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Helping teachers help pre-schoolers – new research

Helping teachers help pre-schoolers – new research

New “Best Evidence” research aimed at helping early childhood education teachers more effectively teach pre-schoolers was released today by Education Minister Trevor Mallard.

The research focuses on professional development in early childhood education and is the fourth report in the series of Best Evidence Synthesis research.

“This research is a rich resource for teachers and is an important part of our goal of improving the quality of teaching and professional development in the early childhood education sector,” Trevor Mallard said.

“Raising teacher qualifications is one initiative set out in the early childhood education strategic plan Pathways to the Future: Ngä Huarahi Arataki.

“This “Best Evidence” research pulls together international and New Zealand research into professional development in early childhood education. Most importantly, it shows what works in practice for children rather than feel-good theory.

“The research shows it is critical to support teachers, kaiako and educators to examine their teaching practice and increase their range of effective teaching strategies.

“It also highlights the importance of improving educators’ interactions with children, their parents and whänau, and the importance of establishing strong links between the different early childhood settings, including children’s homes and schools.”

Trevor Mallard released the research at the Waitangirua Kindergarten in Porirua today (eds 9.30am) where he visited the kindergarten’s cultural programme, along with parents and whänau.

“The Best Evidence research reports all identify the quality of teaching practice as the single most important influence on children’s learning in educational settings,” Trevor Mallard said.

“They also highlight key strategies that make a difference for children’s learning and provide a focus for debate and reflection.

“In this latest report, a key strategy is to build teachers’ ability to systematically collect, analyse and reflect on data about children. This can then help teachers understand how the child is learning, what is important to the child and enable teachers to enhance their teaching practice as a result.

“Using data like this can also help teachers to recognise and build on the knowledge and skills of children and their whanau and to create more positive learning experiences.

“The research found that professional development programmes can build the confidence and capability of teachers, kaiako (Kohanga teachers) and educators and enable them to better extend children’s learning.

“It also points out that it can be hard to design effective professional development programmes because there is such a variety of prior education levels among early childhood teachers. This is being addressed as part of the Early Childhood Strategic Plan.”

Eight characteristics of professional development were identified as having an important impact on changes in teaching practice and outcomes for children: incorporation of teachers’ own aspirations, skills, knowledge and understanding into what is being learnt; provision of theoretical and content knowledge and information about alternative practices; teachers’ own investigation of their teaching practice in their own ECE settings; analysis of data by teachers from their own setting and identification of information that is different from what they already know; critical reflection that enables teachers to investigate, challenge and extend their own thinking; support for practice that is inclusive of all children and families/whanau; focus on change to practice, beliefs, understandings, attitudes and interactions – with clear links to children’s learning; and development of greater awareness by teachers of their own thinking, actions and influence.

“This research is already informing Ministry of Education work on strengthening professional development. Early childhood teachers should expect to see more practical and useful training opportunities as a result of this work that will help make a real difference to children’s learning,” Trevor Mallard said.

The report Characteristics of effective professional development linked to enhanced pedagogy and children’s learning in early childhood settings is available on the Ministry of Education website at

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