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Latest early childhood research aired at symposium

Latest early childhood research aired at symposium

A wealth of topics will be explored by national and international researchers at the seventh New Zealand Early Childhood Research Symposium being hosted by Auckland College of Education on Saturday 29th of November.

The symposium is run by the New Zealand Early Childhood Research Network, CHILDforum. It has attracted 160 participants, including top-flight New Zealand researchers Professor Stuart McNaughton and Dr Anne Meade, plus researchers from Scotland, Australia and Norway.

Amongst the highlights will be Professor McNaughton’s keynote address on language and literacy practices (see below), and some initial results of the first ever early childhood workforce survey carried out this year for the Ministry of Education. It profiles the early childhood workforce and looks at potential barriers to teachers attaining the qualifications to become registered, part of a key Government strategy for the sector.

Academics at Auckland College of Education, from which over 80 newly-qualified early childhood teachers are expected to graduate this year, will present at the conference on topics covering early childhood teachers’ science knowledge, whether centres are breast-feeding friendly and perceptions of the value of music in early childhood education.

Other presentations include: Report on a large Norwegian research project, and lessons from the groups working jointly on research.

New South Wales research on the possible effect of the lack of men working as early childhood teachers in that territory

Melbourne research questioning the effectiveness of the tick-box approach to observing children’s development

A report by Dr Anne Meade and associates on four centres from the “early childhood centres of innovation” project run by the Ministry of Education

A presentation by Dr Helen May on schooling of young children in 19th century colonial New Zealand (the subject of an upcoming book).

Keynote – breakthrough in literacy and language development of young children

Specific ways of teaching literacy to preschoolers that raise their achievement are being promoted by education academics. They will be highlighted in the keynote paper on design of literacy and language programmes in early childhood, delivered by Professor Stuart McNaughton, a leading researcher on young children’s learning from the University of Auckland’s Woolf Fisher Centre.

“One example is how teachers read with children. Research shows that teachers using a ‘narrative’ reading style that poses follow-up questions will enhance children’s comprehension and vocabulary. Reading styles that focus on reciting text, or on itemising - for example, counting apples on a tree, naming colours and so on - do not do this to the same degree. They don’t convey as much about the characters in books and their actions.

“All three styles are important, but the significance of the narrative style is that it increases kids’ understanding of the way story books work. Schools these days value this narrative understanding, and the skills of negotiation, criticism and discussion.

“By knowing precisely which strategies work in early childhood literacy, there’s a way forward for early childhood teachers and primary teachers to share their knowledge for the benefit of children moving from centres to school, “ says Professor McNaughton.


“CHILDforum,” the New Zealand Early Childhood Research Network, was founded in 1998 to bring together researchers in the sector and raise research standards. It is led by Dr Sarah-Eve Farquhar of Wellington.

“Six years ago at the first symposium in Auckland we all wanted it to become a regular event. But we had no idea that the Network would grow in the way it has. It is good to be returning to Auckland now as a fully-established organization with a new website, reputable journal and other activities such as a support group for postgraduate student researchers,” says Dr Farquhar.

“In the current political environment of competition for funding and varied policy interests it is useful for researchers – from the most senior to those just starting out; from those in organizations to those who are self-employed and aren’t otherwise supported - to meet in a non-competitive environment and focus on the quality of research. “

For further information on the network and the symposium, visit

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