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Professional Dialogues in the Early Years

Professional Dialogues in the Early Years

Rediscovering early years pedagogy and principles

AUTHOR : Edited by Mary Wild By Elise Alexander, Mary Briggs, Catharine Gilson, Gillian Lake, Helena Mitchell and Nick Swarbrick

ISBN : 9781912508242

Edition No : 1

Publication : Oct 17, 2018

Extent : 112 pgs

ISBN : 9781912508259

Edition No : 1

Publication : Oct 17, 2018

Extent : 112 pgs

ISBN : 9781912508266

Edition No : 1

Publication : Oct 17, 2018

Extent : 112 pgs

ISBN : 9781912508273

Edition No : 1

Publication : Oct 17, 2018

Extent : 112 pgs


This book provides early years teacher educators with critical guidance to explore the enduring philosophies and principles of early years’ pedagogy and to creatively interpret and communicate these to those they are training to be teachers and professionals. It is framed by a principle of continued professional dialogue as integral to, and essential for, effective practice. It:


  • is designed to promote discussion around key themes rather than promote simple solutions to particular challenges
  • foregrounds principles, values and ethics as a precursor to good practice
  • encourages reflective engagement with real life exemplars and case studies
  • juxtaposes traditional philosophies and values with alternative approaches to early learning and childhood
  • presents findings from research into child development and learning and how these interface with pedagogic approaches.


Chapter 1: Introduction: current contexts for professional development in early years education

Mary Wild                                         

Chapter 2: What does professional dialogue mean?

Elise Alexander      

Chapter 3: Revisiting values and ethical standpoints in early years education

Helena Mitchell and Nick Swarbrick                                         

Chapter 4: The learning relationship: principles of effective learning and practice in the early years

Gillian Lake                                      

Chapter 5: Understanding the family and cultural contexts for learning

Catharine Gilson                              

Chapter 6: The informed practitioner

Mary Briggs   


Mary Wild is head of the school of education at Oxford Brookes University, having previously been principal lecturer (student experience), senior lecturer in child development and education, and subject coordinator for early childhood studies. Her research interests include early childhood literacy, children’s thinking; and the use of ICT to support learning. She has taught across a range of courses for practitioners and professionals in early years, and is a qualified teacher with experience in both the primary and early years sectors. She is a member of the National Strategy Group for the Early Childhood Studies Degree Network and of the Strategic Schools Partnership Board for Oxfordshire. Mary is a member of the British Psychological Society, the British Educational Research Association and UCET. In the charitable sector she is a patron of Quest for Learning and a member of the Learning Advisory Panel for the Story Museum.

Elise Alexander is a senior lecturer in early childhood studies (ECS) at Oxford Brookes University and is currently subject coordinator for the ECS programme.  She is researching the experience of early years students in higher education and has an interest in the development of professional identity in ECS students and in higher education pedagogy. In her previous role as principal lecturer in early childhood studies at University of Roehampton she carried out an ESRC-funded project which investigated practitioners’ understanding of quality in their work with children.  She is a member of TACTYC and regularly attends meeting of the Early Childhood Studies Degrees Network.

Mary Briggs is a principal lecturer and programme lead for primary and early years ITE at Oxford Brookes University.  She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Chartered Teacher of Mathematics. She teaches on a wide range of different education courses and has published widely in the educational field. Her specific research interests are in mathematics education, leadership, assessment and mentoring and coaching. She has worked in a wide range of settings including children’s homes, special, primary school and universities.

Catharine Gilson is senior lecturer in early childhood education at Oxford Brookes University. She has experience of teaching across a range of courses including the early years strand of the PGCE and the early childhood studies degree. She has previously worked as a teacher and as a local authority early years advisory teacher.  Her doctorate focussed on the learning and teaching relationship between adults and 3-5 year-old children and other research interests include children’s rights and children’s voice, and observational methods.

Dr Gillian Lake was a primary teacher in Ireland for many years before first undertaking an MSc in child development & education, and then being awarded the Talbot Scholarship to read a doctorate of philosophy in education at the University of Oxford, focusing on the early years. Her research comprised the design, development and evaluation of an oral language intervention targeting vocabulary and narrative development, of children aged three to four years.  The results have been promising and she hopes to further investigate the possibility of introducing this intervention as a professional development tool for early years’ practitioners. She has an ongoing research interest in early childhood education, oral language interventions, narrative development, pretend play and emerging literacy.  She leads child development 1 & 2 on early childhood studies and child development & learning on BA ITE.

Helena Mitchell is currently a visiting fellow at Oxford Brookes University. She is vice chair (research and knowledge exchange) and treasurer for the early childhood studies degrees network, a voluntary organisation which brings together institutions across the UK.which run degrees in early childhood studies. Prior to taking on this role she was Head of the school of education at Oxford Brookes University, having previously been head of the department of early childhood and primary education. She led the primary PGCE programme and also the early childhood studies degree when it was introduced at Oxford Brookes in 2000. She has extensive experience as a classroom teacher. She is a member of BERA, TACTYC and the SRHE, and a Trustee of Peeple, a charity which supports parents and children learning together. Her most recent research has focused on graduates from early childhood studies degrees and their transition to professional status as teachers and leaders in early years’ settings. She is also currently involved in a research project on values and beliefs in primary education, a collaborative partnership with primary teachers.

Nick Swarbrick is programme lead for the undergraduate degrees in the school of education, teaching on the undergraduate degree in early childhood studies and the primary PGCE, principally around early years pedagogy. He has a research and teaching role in children's literature and how young children explore the outdoors environment. Nick holds an Associate Teaching Fellowship at the University and is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Prior to joining Oxford Brookes he was headteacher of a lively, multi-cultural nursery school in Oxford city which pioneered the Forest School project in Oxfordshire and supported a school-based initial teacher training scheme.

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Your Reviews on this book

The book helps to open a critical space for thinking differently, with chapters that have well placed reflection and critical thinking prompts. The common thread running through the book is the notion of the ‘professional dialogue’; for example the constantly changing early years contexts noted in the introduction links to explorations of professional identity, reflection and reflexivity, and dialogue in chapter two.

I enjoyed chapter three on values and ethics and was left considering how to support educators to become ‘Compassionate Leaders’ and give them the confidence to overcome the professional dilemmas they may face. Co-collaboration was the focus of chapters four and five where the importance of starting with the child and family from both a cognitive, social, and cultural perspective was discussed, this linked back to early years values and ethical relationships considered in chapter three. The final chapter looks forward on the student to educator transition and explored ‘the informed practitioner’. This chapter asked the reader to engage with evidence-based practice and discussed the importance of mentoring and coaching and CPD.

Overall a thought provoking text suitable for those on early years undergraduate degrees and undergraduate/postgraduate teacher education courses.

Dr Nikki Fairchild, University of Chichester
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