Charles Sturt University
Charles Sturt University

Dr Sheena Elwick

Dr Sheena Elwick

BEd (Early Childhood and Primary) (Hons 1); PhD

Sheena is a Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Education within the School of Education on the Albury-Wodonga campus. She has a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood/Primary) (Honours Class 1) and a PhD in early childhood education, both from Charles Sturt University (CSU).

Sheena’s doctoral study, A philosophical-empirical interrogation of infant participation in research, was embedded within the Australian Research Council Linkage Project LP0883913: ‘What is life like for babies and toddlers in childcare?’ It brought together philosophy and empirical data generated with six infants located in three Family Day Care homes to interrogate the concept of infant participation in research. As a PhD student, Sheena was a member of the CSU Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning and Education; and, a member of the Excellence in Research in Early Years Education Collaborative Research Network. The thesis reporting on the doctoral study was selected as an outstanding dissertation by CSU in 2017 and the abstract was subsequently published in the Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales. During her doctoral studies, Sheena established a strong record of research productivity. Her doctoral research generated five scholarly book chapters, six refereed journal articles, two professional publications, and two international conference presentations.

Locally, Sheena facilitates the ‘Reclaiming being three: Reflecting, learning, and imagining’ professional learning group that provides opportunities for service staff and practitioners, who work with children aged three, to regularly meet and explore how best to support and honour the children they work with. This group crosses service boundaries and is open to all services that include children aged three in their setting.

Sheena’s broad range of experience as a practitioner and supervisor in tertiary education, primary schools, and early childhood settings enables her to be involved in writing, leading, reviewing, and delivering a range of subjects in the Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood and Primary) undergraduate degree program.

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Sheena has a national and international reputation as a leader in educational research with young children and practice more generally, and specifically, the interplay of early childhood education practitioners/researchers and children aged under-three. Her current research program focuses on developing and employing innovative research pedagogies, including visual pedagogies, to advance knowledge in three interconnected areas:

  1. Qualitative and post-qualitative research approaches, including ‘philosophical-empirical inquiry’ – a research approach that explicitly embeds philosophy throughout the research program, with a particular emphasis on Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy;
  2. Identifying, measuring and improving early childhood education contributors to the development, learning and wellbeing of children aged under three;
  3. and, supporting practitioners to advance planning, practices and pedagogies in prior-to-school settings.

Sheena has expertise and experience with employing diverse philosophical perspectives, particularly Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy, in research concerning children aged under-three, as well as in research concerning children whose speech, language, and ways of communicating might not be shared by those seeking to involve them. Sheena is highly skilled at embedding philosophy throughout all aspects of a research program, including research methods and their findings. Her current publications include detailed development and enactment of the research approach called ‘philosophical-empirical inquiry’.

Sheena’s research has a strong focus on impact and real-world relevance. Issues of impact and relevance are embedded within all stages of research development and implementation through forging partnerships with research end-users as research collaborators. This is evident in current projects that include, for example, working as part of a cross-university team of researchers to co-develop and refine ORICL, a tool for educators to observe, reflect on, and improve the quality of individual children’s learning experiences in early childhood education and care programs for children aged under-three. The development of ORICL began with a Delphi-process workshop and online survey involving 30 professionals, practitioners, senior managers in government and non-government organisations, specialist consultants and researchers. Stakeholder feedback strongly endorsed the purpose and need for such a tool and its potential value for improving educational practice to optimise children’s learning and wellbeing. Fieldwork testing with 30 Family Day Care and Long Day Care educators in QLD, NSW, VIC and WA was completed in 2019 and followed with a workshop that brought together a multi-disciplinary group of researchers and representatives of early childhood education stakeholder groups to plan the next steps for its use in the field.

Her recent role as Lead Chief Investigator in the study ‘Supporting family day care educators to notice and cultivate the mathematics in young children’s (aged birth-three) explorations, play, and talk’ provides further evidence of the impact and real-world relevance of Sheena’s research. This study brought together experienced researchers, early childhood education consultants and mentors with backgrounds in early childhood education, policy review and development, professional development preparation and delivery, and mathematics education; along with Family Day Care service managers and staff, educators, and children. The study included the use of four GoPro cameras to simultaneously record video-footage from different viewpoints in family day care homes. One camera was worn by a child aged two; one was located in a low stationary position and one in a high stationary position to record the family day care environment; and, one was worn by the educator on a chest harness. The resultant video-data was used to develop and deliver face-to-face and online professional learning sessions. Stakeholder feedback strongly endorsed the impact of those sessions and led to a series of six related articles being prepared for Family Day Care Australia’s professional magazine. The study received international and national recognition including an invitation to present a related paper at the Association of Visual Pedagogies International Conference 2019: Ocular becoming in dangerous times: The politics of ‘seeing’, and to contribute a chapter in the first book in the ‘Visual Pedagogy’ series published by Brill: ‘Seeing’ the world through children’s eyes: (A handbook of) Visual methodologies and approaches to early learning.

