Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit


EDES103 Understanding Learners and Their Contexts

Unit rationale, description and aim

Includes: 15-days placement with children aged 3 to 5 years 

Play-based pedagogy has a long history within the early childhood education and care sector and is recognised as a complex learning activity and pedagogy that actively engages children and gives them agency in their own learning.

In this unit, pre-service teachers will engage with a range of appropriate pedagogical practices and develop their understanding of 21st century approaches to learning and the role of the teacher as active, intentional facilitator and provocateur. Play-based learning and inquiry experiences will be critically considered from multiple perspectives including the broader ecological, social and cultural contexts of learning and teaching; the diversity of experiences; the relationships that shape young children’s lives, and the nature and needs of young learners. The principles and perspectives underpinning contemporary curriculum will be examined, with particular attention given to relevant and current curriculum documents. Pre-service teachers will be introduced to a range of teaching approaches and strategies that effectively facilitate young children’s learning and transitions, with particular attention given to play-based learning across disciplines and age-levels. Appropriate assessment techniques including types and functions, documentation and reporting, that enhance planning for learning and engagement of children and families in this learning will be considered in this unit.

The aim of this unit is to develop pre-service teachers’ understanding of contemporary learning and pedagogical practices in the early years and the applicability of early years pedagogies across both prior-to-school and primary school contexts.

This aim will be achieved through the inclusion of professional experience at an early childhood centre where pre-service teachers will examine the nexus between theory and practice in the centre context. The supervised and assessed placement will consist of 15 days in an early childhood setting for children aged 3 to 5 years.

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     articulate a professional philosophy that embodies cultural-historical and other contemporary teaching approaches to early learning including theories of play, and which demonstrates an awareness of equity, social justice and respect for diverse human experiences and is responsive to contemporary constructions of children and childhood (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9; APST 1.2, 1.3, 2.1, 3.6, 7.1, 7.2; ACECQA C1, C2, C7, E1, E2, E3, F3)

LO2    analyse research, understandings of young learners and relevant curriculum documents to intentionally select effective teaching methods, environments and resources which facilitate inclusive, engaging learning experiences including play-based learning for diverse young children ( (GA4, GA5, GA8; APST 1.2, 1.5, 1.6; ACECQA B1, B9, C1, C2, C3)

LO3     create play-based experiences that can support children’s learning and development across a range of contexts, curriculum disciplines and age levels and can effectively support children’s wellbeing as they transition from prior-to-school to school contexts (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9; APST 1.2, 1.3, 1.5, 2.1; ACECQA A3, A4, A6, A7, B1, B9, C1, C2, D4)

LO4     demonstrate knowledge of and purpose for a range of appropriate assessment techniques, including effective documentation and reporting, that enhance planning for learning and engagement of children and families in this learning (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9; APST 2.3, 5.1, 5.5; ACECQA B1, B9, C1, C2, C4)

LO5     complete a successful professional experience in an early childhood setting supported by appropriate evidence developed across the professional experience component (details provided in Professional Experience Handbook) (GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA9; ACECQA A3, A4, A6, B1, B9, C2, C3, C4)

Graduate attributes

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

GA3    apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

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

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:

1.2 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.

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

1.6 Demonstrate broad knowledge and understanding of legislative requirements and teaching strategies that support participation and learning of students with disability.

2.1 Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the concepts, substance and structure of the content and teaching strategies of the teaching area.

2.3 Use curriculum, assessment and reporting knowledge to design learning sequences and lesson plans.

3.6 Demonstrate broad knowledge of strategies that can be used to evaluate teaching programs to improve student learning.

5.1 Demonstrate understanding of assessment strategies, including informal and formal, diagnostic, formative and summative approaches to assess student learning.

5.5 Demonstrate understanding of a range of strategies for reporting to students and parents/carers and the purpose of keeping accurate and reliable records of student achievement.

7.1 Understand and apply the key principles described in codes of ethics and conduct for the teaching profession.

7.2 Understand the relevant legislative, administrative and organisational policies and processes required for teachers according to school stage.

