Conversations on transition with Sue Dockett and Bob Perry

Jacqui Ward, Department of Education and renowned academics, Sue Dockett and Bob Perry discuss transition to school research and best practice in a four-part conversation series.

Speakers:

Jacqui Ward, Early Learning Coordinator, NSW Department of Education

Emeritus Professor Bob Perry, Peridot Education Pty Ltd

Emeritus Professor Sue Dockett, Peridot Education Pty Ltd

Target audience:

School leadership teams and Early Stage 1 teachers involved in transition to school practices

Conversation 1: Creating a strong start to school

Conversation recording: Creating a strong start to school

Speakers:

Jacqui Ward, Early Learning Coordinator, NSW Department of Education

Emeritus Professor Bob Perry, Peridot Education Pty Ltd

Emeritus Professor Sue Dockett, Peridot Education Pty Ltd

Jacqui:Welcome to our conversation series on transition to school. I'm here today with renowned academics Sue Dockett and Bob Perry. So thank you for joining in on conversation and we're so happy and privileged to be talking to you about supporting a strong start to school.

Sue:Happy to be here.

Jacqui:So the first little point we've got, and this is the first in our series, and we're talking about transition to school generally, but also professional transition networks. So I've got a few prompt points for us to talk about and the first one, I guess, is the overall purpose of transition to school in your community. Just love to hear your thoughts on that.

Bob:Well, I think the overall purpose is to build up really strong, trusting, respectful relationships among all the people who are involved. So children, educators, both prior to school and school and out of school hours care and families. So if we can build up those strong relationships, then I think after that anything's possible. But it takes time to build the relationships and we need to work at them just like we work at any other relationship.

Sue:Yeah. I think it's important there almost to say what the purpose of transition maybe should not be. And that we've got a very strong position that we don't see transition as an early intervention program. We don't see it necessarily as an academic program to prepare children for school, but much more about that process of building connections and relationships, so that when children start school it doesn't take them long to feel like it's a place that's for them, that they belong and that they’re a valued and respected member and the same for families and educators.

Jacqui:I couldn't agree more and I think if we think about the goals that the department has on their strategic plan, it's about establishing that strong start to school and the links to that being a key to success throughout their journey all the way through. And the second strategic goal is all about children being known, valued and cared for as well. So relationships are very much a central point to those two strategic goals as well I think.

Sue:It's quite possible in fact, it's more than likely that children will learn something as they engage in orientation activities or as they participate in that transition they'll probably learn something but that's almost an incidental outcome. It's, it's because you have to engage about something, but it's the relationship focus that's really, really important.

Jacqui:Yeah. Definitely an opportunity to create partnerships in those early days is so important too, and the evidence suggests that family engagement with children's learning is a key factor of success throughout as well. So if we miss those windows, I think the doors can often sort of come down and become closed. That it’s not about sort of, that readiness and an early intervention, but also that awareness of that children bring a lot of knowledge to school. They bring a lot of understanding skills, prior learning from their early childhood space and they're learning in their family home. And so it's important, I think for schools to find out and be active searches or researchers about children and what they already know as well.

Sue:Yeah. And you're unlikely to get that from a 10 minute visit or a visit where you might have a group of children and you only get to spend 10 minutes with each child. You're unlikely to get that depth of knowledge and that's probably understandable. I mean, if I've met you for the first time, I'm probably not going to share my life story. It's going to take a bit more work and a bit more effort for children and for families to feel comfortable and to want to share the information they've got about their child and their learning.

Jacqui:Definitely. And I think it's also important to think about data sources, about the broader community and that cohort of children. Things like the AEDC data for your school community, the Best Start kindergarten and how it fits in with that data. And also how it fits in with the transition to school statements that schools will have received from their early childhood services.

Bob:I think there, there are all sorts of data like that. We have to remember that AEDC data is community data. It's not individual data. And I think if you really want to find out what a child is interested in, what their strengths are and so on, then you have to talk to the child and you have to talk to the family. And those strengths are really important because they're the things that you're going to build your program on for the child, not what they can't do, but what they can do is going to be extremely important in what happens with your pedagogy and in kindergarten with your curriculum. So finding out directly from the child and their families is for us really extremely important.

Jacqui:I guess the next thing we need to talk about, and I know we've already covered a little bit, but who needs to be involved in transition? We've talked about children, but there's not only the children starting school, but also, quite a few other cohorts involved there too isn't there.

Bob:Yeah, I think, I think if you really want to know about what it's like to start school, then it's probably not a bad idea to ask the people who've just done it.

Sue:It’s about children being a resource? So that the kids actually at school can be a really valuable resource in terms of what transition was like for them and what helped them manage it. But there are so many other people involved in transition as well. We've talked about the educators, we've talked about the families, in educators meaning both the early childhood educators in that very broad sense, whether they're family daycare or occasional care or childcare or preschool or whatever. You've got out of school hours care educators as well, as well as your kindergarten teachers. So you've got a whole group of educators. We love it when we talk to principals about how they're engaged in transition. So we very much like to, to present the argument that it's not just about the kindergarten teacher and his, or her responsibility. Transition is a whole school event. And that means that teachers of older grades really have a lot to contribute as well. Even if it's just to know how much hard work it is for kindergarten teachers in those first few weeks of school. So we've got educators, we've got families, we've got the school children, the preschool children, we've got all of those people, but then there's a whole host of, of less obvious people if you like. Other people in the community, you might be in a community where local elders are really important members of your transition approach, you might be in a community where there are other community organisations that do a lot to support transition and young children. But you might also be in a community where the crossing supervisor is the first person that kids and families get to meet. So there's a whole range of people that can have really positive input into transition approaches. And we often forget that we might involve some of those people who have been involved in the prior school transition activities to come back and be involved in the ones at school. And we've known kids get a real kick of seeing them, seeing their preschool teacher arrive at school in week two or three, just to say hello and see how they're going. So that notion that transition doesn't finish when the child starts school on day one, but needs to continue on into the year also opens up a real breadth if you like, of the range of people who could be involved in transition.

Jacqui:I agree. And that notion too, that there's a real genuine collaborative partnership between the early childhood space and the school space. Again, the evidence is really strong and clear that that's a really good investment of both parties time to make sure that there is that information sharing, that there's an understanding of each other's space in terms of curriculum and pedagogy to create a continuity of learning for children. That's our job, I think, as teachers and educators to make sure that happens.

Sue:Yeah. And my definition of a partnership has always been that you don't have to do the same things. A partnership is where you each bring something different to the table and together it makes something work. So involving educators, parents, families, children, other community members doesn't mean we expect them to want to do the same thing. But what we do expect them is to bring to the table something that makes a valuable contribution to the transition approach.

Bob:And I think also what we expect and what we hope for is that there are genuine, positive, trusting, and respectful relationships among those educators.

