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Growing islands of interest: nurturing the development of young children’s working theories

This presentation draws on the work from a 2-year collaborative practitioner research project, Moments of wonder, every day events: how are young children theorising and making sense of their world. The project aimed to contribute perspectives to the discussion around the ways young children express and develop working theories, how practitioners understand these and how best to respond to this learning in five Playcentres (parent-led early childhood education settings) in Canterbury, New Zealand. Children’s working theories, as described in Te Whāriki (the New Zealand early childhood education curriculum), are derived from Claxton’s view that knowledge consists of a large number of purpose-built situation specific packages called ‘mini theories’, and that ‘learning involved a gradual process of editing these mini theories so that they come to contain better knowledge and skill and be better located with respect to the area of experience for which they are suitable’. When children are engaged with others in complex thinking they are forming and strengthening their working theories. In exploring working theories we recognise that children have many interests. Some of these are fleeting, while others are more connected or revisited more frequently by children. Over the course of our research, we have come to think of these interests as ‘islands’ and in doing so have adopted this as a metaphor for working theories. We were keen to see how we can grow some of these islands of interest: making them more complex, more connected, and more compelling to children. The research team explored the different ways opportunities can be created for children to express and develop working theories and the outcomes for children’s learning as a result. The presentation will focus on some of the strategies implemented and the ways these have contributed to children’s ‘working theories’ learning as the practitioner researchers attempted to build communities of thinkers and ‘wonderers’.
Conference Contribution
Type of thesis
Davis,K., Peters, S. & White, E. (2012). Growing islands of interest: nurturing the development of young children’s working theories. In Creative Engagements: Thinking with Children 8th Global Conference, 29 June-1 July 2012 (pp. 1-11). Oxford, UK: Inter-disciplinary Press.
Inter-Disciplinary Press
© 2012, Inter-Discliplinary Press