Rethinking Culture and Diversity in Early Childhood Preservice Teacher Education: Looking at Teaching and Learning Through an Interdisciplinary Lens

Davis, Julie, O'Gorman, Lyndal, Gibson, Megan, Osborne, Lindy, & Franz, Jill (2016) Rethinking Culture and Diversity in Early Childhood Preservice Teacher Education: Looking at Teaching and Learning Through an Interdisciplinary Lens. In Farrell, Ann & Pramling Samuelsson, I. (Eds.) Diversity: Intercultural Learning and Teaching in the Early Years. Oxford University Press. (In Press)

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Early Childhood Education (ECE) has a long history of building foundations for children to achieve their full potential, enabling parents to participate in the economy while children are cared for, addressing poverty and disadvantage, and building individual, community and societal resources. In so doing, ECE has developed a set of cultural practices and ways of knowing that shape the field and the people who work within it. ECE, consequently, is frequently described as unique and special (Moss, 2006; Penn, 2011). This works to define and distinguish the field while, simultaneously, insulating it from other contexts, professions, and ideas. Recognising this dualism illuminates some of the risks and challenges of operating in an insular and isolated fashion.

In the 21st century, there are new challenges for children, families and societies to which ECE must respond if it is to continue to be relevant. One major issue is how ECE contributes to transition towards more sustainable ways of living. Addressing this contemporary social problem is one from which Early Childhood teacher education has been largely absent (Davis & Elliott, 2014), despite the well recognised but often ignored role of education in contributing to sustainability. Because of its complexity, sustainability is sometimes referred to as a ‘wicked problem’ (Rittel & Webber, 1973; Australian Public Service Commission, 2007) requiring alternatives to ‘business as usual’ problem solving approaches. In this chapter, we propose that addressing such problems alongside disciplines other than Education enables the Early Childhood profession to have its eyes opened to new ways of thinking about our work, potentially liberating us from the limitations of our “unique” and idiosyncratic professional cultures.

In our chapter, we focus on understandings of culture and diversity, looking to broaden these by exploring the different ‘cultures’ of the specialist fields of ECE and Design (in this project, we worked with students studying Architecture, Industrial Design, Landscape Architecture and Interior Design). We define culture not as it is typically represented, i.e. in relation to ideas and customs of particular ethnic and language groups, but to the ideas and practices of people working in different disciplines and professions. We assert that different specialisms have their own ‘cultural’ practices. Further, we propose that this kind of theoretical work helps us to reconsider ways in which ECE might be reframed and broadened to meet new challenges such as sustainability and as yet unknown future challenges and possibilities.

We explore these matters by turning to preservice Early Childhood teacher education (in Australia) as a context in which traditional views of culture and diversity might be reconstructed. We are looking to push our specialist knowledge boundaries and to extend both preservice teachers and academics beyond their comfort zones by engaging in innovative interdisciplinary learning and teaching. We describe a case study of preservice Early Childhood teachers and designers working in collaborative teams, intersecting with a ‘real-world’ business partner. The joint learning task was the design of an early learning centre based on sustainable design principles and in which early Education for Sustainability (EfS) would be embedded

Data were collected via focus group and individual interviews with students in ECE and Design. Our findings suggest that interdisciplinary teaching and learning holds considerable potential in dismantling taken-for-granted cultural practices, such that professional roles and identities might be reimagined and reconfigured. We conclude the chapter with provocations challenging the ways in which culture and diversity in the field of ECE might be reconsidered within teacher education.

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ID Code: 89241
Item Type: Book Chapter
Additional URLs:
Keywords: interdisciplinarity, sustainability, sustainable design, early childhood education, design education, teacher education, professional identity, transformative learning and teaching, disciplinary culture, learning environment design
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN (120000) > ARCHITECTURE (120100) > Architectural Science and Technology (incl. Acoustics Lighting Structure and Ecologically Sustainable Design) (120104)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN (120000) > DESIGN PRACTICE AND MANAGEMENT (120300) > Design Management and Studio and Professional Practice (120303)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > EDUCATION SYSTEMS (130100) > Early Childhood Education (excl. Maori) (130102)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > SPECIALIST STUDIES IN EDUCATION (130300) > Teacher Education and Professional Development of Educators (130313)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Children & Youth Research Centre
Current > Schools > School of Design
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Current > Schools > School of Early Childhood & Inclusive Education
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2016 Oxford University Press
Deposited On: 19 Oct 2015 01:44
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2017 00:36

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