Self-review as practical philosophy: a case study in early childhood education in Aotearoa New Zealand
This study examines self-review, the process whereby early childhood teachers review their teaching practice in early childhood education in Aotearoa New Zealand. Self-review can be interpreted in one of two ways – as a technical form of quality assurance to measure teachers and teaching against prescribed criteria or as a process whereby teachers reflect on their practice, not only in terms of teaching strategies, but also of the values that underpin teaching. This second approach can be viewed as “practical philosophy”. The theoretical basis of the research was social constructionism (Burr, 2003) that contends that knowledge is constructed through the daily lived experiences of people as they interact within a community of practice (Lave & Wenger, 2002; Wenger, 1998). In order to explore self-review as practical philosophy, the action research approach of living values as articulated by McNiff and Whitehead (2005) was chosen. This approach contends that we are all living contradictions who do not always practice the values we espouse. Because of this, McNiff and Whitehead believe that if we wish to improve our practice, we should first examine our values and then see how these are reflected in practice. These authors believe that engaging in dialogue with others about values and practice lends rigour and validity to the process. To explore self-review as an approach of practical philosophy and living values, I planned three spheres of action research to be completed concurrently. In the first sphere I reviewed my own practice. For the second sphere I selected one early childhood centre where I facilitated a process to support early childhood teachers to review their teaching philosophy through reflection and dialogue. Each teacher wrote their individual philosophy statements, which were discussed as a group so that a collective philosophy could be formed. Each teacher also had their practice videoed and each video was then discussed by the team. Both the teachers and I reflected on the process in terms of how it has affirmed, altered or caused us to modify our practice. For the third sphere, I reviewed the documents pertaining to self-review in early childhood education in Aotearoa New Zealand. At the completion of the research I reflected that both a technical approach and an approach based on practical philosophy are useful for reviewing teaching practice in early childhood education in Aotearoa New Zealand. rigour and validity to the process.