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EDES560 Foundations of Development and Learning in Australian Early Childhood Contexts

Unit rationale, description and aim

Pre-service teachers must develop a critical understanding the nature of learning and learners; influencing psychological, social, economic, environmental and cultural factors; and learners on needs and demands. The study of learning and learners should inform pre-service teachers to cater for the individual needs of their students who come from diverse cultures, contexts and experiences.

This unit is based on recent and significant insights from cognitive and developmental psychology, and educational sociology, to provide frames of reference to assist pre-service teachers to understand characteristics of children as learners and their implications for teaching. Pre-service teachers will engage with recent scholarly literature, key educational policies, developmental/learning theories and sociological theories to inform their knowledge and understanding of student diversity in terms of stages of development, learning processes and socio-cultural backgrounds–all of which require a tailored approach to meet student needs. Pre-service teachers will critically analyse this information in order to propose evidence-based strategies for best practice. Pre-service teachers will be given the opportunity to demonstrate these strategies to peers in group presentations and reflect on their teaching practice in order to develop the necessary reflexivity required for quality teaching and lifelong learning.

The overall aim of this unit is to develop the critical thinking skills required for researching, analysing and reflecting on developmental/learning/sociological theories and evidence-based strategies that support learning and inclusive teaching practices in Australian schools.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Draw on current scholarly literature and developmental/learning theories develop a critical understanding of child and adolescent developmental stages (physical, socio-emotional, cognitive and moral) and diverse learning needs (GA1, GA5; APST 1.1, 1.2)

LO2 - Critically analyse basic assumptions, concepts and principles of major learning theories and child and adolescent developmental stages to determine implications for instructional settings (GA4, GA5, GA8; APST 1.1, 1.2, 1.5)

LO3 - Draw on and critically analyse scholarly literature, sociological theory education policy, curriculum and resources to propose evidence-based strategies that respond to the learning needs of students from diverse socio-economic, gender and cultural backgrounds, including students with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage (GA1, GA2, GA4, GA5, GA8; APST 1.3, 1.4, 2.4)

LO4 - Apply and critically evaluate evidence-based teaching strategies as a means to develop and refine professional practice (GA4, GA5, GA7, GA9; APST 1.2, 1.3, 3.3, 3.5, 4.1, 6.3)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - Demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA2 - Recognise their responsibility to the common good, the environment and society 

GA4 - Think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - Demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA7 - Work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - Locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - Demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


On successful completion of this unit, pre-service teachers should be able to:

1.1 Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of physical, social and intellectual development and characteristics of students and how these may affect learning.

1.2 Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of research into how students learn and the implications for teaching.

1.3 Demonstrate knowledge of teaching strategies that are responsive to the learning strengths and needs of students from diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds.

1.4 Demonstrate broad knowledge and understanding of the impact of culture, cultural identity and linguistic background on the education of students from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.

1.5 Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of strategies for differentiating teaching to meet the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities.

2.4 Demonstrate broad knowledge of, understanding of, and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories, cultures and languages.

3.3 Include a range of teaching strategies.

3.5 Demonstrate a range of verbal and non-verbal communication strategies to support student engagement.

4.1 Identify strategies to support inclusive student participation and engagement in classroom activities.

6.3 Seek and apply constructive feedback from supervisors and teachers to improve teaching practices.


This unit is based on an understanding that learning and development is situated in complex and diverse contexts. The content will cover the following two modules:

Developmental/learning theories and applications for instruction:

  • Child and adolescent developmental stages - physical, socio-emotional, cognitive and moral
  • Behavioural theories and classroom management
  • Social cognitive theories, teacher modelling and student self-efficacy
  • Constructivist theories and approaches, including differentiation and scaffolding for diverse learning needs
  • Information-processing theory, memory and learning strategies
  • Bioecological systems theory and home-school-community partnerships
  • Student centred learning strategies and resources to support metacognition and higher order thinking
  • Motivation and engagement
  • Self-regulation and lifelong learning

Sociological factors influencing student experiences of schooling:

  • Socioeconomic status, inequity and life chances
  • Gender and the push for equal opportunity
  • Culture, cultural identity and linguistic background
  • Religious background
  • Challenging racism and celebrating multiculturalism
  • Learning from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives and pedagogies
  • Australia in local and global contexts

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

To cater for the different contexts of students and to maximise accessibility for study of this unit, it may be offered on-campus, online or in a blended mode and will consist of three contact hours or equivalent each week for 12 weeks, or equivalent.

This unit applies a social constructivist strategy to develop pre-service teachers’ understanding of children’s development and theories of learning. They will build their understanding through critical reading, lecturer modelling, active engagement and group discussion in tutorials.

A critical pedagogy approach is employed to encourage pre-service teachers to see themselves as agents able to affect positive change in their world through social critique and advocacy for the rights of school students – particularly those from more vulnerable backgrounds. Pre-service teachers will therefore develop critical questioning, thinking, analysis, discussion, presentation and reflection skills through the following teaching and learning strategies:

  • Lecture or equivalent content offered online
  • Face-to-face and/or online tutorials that promote discussion
  • Self-directed reading, research and reflection
  • Collaborative learning opportunities through group experiences and presentations

Technology Enhanced Learning

The unit will include a Learning Environment Online (LEO) site for the provision of lecture and tutorial materials, resources and online links, announcements, and a discussion board to post questions and reflections that promote connection between on campus content and community engagement experiences.

