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How Does Learning Happen?

Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years

How Does Learning Happen?

How Does Learning Happen? Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years is a professional learning resource guide about learning through relationships for those working with young children and families. How does learning happen? What relationships and environments support it? What actions support children’s learning? What does theory and research tell us? These are questions with constantly evolving and shifting answers. While there are general principles and knowledge we can refer to, we must always think, feel, and act in ways that reflect the environment, the circumstances, and most importantly the children, families, and colleagues we have before us in every unique situation.

Provoke Questions

As we question, research, reflect, respond, and co-construct our understanding of the world around us with children and families, we gain new perspectives and new and more complex questions arise. The question "how does learning happen?" is not so much about providing all the answers, but rather is intended to provoke questions – for it is in exploring our questions that learning happens.  It is intended to support pedagogy and curriculum/program development in early years programs.


Pedagogy is “the understanding of how learning takes place and the philosophy and practice that support that understanding of learning”.  Curriculum (the content of learning) and pedagogy (how learning happens) in early years settings are shaped by views about children, the role of educators and families, and relationships among them. This pedagogical document, How Does Learning Happen?, helps educators focus on these interrelationships in the context of early years environments. 

It Starts With Understanding

 An understanding of Children, Families, and Educators has a profound impact on what happens in any early years setting.  Reflecting on a shared understanding and working towards greater consistency between what we say and what we do provides a means to strengthen and transform early years. 

Each Child

Children are competent, capable of complex thinking, curious, and rich in potential. They grow up in families with diverse social, cultural, and linguistic perspectives. Every child should feel that he or she belongs, is a valuable contributor to his or her surroundings, and deserves the opportunity to succeed. When we recognize children as capable and curious, we are more likely to deliver programs and services that value and build on their strengths and abilities. 


Families are experts on their children. They are the first and most powerful influence on children’s learning, development, health and well-being. Families bring diverse social, cultural, and linguistic perspectives. Families should feel that they belong, are valuable contributors to their children’s learning and deserve to be engaged in a meaningful way.

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