It’s a good question

Many moons ago, but in an influential piece of writing, R Bishop and T Glynn write:

Whose interests and agendas is the education system established to promote? In New Zealand Maori people have been denied participation in the decision-making systems that defined the purpose of and established the education system. What is now termed the ‘mainstream system’ was created by way of the dominant group’s suppression of alternatives. Many Maori learners fail to learn in mainstream educational settings. This is a structural problem which will be addressed when initiation issues are addressed in such a way as to incorporate the cultural aspirations of all participants.” (pp.55-56)

Ref: (emphases in blue bold mine) R Bishop and T Glynn (1999) Culture Counts: Changing Power Relations in Education. Palmerston North: Dunmore Press

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A good question – the image of the child

“Make a list of five materials that you regularly provide to children. What values and images of children do these materials suggest?” (P.57)

“Choose a typical material in your room and observe how the children use it. Draw on the children’s use of the material to brainstorm a list of ideas of other ways this material might be used or added to. Try something from your list, observing what happens with the children as a result.” (P.60)

“How are the environment and materials impacting what’s unfolding and what changes could be made?” (P.65)

Ref: Learning Together with Young Children: A Curriculum Framework for Reflective teachers – Deb Curtis, Margie Carter (2008)

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How many today live in a language that is not their own? 

“How many today live in a language that is not their own? Or no longer, or not yet, even know their own and know poorly the major language that they are forced to serve? This is the problem of immigrants, and especially of their children, the problem of minorities, the problem of a minor literature, but also a problem for all of us: how to tear a minor literature away from its own language, allowing it to challenge the language and making it follow a sober revolutionary path? How to become a nomad and an immigrant and a gypsy in relation to one’s own language?” –  Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari

Quoted, p.12 Martha J. Cutter (2009) ‘Editor’s Introduction: Translation and alternative forms of literacy.’ MELUS 34(4) Winter, pp.5-13. [quote originally taken from Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari 1986 Kafka: Toward a minor literature]

NB also on the same topic, Cutter states that “inscription into language – that is, language socialization – is a key theme in ethnic literature; the process of attaining voice within the dominant culture often reveals how individuals are caught between cultures and tongues.” (P.8 Cutter)

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Bread of Medieval Britain

I’m still interested in bread (and other food staples and how they relate to food literacy and education more generally). I found an old booklet in which Maggie Black explains the breads of medieval Britain. She writes:

Bread was everyone’s staple food but the grain it was made from varied from place to place, and with one’s income. Wheat made the finest, whitest bread but only grew on good soil; and only the lord of the manor, that is the feudal holder of a large estate, could afford to have land dug over and manured for it. The commonest bread, called maslin, was made from wheat and rye flour mixed; darker loaves were made from rye flour alone. Barley and other oats were the breadcorns of the north and west where the climate was wet and cold. Nearly always, weed seeds were included with any grain, and when the harvest was poor, beans, peas and even acorns were used in the cheapest bread. a baker

The main types of bread were:

White Breads
Pandemain or paynemaine, the finest quality bread, from flour sifted two or three times.
Wastel, also first-quality bread from well-sifted flour.
Cocket, a slightly cheaper white bread which was replaced around 1500 with small loaves or rolls of top-quality white bread called manchets (hand-sized breads).

Other Breads
Cheat or whole wheat bread was whole wheat bread with the coarse bran removed.
Tourte (or trete or treet) was also called Brown Bread. It contained husk as well as flour and may have been the bread used for trenchers (see below).
Maslin, mesclin or miscellin was mixed wheat and rye bread.
Hoarse bread included peas, beans, any other grain to hand.

There were also the cheap breads ‘of all grains’, bran bread (made mostly with bran) and in the north and west especially, various kinds of barley bread and oatcakes which are still called havercakes or clapbread.

The most important use of brown bread for the wealthy was as trenchers (plates). The trenchers were made by cutting large loaves, preferably four days old, into thick slices with a slight hollow in the centre. An ordinary person would have only one or two plate trenchers for a whole meal, but a great personage would have several stacked up for him. These trenchers were gathered up in a basket and given to the poor after dinner.

Plain or toasted bread was used a great deal in cooked dishes. Breadcrumbs were a standard way of thickening sauces and of stiffening custards so that they could be sliced. Gingerbread was just a heavily spiced breadcrumb and honey mixture, heavily decorated with box leaves stuck on with whole cloves. Other cakes and buns were really just sweetened, spiced pieces of bread dough.

baker_punishmentMost country people baked their own bread, but in the towns, professional bakers operated, and were notorious as crafty swindlers. In 1267, therefore, by royal order, a set of regulations for assessing bread prices was laid down, called the Assize of Bread, to try to make sure that everyone paid a fair price for a loaf and no more. It was difficult to enforce, especially in small rural markets, but bakers who were caught flouting it were punished severely, and it was at least a responsible attempt to see that ordinary people could afford a very basic product.

Poorer people had another grievance besides bread prices; by about 1350, servants and serfs were complaining that they were only issued with coarse maslin or brown bread, and free labourers also resented not getting wheaten bread. Their masters justified it by saying that branny brown bread sustained those who did heavy manual work for long hours, but that it caused wind in people who lived sedentary lives; in fact, they really reserved it because it was a status symbol.”

Ref: (italics in original; emphases in blue bold mine) pp.6-8 Maggie Black (1985) Food and Cooking in Medieval Britain: History and Recipes. English Heritage: Historic Buildings and Monuments: Birmingham.

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The medium is the massage

“Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication. The alphabet, for instance, is a technology that is absorbed by the very young child in a completely unconscious manner, by osmosis so to speak. Words and the meaning of words predispose the child to think and act automatically in certain ways. The alphabet and print technology fostered and encouraged a fragmenting process, a process of specialism and of detachment. Electric technology fosters and encourages unification and involvement. It is impossible to understand social and cultural changes without a knowledge of the workings of media.

The older training of observation has become quite irrelevant in this time, because it is based on psychological responses and concepts conditioned by the former technology – mechanization.

Innumerable confusions and a profound feeling of despair invariably emerge in periods of great technological transitions. Our “Age of  Anxiety” is, in great part, the result of trying to do today’s job with yesterday’s tools – with yesterday’s concepts.

Youth instinctively understands the present environment – the electric drama. It lives mythic ally and in depth. This is the reason for the great alienation between generations. Wars, revolutions, civil uprisings are interfaces within the new environments created by electronic informational media.”

Ref: pp.8-9 co-ordinated by Jerome Agel. The Medium is the Massage Marshall McLuhan Quentin Fiore (1967) Penguin Books London

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Reflective questions about information sharing and accessing specialists

And again with the reflective questions, this time from Quality in Action: Te Mahi Whai Hua:

“How does our service promote a regular, two-way flow of information between educators and parents/whanau?
How effective are the records we maintain on each child? How often do we use them? Does our record-keeping inform our practice?
How do we ensure that our assessment methods are culturally appropriate?” (p.57)

“What are our policies and procedures for accessing specialist services?
How does our service integrate advice from specialist services into the curriculum?
How well do we understand the different views of health held by parents/whanau at our service? How do these influence our practice?
How do we involve whanau when accessing specialist services for Maori children?” (p.55)

Ref: Ministry of Education Quality in Action: Te Mahi Whai Hua: Implementing the Revised Statement of Desirable Objectives and Practices in New Zealand Early Childhood Services. Learning Media: Wellington

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Reflective questions again

Here are more reflective questions (this time from Learning Media’s The Quality Journey):

  • “Are we supporting our Maori children well? How can we do better?
  • Are we communicating and working in partnership with Maori in the community (parents/whanau, kaumatua, kuia)?
  • Do we know the views of Maori on how our service is working?
  • What can we learn from Maori values and beliefs in the context of our service?
  • Do we understand the protocols of the local hapu/iwi?
  • How can we effectively incorporate te reo and tikanga Maori into our daily experiences?
  • Are we promoting non-discriminatory behaviour and cultural sensitivity in general?” (p.6)

Ref: Ministry of Education (1999) The Quality Journey: He Haerenga Whai Hua: Improving Quality in Early Childhood Services. Learning Media Limited: Wellington

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Reflective models

Reflective writing is meaningful and authentic writing.  The following questions can be used as prompts to support a deeper level of writing and inquiry:

Questions to promote authentic reflection.

