities at the same time as we are learning more about the impact of teachers' pedagogical actions. Neurobiological research findings, in particular, suggest that there could be serious consequences for future society if adults don't get it right. Shonkoff (2010) urged that we have a clear sense of direction, and empirical evidence is growing in support of these new ideas. As Sands and Lichtwark (2007) stated: "the time to remove the glass ceiling on infant and toddler capacity to be learners-in-action is now" (p. 7).

4.6 Summary points

This section summarises the points made in this chapter by framing them as factors that are recognised to impact on quality pedagogy are listed below either as enablers of, or barriers to, quality pedagogy.

4.6.1 Enablers of quality pedagogy

  1. Teachers who act as intersubjective partners (Elliot, 2007; White, 2009) optimise opportunities for learning and development and foster infants' and toddlers' capacity to learn. This includes through interactions that promote heightened levels of intimacy (Dalli & Kibble, 2010); a caring ethic (Rockel, 2010), and joint attention (Barton & Tomasello, 1991; Liszkowski et al., 2007; Tomasello, 1988; Tomasello & Farrar, 1986; Wright, 2007).
  2. Teachers who employ distinctly specialised practices for infants (e.g., under one year) and toddlers (Chapman, 2007; Dalli et al., 2009; Degotardi & Davis, 2008; Fleer & Linke, 1999; Stephen et al., 2003; White, 2009) are present to them (Goodfellow, 2008) and pay attention to the learning opportunities within routines (Deans & Bary, 2008) and rhythms of and everyday experiences (Nimmo, 2008;Warner, 2002).
  3. Teachers who are knowledgeable about contemporary theories of development and learning (including neuroscience) and provide curricula that are individually, socially and culturally relevant (David et al., 2003; Degotardi & Davis, 2008; Lagercrantz, 1997; Meltzoff et al., 2009).
  4. Teachers who understand the role of play in learning for these specific age groups (White, et al., 2009), are aware of the interactive atmosphere that they can create (Johannson, 2004; Parker-Rees, 2007), and have the ability to interpret and respond to the subtle cues offered by infants (Tomasello et al., 2007) and toddlers (Løkken, 2000; White, 2009) across diverse cultural contexts (Gonzalez-Mena, 2009; Walker, 2008).
  5. Ongoing, consistent and stable relationships (attachments) between teachers and infants and toddlers, as well as with their families (Ahnert et al., 2006; De Wolff & van IJzendoorn, 1997; Lee, 2006; Liszkowski et al., 2007; O'Malley, 2008; Rogoff, 2003; Walker, 2008). This includes the use of diverse communication strategies to build infant-toddler learning capabilities, confidence and competence, and support for families.
  6. Specialised teacher education or professional learning opportunities that emphasise intersubjectivity in infant and toddler pedagogy (Gevers Deynoot-Schaub & Riksen-Walraven, 2008; Klein & Feldman, 2007; Manlove et al., 2008; Thomason & La Paro, 2009), and equips teachers with the ability to be reflective/reflexive practitioners (ERO, 2009; Gallagher & Mayer, 2008; Honig 2002; Johansson, 2004; Lee, 2006).
  7. Positive working environments for teachers (Goodfellow, 2008; Manlove et al., 2008) which facilitate low turnover of staff, enhance the status of teachers (Gallagher & Mayer, 2008), and are conducive to attunement with infants and toddlers within ongoing relationships.
  8. Small group sizes (Frank, et al., 2006; Girolametto et al., 2000; Lee, 2006; Thomason & La Paro, 2009).
  9. High adult:child ratios (Gallagher & Mayer, 2008; Gevers Deynoot-Schaub & Riksen-Walraven, 2008; Lee, 2006; Nyland, 2004) with a recommendation of 1:3 (Gevers Deynoot-Schaub & Riksen-Walraven, 2008).
  10. Professional teacher education programmes to promote the study of relationships and emotions in conjunction with practicum courses to integrate theory with practice (Lee, 2006); to focus on the ways infants and toddlers develop their working theories as they learn more in relation to knowledge domains (Sands & Lichtwark, 2007), and to increase the quality of the learning encounters (Johansson, 2004) rather than deliver a prescribed programme of activity.

4.6.2 Barriers to quality pedagogy

  1. There is a lack of empirical research in relation to a specialised pedagogy of care in the New Zealand local context; and a need for a more specialised focus on under-ones' and twos' in pre-service teacher-education programmes and professional development (Degotardi & Davis, 2008; Lokken, 2006; Nyland, 2004; Rockel, 2009).
  2. Structural (external) conditions undermining or not working together to support process elements of quality that derive from teachers' knowledge (Johansson, 2004);this includes the whole package of variables such as adult:child ratios, teacher training and experience, teacher involvement along with the organisation of environments and philosophies of practice (ERO, 2009; Johannson, 2004; Rockel, 2009; White, 1995);
  3. High staff turnover (Gallagher & Mayer, 2008), low status and poor working conditions (Sims, et al., 2005), as well as inadequate adult:child ratios (Gevers Deynoot-Schaub & Riksen-Walraven, 2008) which have a significant impact on teachers' ability to demonstrate effective infant and toddler pedagogy.
  4. Inconsistent care by one or a small number of adults interferes with infants' ability to experience sensitive responsive care that attends to their changing needs, communication and language (Stephen et al., 2003).

As several authors have pointed out, quality pedagogy is the outcome of a holistic constantly evolving process. It is not merely the product of actions by one teacher but rather comprises a whole membrane of supportive connections among i) teachers and children, ii) teachers and teachers, iii) the structure/organisation of the centre, iv) the philosophy, and v) the environment - all of which are located within a broader policy infrastructure. In the chapter that follows, research evidence is reviewed about the organisational and structural aspects of quality that create this membrane of supportive connections.


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  1. Prior to this a one-year qualification was offered for childcare in New Zealand.
  2. Other early intervention studies reviewed in Chapter 5 report similar findings.
  3. Carnivalesque acts are those that represent resistance to authority and characterise a great deal of the experience of toddlers in education and care settings according to White (2009). They are important to learning because they provide a sophisticated means of expressing irony, satire and humour around imposed events, or situations that are often outside of the toddler's control.
  4. Currere is the Latin infinitive verb from which the word curriculum derives; currere means to run a course (as in a race).

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