Following children's interests engages them more - UniSA study
The Sector > Quality > In The Field > Children’s interests can be a gamechanger when it comes to motivating learning

Children’s interests can be a gamechanger when it comes to motivating learning

by Freya Lucas

November 13, 2023

A new paper from the University of South Australia (Uni SA) has explored how a group of early childhood teachers (ECTs) successfully connected with children who were not engaging in learning, finding that tuning in to children’s interests can be a gamechanger when it comes to motivating learning.


The study found that ECTs who could connect learning with children’s culture, language, motivations, and interests were more likely to create engaged and active learners.


During the study, a team of ECTs were struggling to engage with a group of 20-25 young children who were disengaged with the prescribed learning, instead choosing to “run about the yard” all day.


“While running seems a positive thing for pre-schoolers, the teachers – even at preschool level – felt a lot of pressure to ensure that the children met their developmental milestones, including learning phonics, so that they could become ‘school ready’,” said study author Dr Jamie Sisson. 


Rather than limiting or deterring what the children wanted to do, the teachers shifted the curriculum so that it flexibly addressed the children’s interests, culture, and motivations. The result was that these children became more engaged, involved, open and confident in their learning, she continued. 


While Angry Birds and other digital games formed the basis of these children’s interest in this case study, teachers across all levels of education regularly adjust class plans and teaching approaches to better meet the individual needs of their students, and Dr Sisson said her findings are particularly relevant given the struggles of teachers across the country to be recognised and supported for the nuanced work they do amid an unprecedented teacher workforce shortage and retention challenges.


“We’re at a critical point for Australia’s education system. Teachers are crying out for more support amid heavy workloads and a crowded curriculum. And those who are teaching, are still striving to deliver the best education experience possible,” Dr Sisson said.


The ability to reimagine traditional learning practices and bend the curriculum to meet individual needs should be prioritised and valued in today’s challenging teaching environment, she continued.


“Our research shines a light on the important intellectual work that early childhood teachers do every day to create engaging learning experiences,” Dr Sisson added.


“When learning experiences are built from children’s strengths and connected with their life experiences, they’re not only more likely to attract children’s engagement and build their skills, but also enhance teachers’ work satisfaction. And in a world where we are struggling to do both, this should be a number one priority.”


Access the study here

Download The Sector's new App!

ECEC news, jobs, events and more anytime, anywhere.

Download App on Apple App Store Button Download App on Google Play Store Button