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Being an early years course student

Student voice

Whether it's debating the varying perspectives on "childhood" or developing one's critical thinking skills - being an early years student can sometimes be overwhelming. We spoke to Caitlin, an undergraduate at the University of Worcester to learn more about the various challenges of studying early childhood as well as aspects she found most interesting. We also set her the impossible task of telling us what the ideal early years textbook would look like for her - thank you Caitlin for all your ideas!

We hope her perspectives provide useful student insight to inform your teaching; whether it's setting reading lists, identifying areas for extra support or topics students find most engaging. 

What are the top 3 things you find most challenging about your course and why?

1. Deciding who to believe as there are no clear cut answers! Early childhood is a very broad subject with many different people including: theorists, practitioners, parents, children and yourself, all holding unique perspectives. As a novice in the field this can be quite overwhelming. It is important to remember that really the subject of early childhood is very much open to interpretation, your interpretation, and as long as you have considered and evaluated the different perspectives, and ensure that the child is at the centre of any process, then you can be a successful professional in the early years sector.

2. To hold your knowledge lightly! The slightest detail or experience can change your perspective and it is really important to be open to ideas that challenge your own perceptions and cause you to question and explore a new way of thinking. Rigid thinking is not ideal in a profession that is ever-changing.

3. Even though you think you know who a ‘child’ is or what constitutes ‘childhood’, it becomes apparent that everybody has their own ideas. We had a seminar in first year where the module leaders asked us to define a ‘child’. It is safe to say I still cannot answer that question definitively three years down the line, as there is no universal childhood. You encounter difficulties with any definition of ‘child’ or ‘childhood’ you settle on, as it will not necessarily be applicable to every child and their circumstances. Accepting there is no universal definition may be uncomfortable at first however, I believe it allows you, as a practitioner, to build relationships with the unique child with no preconceptions or expectations of who they are or where they come from.

What areas do you find most interesting about early years education? 

Over the course of my studies I have engaged with many different subject areas and although all of them have been intellectually stimulating, I have to say that I find attachment theory, and the discourse surrounding child development, especially where children have experienced adverse life experiences, fascinating.

What would your ideal early years course textbook look like?

student voice early years
If I narrowed down my long list of ideals for an early years textbook the resulting list would include:

>> a section discussing a selection of theorists that have impacted on how we view early childhood today,

>> opportunities throughout that allow me to reflect on my own interpretation or ideas related to these theories and current issues in early childhood,

>> and finally, discussion surrounding attachment theory and its prevalence in early childhood practice as well as discussion around the advances in this theory.


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