Teaching and Learning in the Early Years – The Onion Approach By Dr Sue Allingham

12th February 2017

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I cannot remember a time when teaching and learning in the Early Years has been under such scrutiny as it is now.  It is getting to the stage where we are losing sight of soundly underpinned quality pedagogy in our work with the youngest children.  And – I would also argue – throughout education in general.  My hypothesis is that the current culture of testing and buying into packages of ‘teaching’- many of which are completely unnecessary –  has led us away from really thinking about what we do and why we do it.

I decided to problematise what I mean by teaching and learning in order to clarify my thinking and root me back in pedagogy.

Teaching and learning are obviously embedded in each other – it is impossible to learn without teaching or to teach without learning.  The interdependence here meant that I wasn’t sure where to start.   As I formulated the question I began to see a layered approach and an informed setting with a quality approach to teaching and learning would reflect this.  I now refer to this as the ‘onion approach’ when I am training or supporting teams.  Adopting this approach as a lens means we can focus on things a layer at a time in order to build up a strong, informed approach where thinking is joined up and consistent.  In this layered way I examine the question of how teaching and learning are interdependent and whether one has to come first, basing my thinking all the time on key components of an Early Years setting.  As each layer is examined, I further filter it through research and current thinking.  This ultimately means that we will analyse the layered approach through the most refined lens possible.

The layers are –

The Outside Layer – the Environment

The Teacher – the second layer

The Curriculum – the third layer

I look forward to sharing this thinking with you at the Childcare Expo in London on March 4th.

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