ACECQA Curriculum Specifications

On successful completion of this unit, pre-service teachers should have developed the following specific knowledge:

A. Child development and care:

A3 social and emotional development

A4  Child health, wellbeing and safety

A6  Diversity, difference and inclusivity

A7  Learners with special/additional needs 

B. Education and curriculum studies: 

B1 Early Years Learning Framework 

B9 Curriculum planning, programming and evaluation 

C. Teaching pedagogies: 

C1 Alternative pedagogies and curriculum approaches 

C2 Play based pedagogies 

C3 Guiding behaviour / engaging young learners 

C4 Teaching methods and strategies 

C7 Contemporary society and pedagogy 

D. Family and community contexts: 

D4 Socially inclusive practice 

E. History and philosophy of early childhood: 

E1 Historical and comparative perspectives 

E2 Contemporary theories and practice 

E3 Ethics and professional practice. 

F. Early childhood professional practice: 

F3 Professional identity and development 


Topics will include: 

  • Philosophical and cultural-historical perspectives and theories informing contemporary learning and teaching practices, with a specific focus on the early years including images of children and childhood. 
  • Historical and contemporary definitions and types of play including consideration of cultural influences on understandings and pedagogical roles of teachers. 
  • The importance and potential of play in early childhood and school settings - connecting to curriculum (Early Years Learning Framework (ELYF)) and integrating curriculum areas. 
  • Assessment and reporting/sharing practices in play-based pedagogies that recognise children’s diverse capacities from multiple standpoints. 
  • Documentation, assessment and reporting/sharing that makes children’s competence and learning visible to children, families, colleagues and other professionals in early childhood settings. 
  • Play and inquiry from multiple perspectives including Indigenous perspectives, gender and culture. 
  • Opportunities to address marginalisation through facilitation of intentional teaching strategies, manipulation of the environment and selection of resources. 
  • Brain development and Experiential Learning Theory. 
  • Considerations that facilitate engaged children’s play: human and physical environments and resources including teaching strategies and approaches. 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Students should anticipate undertaking 150 hours of study for this unit. This may involve a combination of face-to-face, online and blended delivery, on a weekly basis across a 12-week semester or in intensive mode. Students should expect to participate in a range of the following: online engagement, lectures, tutorials, seminar presentations and group discussions, both online and face-to-face, self-directed study activities and assessment tasks. Some participation in appropriate educational settings maybe required. 

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit, as described in the learning and teaching strategy and the assessment strategy. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support your learning such as reading, reflection, discussion, webinars, podcasts, video etc. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

A range of assessment procedures will be used to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. Such procedures may include, but are not limited to, essays, reports, examinations, student presentations or case studies.

This unit includes an early childhood workplace immersion experience where pre-service teachers will examine the nexus between theory and practice by knowing, doing and being in the context. The supervised and assessed placement will consist of 15 days, could be a maximum of 5 individual days and a minimum of a 10-day BLOCK, in an early childhood setting for children aged 3 to 5 years. The following engagements are recommended across the 15-day placement for early childhood settings. Pre-service teachers should complete EDEC111 together with their completion of EDET101 during the same semester.

Recommended progression of the early childhood workplace immersion experience.

Days 1 – 15 (Single days or incorporated into the block) - Proposed Teaching Expectations

Days 1-5

a)  Orientation, observation and assisting the supervising teacher/s

b)  Observation and assisting the supervising teacher/s, plus planning and implementation of two teaching episodes per day

c)  Observation and active participation in small group teaching; assisting the Supervising Teacher in the teaching and learning process, plus managing context routines

d)  Observation of teachers in the learning context, their teaching and practices, management of contexts and individuals

e)  Observe communication skills that the Supervising Teacher uses with children/learners, parents and other staff

f)   Critical reflection on pre-service teacher’s role in the early childhood education setting as participant, leader, team member, co-teacher/collaborator 