  1. Am I prepared to endure discomfort?
  2. Am I willing to challenge taken-for-granted (even cherished) assumptions and beliefs?
  3. Am I willing to begin to ‘describe’ and ‘theorise’ about what is going on here?
  4. What, then, is actually going on here?
  5. How do I know what is happening here?
  6. What else do I need to know about what is going on?
  7. Who says this is the way things should happen?
  8. How did things come to be the way they are?
  9. Whose interests are served by having things this way?
  10. Why do I teach this way?
  11. Whose interests are served in these circumstances?
  12. Whose interests are silenced or denied?
  13. What are the impediments to change?
  14. How might I work differently?
  15. What kind of resistance might I expect?
  16. How do I intend to tackle that?
  17. How can I create different social relationships in my classroom/centre? (and in the school/centre at large?)
  18. What hierarchies (authority, gender, race, class etc.) exist around me?
  19. Schools (centres) are never neutral value-free sites – whose politics are served?
  20. What is educationally worthwhile fighting for here?

from: Smyth, J. (1993). Reflective practice in teacher education and other professions. Keynote address to Fifth national Practicum Conference, McQuarie University, Sydney, 4 February 1993.

Critical reflection Model 1: DATA Model


  • Describe an incident or common practice that represents some critical aspect of your work
  • the context (where, when, who, how, what)
  • the teaching and learning – what you want children to learn, how you provide opportunities for this learning, how you know what they are learning, questions about the value of what they are learning.
  • How you feel and why
  • Why you think what you think


  • consider why this aspect of practice operates as it does
  • consider how your own values and assumptions support it to uncover values, beliefs, rules and motives that form the basis of your practice
  • the perspectives of others may help clarify your views


  • look at alternative ways of approaching your practice by taking the theory you uncovered at the analysis stage and deriving new theory from it or attaching it to a different theory
  • eg consider practice from point of view of – a child who is new to setting – a child who has been there a long time – child going to school soon – other educators – people who see ECE as helping children into school – free play supporters etc
  • relate findings to other information

ACT: …

Critical reflection Model 2: Four Critically Reflective Lenses (Brookfield’s model)


  • consider how you coped when learning a new skill or practice and what your emotions were during the process
  • considering your autobiography as a learner helps you consider your autobiography as a teacher – to identify preferred styles and methods and underlying assumptions
  • why do you feel as you do? Why do you hold these values?


  • often you will achieve this perspective by recording those incidental comments made by children
  • with older children you might ask them about it
  • consider their reactions / responses


  • discussions with colleagues help discover interpretations that fit what is happening in your own practice – or view the question/situation in a new way…


Critical Reflection Model 3: Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory – the context of reflection

(ecological theory of development – in which context and environment have a significant role in learning and development)

LEVEL 1 OF REFLECTION: reflect on your personal context – your own values, beliefs and assumptions, and the origins of these elements

LEVEL 2 OF REFLECTION: reflect on the immediate learning environment – the classroom, other adults, families/whānau and the local community

  • number of children, teachers and other adults present… the physical environment (layout, acoustics, open spaces, convenience of facilities, access, the look, feel and smell of surfaces…)… the resources available… the community in which you work… the values, beliefs, and assumptions of the people with whom you work

LEVEL 3 OF REFLECTION: reflect on the requirements of ECE – the philosophy of the setting, statutory requirements eg DOPs, regulations

  • reflect on what you are required to do as an EC teacher… the philosophy of the setting… the influence of policies and regulations (Education (Early Childhood Centres) Regulations 1998; Early Childhood Charter Guidelines, the Statement of Desirable Objectives and Practices; Te Whāriki)

LEVEL 4 OF REFLECTION: reflect on the nation’s values and beliefs about children and ECE

  • the general view of early childhood held by the nation; the value that government and society give to early childhood will affect the support / resources / image etc…

Critical Reflection Model 4: Ways of Knowing

As you develop your reflective skills and change the way that you integrate new information into existing structures, you develop your ways of knowing.

