Dr Nicole Leggett

Dr Nicole Leggett

Senior Lecturer

School of Education (Education)

Cultivating children’s creativity

Dr Nicole Leggett is researching the importance of developing creative thinking through early childhood education and care.

Creativity, in particular, the creative thought processes of young children, is an area often neglected in a world of education that focuses on testing regimes and structured learning contexts. However, School of Education researcher Dr Nicole Leggett is working to highlight the importance of fostering creative thinking in early childhood education settings.

Nicole engages in international research collaborations with Italian academics who put creativity at the core of the Reggio Emilian approach to early childhood education. In 2018 she formed the ‘Creative Collaborations’ partnership with her Italian counterparts with the aim to open dialogue on creativity in early childhood between teachers who belong to different educative and cultural contexts. The focus of this research centred on creativity in early childhood and how it is understood and implemented as part of differing international early childhood pedagogical practices within Australia and Italy.

“Italian developmental psychologists believe that creativity emerges in preschool age and according to the pedagogistas from Reggio Emilia, every act of learning is a creative act, not in terms of product but rather in terms of process,” Nicole said. “On the other hand, within Australian contexts, our early childhood governance doesn’t show as clear an understanding of creativity for children’s learning, we still have a way to go.”

In 2019/2020 Stage two of the ‘Creative Collaborations’ project ‘La Sorella’ which means ‘the sister’, is linking early childhood teachers in Italy and Australia to share their conceptions of creativity within learning environments for children 0-5 years and to discuss how the creative thinking of children is being made visible through their documentation processes and daily practices.

A first for Australia, this research partnership shows promise for drawing significant interest for informing government on policy direction and curriculum development, including a more robust understanding of creativity as part of the learning and teaching process in early childhood contexts.

“Four early childhood centres in Correggio, Italy, and four early childhood centres from the Newcastle/Central Coast region of NSW, Australia, were invited to participate in the study. Centres from each context were paired together forming four sets of ‘sister centre’ partnerships,” Nicole said.

“Through this project we are connecting with some of the leading researchers in the field of creativity and early education. Early childhood educators world-wide flock to take part in Reggio Emilia study tours. While scholarly research collaborations are highly sought after in the early childhood education and care field, Reggio Emilia academics rarely seek out such international collaborations. The establishment of this strategic network was therefore a unique, rare, and significant opportunity.”

The centres involved in the La Sorella project are experts in implementing the Reggio Emilia approach and were able to share much of their practice with the Australian educators. In turn, the Australian educators were able to share their love of nature, the outdoors, bush programs and the benefits of risk-taking activities for children on their creative development.

“Educators from Italy and Australia were able to form respectful professional relationships that I am sure will continue for some time. It was also great to put Australia on the map in European research, who would not think otherwise to include us – given the distance.”

She says that play and opportunities to be creative are how children make sense of their world.

“There is abundant evidence available today to support the idea that early childhood is a critical period for the development of creative thinking in children. For the developing child, this involves an intellectual search for solutions to everyday problems as they arise through play.Through creative thinking, children learn to hypothesise, make and solve new problems, experiment with ways to represent their new knowledge and to analyse and critique this knowledge in order to make sense of their world.”

Nicole says that today more than ever, ordinary people around the world are seeking innovative, creative solutions in order to keep themselves financially viable amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, again emphasising the need for the early development of creative thinking skills.

“The necessary changes for how we conduct business, sport, exercise, socialise and educate has been in response to keeping each other alive. What we once knew and practiced daily was suddenly no longer useful; for many, survival has meant creative and futuristic thinking. This has huge implications for the way we educate children. If we are to solve future world problems, we need to light the fuse of creativity and lay the necessary neurological creative-cognitive functions early in the minds of young children.”

Seeing people come together from around the world who share the same passion for creativity in early childhood is what excites and motivates Nicole to further her research.

“Despite the language barrier, we all speak the same language – a love for children and their learning. I am excited about the prospects of using technology in the future to bring other worlds together and forming a wider international partnership with Creative Collaborations. There is the potential for educators around the world to form sister centre relationships and to share their ideas, philosophies and practices together, which in turn will strengthen the quality and professionalism of early childhood worldwide.”

