Projects per year
I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA) and committed education professional specialising in early childhood and primary curriculum and pedagogy, leadership, and management. As of August 2019, my current position is as Senior Lecturer: Teaching and Research in the Master of Education Program at the University of Dundee Scotland.
My previous role was as Director of Academic Program: Early Childhood at Western Sydney University: School of Education. My key remit was to oversee development, implementation, assessment and reporting of the Master of Education (Birth-5/Birth–12 Years), education components of the Bachelor of Arts (Pathway to Teaching Birth-5/Birth-12 Years), and the development of a new online Bachelor of Education (Birth – 5 Years) course. My key areas of expertise are Curriculum and Pedagogy and this was realised in this context, through a focus on curriculum integration, arts, natural sciences and sustainability education in contemporary childhood contexts.
I began my career as a kindergarten and primary school teacher, developing and consolidating pedagogical expertise over a period of 15 years, culminating in the role of Principal. This focus on leadership was integral in my work in the community college sector and later for the National Childcare Accreditation Council where I managed the Moderation and Accreditation process for all early childhood services in Australia (approximately 10,000) who were registered to participate in the quality assurance process. Integrating key policy and legislative expertise, my extended contribution to this process was to design and implement major structural change to the accreditation process that improved the quality of advice to early childhood services and significantly streamlined process and timeframes involved. This role consolidated my knowledge of all aspects of the early childhood field and it was in this position that I began to develop an academic profile completing my PhD in 2011.
I am a fervent believer in developing education programs that support students to engage in theoretically informed practice, work effectively with children and families in their communities and have the discernment to choose relevant, excellent, and ongoing quality professional development to support them in their careers as they unfold.
I am a Senior Fellow with the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA) and Senior Lecturer: Teaching and Research in the Master of Education Program at the University of Dundee. My teaching and learning philosophy is co-constructivist, incorporating sociocultural, critical and post-structuralist theoretical perspectives. From a practical perspective, my experience as an early years and primary teacher, an academic, and in national policy development and implementation, means that I have insight into problems in both practice and policy and can apply these understandings in the development of teaching and learning programs.
I view the first step in teaching as understanding one’s students, their social and cultural contexts and the modes of engagement that are relevant to them. My teaching and learning approach offers students opportunities to develop a strong knowledge base through scaffolded, constructivist learning programs and innovative resources. It is informed by engaging with the discourse of constructive alignment and the impact this has on student learning approaches (Biggs & Tang, 2007), research on integrated early childhood curriculum (Ward, 2017b) and perspectives of aligned curriculum approaches and pedagogies (Arthur, Beecher, Death, Dockett, & Farmer, 2014; Biggs & Tang, 2007; Thomas, 2014). This, in addition to implementation of high quality aligned assessment, facilitates my students’ critical inquiry and practical application. My educational expertise and ability to engage with multiple contextual factors, enables me to make a substantial contribution to the Master of Education programs, taking full account of the policy contexts in which they operate, at the University of Dundee.
The scope of learning experiences in which I engage my students enhances local and global knowledge of the environment, includes social context, which is relevant to students’ life experience, and includes multiple modes of learning. My award winning learning materials for flipped and face to face classrooms (Vice Chancellor’s Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning 2016) include ‘Explain Everything’, ‘Voice Thread’, ‘Captivate’, ‘YouTube’ videos, podcasts and self-authored ‘iBooks’. I have created two interactive iBook’s one of which is bilingual, and a professional website. The bilingual iBook won bronze medals in two categories in the 2017 International eLit awards. The website and class iBook are additional resources for students that provide multiple access points for engaging with content, catering to divergent learning dispositions.
My research program concentrates on education for sustainability and the significance of the human/nature connection. Whilst pursuing a number of strands, it investigates ways in which we can support children and young people to live in conscious connection with the natural world so they can think and act innovatively in finding new ways of living sustainably in, and in a state of contented regeneration on, the earth. The strands include (also see below): sensing ecologically with young children and the pedagogical implications of this practice for early childhood educators in providing ecologically healthy, engaging learning environments; curriculum integration in early childhood/primary education between the arts and sustainability education for exploring and interpreting the natural world; psychological flexibility and Goethean science approaches for youth and young people at risk to support ecopsychological health; and community greening/gardening approaches to support wellbeing for all ages but in particular for those in community housing.
My research has, individually and collaboratively, been supported by a total of AU$350,000 in grant funding, which, relative to opportunity while in leadership and governance roles, is substantial. This information below provides examples of recent and current research as well as plans for future research and collaboration.