  • Silence: knowledge is obtained through concrete experience. Little thought involved… reliant on others for reason and meaning
  • Received knowing: from authorities. An individual focuses on listening and reproducing what she has been told… little critical thought
  • Subjective knowing: this knowledge comes from within the individual and fits her needs. It is the ideas and feelings about what you are doing, which you do not analyse or base on perspectives other than your own.
  • Procedural knowing: concerned with analyzing and comparing your different perspectives to gain the most accurate knowledge
  • Constructed knowledge: is concerned with examining a situation from your won perspective, integrating your perspective with other perspectives and analyzing how they fit into a coherent whole.

Critical Reflection Model 5: Spiral Model

  • Act: your teaching practice involves action
  • Select: you select an action that has impacted on you during the day
  • Name: you describe the action
  • Reflect: you reflect using the description of the action, as well as considering values, beliefs, assumptions, other influences on the event, theory and the context of the event
  • Research: you refer to theory to support your reflections
  • Plan: you develop a plan as a result of the reflection
  • Act: you implement the plan
  • Monitor: you return to the beginning of the spiral and the process continues

CRITICAL REFLECTION Model 6: Smyth’s stages in Personal and Professional Empowerment

Describing (what did you do?)

Informing (what does this mean?)
– the description is ‘unpacked’ in a search for underpinning patterns or principles

Confronting (how did I come to be this way?)
– this involves a ‘stepping back’ from the event/activity that has been described and includes examining historical, social and cultural contexts et where did the ideas come from? What does this tell me about my beliefs and values?

Reconstructing (how might I view or do things differently?)
– consideration of alternative views and generation of goals for future action

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Still more reflective questions

The first of the three Learning Media videos on putting Te Whariki into practice poses the following reflective questions:

