I am in a very lucky position to work alongside lots of fantastic Early Years practitioners and support them in achieving their aim of improving opportunities for their children and families. Of the various amazing different groups of practitioners I have spoken to, trained and shared ideas with over the past year, I have become increasingly aware of the importance of explicit teaching. This idea of explicit teaching ensures that children in the early years develop strong and secure connections and has certainly provided interesting discussion amongst pedagogists.
To me it’s ensuring that we consider the smaller steps within the development matters statements, which are quite vast, and understanding the important developmental steps which children need to move from misconception/not known to confidence/competence. It certainly doesn’t mean didactic teaching where everything is transferred to the children in the hope that they retain this knowledge and retrieve it at another time. Obviously a secure knowledge of child development is crucial to be able to evaluate the key milestones which children tend to go through as they venture into the big wide world. However, more than this is the need to consider what skills and knowledge children need at the appropriate time and the strategy to use which engages and supports them.
One of the most interesting and reflective conversations I had with a group of fantastic and experienced Early Years practitioners was the idea of explicit teaching versus child led (or in the moment) learning. There was a feeling that this idea of explicit teaching could be in direct contrast to this and would potentially stifle children’s preferred way of learning and achievements. The words ‘too structured’ were definitely said, but this is not the case at all in my opinion. I am a strong advocate of children being encouraged to learn in their preferred way and for their interests to be used as a vehicle for learning in order to make sense of what is going on around them. However; as much as we plan and consider the provision for the children, making it relevant to their interests and developmental needs (in all aspects), children still need the time and input from a sensitive and amazing adult who knows them as thinkers and explorers. This enables them to adapt their own language to mould and support the children’s thinking process.
Explicit learning provides a bridge for children to know how this provision can be explored and manipulated. This way, when children are learning independently, chances are that their learning will be deeper and more secure because they have the key skills and knowledge to be able to apply and challenge their thinking in an environment which supports all their needs. For more information on explicit teaching there is a good overview available here: http://www.evidencebasedteaching.org.au/crash-course-evidence-based-teaching/explicit-teaching/