Australia’s National Quality Framework identifies responsibilities for early childhood educators who work with infants to plan for and assess their learning. Educators are urged to be ‘responsive to children’s ideas and play’ and to ‘assess, anticipate and extend children’s learning’. Responsiveness in relation to infants is often couched in terms of emotional support and attention to the attachment relationship, or in detailed guidance about supporting the infant in care routines. Drawing on Levinas’s ideas of ethical encounter to frame a consideration of infants’ learning more broadly, this article suggests the possibility to see beyond traditional perceptions of infants as objects of the attachment relationship, and identifies the potential for infants to be viewed as ‘initiators’ who guide educators’ responses. Working with Levinas’s ideas of absolute responsibility in the face-to-face encounter, the notion of ‘response-ableness’ is used to examine educators’ decisions and actions as they share in learning encounters with infants. Using video footage captured during an infant’s encounter with learning, the decisions of the educator prove influential. Creating a narrative of this experience illuminates the educator’s response-ableness, and shows how an infant’s ideas and investigations might form the basis of the learning encounter. Close examination of educator response-ableness may lead to richer possibilities for infants’ encounters with learning, beyond the curriculum of care.
- ethical encounter