Block Practicum: Days 6-15

a) Structured observations and small group / team teaching

b) Plan / implement and assess a set of two, play-based, sequential learning experiences per day individually or with the other pre-service teacher (if in a paired placement)

c) Managing context routines or transitions connected to sequenced lesson/learning experience

d) Ongoing observation of teachers and other education stakeholders (e.g. transdisciplinary specialists, leadership teams, other teachers etc.) in the education setting, their teaching and practices, management of the learning environment and children.

e) Continual self-reflection and evaluation.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1

Critical Analysis of Literature

Extended critical analysis of literature dealing with the development of historical and contemporary understandings of childhood, learning and pedagogy – leading to a professional philosophy statement of pedagogy and learning for children aged B-8.  


LO1, LO2 

GA1, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9 

Assessment Task 2

Pedagogical Case Study

Drawing upon literature from Assessment Task 1, design, implement and evaluate the effectiveness of two short sequences, play-based learning experiences.

The sequences should include at least two play-based teaching and learning experience plans (indoor and outdoor) that are suitable for a small group of children in the early years aged 3-5 years. It is expected that the design and evaluation reflects your professional philosophy statement and:

  • Promotes children as competent and active agents in their own learning
  • Social and cognitive outcomes of play-based learning;
  • Enhances the participation of adults in children’s play and learning;  
  • Encourages participation by children who may experience marginalisation; and
  • Recognises curriculum as holistic and connected.

The plan will need to include:

  • A description of intended learners and context;
  • Rationale (linking to literature)
  • Links to the Early Years Learning Framework
  • Resources required
  • Teaching strategies
  • Assessment and reporting strategies
  • Indication of how you would adapt your plan for implementation for transition to a primary school context.
  • Consideration of how learners with diverse capabilities can be supported to learn together through play.


LO3, LO4, LO5 

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9 

Hurdle Task 

Professional Experience Summative Assessment: 


In this assessment candidates are expected to demonstrate satisfactory teaching performance during their Professional Experience Program as evidenced by both practical and written work. 



GA1,GA3, GA5 

Representative texts and references

Required text(s) 

Australian Curriculum 

Early Years Learning Framework 

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) 

Recommended references 

Cameron, M., McLachlan, C., Rawlins, P., & McLaughlin, T. (2018). Assessment of, as and for learning: The challenges of assessment terminology. Early Education. 64, 18-23

Ebbeck, E., & Waniganayake, M. (Eds.). (2016). Play in early childhood education. Learning in diverse contexts (2nd ed.). South Melbourne, Vic: Oxford University Press.

Ewing, R., Kervin, L., Glass, C., Gobby, B., Le Cornu, R., & Groundwater-Smith, S. (2019). Teaching: Dilemmas, challenges and opportunities (6th ed.). South Melbourne, Vic: Cengage Learning Australia.

Fleer, M. (2018). Intentional teaching of cultural competence in play-based settings: a cultural-historical view. A Research in Practice Series Title. Deakin West, ACT: Early Childhood Australia.

Fleer, M. (2018). Child development in educational settings. Melbourne, Vic: Cambridge University Press

Fleer, M. (2017). Play in the early years (2nd ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Fleet, A., Patterson, C., & Robertson, J. (2017). Pedagogical documentation in early years practice seeing through multiple perspectives. U.K: Sage

Fróes, I. (2019). Young children's play practices with digital tablets: Playful literacy. Bingley UK: Emerald Publishing

McLachlan, C., Fleer, M., & Edwards, S. (2018). Early childhood curriculum: Planning, assessment and implementation (3rd ed). Port Melbourne, Vic: Cambridge University Press.

Have a question?

We're available 9am–5pm AEDT,
Monday to Friday

If you’ve got a question, our AskACU team has you covered. You can search FAQs, text us, email, live chat, call – whatever works for you.

Live chat with us now

Chat to our team for real-time
answers to your questions.

Launch live chat

Visit our FAQs page

Find answers to some commonly
asked questions.

See our FAQs