Strengths approaches to early childhood education

Year: 2014

Author: Angela, Fenton

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Abstract:
This paper will explore the use of a strengths-based approach to practice and research in Early Childhood Education. Strengths approaches recognise strengths as well as the challenges faced by people in families and communities and draw on social justice principles to support self-determined goals as the basis for effective change. With origins in psychology and social services, strengths approaches can assist with therapeutic and change-orientated processes including child protection interventions. Its potential for education contexts, however, is still to be fully recognised. The paper draws on the author’s doctoral research and subsequent post-doctoral publications that have evaluated a Strengths Approach as a cross-sector tool for implementing change in Early Childhood Education. The paper will introduce the multiple origins, development and critiques of strengths-based approaches and discuss the potential of such approaches to support the wellbeing of children and to engage educators and families. In the research, qualitative semi-structured interviews and focus groups methods were adapted to ensure that they aligned with the strengths-based theoretical framework newly developed for the research. The use of eresearch tools in the research, for example, led to the design of an EView – an email interview technique using strengths principles. The doctoral research indicated that the Strengths Approach was useful in enhancing pre-service confidence in their capacity to protect children. Subsequent research has investigated the use of strengths-based approaches for wider applications such as enhancing work-integrated learning by using the practice knowledge that is inherent in strengths approaches.  Additionally, strengths approaches are examined for the potential to aid early-childhood practitioners in their everyday work with young children and families with complex needs. Overall, an unexpected result of the research has been the interest generated in the design and use of strengths-based research techniques to enhance opportunities for collaborative work with research participants.

Back