Children’s interests and early childhood curriculum: A critical analysis of the relationship between research, policy, and practice




Policy makers have a powerful influence on educational practice. When such bodies are vague about the evidence-base for their policies they may uncritically rely on outdated theories, beliefs, and selective research evidence. A tension may then exist where practitioners become undermined as agents in curricular decision-making. Practitioners may aim to provide curriculum and pedagogy aligned with contemporary knowledge, but are also bound to the policy bodies who hold persuasive power. In England and Aotearoa New Zealand, two particular organisations in each country have most influence on early childhood education. Focused on the notion of children’s interests, this article questions the basis for the key curricular policy, accompanying advice and guidance, and evaluation standards of these organisations. We do so having discussed children’s interests from historical and contemporary research perspectives. We then trace and critique ways children’s interests present in significant policy documents. We suggest that both policy and practice adopt contemporary perspectives of children’s interests and move towards a middle space between curriculum-as-plan and curriculum-as-lived (Aoki, 2005). Such a space provides a way forward for ongoing curriculum conversations about children’s interests.


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Author Biographies

Liz Chesworth, University of Sheffield

Liz Chesworth (Ph.D) is a Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Education at the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom. Liz’s research focuses upon contemporary play cultures and dynamic approaches to curriculum in early childhood. Much of her research involves collaborating with educators to identify strategies for curriculum decision-making that are responsive to young children’s diverse interests and experiences.

Helen Hedges, University of Auckland

Helen Hedges (Ph.D) is Professor of Early Childhood Education at the University of Auckland | Waipapa Taumata Ra, Tamaki Makaurau, Aotearoa New Zealand. Helen’s research programme explores children’s and teachers’ knowledge, interests and learning, and ways these combine to create curriculum. She has enjoyed researching in partnership with teachers to explore new theoretical framings for understandings of interests.


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