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Listening to young children: critical reflections

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This module will be of significant interest to anyone interested in the lives and learning of young children, including early childhood practitioners. It will be of particular value to those who want to develop their knowledge and understanding for professional roles linked to careers in education, health and social care. You'll explore why the child’s voice is important, by considering different approaches to listening, and the importance of children’s participation in early childhood provision and practice.

What you will study

The module consists of three blocks:

Block 1: Foundations for listening to all children
You'll consider what listening to children means by studying different theoretical and historical ideas around the significance of the child's voice and children's participation. You'll reflect on the complexity of young children's lives and explore different situations in which listening is key; for example, for children who are multi-lingual or experiencing transition and change.

Block 2: Responding to the child – how do we listen?
You’ll engage with different approaches to listening that have been used in early childhood research and practice. Throughout this block, you’ll study Alison Clark’s Mosaic approach in depth, as well as several other methods that promote children’s participation. You’ll develop your knowledge and understanding of how listening to young children can be put into practice as well as exploring some of the ethical issues that can arise.

Block 3: Listening, communicating and changing
You’ll think about how listening and children’s participation can be central to early childhood policy, practice and provision. You’ll further reflect on what a listening culture means for young children within their families, settings they attend, and their wider community. You’ll also consider some of the complexities of commitment to children’s participation – in decision making about their lives and experiences – that arise from issues of power and control.

This module will provide you with insights into the many aspects of listening to children, and the value of a participatory approach to supporting their learning. It draws on examples and studies, both from the UK and abroad (for example, Australia, Italy and Scandinavia). By using such a wide range of resources, your perspective will broaden and your thinking will extend beyond situations that are more familiar.

You’ll compare practice that you observe with ideas that you study. You’ll reflect on the practice and experiences you see and how these might be adapted or changed.

You will learn

The module will enable you to:

  • analyse and critically discuss concepts, theories, research and practice
  • critically reflect on your own and others’ values and perspectives
  • critically reflect on the role of the researcher and ethical considerations for the study of children and their families
  • build and summarise arguments and arrive at supported conclusions.

Entry requirements

There are no formal academic or experiential requirements to study this module.

However, it is essential you have an interest in young children’s lives and learning. It would also be beneficial for you to arrange access to an early childhood setting if you’re not already working or volunteering in such a setting. We recommend you visit a setting weekly/fortnightly throughout the module and particularly during Blocks 2 and 3.

Access to settings will require you to meet the ‘fit person’ criteria, in your country, to work with children. You and your setting are responsible for ensuring you meet these requirements, not the OU.

If you’re not sure you’re ready, talk to an adviser.

Preparatory work

We strongly recommend you complete both Exploring perspectives on young children’s lives and learning (E109) and Young children’s play and creativity (E110) before starting this module.

What's included

You will have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assignment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access
  • activities to support your studies
  • links to online forums for you to interact with fellow students and your tutor.

You’ll also be provided with one printed book – Listening to Young Children by Alison Clark which you will use during your study.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a named tutor who will support your studies and mark and comment on your assignment work; you can also seek academic advice and guidance from them. Your tutor will offer support through email, telephone and online forum discussions.

This module provides online tutorials. Although not compulsory, tutorials will help you consolidate your learning. Some tutorials may also be recorded and can be accessed online at your convenience.


You can find the assessment details for this module in the facts box.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying E229 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Listening to young children: critical reflections (E229) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2027.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment