This new publication written by Nancy Stewart and published by Early Education (www.early-education.org.uk) provides early years practitioners with a clear and well timed message about `the best ways to be enabling partners in children’s learning to learn’ (p17). Chapter 1 provides an introductory overview and the theoretical and research context. It includes a helpful table that illustrates how the various approaches, such as Reggio Emilia, Te Whariki, and the psychological theorists, including Vygotsky and Piaget, contribute to our understanding of the three characteristics of effective learning as defined in the revised EYFS curriculum (to be statutory in England from September 2012).
Chapters 2, 3, and 4 are a detailed exploration of the three characteristics; playing & exploring, active learning, creating and thinking critically. Each chapter includes reference to research, case studies and key messages for practitioners regarding the environment, and their own role in supporting children’s learning within each strand. Chapter 5 acknowledges the challenges that face us as we strive to ensure that children become `learners for life’ and suggests that to achieve this aim we need to focus on `how children are learning, not just what they learn’ and make `learning to learn…our first priority as educators’ (p104).
This attractively presented book is an extremely accessible text with full colour photographs throughout. The key messages at the end of Chapters 2,3, and 4 are thought provoking and should provide a useful catalyst for discussions amongst early years practitioners as they review their practice in readiness for the statutory implementation of the revised EYFS.
Outdoors continues to be an important priority in the early years and there is no doubt in my mind that this unique and special environment has a vital role to play in fostering the characteristics of effective learning, so on opening this book I was delighted to see that two thirds of the photographs used to illustrate the text show children learning outdoors. Initially, having read this text I was disappointed that it doesn’t include more explicit mentions of the value of the outdoor environment in supporting children’s learning. However, perhaps this can be interpreted as a positive sign of the recent progress that has been made in enhancing practitioner knowledge and confidence with regard to their outdoor practice. Recognising that it is the effective use of both the indoor and the outdoor environment that will secure best practice within early years settings I wholeheartedly recommend this book and I am sure it will be a valuable support to practitioners.