Lorraine has worked for ELP with teachers across all diverse settings in Aotearoa New Zealand since 2001. During this time she has drawn on her work at Greerton Early Childhood to support teachers to build learning cultures that enable each and every child to thrive as they begin to develop their learning identities. Lorraine has thought deeply about how current theory and research might be integrated into children’s, families’ and teachers’ learning lives in natural ways, that enable children’s learning identities to flourish. As the Greerton teaching team witnessed children shaping and re-shaping their knowledge, experimenting, testing, and re-testing, in an effort to deepen and broaden their understanding of the world around them, the investigative nature of the children’s learning excited us. The team began to understand that relationships are the key to building a vibrant, robust learning community, and committed to finding ways to understand how the concept of Whanaungatanga cements our relationships together. This was the impetus for the team to seek opportunities to research our learning context through the Ministry of Education’s Centre of Innovation Research programme”. As a result, Lorraine has shared many of the research outcomes over time with teachers across New Zealand and beyond, in lecture series in the UK, Germany and China. ELP have and are committed to ensuring children have a learning context that excites their passions, energies and spirits. During Lorraine’s work with ELP her intention has always been to engage with teachers in meaningful ways to shift their image of children so, in Wally Penitio’s words they “see the child as ‘vibrant, expressive and impressive’ (2001)”.
With the view that children ought to be designers of their own learning, the work Lorraine shares with teachers across many settings, follows children’s, family/whānau and teachers’ experiences as they explore the possibilities offered in environments that start first with Relationships, Language, Identity and Culture. This foundation enables everyone to go beyond their comfort zones into complex play and adventurous learning that relies on a growing sense of fair mindedness; on care and kindness to stretch learning to the edge and beyond, with and alongside their friends. It is this context of learning and teaching as ‘collaborative endeavour’ that captivates teacher’s interest to find out more about what kinds of settings and relationships make a difference to children’s learning. It is Lorraine’s intention to disrupt conventional thinking through examples that show invested teaching that includes; co-construction between children and teachers, sustained shared teaching episodes extending children’s thinking, valuing of children’s contribution to the learning experience and making links across time by revisiting children’s ideas and interests.
Teachers are most able to explore these ideas through inquiry based research when there is a deep motivation generated by credit based research questions. When we see children too, as ‘inquirers’, we are primed to make shifts in our practice because we are open to deeply listen to and respect children’s capacity to stretch their learning, practice the hard, tricky bits, and understand that worthwhile learning takes time, persistence, energy and a very big measure of resilience and resourcefulness. Teachers who support this kind of learning enable children to develop an attitude to learning that results in not giving up, pushing through to the edge and beyond, and working in collaborative, social, cultural ways that enhances everyone in the learning community. Inquiry research is the vehicle that deepens and broadens our understanding of what it takes to build a vibrant learning community where everyone is able to flourish.
Aligning Internal Evaluation, Staff Appraisal, Tātaiako and Teaching Practicing Certificate Evidence through Inquiry based research
Lorraine believes that it makes sense to question our practice through thoughtful investigation. In her work with teachers she supports them to focus together on an inquiry research / internal evaluation question to take their team forward into shared understanding of what makes a difference in the learning lives of their community. In this style of professional learning support, teachers begin to stretch their professional practice in ways that make an enduring difference to children’s identities as learners. This kind of collaboration means that teachers’ individual growth is inextricably connected to their team’s wellbeing, as learners together, acting in ways that show they care deeply that everyone’s learning lives are affirmed and stretched through credit based inquiry. This requires a growth mindset. Teachers set goals that are edgy and interesting, with high expectation that effort, hard work, community connectedness, surprise and uncertainty, passion and energy, will drive their investigations. This means inquiry based research that sees the Teachers’ Practising Certificate and Tātaiako as a cohesive, holistic framework, rather than as discreet indicators.
Whenever Lorraine works with teaching teams they have conversations about the value of Play in children’s lives. They start with understanding that ‘play’, uninterrupted, complex opportunities for children to be in charge of their learning, is the key. It is in play that children are able to experience every aspect of social competency, of resilience, of social justice and resourcefulness. These are the building blocks of a strong identity as a learner who will be successful long term. We are not filling children up with skills and knowledge in isolation. The dispositional strengths of children are the key to growing skills and understanding inside an environment that models wise practice. When children see teachers being kind, helping each other, prepared to have fun, take risks and challenge themselves, then they in turn do the same. Our job is to set up opportunities for long periods of play and add value through meaningful, interesting conversation and provocations that stretch children’s learning without hi-jacking it. Not in a way that we ‘teach’ but in an enthusiastic, puzzling, creative approach to learning. First we must understand what play looks like and see the learning inside this.
Strengthening Continuity across early childhood and primary school
Lorraine has had the great pleasure of working with teachers across ECE and primary. In our research we have realised what a crucial part the leaders of early childhood centres and primary schools play in opening the doors for relationships to be able to grow. For our part, we all want to find additional ways to be responsive to children’s transitional learning. Lorraine’s work with teachers has been to support teaching teams to strive to have an image of children as researchers, learners out to explore their world with dispositions like curiosity and purposefulness driving their investigations. From this perspective our transition practice then seeks to share this view, in the new context of school, with the child’s teacher. When children are able to explore their working theories with creative flair, energy that comes from the motivation of a passionate inquirer, inside a community of learners that values effort, practice, thoughtfulness and social collaboration, the learning that results is imaginative. Making this learning visible through Learning Story narrative assessment, that track continuity over time, results in less pressure for the schoolification of young children and instead pushes the pedagogy of complex play up into school.