Sue:And among parents too.

Bob:And among parents. And that's because they've not had the opportunity to go and see what a school does and how it does it and so on and building up those sorts of relationships and suspending the judgements. No one expects a preschool to be like the kindergarten, right. And no one expects a kindergarten to be just a repeat of preschool. Everyone needs to understand what other people do and respect what they're doing.

Jacqui:I couldn't agree more. And I think if we go to the evidence base that schools draw on with the What Works Best report, it talks about that idea of collaboration amongst teachers being a really valuable investment and a great opportunity for professional learning as well. So I think, we need to think about it in the broader context that when, when teachers invest that time to visit each other's spaces, that it's actually a part of that sort of overall learning within the profession.

Bob:Yeah. And when you, when you are able to be in a professional learning situation where you have both prior to schools teachers, and school teachers interacting in very positive ways you get to see different insights, different views.

Jacqui:I agree. OK. Moving on to I guess the whole, the evidence-based talks about the effectiveness, like an effective transition to school being important to lifelong success, I think is really an interesting point for us to sort of talk a little bit about.

Sue:Yeah. There's some interesting work talking about building transitions capital, and that notion that if you become, if you're able to manage transitions and manage one transition positively then you build up some skills and some strategies for managing future transitions. And that can be really important, particularly when you think that in a sense, school is all about transition. You not only have children making the transition to school, but sometimes kids tell us that the move from kindergarten to year one is even a bigger transition than into kindergarten But then each year children make a transition and you would be hoping that those transitions equip them with arrange of skills and strategies to help them manage change. So, yes that initial transition into school is a really important element of building up those skills and strategies. But I think what I'd like to say in response to that question is that a great start to school is really a good starting point for kids engagement and families engagement in school, but it's not enough. A great transition followed by a disastrous year isn't really going to set a child or a family up for a fantastic school career. So it's that notion again of what happens at school is just as important as what happens leading up to being at school in promoting that positive transition. So I think we use the word in the current pilots that a good transition is not a vaccine. It doesn't guarantee that only good things will happen and everything will be rosy. It's a great start, but perhaps you need a booster every now and then.

Jacqui:Good point. It really relies on you using drawing on all that information that you've gathered and sustaining those relationships and all of those things. It's not just a, we've done that, now we can tick that off.

Bob:No, that's right. What goes on before is important. What goes on during the transition period is important. What goes on afterwards is very important. And the notion of transition capital is an extremely important notion because children actually have many, many transitions every day even going from home to school is a transition, right? I mean, you're allowed to do things at home that you're not allowed to do at school and vice versa. And so the child needs to be aware of the different contexts. And so on, even simple things like changing from one learning area to another. Going from inside the classroom, to outside the classroom, they're all transitions. All of this is building up on the child's ability to deal with changes and to deal with new events and new ideas and so on. All of which is extremely important learning, particularly in our changing world.

Sue:We often talk about horizontal transitions and vertical transitions. So horizontal transitions being the transitions children make every day. So home to school, perhaps to after school care, perhaps to dance class or something, and then back home. And so they're making movements horizontally all day in different ways. And then we talk about vertical transitions being those sort of leaps you like that you tend to make only once, like, once you start school do you tend to keep going at school? You don't sort of come back and say, well, I've had enough now. That's, that's it. So the vertical transition would be the transition to kindergarten, the transition to year one to year two from year six to year seven, those major leaps. And, and so vertical transitions can be the ones we focus on, but those horizontal transitions that kids make every day are also about learning to manage change and to operate effectively in those different environments.

Bob:Being successful in those horizontal transitions helps you be successful in the vertical ones.

Jacqui:Definitely. And I guess that brings us around to that notion too, about the whole concept, I guess, of being ready or the child being ready for these transitions. But, flipping that to say, is the school ready and are the teachers ready for children, again, and coming back to that, the fact that for some children, they're going to have different requirements and, need a different approach for supporting those vertical and horizontal transitions throughout their experiences.

Bob:We're often asked by parents whether or not their child is ready to go to school. Of course we can't answer that because we don't know the child. We never met the child and so on. Who knows? But what we do say is, “is your child age eligible”? And once that's determined and the child is age eligible, then the child is ready to go to school. I mean, they are allowed to go to school. That doesn't mean the child is necessarily going to feel comfortable in the school or is going to be able to deal with the challenging academic content or, or physical aspects of, of going to school and so on. But all of that comes back to, is the school ready for that child? And I think that's really important for us to think in that, that sort of way, does the child, does the child have particular needs or particular issues or particular strengths that the school knows about and can use, to help the child feel suitable or belong in the, in the school? And the same sort of thing for the family. Does the family, is the family ready? Because it's not only the child who needs to be ready or the school that needs to be ready, but the family is going to have to change too.

Jacqui:I guess I would love to come back and revisit the notion of transition practices and when, and how do they occur. And particularly if we're talking about the time needed to invest in these relationships and getting to know each other. I think often some schools have the approach of an orientation program with two visits at the end of the year and the parent information evening, that's tick, we're doing some transitions, so I'd really love to hear some discussion around what the evidence base is about those transition practices happening over a longer period of time.

Sue:Oh, there's, there's lots and lots of interesting research about transition practices. And it goes from trying to nominate how many practices you should engage in, to what the nature of those practice should be and then the timing of those practices. I think the view that we have taken is that those practices don't need to occur in a formal way over an extended period of time. We've been working in schools in different places where a transition program or a set of orientation activities have started in say April or May of the year and gone througQh right to the end of the year before children start the school. And our first reaction is to say, well why? Why is that necessary? And I think sometimes we've got to realise that more is not necessarily better. I think we need to look at the nature of the practices we want to use. The quality of those practices, as well as the timing and duration. I think the challenge with something that goes, say from May to December is that you start to fall into a readiness program rather than a transition approach.

Jacqui:Well, and then it starts to compete with the child's participation in an early childhood service then. We don't want them to do that because, you know, we have a commitment to universal access where that's the best place for children to be in that year prior to school.

Bob:Absolutely. I think we have to think about why we're doing things as well as what we're doing. More activities is not necessarily going to be the answer. As Sue said, “the quality of activity is really important”, but the reason for the activity. I think that we need a variety of activities, but they're not all going to be appropriate for everyone. The actual length of activities. I think one of the things that's happened over the years in our transitions to school research is that we've noticed transition programs getting longer and longer and longer, right. And somehow, or other it's the quantity versus the quality argument. If we do it often enough, then we'll get something out of it. That's not necessarily the case.

