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EDES500 Foundations of Development and Learning in Australian Childhood Contexts

Unit rationale, description and aim

Includes: 10 days professional experience placement with children aged birth to 35 months

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 the learners 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 (including infants, toddler and young people), learning processes within formal and informal educational settings, and socio-cultural backgrounds–all of which require a tailored approach to meet learners’ 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. 

This unit also 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 10 days in an early childhood setting for children aged from Birth to 35 months. The experience will also be informed by relevant national and state curriculum frameworks and professional, legal and ethics obligations, in particular in occupational health and safety and how it impacts upon the health and wellbeing of young children. During this placement, pre-service teachers will be engaged with early childhood centre operations, management and service delivery, and professional interactions with a range of professionals working with children under two and their families.

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 educational environments .  

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 children developmental stages (physical, socio-emotional, cognitive and moral) and diverse learning needs (GA1, GA5; APST 1.1, 1.2; ACECQA A1, A3, D1, D2, D3, D4) 

LO2 - Critically analyse basic assumptions, concepts and principles of major learning theories and children developmental stages to determine implications for instructional settings (GA4, GA5, GA8; APST 1.1, 1.2, 1.5; ACECQA A1, A3, A4, A5, B1, B9, C1)

LO3 - Draw on and critically analyse current 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; ACECQA D1, D2, D4, D5, E1, E2)

LO4 - Demonstrate an understanding of the complex roles of early years educators and the related ethical, legal and professional responsibilities, to evaluate occupational health and safety and how it impacts upon the health and wellbeing of young children and educators (GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8; APST 1.3, 7.1, 7.2; ACECQA A4, A5, B8, D1, E3, F2, F3)

LO5 - Complete a successful professional experience in early childhood setting supported by appropriate evidence developed across the professional experience component (details provided in Professional Experience Handbook) (GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA9; APST 1.5, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 3.1, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, 4.2, 4.4, 5.1, 5.2, 6.3, 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, 7.4; ACECQA C2, C3, C4, D5, F3)

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 

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:

1.1 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. 

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

2.2 Organise content into an effective learning and teaching sequence.

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

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

3.1 Set learning goals that provide achievable challenges for students of varying abilities and characteristics.

3.3 Include a range of teaching strategies.

3.4 Demonstrate knowledge of a range of resources, including ICT, that engage students in their learning.

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

4.2 Demonstrate the capacity to organise classroom activities and provide clear directions.

4.4 Describe strategies that support students’ well-being and safety working within school and/or system, curriculum and legislative requirements.

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

5.2 Demonstrate an understanding of the purpose of providing timely and appropriate feedback to students about their learning.

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

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.

7.3 Understand strategies for working effectively, sensitively and confidentially with parents/carers.

7.4 Understand the role of external professionals and community representatives in broadening teachers’ professional knowledge and practice.

ACECQA Curriculum Specifications

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

A. Child development and care:

A1 Learning, development and care

A3 Social and emotional development

A4 Child health, wellbeing and safety

A5 Early intervention

B. Education and curriculum studies

B1 Early Years Learning Framework

B8 physical and health education

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

D. Family and community contexts

D1 Developing family and community partnerships

D2 Multicultural education

D3 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives

D4 Socially inclusive practice

D5 Culture, diversity and inclusion

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

F2 Management and administration

F3 Professional identity and development


This unit is based on an understanding that learning and development is situated in complex and diverse contexts. The content will cover the following three 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 & Torres Strait Islander perspectives and pedagogies
  • Australia in local and global contexts

Infant and toddler studies:

  • Theories and research in relation to positive relationships with and between infants, toddlers and their diverse families.
  • Play, responsive care and learning experiences for infants and toddlers.
  • Brain development research and neuroscience in the first years.
  • Inclusion and transitions with/between infants, toddlers and their families.
  • The ethical, legal and professional responsibilities of early childhood educators
  • Collaborative relationships and roles in early childhood learning communities
  • Observation, planning, curriculum decision-making and teaching strategies that are responsive to and inclusive of a range of sociocultural contexts and children’s stages of development.
  • Pedagogical practices to support the learning and development of children aged birth to two years
  • Strategies and principles for establishing and maintaining effective professional relationships

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 each week for 12 weeks, or an equivalent study period.