  • “What is my understanding of the historical context of Te Whariki, and what does this mean for my practice today?
  • What is my understanding of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in relation to early childhood education?
  • Do I have a working understanding of Te Tiriti o Waitangi?
  • How do I ensure that all the standards of the framework are integrated in my practice?
  • What do I do to ensure that my curriculum reflects the bicultural nature of New Zealand society?
  • How does the curriculum implement in this setting reflect the cultural heritage of all children?
  • How do the teaching strategies I use ensure socially and culturally mediated learning?
  • Do I reflect on the transitions experienced by children, for example into, out of, and within this service?
  • What is my understanding of the meaning of each principle and how it links to the others?
  • How does my daily practice reflect an understanding of the principles?
  • How do I promote the holistic development of each child?
  • Do I understand the Maori perspective of holistic development?
  • How are the relationships in this service responsive, reciprocal, and respectful – for the children, parents, and educators?
  • Do I understand the concept of whanau dynamics in relation to the development of culturally appropriate interactions?
  • Are my interactions with children responsive and reciprocal?
  • Do the principles have different implications for infants, toddlers, and young children?
  • Do my practices reflect my understandings of the principles from a Maori perspective?
  • Is my content knowledge sufficient to provide quality learning for children?
  • What is my understanding of how children learn?
  • What is my understanding of Maori human development theory?
  • What is my understanding of learning and teaching from a Maori perspective?
  • What is my understanding of learning and teaching from the perspective of Pacific peoples and those from other cultures?
  • How do I ensure that all the strands are integrated in my practice?
  • Does my understanding ensure that I work effectively with infants, toddlers, and young children?
  • How do I use the goals of Te Whariki?
  • What process do we use to identify goals for children’s learning?
  • How do we set goals and learning outcomes for the children in our service, both as individuals and in groups?
  • How do we plan?
  • In what way does our programme reflect a bicultural perspective?
  • What are the processes used for the development of culturally accepted learning outcomes?
  • In what way do we use our subject knowledge and pedagogical  understandings to shape learning outcomes and learning experiences for children?
  • What do we do to ensure that children’s learning includes both content and process?
  • How could children’s learning include both content and process from a Maori perspective?
  • What is our understanding of appropriate literacy and numeracy experiences for infants, toddlers, and young children?
  • How do the literacy and numeracy experiences we provide reflect knowledge from the Maori world?
  • What do the goals of Te Whariki mean in our service? How do they guide adult behaviour, evaluation, and reflection?
  • What range of teaching strategies do I use?
  • Where do these fit on the continuum of strategies? Are they the most effective in relation to assisting children’s learning in centre and home-based services?
  • What do I understand to be culturally appropriate strategies for teaching?
  • How does my practice reflect an understanding of the different learning styles of children?
  • What is my understanding of Maori pedagogy?
  • What are my curriculum content and process knowledge strengths?
  • What are my curriculum content and process knowledge weaknesses?
  • Is my knowledge good enough to respond effectively to the teachable moment?
  • Is my knowledge good enough to respond effectively to the teachable moment?
  • Is my knowledge of Maori concepts, practices, and language enough to provide a quality bicultural programme?
  • Is my knowledge of the concepts and practices of Pacific peoples, and people of other cultures, sufficient to provide a quality multicultural programme?
  • How do I make sure that the child or children are the focus of the curriculum and yet make sure that I utilise my knowledge of the essential learning areas?
  • where do I seek support for the ongoing development of a bicultural programme?
  • What is the purpose of a philosophy?
  • What is Maori philosophy?
  • How can you resolve differing philosophies within a service?
  • How do you articulate your philosophy?
  • How does your personal philosophy influence the broader philosophy of your setting?
  • How does the philosophy of your setting accommodate differing viewpoints?
  • How could your philosophy influence a bicultural curriculum?”

Ref: Ministry of Education (2000)Te Whariki: the Big Picture. Learning Media: Wellington

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More questions for reflection

More reflective questions from the booklet of one of the Ministry of Education videos on putting Te Whariki into practice (quoted below):

  • “Reflect on your own practice. What does your practice tell you about your own “image of the child”?
  • How do you demonstrate that children are:
    – competent and confident learners and communicators?
    – healthy in mind, body, and spirit?
    – secure in their sense of belonging?
    – secure in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society?
  • How do you encourage children to care for each other?
  • How do you value and promote Maori concepts, understandings, and language?
  • What aspects of your practice would you like to enhance? How might you do this in your discussion with children, other colleagues, parents, and whanau? How might you do this in your professional reading?
  • Consider how you select appropriate [teaching] strategies to promote children’s learning – which strategies do you use, for what child, and for what purpose?
  • What aspect of pedagogy, and what teaching strategies, would you like to enhance and utilise in your own practice?
  • How will you evaluate the effectiveness of the strategies you use?
  • Reflect on whether you include te reo Maori values, concepts, and beliefs in your practice
  • What aspects of your understanding of Maori pedagogy would you like to enhance? How might you do this?
  • How do you identify and articulate learning outcomes for the children in your setting?
  • How do you involve children in identifying outcomes for their learning?
  • How do you involve parents and whanau in planning learning outcomes for their children? What might you change?
  • How do you promote language and literacy in contexts that are meaningful to children?
  • How do you value the range of languages and cultures that children bring to the setting?
  • How do you encourage children to develop and share their own stories?
  • What plan do you have to enhance children’s language and literacy?
  • How might you share your knowledge of children’s literacy learning with parents, whanau, and other teaching colleagues?”

Ref: Ministry of Education (2001) Empowered to Learn: Whakamana ki te Ako: Te Whariki for Young Children. Learning Media: Wellington

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