Theme & Streams

Theme & Streams

2017 Conference Theme: Helping children flourish and reach their potential: Translating research for policy, practice and community

At the core of the Early Start mission is helping children flourish and realise their potential. Our research efforts are founded in a commitment to bringing together academics from across discipline boundaries and investing in relationships and partnerships that will cultivate best practice and innovation and ultimately improve early childhood policy and practice.

Stream 1: Children’s Thinking and Learning

The development of a child’s mind in the early years sets the stage for a broad range of abilities and achievements in later life. For instance, a child’s ability to control their thinking and engage effectively in learning experiences are related to many important later-life outcomes (e.g., school readiness, academic success, social competence, peer acceptance). Research in this area has sought to understand and promote the development of young children’s thinking and learning, giving children the best possible start to life.

Workshops, presentations, demonstrations and interactions in the Children’s Thinking and Learning strand will explore the translation of theory and research into practice, giving insight into how educators and parents can support children’s developing minds.

Stream 2: Healthy Lifestyles and Physical Activity

This area of research includes understanding factors associated with the development of healthy lifestyles among young children and their families. It also encompasses interventions to promote better health and developmental outcomes. Integral to the success of interventions is an understanding of how effective programs can be translated into policy and practice and to ensure that approaches are inclusive of socio-economic evidence. As such, this area includes social marketing research that seeks to better understand how children and their families receive and negotiate messages they receive around their health; and the politics of health policy agenda setting and implementation.

Conference sessions in the Healthy Lifestyles and Physical Activity strand will examines how relevant stakeholders can take up and can be engaged to inform practice, policy, guidelines and programs.

Stream 3: Growing Through Relationships

This theme addresses the inherently social and interpersonal nature of the environment of child development, as has been recognised in the Early Years Learning Framework through its focus on respectful and caring relationships. Importantly, relational contexts for development involve at least two, and often more, people trying to navigate or understand situations simultaneously and sometimes also together. For example, the way a caregiver responds to an infant’s signals might depend on how he or she feels about the infant. Similarly, an infant’s or young child’s understanding of the world will to a great extent depend on how people respond to their actions and communications. Furthermore, because human interactions are not merely transactional, relationships themselves take on certain properties that exert a profound influence on the developing child.

Conference sessions and workshops in this theme will focus on improving our understanding of the relational context of child development and influencing the ways in which people interact with children or engage with the network of relationships in which children grow and learn.

Stream 4: Social Inclusion

Children’s development and well-being are influenced by their opportunities to participate in supportive environments and relationships, as well as the social connections and support available for their families. Social inclusion is defined by the Australian Government as people having the resources, opportunities and capabilities they need to learn, work, engage with others and have a voice in decisions that affect them. Research into social inclusion recognizes that individuals and communities can be co-creators of their reality, rather than passive recipients of outcomes. It also recognises that policies and structural and physical environments contribute to the health and well-being of individuals, families and societies.

Conference sessions in the Social Inclusion theme feature multidisciplinary research and innovative practice about empowering individuals, families and communities to enable social connections and meaningful participation. This theme has a particular focus on overcoming barriers associated with disadvantage and investments in capabilities.

Stream 5: Children’s Learning Spaces

Whether in a children’s museum, early childhood education and care setting or an online environment, the design of children’s places can have significant impact on their wellbeing, learning and development. Children’s spaces and places include environments, experiences and relationships. Reflective and evidence-based practice, as well as engaged, responsive and innovative educators and facilitators are fundamental to the provision of high quality spaces.

Drawing together researchers and practitioners, this theme will provide opportunities to think about the design of quality spaces for children. Case studies, workshops and presentations in Children’s Learning Spaces will explore the development of both physical and digital environments, enabling educators and parents to best support children’s learning, development and wellbeing.

Last reviewed: 1 September, 2017