Understanding children’s perspectives through Froebelian Principle Practice.

Project author:

Project summary:

An observation study of how staff understand and support non-verbal children’s perspectives through the freedom with guidance approach.

Introduction

This project looks at how staff interact with children during play and how children communicate with staff focusing on supporting and understanding children’s perspective through the Froebelian principles. This enquiry takes into account current practice and identifies links to Froebelian practice. Within this project it looks at some of the children who are non-verbal and how staff support children through understanding each individual child’s perspective. This enquiry matters because “Froebelian educators respect children for who they are and value them for their efforts. Helping children to reflect is a key feature of a Froebelian education” (Froebel Trust | Froebelian principles). My purpose in undertaking this work was to help learn to slow down, observe and let the children communicate to adults through their own individual methods.

Context

The setting that I am based in is embarking on our Froebel Flagship Journey. Within the setting, the majority of staff have completed the Froebel in Childhood Practice Course. Completing this has given staff a deeper understanding and knowledge of Froebel and his principles and how we implement them into our practice and pedagogy. One of the projects that was previously completed was about understanding schema’s. Having the knowledge from this helped towards this project as children can use schematic play to communicate. Within the setting we have children who are non-verbal. I wanted to be able to support them and understand what they were communicating to me through a freedom with guidance approach and focussing on children being Autonomous Learners and ensuring that I value childhood in its own Right. Through interactions it was clear that staff had a good understanding of what these principles looked like in practice and as a staff team we focus on what the children can do rather than what they cannot as Froebel emphasises. The diversity and uniqueness of individuals makes a varied community for children to learn and thrive. I believe in celebrating the here and now regarding children’s development. Staff wanted to be able to develop their confidence in understanding children’s perspective and taking the time to slow down and not make assumptions as within this job we can at time make assumptions as to what we think a child is communicating to us. By undertaking this inquiry, I recognise the need to slow down as the key messages that are clear from literature is that children learn best from having the opportunity to take their time.

I had to consider what methods I was going to use to gather evidence throughout my project and I also had to consider the amount of children that I was going to be focusing on as we have a large number of children within the playroom. I found that focusing on four of our non-verbal children would be the first step to my inquiry. I then went on to focusing on what method I was going to use to gather my evidence. I found that the best method was various observations of both staff and children. I found that using the creative method of observation through video recording was the best way as they were able to capture several interactions in different areas. This meant that I was then able to analyse the videos in depth which gave me high-quality feedback. To explore and gather practitioner’s views, I also had professional discussions on how to support children and through this, the question of “I wonder why they do that” after hearing this question it helped open up another discussion about how we support a child’s perspective in a way that is getting it right for them. Throughout, I met with staff and shared the analysis of each observation that I had recorded.

Ethics

All consent was obtained from parents by giving out consent forms and parents were made aware that if they did not wish for their child to participate in it any longer than they were able to withdraw at any time. I also informed parents that the observations that were going to be taking would all be anonymous and that anonymity was ensured. The challenge that I had was to think of ways that I was going to get children’s consent as the children I was focusing on are non-verbal. I considered many different ways and the way that I found best was if the children walked away when I began recording then I did not follow them. I took them walking away as not consenting to being in the video. I made sure that all staff that were in the playroom gave consent to be in the video recordings as well and I ensured that all video recordings were stored safely and securely.

"Let us learn from our children. Let us attend to the knowledge which their lives gently urge upon us and listen to the quiet demands of their hearts".

(Froebel 1885:92)

Findings

Through reflection, we recognised the importance of understanding children’s perspective in relation to the Froebelian Principles. During professional dialogue we discussed what does perspective actually mean to us. As a team we wanted a shared vision of what we desired to achieve from this project. We came up with “perspective means to understand what the child is experiencing, to know what the child wants and what we might need to do to help get that child’s needs met”. Through having this vision, we recognised the importance of slowing down throughout the day and ensuring that we all use the approach of freedom with guidance to allow the children the time to be able to express themselves through their own method of communication as we disused that all children have a voice but it isn’t just what we hear.

