The purpose of this case study is to reflect on the blended pedagogies applied with a second year cohort of Early Years (EY) undergraduate students. It focusses on the experiences of both learner and educator as they explore the use of blending technology and outdoor learning to support a holistic curriculum in 21st century early years practice.
A reflective case study approach was applied to practice in situ as part of an outdoor learning project within a Level 5 module. One Higher Education (HE) tutor and 24 EY students participated in the study. Three research questions informed the reflective study: an exploration around the tensions of how digital technology might be blended with the more traditional, sensory and experiential pedagogies of outdoor learning, using an app. It considers the effects of this approach on student learning and what lessons can be learnt by the tutor in attempting to model these pedagogies.
This case study reveals the advantages and discomfort of role modelling a practice as HE tutor that has not been applied before in this context and as such is considered an innovative pedagogy (Koros-Mikis, 2009). EY students engaged in the blended provision, applying digital technology for educational purposes and this resulted in enhanced collaborative learning between students and tutor, affecting attendance and motivation to try new approaches in their practice. Reflecting on this practice has revealed that pedagogical thinking can be transformed when ideas are shared in a way that appears non-judgemental and new approaches can be applied where the right environment affords such opportunities.
Limitations are around sample size, and a longer period of time for students to engage with a Personal Learning Environment (PLE), evidencing sustained engagement. The focus is one that is pertinent to the issues currently being considered as part of curriculum reform in Wales and as such may not hold the same weight in other parts of the world. As a case study, it is recognised that this is not generalizable and thus not easily replicable (Gilbert, 2008).
Issues around modelling pedagogies that depict 21st century learning are highlighted for “digital immigrant” HE teaching staff members. Understanding how to apply digital technology in a digital world within our own, often traditional practices, particularly in the field of early years outdoor learning needs further exploration in light of the new curriculum for Wales so that future practitioners are able to consider the holistic approach of blending pedagogies across areas of learning and not working in subject-specific silos.
The implications of this case study raise questions around the appropriateness of training and development for “digital immigrant” staff members, understanding student digital competency, blending pedagogical approaches, as well as the debate around digital technologies being part of young children's learning within a reformed curriculum in Wales. These challenges present questions that require social consideration as well as arguments as to why they cannot be overlooked.
This case study identifies a need to explore the ways in which blended pedagogies are applied and modelled in HE practice and to observe how it influences students learning and beliefs in their own pedagogical practices. The curriculum reform in Wales suggests that teaching and learning will need to be far more holistic in nature and these two areas currently collide as pedagogies. Thus being able to demonstrate the value of them in synergy will be most helpful to practitioners who will need to make a paradigm shift in their approaches to embrace the new curriculum.
This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.Conflicts of interest: None.
Boulton, P. (2020), "Digitally proficient but disconnected from the outdoor world? A reflection on pedagogies used in an Early Years degree in higher education", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JARHE-03-2019-0066Download as .RIS
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