I am a lecturer in Early Childhood Education Discipline, School of Education teaching the module ‘Numeracy in the Early Years’. I embarked on this self-study project with two of my colleagues, a Language lecturer and a Life Skills lecturer in the discipline. Two subject advisors from the Department of Basic Education (DBE) who are pursuing their post-graduate studies in the School of Education were also part of the project. I received a Teaching and Learning Innovations and Quality Enhancement Grant (TLIQEG) to implement this project. This grant was established by the University Teaching and Learning Office (UTLO) to support innovations and quality enhancement in teaching and learning. The grant responds to a different but equally crucial need within the University, to fund projects or initiatives that focus on innovations related to the broad range of aspects related to teaching, learning, assessments, curriculum development and delivery; and demonstrates commitment to continual improvement in educational quality in the university.
The aim of this self-study project was to explore strategies to cultivate an integrated learning approach in teaching Early Childhood Mathematics to first year pre-service teachers (Bachelor of Education students) who were specialising in Early Childhood Education (ECE)/ Foundation Phase (FP) Education. The project focused on the three aspects of integration, that is integration of concepts within the Maths learning area; integration of Maths with the Language learning area and integration of Mathematics with the Life Skills learning area.
In implementing the self-study methods, my colleagues and I engaged in arts-based methods. We created collages and concept maps to show the themes that were going to be used in the integration of Mathematics and Languages and Life Skills learning areas. The pre-service teachers were engaged in various activities, such as creating collages, concept maps and developing games and resources on how to integrate Mathematics with other learning areas. I also kept a reflective journal to document my reflections on my practice and that of preservice teachers’ engagement in the activities. During the engagement in this project teacher educators were able to critically reflect on their own teaching practice in order to improve it. These reflections were enhanced by the input from two subject advisors.
Pre-service teachers engaged in collage making process
A collage created by ECE teacher educators representing integration of Mathematics, Languages and Life Skills learning areas
The choice of using arts-based was an advantage because students enjoyed it. It made Mathematics learning fun. We felt that it was a good thing and it is something that we will continue doing. The students struggled at the beginning, but were excited once they did what they were supposed to do. As time went on they started to grasp the concept of ILA. Modelling how to teach it allowed me to interact with the students and I got to know them better.