The ethical stance towards young children that is promoted throughout Sheena’s research is nationally and internationally recognised, and has been highlighted as providing an alternative ethical stance that issues serious challenges to those researching with young children. Sheena was an invited speaker at the 3rd Infants and Toddler conference at Macquarie University in 2019. The topic of the presentation was ‘Children’s rights: What do they look like and who decides?’ Sheena presented a second related paper at the same conference: ‘Using video-images to transform participatory practices with infants and toddlers: Exploring the ethical challenges and possibilities’. Sheena’s methodological and theoretical work has also been utilised internationally as a resource to assist students and researchers in various disciplines, and to guide and improve research involving children.

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Undergraduate Teaching

Sheena teaches in the Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood and Primary) undergraduate degree program. She is currently the Subject Convenor across the Albury, Wagga, Bathurst, and Dubbo campuses for the following subjects:

  • EED110: Child Development: The Early Years
  • EPT122: Professional Experience 1 Early Childhood Programs: 3-5 Year Olds
  • EPT124: Play and Learning

Sheena is also the Subject Coordinator on the Albury campus for the following subjects:

  • EED110: Child Development: The Early Years
  • EPT122: Professional Experience 1 Early Childhood Programs: 3-5 Year Olds
  • EPT124: Play and Learning
  • EMM106: Mathematical and Scientific Learning in the Early Years
  • EEL204: Child Health and Safety
  • EPT221: Professional Experience 3 Early Childhood Programs: Birth - 2 Year Olds

Higher Degree Research (HDR) Student Supervision






B. Friezer


How do Infants Interact in Triads in Long Day Care?


In progress

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CSU Committees and Leadership Roles

2019 – current: Elected Academic Member of Charles Sturt University Human Research Ethics Committee

2016 – current: Elected Academic Member of School of Education Research Committee


2016 – current: Reviewer, Education Philosophy and Theory

2016 - current: Contributor, Family Day Care Australia ‘JiGSAW’ magazine

2017 – current: Reviewer, Australasian Journal of Early Childhood

2017 – current: Reviewer, Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood

2017 – current: Reviewer, International Journal of Early Childhood

2018 – current: Reviewer, Video Journal of Education and Pedagogy

2018 – current: Reviewer, Mathematics Teacher Education and Development

Professional Associations

Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia (PESA)

The Oganisation Mondiale pour l’Éducation Préscolaire (OMEP) World Organisation for Early Childhood Education

Association for Visual Pedagogies (AVP)

Family Day Care Australia (FDCA)

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For a full list of publications visit:

Refereed Journal Articles

Elwick, S. (2020): Merleau-Ponty’s ‘wild Being’: Tangling with the entanglements of research with the very young, Educational Philosophy and Theory. 52:2, 149-158, DOI: 10.1080/00131857.2019.1618275
(Free Download):

Elwick, S. & Green, B. (2019). Merleau-Ponty's body and beyond? Early childhood studies, philosophical-empirical inquiry, and educational research. Qualitative Inquiry. [OnlineFirst]


Harrison, L., Bull, R. Wong, S., Elwick, S., & Davis, B. (2019). NSW Preschool Assessment Study: Review of formative assessment practices in early childhood settings. Report prepared for the New South Wales Department of Education.

Invited Conference Presentations

Elwick, S., (2019). (Invited Panelist) A researcher’s chiaroscuro rendering of children’s rights: What are they and who decides? 3rd Infant and Toddler Conference, Sydney, 19 – 20 July.

Elwick, S., (2019). Merleau-Ponty, depth and epiphany: On using multiple GoPro viewpoints, empowering educators, and researching with children aged under-three. The Association of Visual Pedagogies Annual International Conference, Melbourne, 17– 19 June.

Conference Presentations

Elwick, S., (2019).Using video-images to transform participatory practices with infants and toddlers: Exploring the ethical challenges and possibilities. 3rd Infant and Toddler Conference, Sydney, 19 – 20 July.

Mulhearn, G., Elwick, S., Harrison, L., Wong, S. & Williams, K. (2019). ORICL: a new educator reflection and assessment tool for working with children under 3. 3rd Infant and Toddler Conference, Sydney, 19 – 20 July.

Professional Publications

Elwick, S., Lambert, B., & Spalding, N. (2019). Seeing and cultivating the mathematical activity of measuring in family day care. JiGSAW. 91Spring, 23-24.

Elwick, S., Lambert, B., & Spalding, N. (2019). Seeing and cultivating the mathematical activity of locating with children aged under three. JiGSAW. 90Winter, 23-24.

Elwick, S., Lambert, B., & Spalding, N. (2019). Seeing and cultivating the mathematical activity of counting in under-threes. JiGSAW. 89Autumn, 23-24.

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