Sharing power with children: Repositioning children as agentic learners
Australasian Journal of Early Childhood
Early Childhood Australia Inc.
Place of Publication
School of Education
CHILDREN ARE FIRST-HAND WITNESSES of their childhood and experiences of learning. However, their perspectives are seldom sought by educators, who traditionally hold views of children as being innocent and dependent upon adults to ‘know what’s best’ for nurturing children’s wellbeing and future trajectories. This research seeks to raise the credibility of young children’s unique perspectives, by viewing them as active agents and insightful contributors to our understanding of the phenomenon of learning. Through an interpretivist paradigm, 17 public school children, aged five to six years, from a pre-primary class in Perth, Western Australia, were interviewed to gain insight into their perceptions, perspectives and understanding of learning. The children were invited to draw representations of themselves while learning, and to explain what they were drawing as they drew. The children’s responses provide insight into their experiences of school and learning, what they perceive learning is like for them, and what they believe is required for learning in their first year of compulsory school. The diversity of the children’s responses reflects the socio-cultural impact of their ecological systems in shaping their beliefs about how learning takes place. The findings also reveal children’s existing agency in the learning process, regardless of what an educator may afford, and illuminates that children are discerning about what is important for them to learn and what may be the best context for learning. This study assists in bridging the gap between child-and adult-held beliefs, and moves toward the co-construction of a new understanding of learning in early childhood. This shared understanding can be used as a platform for reconsidering what is valued in early childhood pedagogy and for promoting attitudes toward a child’s capacity as a learner that foster early years practices, which are truly responsive to the contemporary child.