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Intentional teaching within a play-based environment is associated with children’s greater progress and achievement.
Intentional teaching involves always thinking about what you are doing as a teacher and how it will support or enable children’s development and learning. It requires you to have an awareness of and to be deliberate, thoughtful, considered and purposeful in your teaching behaviours, actively planning and acting with specific goals or outcomes for children’ learning in mind.
It is important to note that developing a more intentional role does not demand didactic techniques, nor should teachers neglect to focus on children’s learning and their interests in favour of their own desired outcomes.
Early childhood teachers have over 1000 interactions with children during a day, many of which are spontaneous and unplanned. Being intentional can help teachers make the most of these interactions. Intentional teaching techniques such as questioning, scaffolding and sustained shared thinking for extending children’s learning are found to contribute to greater learning and positive outcomes for children. Studies of well-resourced free play environments, on the other hand, suggest that free play does not regularly lead to sustained and meaningful encounters that support learning.
There is an emerging body of research emerging in New Zealand exploring the extent of teacher’s intentionality in pedagogical decision-making, without, however, investigating the impact on children’s learning and achievement. A well-established body of literature from the UK highlights that intentional teaching practices such as sustained shared thinking, teacher planning of group work involving challenging activities, and teachers’ active involvement in play are associated with children’s greater progress and achievement.
Intentional teaching hinges upon teachers’ and families’ aspirations for children, and determining and clarifying these is the very first step of an intentional approach to teaching. Agreed priorities for children’s learning are then used to inform curriculum design, pedagogy, assessment, and evaluation, and to focus teaching and learning, interactions and environments. Intentional teachers might:
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