Investigating identity constructions of early childhood educators as teachers of numeracy

Year: 2012

Author: Thomas, Louise, McDonald, Susan

Type of paper: Abstract refereed



In this session we present a report on a research project focused on early childhood educators' professional identity constructions as teachers of numeracy. Early childhood educators in the prior-to-school (PTS) sector have traditionally been reluctant to position themselves as teachers and to articulate their work with children as teaching (McArdle & McWilliam, 2005; Ryan & Goffin, 2008). The pedagogical practices of early childhood educators have focussed on play and these educators have tended to identify as facilitators of children's play-based learning (Thomas, Warren, & deVries, 2011). The recently mandated national curriculum for the PTS sector (Early Years Learning Framework, DEEWR, 2009) identified numeracy as an essential outcome for children. This focus on early numeracy, in conjunction with the requirement to have university-qualified teachers in all PTS educational settings, has resulted in an increased focus on the relationship between the tradition discourse of play-based learning and an emerging discourse of intentional teaching of numeracy in the PTS sector. The fine balance between providing children in PTS settings with a play-based curriculum and teachers' articulation of their role in the enhancement of children's emerging numeracy capabilities is the focus of this paper.


The question for this research was: What discourses of professional identity construction do educators in PTS settings draw on to describe their work in supporting children's numeracy learning? This project was based upon a number of situated case studies, and data were collected using semi-structured interviews with a small sample (3-4) of PTS educators.

In using a discourse analysis approach the intention was to unsettle and disrupt taken-for-granted assumptions within the conditions of possibility of 'being' an early childhood teacher.


The insights gleaned from these interviews led to the development of items for a survey utilising the intuitive-rational model for instrument development (Lang, Wong, & Fraser, 2005; Walker, 2006). Findings from the survey data will be used to develop the semi-structured interview questions to be undertaken with a larger group of PTS educators (8 -10).


The data collected has provided the opportunity for a contextual analysis of teacher identity constructions in PTS settings in relation to the teaching and learning of numeracy.