Sue:It goes back to, to the notion of when does transition occur and the notion that transition continues into that first year of school is really important. So often times there's a sense, okay, we'll do 10 weeks of activities. We'll get to the day one of school and that's it transitions over. But if we think about transition as that process, that occurs over time, as children manage the change and start to feel comfortable and belonging in the school, then it's going to happen into the school year. So the timing of transition is a really important thing to discuss with the people around you, with your transition team. There are many schools when we've talked to kindergarten educators and various others will say, well, why are you doing that activity? We've always done it. And you think, okay, well, that's a start, but why have you always done it? What's important? What's the purpose of it? What are you trying to aim through that? You know, what are you going to get out of that activity? And sometimes just that simple reflection of saying, well, why are we doing this? And what's the best way to achieve our aim? Rather than just sticking with some practices that we've always done. Why is it that it’s Tuesday morning in term four that we always have kids from this preschool visit us? What’s the rationale? Could we do it a different way? Why is it that we always have the parent information night at 6pm on a Wednesday and nobody comes? Why is it? So that's sort of thinking through and unpacking what it is we're doing and why we're doing it, and are there other ways to do it?

Jacqui:And I would add another one on there too, to say, do we need to do something different to cater for the needs of some of our children? And I think children with a disability is a really good one because the sooner a school knows that a child is coming to a school, particularly if there needs to be some physical adjustments to the school, the earlier that happens the better. So there's real practical reasons too I think why transition might look different or longer, or for different cohorts.

Bob:I think the other thing, the other aspect of this is that there are lots of things that happen in early childhood settings which are actually transition activities, but are not labeled that way. So just some of the normal everyday things about cooperating with other children, about making friends about doing all sorts of other bits and pieces in the, in the center are actually going to prepare or help prepare the children for the time that they start school.

Sue:Yeah. And the other thing there too, is that we talk about transition activities as if it's only school educators who have the responsibility of running them. There are lots of other people in the community that can be engaged in a transition program and an orientation program doesn't have to be the one person doing everything. So working together is a much more sensible way to go in terms of thinking about what activities are appropriate with this community, who can deliver them, where can they be delivered and why are we doing them?

Jacqui:One of the things that we thought might be nice to conclude our conversation series would be a little sort of section where we kind of, have some questions that are a little bit like in the theme of the You Can't Ask That style kind of some myths that we hear around the traps about different things. And so one of the things that we have heard a lot of schools say is things like, Oh, well, we don't need to be doing any of those great quality transition practices that we've talked about today like, getting to know children and families, because we get all that information from Best Start Kindergarten Assessment.

Sue:There are many sources of information that you might draw on to help you build up a picture of the child and Best Start might be one of them. But I figure if you're relying on one particular set of information that may have been collected when children may not have been familiar or comfortable with the environment, they're probably not going to get the broadest or the deepest view possible.

Bob:But I think the danger is that if we put too much weight on any one thing, then we're likely to get a biased view of what the child is capable of doing and what the child is. And so Best Start is something that's useful. But it's not the only thing.

Jacqui:Definitely. And the purpose of Best Start is really to inform teaching and learning. It's meant to be about getting to know your students and getting that really valuable information about what they know and can do early in the piece in kindergarten. So definitely something to have a think about. I've got another little a little question here about, the idea that the real teaching happens when they start school. So I think that's an interesting one for us to have a little discussion about

Bob:School education might begin in kindergarten, but children actually learn a great deal before they come to school and they learn it in all sorts of different ways. Real teaching in the sense of instruction, explicit instruction and so on is not necessarily the same thing as real learning. It's learning that's a really important thing.

Sue:So I think we need to recognise that what happens in schools and early childhood contexts and home involves different types of teaching and different types of learning, and they're all particularly important.

Jacqui:I couldn't agree more. And I think there's a similar kind of attitude about teaching and learning when children progress from primary school into high school as well, that, that, that learning that's happened in that space, isn't always as valued or as acknowledged. So I think as a teaching profession, we really need to look at it as an education continuum and that children bring a whole lot of knowledge with them all the way along on their journey. Well, it's been a great conversation. So we'll wrap this one up and we'll look forward to seeing you in the next on the series.

 

Conversation 2: The role of children and families in transition

Conversation recording: The role of children and families in transition

Speakers:

Jacqui Ward, Early Learning Coordinator, NSW Department of Education

Emeritus Professor Bob Perry, Peridot Education Pty Ltd

Emeritus Professor Sue Dockett, Peridot Education Pty Ltd

Jacqui:Welcome to our conversation series on transition to school, I'm here with our well-renowned academic colleagues Sue Dockett, and Bob Perry. Thanks for joining us. This is conversation two in our series, and we're focusing in on family involvement. The first little point that I'd like to sort of start us thinking on is what role do families have in transition to school?

Sue:I think families have, have lots of different roles. And one of the first things to remember there is that it's not just the child experiencing transition. Families are also experiencing a transition as their child starts school and most of those people who have ever had a child start school, remember what it feels like to suddenly become the parent of a school child and the sorts of changes that, that, that invokes. So there's a transition happening for parents and families as well as a transition for children. So in a sense, families have a really important role because they're engaged in their own transition, just as well as the children. But there's a whole lot of other things that families do in transition as well and I think it's important here to think, not just about things that are seen to be school-based activities or preschool based activities. Families actually engage in a whole range of transition activities just in their everyday interactions and very often we don't recognise those as transition activities, but they are really important.

Bob:We often talk about transition beginning when a child first shows some interest in that transition and in school and usually that happens within the family. Usually there's a conversation among the siblings or among the adults about what school's like. Sometimes siblings will play school at home. So families play an important role in just getting the ball rolling in terms of thinking about school, thinking about what it might be like, what it might be like for the child who's about to start and those relationships are really, really important for both the families and the children to actually feel that school is a place for them. That school is a place where they can belong, that they can feel as though it suits them and basically that it's a place they want to be. So that once you get that sort of build up and that sort of relationship, then you can start doing some of the other things that schools are about.

Jacqui:Yeah, definitely. And I think there's a really good point that you make there too Bob about the fact that people bring all of their own experiences about their journey at school, don't they all the way through, how they started, how they ended, whether or not they had positive experiences along the way. So that can definitely cloud and influence a family's engagement with the process for their child as well, create a lot of anxieties and all sorts of issues. So it's, it really is important that it's a wraparound approach I think, that the families are encouraged to feel like they belong at the school as well.

Sue:Yeah. We've, we've spoken with many different families over, many different projects and even the families that have had less than positive experiences with school still want their kids to have a really good time. They're still committed to doing whatever they can to make school a much more positive experience for their kids. So you get that really initial enthusiasm, the willingness to be involved and if we can really tap into that, then it's a really good start for schools to make connections with children and families. But the other thing I just want to mention before I forget is that it's really important to think about educators and how they benefit from the relationships they form with children and families. You're confronted often as a kindergarten teacher with a new group of kids in a new context, it really helps to know some of those children and families before you're expected to engage in some of the work of the schools. So educators benefit from getting to know their kids and families and being comfortable in that space with them at the time.