Intercultural understandings study tours

Each year, Nicole leads a group of 18 students on an international study group to Italy, providing them with an opportunity to experience early education in Reggio Emilia centres and to learn more about this renowned approach to early childhood education and care from researchers at the local University.

“Developing intercultural understandings in students means putting away the laptops and venturing out of their comfort zones into unknown worlds. Learning based on experience is an integral part for how humans learn and is necessary for personal change and development. Faculty-led student study tours showcase how learning based on experience is integral for not only knowledge formation, but to learn how to participate in a human community,” she said.

“Having walked in the shoes of an untrained assistant, an early childhood teacher, an early childhood centre director and lastly an academic and researcher, I understand the journey of education for students. I believe that having Work Integrated Learning experiences such as the study tours, alongside classroom learning, is essential for students to not only draw from prior knowledge but to learn how to apply creative thinking to problems that arise daily.”

The teaching team for the study tour course were the 2018 recipients of the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence and Contribution to Student Learning - Faculty of Education and Arts.

Cultivating children’s creativity

Dr Nicole Leggett is researching the importance of developing creative thinking through early childhood education and care.

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Career Summary

Biography

Nicole has worked in the early childhood profession for over 25 years, mostly as a Director of early education and care centres. In 2015, she completed a PhD entitled: Intentional teaching practices of educators and the development of creative thought processes of young children within Australian early childhood centres. This research examined the role of the educator as an intentional teacher within Australian early learning environments and investigated the relationship of this role to children’s developing creativity. One significant implication of this study was its potential to assist educators in the recognition and implementation of specific identified strategies for intentional teaching as part of their pedagogical practices. This thesis was awarded the Beth Southwell Research Award for Most Outstanding Education Thesis in 2015. 

In 2017 Nicole has collaborated with conjoint Associate Professor, Linda Newman in leading a major research project with four industry partners in early childhood education. This project, Research Connections: Practitioner Research Engagement Network for Early Childhood Educators, first piloted in Newcastle, successfully linked industry partners with two University Research Mentors (URM’s) from the University of Newcastle. Participants were guided by a URM in developing a centre-based action research project, with the aim for improving classroom practices. Research Connections won the practitioner research award at the EECERA conference in Bologna, Italy, 2017. 

A recent project: Creative Collaborations, together with Dr Margot Ford and Dr Jo Ailwood,  brought Associate Professor Antonio Gariboldi and Dr Antonella Pugnaghi (University of Modena & Reggio Emilia, Italy), to the University of Newcastle. Antonio and Antonella visited the University of Newcastle in May, 2018, to establish and consolidate our research relationship. Nicole, Antonio and Antonella resented at a Public Symposium which attracted over 400 attendees at the University of Newcastle.

Nicole also leads 18 students each year on an international study group to Italy as part of an elective course EDUC3800, Intercultural Understandings. Students experience first-hand the social and cultural aspects of Italy as well as visit the world-renown early childhood centres of Reggio Emilia. 



Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Newcastle
  • Master of Early Childhood Studies, Macquarie University

Keywords

  • Early childhood creativity
  • Practitioner Research

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
139999 Education not elsewhere classified 100

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Senior Lecturer University of Newcastle
School of Education
Australia

Awards

Award

Year Award
2014 PHD publication award 2014
The University of Newcastle
2008 2008: Travel Scholarship Macquarie University, Master’s Degree.
Macquarie University

Prize

Year Award
2017 Practitioner Research Award, EECERA conference, Bologna, Italy.
European Early Childhood Education Research Award
2015 The Beth Southwell Research Award 2015 for outstanding thesis
Beth Southwell

Research Award

Year Award
2017 Inaugural Ourimbah Research Development RHD Internship (Educational Research Institute Newcastle).
Centre for Teaching and Learning, The University of Newcastle
2017 Ian Potter Foundation
Ian Potter Foundation
2016 Inaugural Ourimbah Research Development RHD Internship (Educational Research Institute Newcastle).
Centre for Teaching and Learning, The University of Newcastle
2015 Inaugural Ourimbah Research Development RHD Internship (Educational Research Institute Newcastle).
The University of Newcastle
2014 Inaugural Ourimbah Research Development RHD Internship (Educational Research Institute Newcastle).
The University of Newcastle
2013 Inaugural Ourimbah Research Development RHD Internship (Educational Research Institute Newcastle).
The University of Newcastle
2012 Inaugural Ourimbah Research Development RHD Internship (Educational Research Institute Newcastle).
The University of Newcastle
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Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.