Face-to-face/Online Learning support

Students enrolled in both face to face and online learning modes are required to regularly log into the LEO to access recorded lectures and important announcements, to communicate with other students and lecturers, and to submit assessment and access feedback and grades. Students who are enrolled in either face to face or online learning will have equal access to support from the lecturer in charge and tutors.

Additional equipment requirements for online learning:

  • Reliable broadband access is recommended.
  • Headset with microphone to listen to podcasts, view videos and interact in synchronous classes.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment tasks and their weightings are designed to allow pre-service teachers to progressively demonstrate achievement against the unit learning outcomes and to develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. The Education Studies units in this course focus on developing foundational knowledge of, and skills across the professional knowledge, practice and engagement domains in line with APST: Graduate level. 

The three assessment tasks are sequenced to allow feedback and progressive development. Through completing Task 1, the pre-service teacher will develop their understanding of theories of children’s development and learning through engaging with recent scholarly literature and writing an extended response Through completing Task 2, the pre-service teacher will develop communication and teamwork skills and demonstrate best practice strategies to peers through an interactive group presentation. The pre-service teacher will also have the opportunity to develop critical skills through an individual reflection on their group’s presentation as well as considering the importance of reflexivity for quality teaching and life-long learning.

Through completing Task 3, the pre-service teacher will develop critical analysis skills required for determining effective, evidence-based practices, creating Learning Plan for a hypothetical class and justifying the proposed strategies with reference to education policies, recent scholarly literature, developmental/learning and sociological theories.

A range of assessment procedures are used to consistent with University assessment requirements. (

Minimum Achievement Standards

The assessment tasks and their weighting for this unit are designed to demonstrate achievement of each learning outcome. In order to pass this unit, students are required to submit all assessment tasks, meet the learning outcomes of the unit and achieve a minimum overall passing grade of 50%.   

Electronic Submission, Marking and Return

Assessment task submission and return of marked assessment will be done through Turnitin on LEO (unless otherwise specified). Tasks will be marked and returned within three weeks after the assessment is completed.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1:

Critical Reflection

Pre-service teachers will research, critically analyse and synthesise theories of childhood development (physical, social and intellectual) and learning and incorporate in a critical reflection on personal experiences of learning and schooling.

Must demonstrate understanding of:

  • Major learning and human development theories and their implications for teaching and learning.
  • Student characteristics and how these may affect learning.


LO1, LO2

GA1, GA4, GA5, GA8

Assessment Task 2: Group Presentation

Group Presentation (20%)

In groups, choose an issue that has ramifications for classrooms or learning environments. Identify a range of evidence-based learning strategies to meet diverse student needs and demonstrate these to your peers when presenting on your topic.

Examples include:

  • Poverty
  • Disability
  • LBOTE (migrants and/or refugees)
  • Domestic violence
  • Geographic divide (city vs. bush)
  • ICT (engaging or distracting?)
  • Social media and cyberbullying
  • Popular culture
  • High-stakes testing

Individual Reflection (10%)

Drawing on peer and tutor feedback, reflect on your group’s micro-teaching and your contribution to the task. Draw on the literature to discuss the importance of reflexivity for quality teaching and life-long learning (maximum 500 words)


LO3, LO4

GA1, GA2, GA4, GA5, GA7, GA8, GA9

Assessment Task 3:

Learning Plan for a Hypothetical Class: Analysis and application of learning, development and sociological theories

Create a hypothetical class of students. Describe their diverse individual and group learning and social characteristics and propose teaching strategies for effectively engaging them in learning.

Justify the proposed strategies to meet their learning needs with reference to developmental/learning and sociological theories, recent scholarly literature and education policies.

The case study should demonstrate understanding of children as learners, and should engage with a critical analysis of the impact of a range of socio-cultural factors (such as SES, gender, ethnicity and Indigeneity) on their learning.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA1, GA2, GA4, GA5, GA8

Representative texts and references

Required text(s)

Duchesne, S., & McMaugh, A. (2018). Educational psychology for learning and teaching (6th ed.). South Melbourne, Vic: Cengage. Ebook available.

Welch, A., Connell, R.; Mockler, N., Sriprakash, A., Proctor, H., Hayes, D., Foley, D., Vickers, M., Bagnall, N., Burns, K., Low, R., & Groundwater-Smith, S. (2018). Education, change and society (4th ed.). Melbourne, Vic: Oxford University Press. Ebook available

Highly Recommended Texts

Apple, M. (2013). Can education change society? New York, NY: Routledge. Ebook also available

Apple, M. (2014). Official knowledge: Democratic education in a conservative age (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Berk, L. E. (2015). Infants children and adolescents (78th International ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Margetts, K., & Woolfolk, A. (2018). Physical and cognitive development (pp.65-108). In Educational Psychology (5th ed.). Melbourne, Vic: Pearson Education Australia.

Newman, B. M., & Newman, P. R. (2021). Development through life: A psychosocial approach (14th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.

O’Donnell, A.M., Dobozy, E., Nagel, M.C., Smala, S., Wormald, C., Yates, G., Spooner-Lane, R., Youssef-Shalala, A., Reeve, J., Smith, J.K., & Bartlett, B. (2020). Educational Psychology (3rd ed.). Milton, Qld: Wiley & Sons.

Tait, G. (2016). Making sense of mass education (2nd ed.). Port Melbourne, VIC: Cambridge University Press.

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