Interest-based Curriculum and Funds of Knowledge

Hedges, Cullen and Jordan point out: “Curriculum is a highly contested construct. In the case of early-childhood education, there is little agreement internationally as to the nature and goals of early-years curricula. However, much literature advocates that curricula for children aged birth to 5 years ought to focus on children’s interests and needs (e.g. Bertram and Pascal 2002). Interests-based curriculum and pedagogy are highly participative and interpretive. Yet, existing research has rarely investigated children’s interests, nor teachers’ knowledge and decision making in creating curriculum from these interests.” (p.185)

This “paper presents data from a qualitative study in two early-childhood settings. In part, the study explored the nature of children’s interests and the ways that teachers draw on their professional knowledge to construct curriculum through recognizing and engaging with children’s interests and inquiries. The findings suggested that teachers need to look beyond the tradition of the well-resourced, child-centred, play-based environment to interpret and respond to children’s interests. Teachers also need to engage with families and communities in multiple ways in order to gain deeper understandings of the nature and origins of these interests. The paper argues that using ‘funds of knowledge’ (González et al. 2005a) as a theoretical framework to ascertain  children’s interests provides a more analytical way to respond to these interests than present approaches based on recognizing children’s choices of play activities.” (p.186)

“Teachers’ engagement with learners’ interests strengthens learners’ motivation,
effort, memory, and attention.” (p.186) “However, the notion of teaching through play has never sat comfortably alongside learning through play (Hedges 2000, Wood 2009).” (p.187)

“In the professional literature there is much advice to teachers and exemplars of good practice, particularly in relation to children’s spontaneous interests that arise during their play. The dominance of play in early-childhood education may, however, have discouraged teachers from more analytical interpretations of children’s interests. The term ‘children’s interests’ may have simply become an under-theorized ‘catch phrase’ (Birbili and Tsitouridou 2008: 143).” (p.187)

Children’s interests are stimulated by the experiences they engage in with their families, communities, and cultures. Evidence of the primary influence of families in establishing and supporting children’s interests is strong (e.g. Johnson et al. 2004).” (p.187)

“Recent studies also demonstrate the role of everyday experiences in families and communities as authentic learning opportunities that children eagerly engage in. Cumming (2003) studied children’s experiences and understandings about food. The most common contexts for conversations about food were mealtimes and during food preparation and cooking.” (p.188)

“some literature suggested there was disjuncture in children’s experiences between their homes and early-childhood centres….” (p.188) For example, “Cumming’s (2003) study concluded that children learn much valuable information about nutrition and food technology from family and friends, and that teachers perhaps unwittingly overlook this in their teaching practices. (p.188)

“Teachers who fail to capitalize on children’s learning gained in informal settings would therefore appear to ignore a rich source of children’s prior knowledge, experience, and interests. Furthermore, as Brooker’s (2002) study highlighted, teachers need to develop knowledge of the diverse experiences children gain in their homes, families, communities, and cultures, and view these positively.” (p.188)

Ref: (emphases in blue bold, mine) Hedges, Helen , Cullen, Joy and Jordan, Barbara (2011) ‘Early years curriculum: funds of knowledge as a conceptual framework for children’s interests’, Journal of Curriculum Studies, 43: 2, 185 — 205,  DOI: 10.1080/00220272.2010.511275

Abstract: “Children’s interests are frequently cited as a source of early-years curricula. Yet, research has rarely considered the nature of these interests beyond the play-based environment of early childhood education. This paper reports findings from a qualitative, interpretivist study in two early childhood settings in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Using participant observation, interviews, and documentation, the study examined children’s interests and teachers’ engagement with these in curriculum interactions. Evidence suggested children’s interests were stimulated by their ‘intent participation’ in family and community experiences and encapsulated in the notion of ‘funds of knowledge’. The concept of funds of knowledge provides a coherent analytic framework for teachers to recognize children’s interests and extend teachers’ curriculum planning focus beyond that of a child-centred play-based learning environment.”

Reference is to: Cumming, J. (2003) Do runner beans really make you run fast? Young children learning about science-related food concepts in informal settings. Research in Science Education, 33(4), 483–501.


About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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