Jacqui:I think there's lots that we can do from an early childhood point of view and a school's point of view to support families, to be that support for their children as well.

Sue:I think that's really important and I think following on from that it's, it's important for schools to realise that what families do to support transition isn't necessarily going to be the same thing that they're going to do. So families will support transition in lots of different ways. That might be through conversations, through sharing stories, planning interactions, but they're unlikely to do the same sorts of school things. So it's important for schools to recognise that families will do things differently and that's really important. I was thinking that we often have conversations with principals about parent engagement and parent involvement and sometimes principals will say, well, how do I get families to be involved? And, and my first question back is, well, what do you want, what do you expect? Do you expect 250 parents to turn up to do canteen duty? Is that what you want? What is it you actually want out of parent engagement?

Jacqui:I was going to say something similar around the idea of what does involvement look like, or what does participation versus partnership, and I think if the focus is on partnership, there's more likely to be a nice fit of what each party wants to bring to the table and wants to get out of the relationship as we talked earlier on.

Sue:And also the recognition that families have more to do than just the sorts of things the school wants you to do. I'm reminded of a parent who had four primary aged children and each had a set of homework and each was expected to be read to, or have read to them every night. And this parent was saying, I can't do that. I don't have the time to do all of that and to fill in all the forms you need to prove that I've done it and do everything else that keeps the family going. So we've got to be realistic about what we're expecting of families.

Jacqui:Definitely. And I think it's really important that we think about making it contextual for individuals as well, that it's not a one size fits all transition to school, and we've got these orientation programs, there's some children for whatever reason, maybe they have a disability or maybe they're from a refugee background. There might be lots of reasons why there needs to be a more tailored or differentiated approach for individual children and families.

Bob:Yeah, I think that's really important. And I think we do need to look at families as individuals. They will be members of different groups. They might be different cultural groups. They might be, as you say, refugees. But they've all had different experiences and they'll all come out of those experiences with different needs. And the teachers involved, the schools involved need to know about those things as they strive to make those connections. And it really is, even if you are a member of a particular cultural group, you're going to be an individual family or an individual person. And you need to be treated that way.

Jacqui:Definitely. I guess what is our next point here. I guess talking a little bit about the idea that all the perceptions that families have around what do I need to do to get my child ready for school as part of that transition? There's a lot of, I think misunderstanding about what schools actually want and some of that is because they do ask for some unusual things as well, but I guess it would be interesting to hear a little bit more about what does being prepared for school look like?

Sue:It's interesting. If you ask children what being prepared for school means, it means cleaning your teeth, having a school uniform, having a bag with you. That's what it means for them often to be ready for school, but it's different for families. Isn't it?

Bob:Yeah. I think, I think basically families need to talk to their children about school. They need to find out what's worrying the children. What sorts of things do they want to know? We want them to be able to do certain things by themselves. I mean, it's very, very handy in a kindergarten classroom if a child can put their own shoes on or, or, you know, can find their own jumper and those sorts of things, it's very, very handy to do that. It's not a prerequisite for coming to school, but it's a very useful thing to have and it makes the child feel good as well. The social, emotional aspects of a child going to school are really the critical ones. We want the child to feel comfortable at school and knowing enough to feel comfortable, knowing what school's going to be like, knowing that there are going to be friends or at least ways in which you can make friends, all of those sorts of things, families can be really involved.

Sue:We'd like children to be able to come to school with a sense of confidence, a sense of curiosity, a sense of persistence that notion that sometimes it takes more than one go to be able to achieve something. And I think those dispositions are really, really what we're looking for. The skills and the knowledge. Yeah. We've got teachers who can really promote those in all sorts of ways, but I'd rather have a child starting school with a sense of confidence and I'm happy to be here and I can do this, than a child has to be dragged kicking and screaming into the classroom because I'm not sure a whole lot of positive learning is going to happen just there.

Jacqui:That's right. And I think kindergarten teachers would definitely agree with the importance of self-help skills and that sense of resilience and all those sorts of things.

Sue:I think it's important to say that you shouldn't stop children from following their interests and we've known children who've been absolutely delighted to be able to sit down and write out a hundreds chart and you don't want to stop that. You don't want to say you don't do that now because you'll be bored in kindergarten. It's certainly important to build on that, but you're not forcing kids to do it.

Sue:The other spinoff from that is that you very quickly get parents making decisions about whether or not they feel they're a good or a bad parent. Good parents send their kids to school knowing how to write their name and count to 20. Sure that's fine. But we don't then want to turn around and say, that bad parents haven't done that. We don't need to be in that judgment exercise. We need to be able to respect families for what they do to recognise where kids are coming from and to build on that. And then we get a really nice partnership happening.

Jacqui:And that's a really nice segue, I guess, into our next bit about talking about how schools can really engage in valuing and respecting what families wants and needs are for their child.

Sue:I think for me, the very first thing there is to be genuinely committed to strengths-based approaches. And the definition we use of strengths-based approaches is having a deep seated belief, an inherent belief that people are capable of positive change in their lives with appropriate support. So looking at strengths, not just the strengths that people bring, but the potential strengths they have to develop and change and move in a particular direction. If we start from the idea that families and children have strengths, then we can move on. If we spend all our time focusing on what children can't do or what parents don't do, then we're pretty much stuck in a bind. None of us actually learns a great deal from being told you're hopeless at something. Whereas we actually have much more positive motivation to learn if we're told, Hey, look, you've really made a good effort to that point. I wonder if we can take it a bit further. I wonder if we can really extend this out. So I think the first thing I'd say to do in terms of valuing families is to recognise strengths even when they might not be obvious.

Bob:I think one way of valuing what families can bring is simply to ask them what they would like to bring, rather than they're being told that this is what the school would like and what is required and all those sorts of things, asking the families, what they can bring and what they would like to bring. And some of them may want not to bring anything, but you're asking that question is really an important way of valuing, providing you listen to the answers.

Sue:I think perhaps the last thing I'd say around this is that one way of showing that you value parents and respect parents is to make time for them. And that's really difficult if you're a kindergarten teacher with 20, 25 new kids, 20 new sets of parents, and you're trying to do all sorts of things. So trying to work at how you might manage to show that you value parents and how you might connect with them. There are the general parent information sessions, but, but often parents don't feel they get the individual attention they would like from those. So there may be ways to organise, to meet with small groups of parents where you show that you can listen to what they want to tell you, as well as share the general information that you think is important.

Jacqui:Definitely. And I think it's about choosing where is the best of your time and where do you invest your time as a teacher? Because you've got limited time, but thinking about what will be the end result, and if there are improved outcomes for your children and your students in your class, then if that's what we're all looking for, then it's going to make everyone's roles easier I think.