Book (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2018 Newman L, Leggett N, Duffy-Fagan M, Higginbottom K, Strengthening Quality Through Critical Reflection and Action Research, Early Childhood Australia Inc., Deakin West, ACT, 32 (2018) [A1]
Co-authors Linda Newman

Journal article (9 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2019 Leggett N, Newman L, 'Owning it: educators engagement in researching their own practice', European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 27 138-150 (2019) [C1]
DOI 10.1080/1350293X.2018.1556539
Citations Scopus - 1Web of Science - 1
Co-authors Linda Newman
2019 Newman L, Leggett N, 'Practitioner research: with intent', European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 27 120-137 (2019) [C1]
DOI 10.1080/1350293X.2018.1556538
Citations Scopus - 1Web of Science - 1
Co-authors Linda Newman
2017 Leggett N, 'Early Childhood Creativity: Challenging Educators in Their Role to Intentionally Develop Creative Thinking in Children', Early Childhood Education Journal, 45 845-853 (2017) [C1]

© 2017, Springer Science+Business Media New York. Creativity is a topic of wide global interest, often discussed in fields such as education, psychology and business (Runco, Diver... [more]

© 2017, Springer Science+Business Media New York. Creativity is a topic of wide global interest, often discussed in fields such as education, psychology and business (Runco, Divergent thinking and creative potential, Hampton Press, New York, 2013; Yoruk and Runco, Journal for Neurocognitive Research 56:1¿16, 2014). However, the relationship of pedagogical practices in early childhood education and care (ECEC) as it applies to the development of creative thought processes of young children is a relatively new area for investigation. This paper presents recent research that examines the role of the educator as an intentional teacher within Australian early learning environments and investigates the relationship of this role to children¿s developing creativity. Theoretically informed by Vygotsky¿s sociocultural constructivist approach (Vygotsky, Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1930, 1978) and neo-Vygotskian theories on creativity (John-Steiner and Moran, Educational Psychologist 31:191¿206, 2012), this paper explores some of the beliefs and understandings of educators on creativity. Furthermore, this paper exposes some of the misconceptions of educators about children¿s creative thinking as they engage in play-based learning activities. The evidence from this Australian study suggests that the role of the educator is pivotal in assisting children in the early development of creative thinking thus challenging their role as educators.

DOI 10.1007/s10643-016-0836-4
Citations Scopus - 9Web of Science - 7
2017 Leggett N, Newman L, 'Play: Challenging educators' beliefs about play in the indoor and outdoor environment', AUSTRALASIAN JOURNAL OF EARLY CHILDHOOD, 42 24-32 (2017) [C1]
DOI 10.23965/AJEC.42.1.03
Citations Scopus - 5Web of Science - 5
Co-authors Linda Newman
2016 Leggett N, Ford M, 'Group Time Experiences: Belonging, Being and Becoming Through Active Participation Within Early Childhood Communities', Early Childhood Education Journal, 44 191-200 (2016) [C1]

© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media New York. The National Quality Standards (NQS) as part of the Australian National Quality Framework were developed in 2011 and included sev... [more]

© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media New York. The National Quality Standards (NQS) as part of the Australian National Quality Framework were developed in 2011 and included several references to the organisation of small and large groups within early childhood settings (ACECQA 2013). The NQS act in tandem with the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) (DEEWR 2009) and are the basis by which early childhood centres are assessed for accreditation in Australia. This paper draws upon current research with early childhood educators as they struggle to understand the new concept of ¿intentional teachers¿ within this new regime. There also appears to have been a dramatic shift in the understanding about how large and small groups operate within centres. As the accreditation process unfolds, some early childhood centres have been advised to abandon large or whole group work. At the core of the EYLF are the notions of ¿being, belonging, becoming¿, locating young children as part of a community of learners within a democratic society. It therefore appears that tensions and contradictions are emerging between the fundamental principles of the EYLF as they are juxtaposed against the requirement of the NQS. Critical Pedagogy of Place provides a theoretical framework in which to interrogate the ways some early childhood educators interpret intentional teaching both in terms of the organisation of spaces in early childhood centres and the organisation of the children as they inhabit those spaces (Gruenewald 2008). This paper argues that the possible abandonment of large group experiences runs the risk of disconnecting children from their communities and the relationships they form as social participants. Furthermore, it is argued that whole group experiences are crucial elements that facilitate a child¿s identity and active citizenry.

DOI 10.1007/s10643-015-0702-9
Citations Scopus - 6Web of Science - 5
Co-authors Margot Ford
2013 Leggett N, Ford M, 'A fine balance: Understanding the roles educators and children play as intentional teachers and intentional learners within the Early Years Learning Framework', AUSTRALASIAN JOURNAL OF EARLY CHILDHOOD, 38 42-50 (2013) [C1]
DOI 10.1177/183693911303800406
Citations Scopus - 22Web of Science - 21
Co-authors Margot Ford
2013 Leggett NM, 'No Rhyme nor Reason', Every Child, 19 34-35 (2013) [C3]
2011 Leggett NM, 'Searching for the pot of gold', Every Child, 17 16 (2011) [C3]
2009 Leggett NM, 'A journey of discovery', Bedrock, 14 10-11 (2009) [O1]
Show 6 more journal articles
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Grants and Funding

Summary

Number of grants 12
Total funding $63,337

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.


20201 grants / $5,000

Stage 2: 'La Sorella' (The sister) Pilot Project. Creative Collaboration: Thinking, promoting and making creativity visible in early childhood education$5,000

Funding body: Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle

Funding body Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle
Scheme Strategic Network and Pilot Project Grants Scheme
Role Lead
Funding Start 2020
Funding Finish 2020
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N

20192 grants / $15,869

Creative collaborations/"La Sorella": Thinking, promoting and making creativity visible in early childhood education$14,869

Funding body: Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle

Funding body Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle
Project Team

Dr Nicole Leggett (Lead), Dr Margot Ford, Dr Jo Ailwood, A/Professor Antonio Gariboldi - University of Modena, Italy, Dr Antonella Pugnaghi, University of Modena and Reggion Emilia, Italy

Scheme Strategic Network and Pilot Project Grants Scheme
Role Lead
Funding Start 2019
Funding Finish 2019
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N

2019 Ourimbah Strategic Research Grant$1,000

Funding body: Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle

Funding body Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle
Scheme Faculty funding
Role Lead
Funding Start 2019
Funding Finish 2019
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N

20183 grants / $18,000

Creative Collaborations: Creating a research network between Reggio Emillia, Italy and Newcastle, Australia$15,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

Funding body University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project Team

Dr Nicole Leggett, Dr Margot Ford, Dr Jo Ailwood, Associate Professor Antonio Gariboldi, Sr Antonella Pugnaghi

Scheme FEDUA Strategic Networks and Pilot Projects (SNaPP)
Role Lead
Funding Start 2018
Funding Finish 2018
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N

International Conference on Education, Hawaii, 4-7 January 2018$2,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

Funding body University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project Team

Dr Nicole Leggett

Scheme Travel Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2018
Funding Finish 2018
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N

2018 Ourimbah Strategic Research Grant$1,000

Funding body: Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle

Funding body Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle
Scheme Faculty funding
Role Lead
Funding Start 2018
Funding Finish 2018
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N

20171 grants / $2,000

To attend The European Early Childhood Education Research Association (EECERA) conference in Bologna, Italy, 29 August - 1 September, 2016$2,000

Funding body: Ian Potter Foundation

Funding body Ian Potter Foundation
Project Team Doctor Nicole Leggett
Scheme Travel Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2017
Funding Finish 2017
GNo G1700044
Type Of Funding Scheme excluded from IGS
Category EXCL
UON Y

20165 grants / $22,468

Research Connections: Practitioner Research Engagement Network for Early Childhood Educators$6,352

