Intentional Teaching; is it the best approach?

Intentional teaching is purposeful, deliberate and thoughtful. It aims for the best learning outcomes for children. Let’s unpack it here..

What is Intentional Teaching?

What comes to your mind as you think of the term, ‘Intentional teaching’? The meaning of this term largely varies among people. For some people, ‘intentional teaching’ implies formal or organized ways of teaching. It might invoke an image in which a teacher is standing in front of the students and instructing them to do the classroom activities, while for some a picture of kids sitting quietly at tables and finishing work that has been set by an educator. Intentional teaching is a tool that supports the learning and development of children. ‘Intentional’ means to act in light of an objective. Intentional teachers effectively work to expand their student’s degree of intellectual reasoning. Intentional teaching requires the teachers to be intentional, deliberate and insightful in their choices and activities. ACECQA describe Intentional Teaching as a vital element of the Early Years Learning Framework.

Intentional Teaching
A skilled teacher knows when to employ Intentional teaching

It implies effectively planning and acting with explicit objectives while keeping in mind the children’s learning outcomes so that you can select the most suitable approaches to develop and enhance children’s cognitive skills. It includes being deliberate across all dynamic decision-making areas, including curriculum, relationships, and managerial obligations. Intentional teaching is the opposite of traditional teaching methods and involves various strategies that promote children’s learning (DEEWR, 2009).

 Teachers’ importance in achieving intentional teaching-learning outcomes is highly established in Australia and international research and policies. For example, E4Kids study based on the investigation of the quality of early childhood learning settings presented a key result concerning Australian children’s conceptual learning. According to this study, although the class organization and emotional support are provided to children, there is a need to improve the child-adult interactions particularly the instructional support as it promotes cognitive thinking and understanding among children (Taylor, 2016).

Intentional Teaching
A large part of intentional teaching is scaffolding the childrens learning

Why should you adopt intentional teaching?

Early childhood teachers in day care and other settings interact with their students for more than a thousand times over a single day. Some of these interactions are planned while others are unplanned. A teacher can make the most out of these interactions by being ‘intentional’. While having positive social interactions with teachers, children tend to engage in cognitive activities and more profound learning to a greater degree. Therefore, intentional teaching techniques, including questioning and scaffolding, contribute primarily to effective child learning outcomes.

 Ways of Intentional Teaching

You can become an intentional teacher by following the ways given below;

1.                  Know Your Students

The most critical step in intentional teaching is understanding students’ nature, interests, strengths, and needs. This understanding can be acquired from children themselves, colleagues, and families and then based on this information; learning goals can be established for children. The process of getting to know your students also helps to form those bonds and attachments which in turn allows the teaching to be most effective if a child feels comfortable, safe and secure within their learning environment.

2.    Intentional Conceptual Development

Conceptual development is the learning of important concepts related to maths, science, technology and aspects of everyday life, through various experiences, planned or unplanned. The understanding of these concepts helps to develop language skills, instructions/directions from others, as well as develops problem solving skills and the confidence to investigate and explore further.

An educator plays a central role in intentional processes that develop children’s understanding from every day to a deeper one. describe the building blocks necessary to develop the understanding of concepts.

3. Selecting the Teaching Strategies That Help to Reach the Learning Goals


Educators use various materials and equipment for creating a challenging environment for children to provoke sustainable learning and curiosity. Selection of teaching strategies must be based on what you want to achieve with a particular child. For example, Anna works with 3-year-old children. Her goal is to teach a new poem to children, so she repeatedly sings it during the week while they are working together in groups or sitting individually. She encourages the children to sing with her and gives them feedback on their progress.

4.     Provide Opportunities for Sustained Shared Thinking

Sustained shared thinking refers to smart and intellectual ways of identifying problems, clarifying the concept and finding the ways to solve the problem. It is all about creating opportunities for the children that urge them to think deeply to achieve broad learning outcomes. For this purpose, you must take a keen interest in what children are doing, clarifying concepts and offering engagement to enhance their thinking abilities. For example, scaffolding the students in questions is the best way to provoke their cognitive skills for solving the problems instead of just throwing in pieces of information.

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5.      Intentional Curriculum Designing

Purposeful curriculum designing can pave the way for successful intentional teaching. Plan what you want to say and do, the things to be avoided and how to set a suitable environment for attaining learning outcomes. Include effective questioning as part of your plan to know about the strengths, interests, and weaknesses of children regarding different areas of knowledge.

6.      Assessment and Evaluation

Assess children for their understanding of simple and complex ideas (from learning dispositions to working theories) for better curriculum decision making. This will also help you track the capabilities of children. Interact with them to know if children are demonstrating any new skills or information due to your teaching practices. This will help you understand the individualized needs of children, and then you can respond to their queries in a much-customized way.

7.      Future Actions Based on Children’s Learning Assessment

Intentional teachers use the information they’ve gathered through the assessment to determine the present knowledge and design the future learning goals for children. As an intentional educator, you can record the child’s learning growth over time based on the employed teaching strategies. You can later use this record to report to the families of children, and it can also serve as proof of a teacher’s contribution to the child’s learning and development.

You can see an even more comprehensive list of intentional teaching practices here on the QCAA website.

Challenges Faced by Teachers

Even after implementing intentional teaching for more than a decade, a big loophole in intentional teaching is that educators are often confused about their role in play-based learning. Many studies indicate that teachers are reluctant to embrace active learning while playing a minimal part that is only limited to asking questions (Devi, 2018; Lewis, 2019). Therefore, there is a need to train the teachers to engage themselves in children’s play-based learning. 

Intentional Teaching
It is important to know when to leave children to play and explore without ‘interrupting’ their learning


Skilled educators employ intentional teaching by recognising how and when this can occur. Intentional teaching can occur in various contexts and by the use of various teaching strategies, as well as curriculum planning, conversations during play episodes and scaffolding.

When educators engage in intentional teaching that is purposeful, deliberate and thoughtful, it allows for the best learning outcomes for children and ample opportunity for educators to assess and evaluate the learning that is occurring.

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Early Childhood Australia sell a publication titled “Intentional teaching: Acting thoughtfully, deliberately and purposefully” which you can access here.


  • Tayler, C., Thorpe, K., Nguyen, C., Adams, R., & Ishimine, K. (2016). The E4Kids study: Assessing the effectiveness of Australian early childhood education and care programs: Overview of findings at 2016. Melbourne, Australia: The University of Melbourne: Melbourne School of Graduate Education.
  • Lewis, R., Fleer, M., & Hammer, M. (2019). Intentional teaching: Can early-childhood educators create the conditions for children’s conceptual development when following a child-centred programme?. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 44(1), 6-18.
  • Department of Education, Employment, and Workplace Relations (DEEWR). (2009). Belonging, being and becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Canberra, Australia
  • Devi, A., Fleer, M., & Li, L. (2018). ‘We set up a small world’: preschool teachers’ involvement in children’s imaginative play. International Journal of Early Years Education, 26(3), 295-311

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