Setting up Learning Provocations in Childcare

Learning provocations in childcare settings?

Simply explained, a learning provocation meaning in early childhood is an intervention that invites, provokes and stimulates learning, interest and creative thoughts.  While this description at first glance may cover a lot of everyday activities undertaken by an early childhood educator, a provocation in early childhood education should push the boundaries with an aim to expand the child’s interests and inspire the child’s appetite for learning.  Provocation in childcare should not be enforced within a strict time frame but should be open-ended in nature, encouraging exploration without intimidating. Ideally, the provocation should be unique and stimulating enough to encourage exploration and investigation with little adult intervention

How to set up a learning provocation

When setting up a learning provocation in childcare, you should look at using such things as nature, creativity, natural resources to create open-ended projects. Some thought should be given to utilising resources in new different ways to stimulate interest. The key considerations are as follows:

Select an appropriate location within the classroom.

Choose a defined place to set up a provocation. Choosing the right area can really help to stimulate interest and encourage exploration. 

The size of the area will be naturally dependent upon how many children you want to involve. Small learning provocation areas can be set up for two children for quiet interaction. Larger spaces can be set aside for such activities as dramatic play and can cater for as many as five children.

Consider spacing and absence of clutter in your designated areas

Careful consideration should be given to the design of areas designated to be learning provocations areas. One trap to avoid is to overstock the area with items. The result is that the area looks cluttered and the area can become confusing. 

Clutter and disorganisation send two clear messages to children. A disorganised area is likely to convey a message that resources are disrespected. While a cluttered space is likely to create a disoriented feeling and a feeling of chaos. So it is important when setting up an area that the place is organised and thoughtfully displayed.

A well-organised area makes it easy for children to care for and maintain. This can be assisted by setting up photos showing how the area should look after being tidied up. 

When setting up a learning provocation area, consideration should be given to basic design principles. Thought should be given to colours, textures and lighting. All of these factors will have an impact on the style and aesthetic tone of the area. The latest trend is to use neutral tones, soft lighting and natural materials. Using these types of materials will help to create a peaceful space but also help’s to highlight the child’s work and learning.

When setting up a space, give careful consideration to using such things as:

  • Real and artificial plants
  • Wooden bowls
  • Cane baskets
  • Soft lighting
  • Neutral colours
  • Textured tablecloths.

Set up the area with the relevant resources

Learning intentions can be reinforced with the addition of resources and tools to aid the learning provocation. These resources include such items as posts, texts and vocabulary cards which will serve as helpful prompts to reinforce the intended learning intentions. The tools will have more impact if the children are involved in their creation.

Adding items to the area that will allow children to record their learning is a powerful reinforcement tool. Such items could include notebooks, blackboards, cameras, clipboards and whiteboards. What the children record on these resources can be discussed during a suitable reflection time. Reflection helps to consolidate the learning of the child and to reaffirm that their learning is valued. This also offers a learning opportunity for other children and educators. 

Learning provocations do not need to be elaborate. The provocations can be as simple as a written or visual prompt or challenge. These provocations can either be in line with curriculum learning intentions or designed in response to a child’s developmental needs or interests as observed by the teacher.

Designing and setting up learning provocations is a process that will evolve over time. By using the three steps outlined above teachers can work towards creating spaces that will stimulate and encourage learning in a calm and welcoming environment.