Funding body: Elder Street Early Childhood Centre

Funding body Elder Street Early Childhood Centre
Project Team Associate Professor Linda Newman, Doctor Nicole Leggett, Kylie Kirrage, Mel Duffy-Fagan, Kate Higginbottom, Catherine Highton
Scheme Research Grant
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2016
Funding Finish 2017
GNo G1601038
Type Of Funding C3111 - Aust For profit
Category 3111
UON Y

Research Connections: Practitioner Research Engagement Network for Early Childhood Educators$5,102

Funding body: Hamilton Child Care Centre

Funding body Hamilton Child Care Centre
Project Team Associate Professor Linda Newman, Doctor Nicole Leggett, Kylie Kirrage, Mel Duffy-Fagan, Kate Higginbottom, Catherine Highton
Scheme Research Grant
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2016
Funding Finish 2017
GNo G1601035
Type Of Funding C3112 - Aust Not for profit
Category 3112
UON Y

Research Connections: Practitioner Research Engagement Network for Early Childhood Educators$5,102

Funding body: Adamstown Community Early Learning and Preschool

Funding body Adamstown Community Early Learning and Preschool
Project Team Associate Professor Linda Newman, Doctor Nicole Leggett, Kylie Kirrage, Mel Duffy-Fagan, Kate Higginbottom, Catherine Highton
Scheme Research Grant
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2016
Funding Finish 2017
GNo G1601036
Type Of Funding C3112 - Aust Not for profit
Category 3112
UON Y

Research Connections: Practitioner Research Engagement Network for Early Childhood Educators$5,102

Funding body: Cameron Park Early Learning Centre

Funding body Cameron Park Early Learning Centre
Project Team Associate Professor Linda Newman, Doctor Nicole Leggett, Kylie Kirrage, Mel Duffy-Fagan, Kate Higginbottom, Catherine Highton
Scheme Research Grant
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2016
Funding Finish 2017
GNo G1601037
Type Of Funding C3111 - Aust For profit
Category 3111
UON Y

Ourimbah Strategic Research Grant 1$810

Funding body: Faculty of Education and Arts

Funding body Faculty of Education and Arts
Scheme Ourimbah Strategic Research Grant scheme
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2016
Funding Finish 2016
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON N
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Research Supervision

Number of supervisions

Completed0
Current4

Current Supervision

Commenced Level of Study Research Title Program Supervisor Type
2018 Masters Intentional Teaching and Intentional Learning with Children under Three Years M Philosophy (Education), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle Co-Supervisor
2018 PhD An Investigation into Preschool Teachers' and Parents' Activities and Perceptions on Emergent Literacy in Early Childhood Years PhD (Education), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle Principal Supervisor
2018 PhD What Impact does a Critical Mentoring Program have on an ECE Team’s Ability to Build Team Leadership Skills and Reimagine Leadership as a Creative Team Process? PhD (Education), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle Co-Supervisor
2013 PhD Early childhood national educational frameworks and teachers' beliefs about creativity: A comparative study of Australia and Iran PhD (Education), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle Co-Supervisor
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News

From untrained assistant to global early childhood practitioner

September 30, 2019

As an inaugural recipient of a DVC(A) Merit List Award for Teaching and Learning Excellence, Senior Lecturer in the School of Education, Nicole Leggett, shares her insight into early childhood education and research.

How creativity plays role in early childhood education

May 21, 2018

The Hunter’s early childhood community will have the opportunity to hear from two visiting Italian researchers on the role of creativity in early childhood education when they present at a public symposium at the University of Newcastle this week.

Open flames and real tools deter our toddlers from risky business

July 19, 2017

UON research finds exposing toddlers to ‘risky play’ can increase their safety awareness.

Dr Nicole Leggett

Position

Senior Lecturer
Nicole.Leggett@newcastle.edu.au
School of Education
Faculty of Education and Arts

Focus area

Education

Contact Details

Email nicole.leggett@newcastle.edu.au
Phone (02) 43484041

Office

Room Humanities building HO1.05
Building Humanities building Ourimbah
Location Ourimbah Campus
10 Chittaway Road
Ourimbah, NSW 2258
Australia
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