Sue:I think we shouldn't underestimate though how much hard work it does take for a kindergarten teacher to really get to know their kids and their families. And we should value the way kindergarten teachers are able to do that.

Jacqui:Definitely. And I guess I'd like to also sort of loop back around to what you were talking about with the strengths-based approach in terms of the evidence-base around what works best. One of the key themes is about high expectations and having high expectations for children and families, and what they're capable of is really important. And of course that's a nice link to the early years learning framework as well. So in that early childhood space, it's also valued as one of our guiding teaching principles as well.

Bob:High expectations are really, really important for everyone, right? And people generally providing they're not too high will match up with those expectations. They will strive to meet those expectations. And so if the expectation is that a child is not going to succeed, there's a very good chance that they won't and preferably if the expectation is the child will achieve and will be confident and will have all those other learning dispositions which will enhance for future learning then generally speaking that, that's what will happen.

Sue:It's important though, to realise that just as teachers will have expectations for children and families, children and families will have expectations of teachers. And we often talk about high expectations for others, but it's actually really important to remember that we should also recognise there are high expectations of us as educators. So a nice balance.

Jacqui:Definitely. Our next little discussion point, I guess, is that idea of transition being a time where children establish their identity or themselves as learners or have their identity as learners challenged from one space to another. So I think that would be a nice sort of segue to talk about children in that space as well.

Sue:It's interesting that if you talk to any group of kids in a kindergarten class, even very early into the school year they will tell you who's the one that you'd go to if you want help with writing your name, who's the one that will do the counting. Who's the one? They'll actually know, they will have formed a sense of who is good at what, who's the naughty one sometimes, who's the loud one, who's the quiet one, who's got the right pencil. I mean, they will have already established a whole range of identities within that classroom. And that is quite fascinating. In terms of children's own self-identity, I think we have to think, okay, what is it we're trying to build here? What sort of identity do we believe is a positive learner identity, a positive school identity? Is it someone who follows the rules? Is it someone who can take risks? Is it someone who can do something well? Is it someone who's good in the playground? What sorts of things are we trying to help build up here in terms of a school identity.

Jacqui:And a nice thing to think about in terms of our family expectation and values and those sorts of things, isn't it, to create those ideas and concepts together. I think we might wrap up with some of our questions from the field slash you can't ask that style questions. What we've got on our questions. This one is, we don't want parents on site because we don't get to see the real child as though, you know, as in children might be a bit different when their families are around.

Sue:What we've found over many years is that parents often talk to their children about making visits to the school during orientation. And they talk about a shared experience and a number of parents and children have talked about how upsetting it has been for them when they come to the school for a shared experience to be told parents, you go that way and children, you go that way. And I think it comes back to what we're aiming for. What's the purpose here? If we want parents and children to talk about school, then perhaps I need to talk about that shared experience. Perhaps they need to have both been involved in the same activity to be able to have a conversation about it. So there is some benefit, I think, to shared activities where parents and children experience the same thing. But as Bob said, that doesn't mean they all have to do exactly the same thing all the time. But I think the other element to me here is that if we’re really interested in parents and educators working together then why would we shut parents out of the equation? If there's a sense that, Oh, yes, I really want you to do what I think you should be doing at home. I want you to read, I want you to count. I want you to do all these sorts of things, but I'm actually not going to let you into the school grounds to talk to me about it. Then what sort of a partnership are we generating?

Jacqui:Yeah, that's right. Definitely conflicting messages around respectful relationships. And this one's kind of a little bit of the flip side to say, well, what about the parents that don't want to come onto the school site, they drop and run? How do we handle that situation? And what do we do about that?

Sue:I think in much the same way by saying, well, it's not every parent's cup of tea to spend time at school. It could be a whole range of reasons why that might be the case. I mean, lots of parents are actually busy working parents, perhaps they don't have time to hang around and have that conversation. Perhaps they really don't have that flexibility in their own working life. We know that one of the elements that happens in the parents or the families transition to school is that there's a real challenge balancing home life, family life, and school, life, as well as work life. But there are also some parents who don't really see it as their role to have a great deal of interaction with the school and the danger there, I think for us is to say, well, we can't assume that those parents are not interested in what's happening for their children. We just have to accept that some parents will show it in different ways. So yes, some parents will drop and run. Sometimes we have to make other inroads to try and build the connection with them.

Bob:And one, one very useful technique for school teachers to use is to talk with the early childhood educators about how they've interacted with the parents, usually over a longer period of time. So if there is a particular parent that you're having a bit of trouble with the, you know, maybe because they're too interactive and too engaged or maybe that the other way around ask, ask your colleagues in the early childhood, how did you do this? How did you deal with it?

Jacqui:That's a great way to communicate and a nice thing to wrap up on and finish up on. I think you know, the key to family involvement is really centering both parties centering on the interest of the child and improved outcomes for the children. So thank you, Sue and Bob, thank you.


Conversation 3: Continuity of learning

Conversation recording: Continuity of learning

Speakers:

Jacqui Ward, Early Learning Coordinator, NSW Department of Education 

Emeritus Professor Bob Perry, Peridot Education Pty Ltd 

Emeritus Professor Sue Dockett, Peridot Education Pty Ltd 

Jacqui:Welcome to our conversation series with renowned academics Sue Dockett and Bob Perry. And today we're on conversation three, which is all about continuity of learning. So the first thing that I'd like to have a chat about is what does continuity of learning look like for children starting school?

Sue:Continuity can look all sorts of different ways in different contexts for different children. It's really interesting to talk about continuity of learning, but often people are referring to continuity of other things, as well as learning in their conversations. And, and we know there are lots of different types of continuity. You can read about developmental continuity about philosophical continuity, about curriculum continuity about pedagogical continuity, organisational continuity, relational continuity. I think it's really important that we're having these conversations to unpack what it is we actually mean by continuity and what we're trying to focus on. 

Jacqui:I think that would be really great because that actually in terms of schools supporting and focusing in on transition to school, that's the focus continuity of learning. So it is really important, I think, to unpack all those different aspects and what parts of our programs and practices in transition relate to the different elements of continuity and what are we trying to achieve in each space? 

Bob:I think children will, wherever they are continue to develop one way or another, now they can certainly be assisted in in doing that. But there's a great deal of continuity that comes from the school from the early childhood centre, but particularly from the families. The family is still going to be the same, whether the child was in school or in the early childhood setting. So there is a great deal of continuity, which comes from outside the educational settings, but within the educational settings, the continuity is really about the children wanting to learn.  

Sue:When we talk about continuity of learning, it's really important to unpack what we mean by that. And how we understand continuity of learning. For us, continuity of learning means working out where your children are at, so that you can build on what they already bring so that you can build on their strengths, their knowledge, their skills, their understandings, their dispositions. So you, you have a sense of where they are and where they're likely to be heading. So it's really hard to promote a continuity of learning if you don't know your kids and where they're coming from. 

