In designing their curriculum, schools should consider the pedagogical approaches they will need to employ to support learners in realising the four purposes.
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Pedagogy is at the heart of curriculum. In designing their curriculum, schools should consider the pedagogical approaches they will need to employ to support learners in realising the four purposes. Schools should seek to develop a strong vision of learning and teaching which considers the ‘why’ and ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’. This vision will recognise the integral role of the learning environment in supporting effective learning.
Schools should ensure that practitioners have a deep and thorough understanding of the pedagogical principles and the research on which they are based. Effective pedagogy relies on an in-depth understanding of child and adolescent development. It involves exploring and reflecting on which teaching strategies will best support learning in a given context, and inquiring about the impact of this on learners.
Curriculum design for learners of all ages and abilities should be underpinned by pedagogical principles. These reflect well-documented evidence about effective pedagogy.
The pedagogical principles
Curriculum design for all learners is underpinned by twelve pedagogical principles, which state that good learning and teaching:
- maintains a consistent focus on the overall purposes of the curriculum
- challenges all learners by encouraging them to recognise the importance of sustained effort in meeting expectations that are high but achievable for them
- means employing a blend of approaches including direct teaching
- means employing a blend of approaches including those that promote problem-solving, creative and critical thinking
- sets tasks and selects resources that build on previous knowledge and experience and engage interest
- creates authentic contexts for learning
- means employing assessment for learning principles
- ranges within and across Areas
- regularly reinforces the cross-curricular skills of literacy, numeracy and digital competence, and provides opportunities to practise them
- encourages learners to take increasing responsibility for their own learning
- supports social and emotional development and positive relationships
- encourages collaboration
To support the curriculum, pedagogy should help learners to develop:
- a strong disposition to learning
- strong metacognitive skills
- critical, creative, problem-solving skills
- highly effective communication skills
The learning environment is a key enabler for the curriculum. It should:
- encourage learners to be independent, to have a say in their own learning and to take increasing responsibility for it
- include all learners
- allow learners of all ages to experience authentic learning opportunities both indoors and outdoors
- enable learners to apply, use, consolidate and extend skills
- be secure and safe
To support this, practitioners should:
- form positive and respectful relationships with learners and support good relationships between peers
- respond to all learners
- plan engaging and developmentally appropriate learning opportunities informed by regular observation and ongoing assessment of learning and the learner’s stage of development
- prompt learners to think about and reflect upon their learning in order to extend thinking and make connections
- challenge learners and have high expectations
- actively engage with parents, carers and the wider community as partners in learning
- be reflective and seek to engage in ongoing professional learning
Foundation learning: key features of successful pedagogy
Effective, learner-centred pedagogy, underpinned by the twelve pedagogical principles, should be responsive, dynamic and embedded in strong relationships. Practitioners should build on these principles to support learners in their progression, by providing consistent opportunities for the following key features.
Play and play-based learning
Play is a fundamental right for all learners. Children have a strong desire to play. Through play and playful experiences, learners are able to find ways to experience a range of emotions and learn about the world they inhabit with others.
Play is often something learners take very seriously, especially during this period of learning. It needs concentration and attention to detail, providing a means to learn through perseverance and collaboration. Play is not only crucial to the way learners become self-aware and the way in which they learn the rules of social behaviour, it is also fundamental to physical, intellectual and creative development.
Play is a valid process for children of all ages. Learners’ capacity for positive development will be inhibited if free access to a broad range of environments and play opportunities is limited. All learners are entitled to respect for their own unique combination of qualities and capabilities.
Play and play-based learning supports holistic development across the curriculum. It should be valued by all practitioners as both an end in itself and as something that they should observe closely with the clear aim of seeing how it can enhance learning.
