Meet Dr Suzanne Infantino, REDI PhD graduate
Dr Suzanne Infantino’s PhD project, Intentionally teaching or planning for play: Examining early childhood educators’ science pedagogy, sought to find answers to the question, “What are early childhood educators’ perceptions and perspectives of intentional teaching, specifically in relation to teaching science?”
The Federal Government’s approved learning framework – the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and the Victorian State Government’s Early Years Learning, and Development Framework (VEYLDF) emphasise the importance of including intentional teaching in early childhood education. It is seen as an integral aspect of early childhood education; however, when analysing the National Quality Framework (NQF) — a national framework established to increase the quality of early childhood education Australia wide — it is apparent that many working in the sector struggle to understand and implement the practice of intentional teaching.
Here Suzanne discusses her PhD project and its potential impact on how early childhood educators can use intentional teaching to help children reach their full potential.
Briefly describe your project and why you chose this topic
I worked in the early childhood sector for many years and recognised the need for more in-depth information about ‘teaching with intention’. This was a new concept for the early childhood sector with minimal supporting evidence or professional development on the topic. Many educators and teachers would preference play – particularly play that was initiated by the child – rather than becoming adept at including the strategy of intention within their practice. While play is an intrinsic and vitally important aspect of early childhood learning, it fails to consider the additional learning a child could be exposed to if educators and teachers embedded intentional teaching into their practice. If children are to be given the opportunity to reach their full potential, educators and teachers need to become more purposeful, thoughtful and deliberate in their actions.
I chose science to give my project context and because it is a subject that is challenging to engage young children in without being purposeful, thoughtful and deliberate.
What are you hoping your research will achieve?
I am eager for my research to make a difference to educators’ and teachers’ practice. I would also like intentional teaching — what it means and how it can be included within early childhood education — to become more broadly understood by the community.
My research results highlighted educators’ unfamiliarity with intentional teaching. Some believed intentional teaching was akin to didactic teaching (academic teaching) rather than deliberately and purposefully creating opportunities for children to enhance their understanding, which is particularly relevant when engaging young children in science.
With professional learning and development, those who work in the early childhood sector will be able to enhance their practice and increase the opportunity for children to learn about science (and other content).
Why did you decide to do your PhD at Deakin?
I returned to Deakin to do my PhD after completing my Bachelor of Early Childhood Education at Deakin several years earlier. The supervisor I’d had during my Honours year recommended that I return to undertake a PhD. I baulked at the suggestion at the time, but eventually felt compelled to return.
How was your experience with you supervisor(s)?
When I returned to Deakin I engaged with the supervisor I’d had for my Honours degree. However, after a few months the subject of my thesis changed – and so did my supervisors. Changing supervisors involved careful consideration and, while I would not like to have to go through it again (or recommend it to others), I am pleased that I did. Professor Coral Campbell, who guided me through to the end, was a perfect fit.
What was a highlight of your PhD?
The highlights for me were the amazing opportunities to meet other like-minded people, to network, to learn from others and to get some feedback about my own project. For example, during Summer School at Deakin (Waterfront), I realised that there were no peer groups for early childhood education students – so I created one.
What are your next steps and challenges?
I think making the next step is one of the biggest challenges!
Since 2020 I have been employed (on a casual/sessional basis) by Deakin University and engage in tutoring, lecturing and marking.
I am in the process of disseminating my research findings by writing an article about my thesis and sending abstracts to relevant journals in order to present my research at conferences. So far, I have presented at AARE.