Research Participation

Small Kauri participated in research with Auckland University exploring Children's Working Theories, an under explored aspect of Te Whariki the Early Childhood Curriculum . Our children theories and teachers meaningful responses are now featured in Teacher Education Programmes, Education Conferences and Academic Papers. The following gives a brief background summary of the research project.

Inquiring minds, meaningful responses: Children’s interests, inquiries and working theories

Teaching and Learning Research Initiative

Duration: 2 years

Sector: Ealrly Childhood Education (ECE)

Project start date: January 2012 :Project end date: June 2014

Research partners:  Helen Hedges & Maria Cooper from The University of Auckland with: Niky Spanhake, Daniel Lovett & Trish Murphy from Small Kauri Early Education Centre,  and Lindy Ashurst & Bianca Harper from Myers Park KiNZ;

Project Description

This project partnered researchers with teachers from two centres to explore and theorise understandings of children’s inquiries and working theories. This project investigated the following questions:

  • What is the nature and content of infants’, toddlers’ and young children's inquiries and working theories in relation to their everyday lives in their families, communities and cultures?
  • How might teachers notice, recognise, respond to, record and revisit infants’, toddlers’ and young children's interests, inquiries and working theories in early childhood education?


The project explored the nature of children’s interests and inquiries; the kinds of inquiries and working theories that children explore and how these progress over time; teachers' knowledge and understandings in relation to children’s interests, inquiries and working theories and associated curricular decisions and practices, and theoretical understandings of children's inquiries and working theories. There was a particular focus  on the links between children’s interests and working theories and activities and events in children’s families, communities and cultures.
The project’s objectives have included:

  • exploring teachers’ understandings of children’s interests, inquiries and working theories
  • exploring the nature, types and progression of children’s inquiries and working theories in specific contexts, including their relationship with activities and events in children’s families and cultures
  • developing approaches for recording (documenting) inquiries and working theories and justifying which have been revisited

Why is this research important?

Little research has been available to guide teachers to adopt analytical practices with regard to interpretation of children’s interests, particularly in multi-cultural settings that represent the diversity of NZ’s population. Further, the counterpart outcome to dispositions in Te Whāriki of working theories has remained somewhat elusive.  This is likely to be because little research and few programmes of professional learning have occurred to explore and develop shared understandings of the concept and its importance in children’s thinking and knowledge development. It therefore remains unclear what teachers’ understandings of the construct of working theories are and ways they then recognise, document and utilise these as an element of children’s interests and inquiries in curriculum decision making.  For Small Kauri the research initiative assisted our teachers to look at curriculum provisions more analytically.                               


The full summary can be seen by clicking here.