Being outdoors is particularly important for learners in this period of learning. Learning outdoors can lead to high levels of well-being, confidence and engagement. In an outdoor environment, learners can explore, practise and enhance their skills. To maximise the potential of being outdoors, learners need enabling adults who understand the importance and value of it. Being outdoors supports social, emotional, spiritual and physical development, as well as providing authentic opportunities for learners to develop and consolidate cross-curricular skills.
The outdoors provides opportunities to inspire awe and wonder, and allows learners to be themselves in open, relaxed and stimulating spaces. The use of natural and open-ended resources enhances the development of imagination, creativity and curiosity. Rich and authentic opportunities outdoors stimulate learners’ senses through what they hear, touch, see and smell, and encourage them to express themselves.
Learners who are able to engage and connect with the natural world can build an empathy for the environment, showing an awareness of their potential impact on the living world. They can begin to explore the concept of sustainability in a practical way. Exploring the outdoors provides opportunities for learners to develop a sense of place within their immediate surroundings, their locality, Wales and the wider world.
Being outdoors provides scope for learners to develop an awareness of themselves in space, supporting the development of proprioception. Outdoor environments can provide unique opportunities for learners to improve balance and co-ordination, develop motor function and explore their physical potential. While exploring the outdoors, learners can develop their ability to assess and experience risk, helping to develop resilience and confidence.
Observation should play a key role in the everyday practice of practitioners. Through it, they will gain a greater understanding of the needs, skills and progress of individuals and groups of learners. Observation should maintain a focus on learners’ present needs and practitioners should resist the temptation to rush through skills, knowledge and experiences as this can have an adverse effect on learning.
The focus on getting to know learners helps to build a picture of each individual, which includes their development needs and their interests. By using their knowledge of learners’ previous experiences, likes, dislikes, interests and fascinations, and any previous or existing barriers to their learning, practitioners will be better placed to plan next steps.
Practitioners should ensure they are appropriately skilled to understand the role of observation and how it supports assessment. They should watch learners, listen to them, and reflect upon what they are doing and communicating.
Observations may be planned and specific; they may be timed over a period or be spontaneous occurrences when something new or significant is noticed. Using a range of observation techniques will ensure that practitioners obtain a detailed understanding of each learner. As part of this process, practitioners should consider when and how best to interact with the learner.
Effective use of observation techniques helps practitioners to understand learners’ levels of well-being and involvement, their emotional states, their relationships, skills and competencies. Effective observation enables practitioners to analyse what they see and hear, and then respond in ways which will support learners to make progress. These observations should be used to inform current and future planning to support learners in moving to their next steps.
Observation should be the catalyst for planning future learning experiences and environments. It allows practitioners to identify the ways in which learners prefer to learn, and how best to motivate them to participate in the learning process. It can also identify those learners who might need extra support to help them reach their full potential.
It is important that practitioners understand that learning is not linear and that different learners are likely to progress in markedly different ways. Practitioners must recognise this and allow for a variety of diversions, stops and spurts during the learning journey.
Authentic and purposeful learning
Learning is most effective when learners are actively engaged in experiences that stimulate their interest, ignite imagination, inspire curiosity and promote positive dispositions. These experiences should encourage learners to investigate, explore, create and be active participants in their learning. Relevant and meaningful experiences that are rooted in real-life contexts will enable learners to make connections, apply knowledge and consolidate skills.
Real-life experiences can enable learners to take the lead in asking questions, identifying problems, taking risks and finding solutions. Creating opportunities for learners to apply what they are learning to real-life situations helps them understand the purpose of their learning and can enhance well-being, self-esteem and resilience. It encourages exploration and creativity and will support learners to develop an understanding of the world around them.
Key questions for settings and schools to consider
- How will we create a culture which encourages practitioners to develop a deep understanding of pedagogy and the skill to select the most appropriate pedagogical approach?
- How will we ensure the pedagogy of the Foundation Phase is developed and built on?
- How will our vision for learning reflect the twelve pedagogical principles?
- What learning environment do we need to create to fully support our vision for learning?