Research Thesis Topic
Relational Learning, Social Competence and Emotional Maturity In Early Childhood
This program of research is concerned with early childhood vulnerability. The interdisciplinary project team led by Professor Sue Saltmarsh aims to understand how children’s relational learning - that is, learning within and through relationships, relational contexts and communities – might be supported in early childhood education. Informed by Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) data, the research has identified geographic areas within Australia shown to have particularly high percentages of childhood developmental vulnerability in categories of social competence and emotional maturity. Queensland, for example, has Australia’s second highest percentage of developmentally vulnerable children in these two categories, with some Ipswich suburbs more than twice the national average. Our research looks in greater depth at factors contributing to these childhood vulnerabilities, through multi-sited ethnographic case studies in kindergartens in suburbs of high vulnerability. The study focuses on documenting contextual and kindergarten-specific factors that present challenges to children's relational learning. We will work with early childhood educators to identify strategies for enhancing children's relational learning, and to identify relevant professional development needs of early childhood educators. The research explores effective pedagogic approaches to relational learning, benefiting early childhood educators in communities of high vulnerability, and contributing to relational learning that improves children's social, emotional and learning outcomes
This research aims to address the following research questions:
- How can kindergarten children's relational learning be supported to build social competence and emotional maturity?
- What contextual and kindergarten-specific factors present challenges to children's relational learning?
- How do escalating vulnerabilities in the areas of social competence and emotional maturity affect children's relational learning in kindergarten?
- Are there effective intervention strategies that early childhood educators can make use of in order to enhance children's relational learning in vulnerable communities?
- What professional development is needed for early childhood educators in order to enhance children's relational learning in vulnerable communities?
This program of research can accommodate postgraduate students interested in exploring any of the above topics, or other related topics in consultation with Professor Saltmarsh. While the initial project has been initially devised for Queensland contexts, doctoral proposals that extend the reach of the research to other parts of Australia are welcomed. The research team has expertise in social, cultural and educational theory, and draws on qualitative methodologies including ethnography, discourse analysis and case study, and quantitative methods including surveys, questionnaires and statistical analysis.
- School of Teacher Education and Early Childhood
- Specialist Studies in Education
Please review the admission requirements for the academic program associated with this Thesis Topic
Prospective applicants should contact Professor Saltmarsh at Sue.Saltmarsh@usq.edu.au to discuss their research interests and proposed topic for their study prior to submitting their application.