Jacqui:I think that raises a really good point, too, in relation to thinking about it from a theoretical point of view, we've talked a lot about research, but from a theoretical point of view, and thinking about developmental domains, children are in the phase of early childhood until they're eight so we need to be thinking about what does that mean for our teaching and the learning activities and, and the, you know, the way we implement curriculum in that space as well. And if we think about theorists like Vygotsky building on what you say Sue about making sure that next step is at the right level for that differentiated approach for each individual child, that's really important. 

Sue:It is really important, but so too is, is how we think about learning. We often see learning progressions or learning steps if you like that suggest there's step one, two, and you build on them all the time and it's a constant progression, but we all know the reality is that sometimes you need to take a couple of steps back before you take a step forward. If you know your children and you know where they're coming from, you can recognise what might be perceived as a step back and help build up to take on the next challenge. So it's, it's all about, as you say, understanding the nature of learning, understanding your children, understanding where they're coming from, but also where you'd like to take them.   

Bob:And I think that comes from teachers knowing their children and not only knowing where they're at in particular content areas, but also knowing how they're learning. One of the things that I think is really important is that different children learn in different ways. And in order to have continuity of learning, we need to know just how that is, is occurring for different children.  

Sue:I think the other thing too, is we often confuse continuity of learning with continuity of curriculum and continuity of pedagogy and while they are all related and are all in, in play in different ways at different times, there are slight differences. We're often asked why can't we have a curriculum that covers children from birth to school age? Why do we have two different curriculums? And the answer is because we're really looking at two different contexts, two different philosophies, two different traditions, two different sectors. There's opportunities to create continuity. And you can do that through looking at continuity of pedagogy. You can do that through looking at continuity of relationships. But you can also do it by looking at continuity of learning. 

Jacqui:Definitely. And I think if anyone sort of has a good forensic look at all the learning outcomes, there's lots of links to the key learning areas in terms of English and maths or literacy and numeracy. So there are lots of opportunities. I think we just also need to look for them. 

Sue:Yeah. I think the other thing to focus on there is continuity of relationships. And we know that there's a great deal of benefit for children and families and educators, where there are strong connections between early childhood educators in prior to school settings and educators in schools. That continuity of relationships where there's a trust to respect that works across the sectors where children and families feel like both parts of that relationship are working for them. Can do a lot to really promote positive learning outcomes. 

Bob:And I think in, in our experience and the examples that we've seen in our work and our colleagues work. Where you get the best sort of continuity of learning is where you have the better of those relationships.  

Jacqui:And I think I always talk about the Australian professional standards for teachers as being a great sort of common area, because those are applicable to both spaces. So knowing what to teach and how to teach is common to both audiences. So again, it's a great opportunity to know each other's spaces. And as you say, not to replicate it cause they're different spaces, they're different curriculums, but to draw on each other's strengths and also to know, as you said Sue you can't build on, on something that you don't know about. So I think that's really important. 

Sue:Yeah. I think it's really important that we have two different sectors. I don't think any of us are looking to have school go down into preschool. And have preschool go up into school. I think we're looking at the commonalities that can be generated by people working together to take the best of both worlds. 

Jacqui:I guess thinking about that sort of unpacking that pedagogical continuity a bit, because I think that's an area of interest. I think that there's interest to say in that early school space, well, how could we be implementing a play-based pedagogy and all those sorts of things. And then again, I think there's interest in the early childhood space to say, well, we want to make sure that the children are ready for school and all those sorts of things. What, what are your thoughts around those things? 

Sue:It's interesting that many children have told us over the years that the difference between preschool and school is that at preschool to get to play, but you don't get to play at school. And so for them, there's a really interesting change if you like in focus. I think there is a challenge often in school settings for teachers to feel comfortable with play. It's almost like there's a lot of pressure and we really don't have time to play. And even if we did, then my colleagues, the parents, the children would feel like it's not appropriate to play at school. And yet a really well-designed play curriculum is a really effective approach to teaching and promoting learning. Again, there are ways to think about play as the real essence of intentional teaching in that as a teacher promoting a play curriculum or a play pedagogy, you need to be thinking about what prompts, what provocations, what interests do I really want to pick up on, on these kids? What do I actually want them to ask about? What do I want them to be curious about? So what I'm trying to say is that play is the very opposite of a lazy approach to pedagogy. Play actually is a really hard working approach where teachers need to be well-prepared, they need to have well-resourced contexts and environments, and they need to have an understanding. They need to have an intention of where that play is likely to go and to be responsive, I suppose, if it doesn't go that way to provide the prompts to guide it in particular directions.  

Jacqui:Most definitely. And I think there's an opportunity for teachers in those early years of schools to see as an opportunity to do some real integrated teaching. So to draw all the key learning areas together in a, in a project or an investigation or a learning centre or whatever that gives you an opportunity to cover a lot of your content and all of those things through the one experience. 

Bob:And many of those starting points can come from the children. They can come from the children's own interests, particular things that the children bring to the school or bring to the preschool that can then stimulate really quite large pieces of learning providing the teachers are willing to take the risks that are involved, and the hard work that's involved in maintaining that through provocation, through questioning, through ensuring that the children are never satisfied with an answer, but they continue to search. 

Jacqui:Definitely. And I guess on the flip side, I think it's important to say, we've talked about, for the school teachers to know where children have come from, it's important for early childhood teachers to also know where to next. 

Bob:Absolutely. Absolutely it is. There have to be reasons why you're doing things and often the reason will be because of whatever else it is that's going to happen. What, what comes next and where is this leading to?  

Jacqui:I think it's a great opportunity for a little bit of critical reflection and an opportunity for the networking and those discussions to say, let's have a look at each other's curriculum spaces and let's have a look at the early years learning framework and where mathematical concepts are mentioned throughout the learning outcomes. And how does that link to the early stage one syllabus outcomes as well. So I think that's a great opportunity for that shared discussion and that relationship building to get to know each other's space. 

Sue:Yeah. I think, I think that relationship building is the key. The discussions are key. We don't expect that in the first discussion prior to school and school educators will automatically agree and have exactly the same perspective, but that's what makes it really interesting is the chance to actually unpack that in a safe environment, in a comfortable environment where it's okay to ask, well, why do you do that? And how do you do it? How do you make it work for you? And to think about the ways in which there can be familiarity and commonality across things in different contexts. 

Jacqui:Most definitely. Well, I guess we'll finish up there with some questions from the field. I actually think we've covered all these anyway, but one of the things that I often come across with teachers is that idea of, there's interest I think in the school space to do some play-based pedagogy, but then how do I meet the NESA requirements of doing X amount of time on English and X amount of time on math, within my timetable. So I think that becomes a little bit of a stumbling block. So I don’t know if you've got any thoughts on. 

