How might Froebelian principles facilitate the enactment of the new early years curriculum guidance for Wales?
This research project investigated the connections between Froebelian principles and new early years curriculum guidance for Wales.
Dr Jennifer Clement at Cardiff Metropolitan University was awarded a Froebel Trust grant to explore the synergies forming between Froebelian Principles (Bruce, 2021) and the Four Purposes within the new Curriculum for Wales (Hwb.gov.wales):
- ambitious, capable learners, ready to learn throughout their lives
- enterprising, creative contributors, ready to play a full part in life and work
- ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world
- healthy, confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society.
Previously, Froebel was recognised within the curriculum framework for all children aged 3-7 years in Wales (Welsh Government, 2008; Spratt et al, 2018), but this has not been replicated across the new documentation.
This research project took place at Froebel House (Tŷ Froebel), a newly created resource space at Cardiff Metropolitan University, which is dedicated to supporting the enactment of Froebel’s principles and practices. It integrates indoor and outdoor spaces, providing students and children in the locality opportunities to experience Froebel’s gifts and occupations, including block play, clay, woodwork and gardening.
Using Design-Based Research (Reimann, 2011), the research project explored what happens in relation to processes, relationships and learning when spatial and pedagogical drivers are solely created to engender Froebelian principles and practices.
"The originality and significance of this research lies within its ability to create a space that removes a number of the competing discourses often found in current early years settings, for example, the discourse of apprenticeship (Blundell, 2012) versus Citizenship (James & James, 2012) that can often compromise Froebelian principles. This allowed the research team, alongside the children and practitioners, to develop an understanding of these principles and the extent of their relationship with the Four Purpose of the new Curriculum for Wales." Dr Jennie Clement and Sian Sarwar, Cardiff Metropolitan University
A research project (led by Dr Jennie Clement) developing further understanding of how a Froebelian approach can be used to support children’s play and learning across the Curriculum for WalesFind out more
"... the first of the four purposes refers to 'capable learners' and can be associated with Froebel’s perspective of seeing children as capable, curious and active, learning best through self-activity and reflection (Tovey, 2017).
The third of the four purposes refers to ‘ethical, informed citizens’ and resonates with Froebel’s ideas around freedom with responsibility where children might have, for example, freedom to make choices but these choices are constrained to some degree by the choices of others or the resources or spaces to which they have access (Tovey, 2018).
The fourth purpose, which situates children as valued members of society might be associated with Froebel’s perspective of the child as an individual who is also a member of society but it also reflects the importance he placed on the whole child, the holistic nature of development and the significance of being emotionally secure within the relationships they have with themselves, their families and wider community (Bruce, 2012).
So, synergies can be identified between the four purposes and Froebel’s philosophy, principles and ideas. However, despite these apparent similarities, there is no recognition given to how both the theoretical understandings and practical applications of Froebel’s principles might provide early years practitioners in Wales pedagogical support as they transition into the new curriculum."
Dr Jennie Clement and Sian Sarwar, Cardiff Metropolitan University
About the research team
Dr Jennifer Clement is a Senior Lecturer in Teacher Education and Professional Learning working in the Cardiff School of Education and Social Policy at Cardiff Metropolitan University (CMU). Beginning her professional career as an early years teacher she taught in both national and international settings, across the 3-8 age range. Drawing on different pedagogical traditions and philosophies as both a teacher and academic researcher Jennifer has extensive experience of working with young children and as part of a research team. Jennifer completed a PhD in 2018 looking at democratic constructions of space, using Froebel’s communal gardens as her pedagogical blueprint (Clement, 2019). Her most recent research focuses on both the spaces created for young children to enact their participation rights across Curriculum for Wales (CfW) (Clement, 2022) and the spaces being created for practitioners to engage in Professional Enquiry as part of their new research informed professional role within CfW (Clement et al., in preparation).
Sian Sarwar is a Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies and Programme Director for the BA (Hons) Primary Education Studies programme at CMU. Her research interests lie within curriculum and pedagogy, particularly in relation to curriculum development, enactment and accommodating and facilitating the participation rights of young children within their education. This interest is rooted in her involvement in the Musical Futures project (funded by The Paul Hamlyn Foundation), during which Sian worked collaboratively with teachers and children to embed ‘real world’ practices of popular musicians into classroom music lessons. The focus of Sian’s research outputs include: exploring free play in a woodland setting (Ellis et al., 2021); making use of school grounds beyond the school day (Mannello et al., 2019); and young children’s participation in education (Lewis et al., 2017). Her current research includes a grounded theory of young people’s participation in music (PhD thesis to be submitted in October, 2022).