As a staff team we observed that one of the children would find objects around the room so that they could roll them to staff members and would get very upset if it wasn’t rolled back. Through slowing down and observing we were able to identify that this particular child had a rotational schema. So when analysing the video observation, I broke it down for myself to be able to ensure that I was understanding this child’s perspective. I first asked myself “what is this child gaining from this experience?” – was it that he was wanting to investigate movement of different objects. The second question I thought about was “what does this child want?”- he was rolling it to staff members so he wanted the staff member to engage in play with him rolling the ball back and forth. The third question was “what do we have to do to get this child’s needs met?”- This question I felt was answered with my two pervious questions as we recognised that this child wanted to explore objects that were able to roll and he wanted a staff member to join him with this. So to get this child’s needs met, we ensured that we had several resources both indoors and out for this child to roll. Following from this we then ensured that when rolling it to a staff member we engaged in this experience with him. As time went on and more observations were obtained this child began to encourage more staff to engage in these rotational experiences where he would roll the ball to them and create a turn taking game of 3-4 people. He then began to involve children in this experience where he would then roll the ball to children instead of adults. This observation showed how this child has progressed which linked in with the value of childhood in its own right as “Froebel wanted educators to understand that every stage depends on the one before it. He emphasised the necessity for every child to experience each stage fully and totally, without rushing it. This entails understanding how children learn when given the space and time to explore, experiment, manipulate, practise and master new abilities” (A beginner’s guide to Froebel. Dr S Louis. 2023).

Another observation obtained was, one child was in the block area with a member of staff and took out all of the blocks and placed them on the floor before picking each one up looking at it to analyse it and placing them into size piles on the floor. Again with this I asked myself the same questions “what was this child gaining from this experience?”- The child is able to see all the blocks on the floor rather that in the unit. What does the child want?”- they want to play with the blocks in their own way by taking them out and categorise the blocks by size into their own piles. “What do we have to do to get this child’s needs met?”- This made me think of the freedom with guidance as some staff can make assumptions that the child is just taking all the blocks out and not using them purposely but by giving this child the freedom and standing back observing we were able to see that this child was using her own piles of blocks on the floor to categorise them by size before exploring them in her own way. Through this observation it was clear that the child was being an Autonomous Learner as it states that “Children learn best when they are trusted with responsibility, allowed to try new things, acknowledge as independent learners, and allowed to make mistakes and judgements” (A beginner’s guide to Froebel. Dr S Louis. 2023).

This revealed to me that staff had developed a clear understanding of how to support children’s perspectives and understand what children are communicating to us. Throughout this project it was clear to see the benefits that it has had on staff as we have allowed the children to have more freedom and independence in experience instead of making assumptions on what we presume a child is doing.

Conclusion

This project enabled me take a closer look at how we ensure that we embed the Froebelian principles of Autonomous Learners and The Value of Childhood in its own Right in respect to children’s perspectives. Overall we understood that all staff have different perceptions of what they take from each individual child’s perspective but we worked together to come up with an overall understanding of perspective and all had a shared vision on how we support each individual child. Now each time that we are observing we are thinking about these aspects “what is this child gaining from this experience? What does this child want? What do we have to do to meet this child’s needs?”. In conclusion, myself and other staff feel that we were able to understand children’s perspective in relation to these two principles. This project has helped towards staff confidence and encouraged all staff to slow down throughout daily practice taking in the principles of slow pedagogy.

Going forward, I would like to look into how we understand children’s perspectives in relation to all of the Froebelian principles.

Research implications

To be completed

Practitioner enquiry

To be completed

Leadership learning

To be completed

Author and role

To be completed

Comments from other network members

What did you appreciate about this research? What forward-looking questions did it raise for you?

  1. Debbie Brown
    Debbie Brown
    26 Mar 2024 at 7:14 pm

    What a wonderful read . Really captures the child/ren perspective and it’s clearly evident.
    Well done with your project


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  2. Donna Green
    Donna Green
    27 Mar 2024 at 1:00 pm

    Well done Allana and Claire , it is clear to see from your report Allana you are passionate about ensuring each child has their rights met. Your observations have identified through the findings that children can communicate in various ways by showing you, body and facial expressions etc therefore the importance of slowing down and being with children is extremely important as it supports your understanding how you then respond through the Freedom with Guidance concept as you slow down you attune to each child through the observation and this then helps you to identify what guidance you will give: which would align to the principle of knowledgeable nurturing educator e.g. observe support extend through a holistic Froebelian principled approach – starting with where each child is at – at the stage be the stage not a predefined adult outcome but through observation of understanding each unique individual – therefore by attuning you pick up on their communication through cues e.g. pointing etc. it is when you pick up in these cues and have relationships that the reciprocal conversations happen smiling, practicing , role modelling, scaffolding learning. All things you do in practice but by deepening your knowledge you are helping to articulate how this is done through your report, fantastic. 😊


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