Sue:I think it is a real challenge and teachers are balancing a whole range of different expectations and requirements, but again, we know that particularly early years teachers, kindergarten teachers are really well prepared if you'd like, or they're really keen to look at integrated programs. Now, we might debate what we mean by integrated programs, but the notion that we can look at how a project, for example, or a task or an investigation covers multiple curriculum areas, as well as includes a range of different pedagogical approaches. So I know it seems really glib to say, look, integration is the answer. Integration is a lot of hard work, but that's where you likely to be able to combine worthwhile projects with multiple different curriculum areas and maintain that focus over time. 

Jacqui:I think it's a good opportunity too for schools to think about how do they integrate the general capabilities as well. And also whatever happens to be the hot priority at the time, if it's reading or if it's maths, or if it's literacy, numeracy, there's an opportunity to have a strong focus or make that visual, with in your, you know, make it visible to other what you're doing in that particular project. 

Bob:I think reading is a really good example. I mean, I would expect that reading probably takes up most of the time in a school classroom. Right. I mean, you have to reading about something. And so, while you're reading something, you could be doing mathematics, you could be doing science, you could be learning about the countries of the world. You could be doing all sorts of things. You could be learning that reading and finding out about things is good fun and challenging and worthwhile. There are a whole lot of things that can be counted if you like, if you need to fill out a form to say how much numeracy and reading you've been doing.  

Jacqui:That's right. It's just about tracking it, isn't it? And a nice way to finish up on our conversation. Thank you, Sue and Bob.

Conversation 4: Evaluating transition practices

Conversation recordings: Evaluating transition practices

Speakers:

Jacqui Ward, Early Learning Coordinator, NSW Department of Education

Emeritus Professor Bob Perry, Peridot Education Pty Ltd

Emeritus Professor Sue Dockett, Peridot Education Pty Ltd

Jacqui:We're here today in our conversation series on transition with renowned academics Sue Dockett and Bob Perry. So welcome. And this conversation series number four is talking about evaluation of transition programs of practices. So I guess the sort of million dollar question here is what constitutes an effective transition?

Bob:I think that's a really interesting question. And many people will have different answers. Obviously a transition program needs to be effective for all the people involved. So it's not just a matter of the children. The teachers, the Kindergarten teachers need to feel that it's effective for them. The preschool teachers need to feel that it's effective for them as well, families, community, and so on and so forth. So what does it mean to be effective? Well, certainly in terms of the children, we would look at it in terms of their feeling as though they belong in the school. That the school is for them. That they're learning. That they've got friends and so on. For the teachers in Kindergarten, effectiveness probably means that things go along as they were planned, that the children feel comfortable and that there's effective learning going on, that the children are learning things. For families effectiveness might mean feeling comfortable about finding out what goes on in the school, finding out just how the school works and how they work within the school community. So effectiveness depends on who you are and what you're trying to do, but it also depends on what is the overall aim of the transition. And so we need, before we can talk about effectiveness to say, well, effectiveness for whom and effectiveness for what?

Sue:Thinking back to some of our really early work where we spoke with parents and children and educators in different contexts and children, like Bob said, told us that what was effective for them, what made an effective transition for them was when they felt like they knew the rules of school and they had friends. And when we talked to families what made an effective transition for them was when they felt like their child was accepted as part of the group in the school, but at the same time that they felt that somebody knew their child was special. And for teachers, it was very much effectiveness was when they felt the group came together and could operate as a group. So they’re examples of different things that constituted effectiveness for different groups of people.

Bob:And for preschool teachers, preschool educators. One of the things that we were told very clearly was that they wanted to know that their children were successful in the new space. You know, for them effectiveness was about the children being able to function successfully within that new space, but also that they were told about that.

Jacqui:I think they're all great points. And I think the idea of how do you know something's been effective, you need to have a, what does it look like to be successful, or that shared understanding of what's the purpose of what we're doing and what does each party bring to that in terms of the planning and the evaluation and what everybody wants to get out of it. So I think that's a really important point. And when I think about you know, the planning processes that are in both spaces, early childhood and schools, it's about looking at sort of effectiveness and what does that sort of end result look like? And then deciding what ways are you going to measure that?

Sue:I think one of the challenges with approaches to transition is that there's often so much effort and energy put into planning and implementing them that we actually forget the evaluation phase. So I think one of the things we need to think more about is when we're planning transition activities or orientation activities and saying, well, what's our actual aim, what are we planning this for? Why are we doing it? And what do we expect to come out of it? And then we've got a framework for evaluating it. So if part of a school visit is to increase children and families’ familiarity with school, well, how do we know they're familiar with the school? What, what evidence do we draw upon? We don't need to test them on it. What evidence do we draw upon to say, well, there is a sense of familiarity. And when we talk about belonging, belonging is a fascinating concept. And we believe that transition finishes when children and families feel like there's a sense of belonging in the school, but what do we mean by belonging? And we've had some fascinating conversations with children about whether or not they feel like they belong at school.

Bob: So one of our standard processes is that we asked Kindergarten children to reflect on their Kindergarten year, maybe in term four. And we asked them to reflect on what they were like when they started school and what they're like now and how they've changed and so on. And they draw a picture. Maybe they write something or have it scribed. And basically we can look at these things and say, well, okay, that's how these children have changed. That's how our program, our transition has been effective for this particular child.

Sue:I think that brings up a really important point in that effectiveness is going to be different for different people across different timeframes. Some children, some families might feel comfortable, might feel that sense of belonging fairly early in the piece. Some might take a lot longer, so it's really difficult to draw an end point and say, okay, week eight term one, that's it. It should have been effective for everyone by now. It's actually going to be a much more staggered evaluation, if you like, because different children, different families will take time to feel that comfort or that suitability in the space. And I think one of the things we often forget is that transition does take longer times for different people. There are some children who might still be entering year one who haven't completed what we would see as their transition to school. They're still in that process of not feeling really sure about this space, not sure about whether they belong, not sure about whether this is the place for them. And we need to be aware that as educators, there's still a lot of work to be done to help those kids and families feeling like school is the place for them.

Bob:And from a practical point of view, what that means is that you need to ask people more than once. You need to ask over a number of times and gather data at different intervals. It's not necessarily practical to do that individually when you suspect that they might've made it or not. But as a class you could be asking beginning of term one end of term one, you know, later in the year, as you go through maybe culminating in this sort of reflection aspect and you need to look at the progress of those sorts of things. So the data is not just single time data, but progressive data as you're moving through.

