“It’s Embedded in What We Do for Every Child”: A Qualitative Exploration of Early Childhood Educators’ Perspectives on Supporting Children’s Social and Emotional Learning

Claire Blewitt, Amanda O’connor, Heather Morris, Andrea Nolan, Aya Mousa, Rachael Green, Amalia Ifanti, Kylie Jackson, Helen Skouteris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Early childhood educators play an important role in supporting children’s social and emotional development. While a growing body of research has examined the impact of curriculum-based social and emotional learning (SEL) programs on child outcomes, the approaches educators use to strengthen children’s social and emotional functioning through their everyday practices are less defined. This study explored Australian early childhood educators’ perspectives on children’s social and emotional development, the approaches educators use to encourage children’s social and emotional skills, the enablers and barriers to SEL within the preschool environment, and the additional support needed. Thirty Early Childhood Education and Care professionals participated in semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions. Findings suggest children’s social–emo-tional development is at the forefront of educator planning, practice, and reflection. Participants described utilising various approaches to support children’s social and emotional skills, embedded within interactions and relationships with children and families. Specifically, strategies could be grouped into four broad categories: a nurturing and responsive educator–child relationship; supporting SEL through everyday interactions and practice; utilising the physical environment to encourage SEL; and working in partnership with caregivers. There was, however, inconsistency in the variety and type of approaches identified. Time constraints, group size, educator confidence and capability, high staff turnover, and limited guidance regarding high-quality social and emotional pedagogy were identified as key barriers. Participants sought practical strategies that could be embedded into daily practice to build upon current knowledge.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1530
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2021


  • Early childhood
  • Kindergarten
  • Preschool
  • Qualitative research
  • Social and emotional learning
  • Teacher-child interactions

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