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

Face-to-face/Online Learning support

Students enrolled in both face to face and online learning modes are required to regularly log into the Learning Management System to access recorded lectures and important announcements, to communicate with other students and lecturers, and to submit assessments 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.

ACU Online

This unit uses an active learning approach to support students in the exploration of knowledge essential to the discipline. Students are provided with choice and variety in how they learn. Students are encouraged to contribute to asynchronous weekly discussions. Active learning opportunities provide students with opportunities to practice and apply their learning in situations similar to their future professions. Activities encourage students to bring their own examples to demonstrate understanding, application and engage constructively with their peers. Students receive regular and timely feedback on their learning, which includes information on their progress.


This unit also 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 10 days (5 individual days and one week block) in an early childhood setting for children aged from Birth to 35 months.

Recommended progression of professional experience engagement

Days 1-5 (single days or incorporated into the block) - Proposed Teaching Expectations

Days 1-3

  • Observation and active participation in small group teaching; assisting the supervising teacher in the teaching and learning process, plus managing context routines
  • Observation of teachers in the learning context, their teaching and practices, management of contexts and individuals
  • Observe communication skills that the teacher and room leader use with babies, toddlers, children, parents and other staff
  • Critical reflection on pre-service teacher’s role in the education setting as participant, leader, team member, co-teacher/collaborator 

Days 4-5

  • Structured observations and small group/team teaching
  • Plan / implement and assess two sequential learning experiences per day individually or with the other pre-service teacher (if in a paired placement)
  • Managing context routines or transitions connected to sequenced learning experiences
  • Ongoing observation of teachers, room leader, and other education stakeholders (e.g. specialists, leadership teams, other teachers etc.) in the education setting, their teaching and practices, management of the learning environment, as well as the infants and toddlers
  • Continual self-reflection and evaluation
  • Negotiate with Supervising Teacher and the other pre-service teacher (if in a paired placement) your responsibilities in the first week of block

Block practicum: Days 6-10

Block (5 days)

  • Plan, prepare and implement learning experiences informed by observations that support young children’s interests
  • Plan, prepare, implement and reflect on two learning experiences per day
  • Take responsibility for managing some individual and whole group routines
  • Engage in half-day continuous teaching including management of transitions and whole group routines.
  • Conduct observations of the practices of the Supervising Teacher and room leader.
  • Reflection, self-reflection and evaluation.

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.

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

Minimum Achievement Standards

The assessment tasks and their weighting for this unit are designed to demonstrate the 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%.   

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 intellectural) 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

Planning for Infants and Toddlers

Students design and analyse an education and care program for infants and/or toddlers and relate the discussion to the relevant theories and philosophies of infant and toddler development. 


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA4, GA5

Hurdle Requirement: Preparation for the Professional Experience Placement

Prior to commencing the Professional Experience placement, pre-service teachers must complete a series of compulsory online preparation modules, attaining a score of 95% or above in each module. The modules cover:

  • Professional Standards;
  • Professional expectations and codes of conduct;
  • Legal requirements, including Duty of Care, Child Protection and Mandatory Reporting; and
  • Professional relationships.
  • Pre-service teachers must also complete and provide evidence of the following:
  • Anaphylaxis training;
  • Working with Children Check or a Police Check where this is appropriate or mandated.
  • Child Safe online module: Online multiple choice or short answer questions in 4 sub-modules. Pre- service teachers will need to attain a mark of 75% or more in each sub-module before progressing to the next sub-module

Note: Completion of this module does not exempt students from seeking a Working with Children Check or a Police Check where this is appropriate or mandated.

Anticipated completion time: 7 hours




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.  


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA9

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.

Smidt, S. (2013). The developing child in the 21st century : A global perspective on child development (2nd ed.). Taylor & Francis Group.

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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