Jacqui:And I think that raises a really good point, too, that we might evaluate an individual transition experience in that particular year and all that went well or not. But what does transition look like in your school or in your early childhood or your community, let's say over time, and is it sometimes hitting the mark and sometimes not? And what does, what are the anomalies and what are the increases and decreases in things that we're looking for? Because often I think in the school space, there's a lot of absence, of, so that's not an easy thing to track either. So there might be an absence of attendance issues. They might be an absence of behavioural issues. So if you don't necessarily look at that over time, you're not necessarily capturing any trends or patterns that you can analyse.

Sue:And I think it goes back to what we've talked about in earlier conversations about looking at both horizontal and vertical transitions. I mean, there are the transitions that children make every day to, and from home and out of school care and back to school and so on. What's effective in those has an impact on what's effective in those vertical transitions. So I think we need to be looking like you say, fairly broadly at what is it we're trying to look at here? How might we gather a range of data to support our decision making?

Jacqui:And I think even from that networking that we talked about in the first conversation, what is the, there's an opportunity for some shared planning too in those school plans and those quality improvement plans for there to be a connecting goal across both spaces, which that's the sort of thing that I think is a really great opportunity to be documenting your work together. And, and again, opportunities to look at the whole process.

Bob:And I think it opens up everyone for the building of even stronger relationships. If you actually open up and say, all right, we're going to evaluate our transition. And our transition is involving both prior to school settings, school settings, families, and so on. And we're all going to do that evaluation, not an evaluation looking just at one particular part of the transition program. So while that may go on preschools, for example, or a preschool might think about their activities and what they do and schools might do the same, but if we bring it all together and we share that, then I think that's something that can be very empowering in terms of building up the strong relationships.

Sue:I think it's a really important thing to look at how we work together. So how early services and schools can work together even just in the practical and possibly the ethical approaches to evaluating transition. If I'm the Kindergarten teacher of your child, and I want to sit down to you and say, do you think this transition has been effective? Do you think I've done a good job? Chances are, you're going to feel a little bit guarded about the information you provide. So I think working together, working with our early childhood colleagues and our school colleagues provides a bit of space to have some conversations that might be sometimes a little bit challenging or a little bit difficult, but to have them in a way that's productive.

Jacqui:Definitely. And I think it opens that forum too, for opportunities for diverse problem-solving. And well, if there, wasn't a positive experience for this child from this particular say cultural background, or this child that sort of isn't fitting the norm or all of those sorts of things. What could we do differently in that space and each own that as a different challenge to sort of offer it, offer that differentiated approach?

Bob:One example that comes to mind for me is the, the transition activity of family information nights. Family information nights are often characterised by poor attendance. In many schools, this has been going on and, you know, everyone thinks they have to have one, but I think there's time for us to step back and say, well, why do we have this? It doesn't seem to be working. We're not getting to the parents. Why, why is this not particularly working for us? Maybe there's just something that we can do which substitutes for the standard family information night, but still allows us to interact with the families.

Sue:You've also raised what I think is a really important point there in that we can evaluate specific activities or we can evaluate an overall program. And I think there's a balance there that we need to look at. I think it's really important to reflect on specific activities. Not just to do things because we've always done them, but to think about what we're aiming to do in this activity and how are we going to know if it's an effective activity, but then to look at the overall program and say, how do we know this overall program has been effective? It's actually a little bit more complex than just saying, okay, right now, we're going to check. We can have a bit of a worksheet. Do you like it? Has it worked yes or no? There, there is room for written information, but you're going to have to use a range of different strategies to gather the information you need to be able to claim that this is an effective program.

Jacqui:So that's a really great point to and I think that a lot of people often say, Oh, I don't have any time for anything new or different, or, you know, we do that because it's time effective or whatnot. But I think that's an opportunity to say, well, how much time does that actually take me to do this when I'm actually only speaking to two parents, perhaps there's a better use of my time. And there's a better way. Well, it's not about also too adopting a whole lot of new things and not culling anything. I think that we're not very good at that as teachers to say, Oh, we're going to do something new, but we have to let some other things slide, or we have to prioritise which is important right now. And it doesn't mean we won't do that thing again, but for now these are the things that we're focusing in on given our limited time and resources.

Sue:And there's nothing to say that you can't seek advice about that. You can't actually say to parents, or a quick survey of parents. What information do you need? What's most likely to work for you? You might even talk to your early childhood colleagues and say, what forms of communication do you find are the most effective ways to get in touch with your parents? You can certainly seek information about that. You don't have to have all the answers yourself.

Jacqui:Definitely.

Bob:And it's going to be different in different places, different groups of parents, different groups of educators and so on. It's going to be different year, year on, year from one in, in the same place. So I think basically the really important point that you make is that we need to think about it. We need to reflect on what's actually going to happen and why we're doing these things.

Sue:Yeah. I think I'd just like to push the importance of evaluation because very often transition has been seen in a school as the province of the Kindergarten teacher. You know, it's just something you have to manage. You have to do this sometimes in your spare time, sometimes on very limited resources. I think if we recognise the importance and the power of evaluation, to be able to come back to a whole school staff meeting, to be able to report on the sorts of things, you've done the sorts of things that have been achieved and to really push that notion of transition as an important time, not just for your Kindergarten class and not just for your Kindergarten teachers, but for your whole school. And we'd take the very strong argument that when there's an effective approach to transition in your school, the whole school benefits, it's not just something that keeps the Kindergarten teachers sane.

Jacqui:I would definitely agree. And a nice way to wrap up our conversation with the last little question. I think we've covered it, but the idea that well, you know, it's not really a question, but that phrase that you often hear, well, we know that our transition program works because everyone, all the children come and knowing what we want them to know.

Sue:I think that goes back to Bob's earlier point about what's the purpose of your transition program. And I think there are really fruitful discussions to have at that really early planning stage to say, well, what is it we're trying to get out of this? What are we aiming to do through all these activities? If your aim is to promote children's readiness, then your program will look very different than if your aim is to promote a sense of familiarity and sense of comfort and belonging. So you need to really start that conversation and say, what are we aiming for?

Bob:And we need to look at that particular link between the aim of any activity and the evaluation of that activity. The aim of any program and that evaluation of the program. If we can do that, then I think we'll have a much better handle on what works in transition.

Jacqui:I would agree. And also that idea of thinking about the strategic goals I mentioned in conversation one, this particular approach doesn't necessarily - it's very school centric, isn't it? It doesn't necessarily look at the child's point of view experiencing a strong start to school, or that they are known, valued and cared for which I kind of equate to very much like feeling a sense of belonging and feeling engaged in your school and your learning. So I think definitely we need to think a little bit broader than what it looks like for one particular party as well. Well, thank you for joining us in this conversation series. I think it's been awesome and hopefully all of our colleagues out there have enjoyed them as well and get lots of information out of them. Have lots more resources and information on the website too, for everybody too. Thank you.

 

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