The aim of this project was to identify and map young children's (who are pre-language) experiences and encounters of natural environments through free exploration and play. The research design drew on a model of posthumanist ecological communities where human and nature are ‘beings in common’, being sensed ecologically. The project explores whether taking up 'human culture', particularly ‘languaging’ can interfere with a child's embodied sensitivity, that is the extent to which the naming of objects and experiences reiterates and imposes the humanist pedagogical project. The children in this project were therefore pre-language and the research followed the children's expression of sensing and being in the natural environment as they developed their language. The outcome of this project seeded foundational thinking around post humanist readings of preverbal human/nature encounters and will support early years educators to consider pedagogical practices that enhance and support under two year olds ecological nature play/exploration. This report is published in the Centre for educational Research a Western Sydney University and through my professional website.
Inquiry Arts-Pedagogy in Experiential Nature Education
In 2016, I led and implemented the international Inquiry Arts-Pedagogy in Experiential Nature Education (IAPENE) research project. Practitioner, academic and community arts colleagues from early childhood settings in Scotland, Boulder Colorado and New Zealand; Universities of Toronto, Nebraska Lincoln and Colorado; and Dimensions Foundation Nebraska, Arbor Day Foundation Nebraska City and Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto were all participants. The IAPENE research resulted in the development of a pedagogical tool for use in early childhood settings. It was trialled at all six Sydney Early Learning Centres and at early childhood settings in Lincoln Nebraska. Econnection in Early Childhood Education: Synergies in Inquiry Arts Pedagogies and Experiential Nature Education. This research has scope for ongoing national and international impact. This research directly led to broader international consulting and research engagement.
Pathways to Wellbeing, Skill Development, and Participation: Royal Botanic Garden Master Gardener Volunteer Program
In this research, I worked with a team of three other academics in partnership with the Royal Botanic Gardens, NSW, in investigating the impact of green spaces and gardening on community wellbeing across a range of age groups. The current study, the second in this series, is a three year program working with 210 youth and adult participants from previous community garden programs from social housing estates, who wish to further develop their skills with a view to embarking on related qualifications and employment. Find out more about community-greening and the educational programs at Royal Botanical Garden Sydney.
Wilding Nature Play for Children and Families: An evaluation of the Ian Potter Children's Wild Play Children’s Garden’
I am one of three academics who worked on an evaluation of the award winning Ian Potter Wild Play Children’s Garden (IPWPCG) in collaboration with Centennial Park and the Office of Environment and Heritage NSW. The IPWPCG was established in October 2017 with a view to encourage children and families from diverse groups to engage in nature play and support their connection to nature. The research team investigated the ways that children and families from a range of cultural backgrounds, children with special needs and those from disadvantaged groups engaged with the IPWPCG and the benefits they derive from doing so. The investigation also included the ways in which the IPWPCG site encourages nature play, the associated developmental and/or learning affordances and potential for increased environmental appreciation, awareness and/or action.
Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals
In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):
Adjunct Fellow, Western Sydney University
1 Jul 2019 → 30 Jun 2021
- LB2361 Curriculum
- Regenerative Living
- Place Based Education
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eLene4Life - Learning and Interacting to Foster Employability (Joint with Fondation Unit, France as lead; Bremen University; Polytechnic of Milan; Fondazione Politecnico Di Milano; European University College Association; Marie Curie Sklodowska University, Poland; Libera Universita Maria SS Assunta Di Roma )
Community gardens as local learning environments in social housing contexts: participant perceptions of enhanced wellbeing and community connectionGray, T., Tracey, D., Truong, S. & Ward, K., 2022, In: Local Environment. 27, 5, p. 570-585 16 p.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article › peer-review
Connecting to nature through community engaged scholarship: Community gardens as sites for collaborative relationships, psychological, and physiological wellbeingWard, K., Truong, S. & Gray, T., 28 Jul 2022, In: Frontiers in Psychiatry. 13, 14 p., 883817.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article › peer-reviewOpen AccessFile9 Downloads (Pure)
Truong, S., Gray, T. & Ward, K., Jun 2022, In: Urban Forestry and Urban Greening. 72, 8 p., 127586.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article › peer-reviewOpen Access
Getting Out of the Classroom and Into Nature: A Systematic Review of Nature-Specific Outdoor Learning on School Children's Learning and DevelopmentMann, J., Gray, T., Truong, S., Brymer, E., Passy, R., Ho, S., Sahlberg, P., Ward, K., Bentsen, P., Curry, C. & Cowper, R., 16 May 2022, In: Frontiers in Public Health. 10, 12 p., 877058.
Research output: Contribution to journal › Review article › peer-reviewOpen AccessFile
24 Nov 2022
Activity: Participating in or organising an event types › Participation in conference
Kumara Ward (Keynote speaker)28 Oct 2021
Activity: Talk or presentation types › Invited talk
Where do the Children Play: Policy Legislation & Research to support High Quality Children’s Early Learning Environments
Kumara Ward (Keynote speaker)May 2019
Activity: Talk or presentation types › Keynote
Jan 2018 → Sep 2021
Activity: Other activity types › Other