Intentional teaching for visual arts in Early Childhood Education: teachers’ practices and perceptions

Keywords: Visual arts, Early childhood education, Socio-cultural theory, Intentional teaching


The early childhood sector in New Zealand has a long-held tradition of free play and child-led pedagogy, influencing visual arts approaches with young children. However, alongside learning through play, New Zealand’s sociocultural curriculum highlights the active role of the teacher and intentional pedagogy. This article explores the practices and perceptions of early childhood teachers regarding visual arts through a mixed methods study, including a nationwide survey and an embedded case study. Data indicated that teachers are confused about the appropriateness of taking an active role during children’s visual arts learning, and about when to be intentional versus leaving children to play without interference. Such tensions appear to be founded in contradictory theoretical assumptions, and are evident through a lack of confidence, skills, strategies and language for teaching. The authors argue that professional learning could ameliorate these tensions by clarifying educational theories and identifying intentional visual arts teaching practices that align with current theoretical beliefs about how young children learn in early childhood.


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Author Biographies

Rachel Denee, Victoria University of Wellington

Rachel Denee is an early career researcher with interests in leadership, professional learning, early childhood pedagogy, and visual arts education. Rachel has recently completed her doctoral studies investigating a network professional learning community approach to improving visual arts pedagogy. She has been an early childhood teacher and leader for over twenty years and brings in-depth professional sector knowledge to her academic career.

Sue Cherrington, Victoria University of Wellington

Sue Cherrington is an Associate Professor and Director of the Institute for Early Childhood Studies at Te Herenga Waka: Victoria University of Wellington. Sue has an extensive background in early childhood education, both as a kindergarten teacher and in early childhood teacher education. Sue’s over-arching research focus is on professional and pedagogical practices in ECE, including EC teacher thinking and reflection, professional learning and development, and the use of innovative data collection tools for use by teachers in ECE settings.

How to Cite
Denee, R., & Cherrington, S. (2023). Intentional teaching for visual arts in Early Childhood Education: teachers’ practices and perceptions. Teachers’ Work, 20(1), 5-18.