Early Childhood Education/Early Years

Debra Laxton and Marilyn Leask with inputs from the MESH Early Years Editorial Board | View as single page | Feedback/Impact
Early Childhood Education/Early Years
Effective learning
Activities and Types of Play
Case Studies

Effective learners and cultural impact

Different cultures have different approaches to learning and to teaching children how they should live in their society.

Probably the most important research finding for those working with young children is that neuroscientists have found that intelligence is not fixed, that the brain can be developed throughout life (Howard-Jones, 2016).

However, the language used around a child who is learning may influence their belief in their capacity to learn.  In English, there are no single words to describe the stages of learning, yet in Kaupapa Māori there are words which help learners to understand the challenge of learning and the good feeling that comes from learning:       

“There are three Māori concepts that describe the stages of learning: mohiotanga, what the child brings to the learning experience, mātauranga, the challenge involved in learning something new, the struggle of learning as the learner comes to understand it, maramatanga, the understanding and feeling of achievement that comes from the struggle. “ p.1 Culturally responsive assessment based on Kaupapa Māori, www.theeducationhub.org.nz .

This knowledge about brain development underpins the advice about learning in this Guide.

In England, the Early Years Foundation Stage framework (Early education, 2012, pp.6-7) identifies three key characteristics of effective learning:








Playing and Exploring


Finding out and exploring

·         Showing curiosity about objects, events and people

·         Using senses to explore the world around them

·         Engaging in open-ended activity

·         Showing particular interests

Playing with what they know

·         Pretending objects are things from their experience

·         Representing their experiences in play

·         Taking on a role in their play

·         Acting out experiences with other people

Being willing to ‘have a go’

·         Initiating activities

·         Seeking challenge

·         Showing a ‘can do’ attitude

·         Taking a risk, engaging in new experiences, and learning by trial and error







Active Learning


Being involved and concentrating

·         Maintaining focus on their activity for a period of time

·         Showing high levels of energy, fascination

·         Not easily distracted

·         Paying attention to details

Keeping on trying

·         Persisting with activity when challenges occur

·         Showing a belief that more effort or a different approach will pay off

·         Bouncing back after difficulties

Enjoying achieving what they set out to do

·         Showing satisfaction in meeting their own goals

·         Being proud of how they accomplished something – not just the end result

·         Enjoying meeting challenges for their own sake rather than external rewards or praise







Creating and Thinking Critically thinking

Having their own ideas

·         Thinking of ideas

·         Finding ways to solve problems

·         Finding new ways to do things

Making links

·         Making links and noticing patterns in their experience

·         Making predictions

·         Testing their ideas

·         Developing ideas of grouping, sequences, cause and effect

Choosing ways to do things

·         Planning, making decisions about how to approach a task, solve a problem and reach a goal

·         Checking how well their activities are going

·         Changing strategy as needed

·         Reviewing how well the approach worked