Debi Keyte-Hartland

Debi Keyte-Hartland

Early Education Associate

Debi Keyte-Hartland is an International Consultant and Artist Educator. She holds a MA in Education and has worked directly with teachers and leadership teams in the UK, Singapore, China, Sweden, Canada and Senegal in developing creative and reflective approaches to learning and teaching that involves systemic change and school/settings improvement. Debi is an associate lecturer with Birmingham City University has co-wrote and is currently delivering the MA Module Creativity and the Arts in Early Childhood via CREC (Centre for Research for Early Childhood). She is also a Co-Director of Sightlines Initiative, the UK reference point for Reggio Children.


Debi is skilled in facilitating and delivering professional learning networks, bespoke training events, workshops and keynotes that are rich in examples and case studies of children, where educators are encouraged and supported to reflect critically, and engage practically about their own experiences working alongside children and families. In doing so she illuminates what is possible with young children in contexts of creative and researchful practices. She works in a wide range of settings developing environments and long term projects that invite rich learning and complex enquiry. Debi’s long established UK and International experience can be used within settings to develop pedagogies of active observation, listening and reflection that give value to the learning processes of young children and enable educators to plan and sustain the complex interests of children. She has contributed to a number of education journals and was awarded the EECERA/Routledge Annual Practitioner Research Award 2013 at the 23rd European Early Childhood Education Research Association Conference in Tallinn, Estonia for her paper entitled “Developing Children’s Critical Thinking Through Question and Dialogue: From The Recall of Knowledge to the Co-Construction of Knowledge.”

Debi is currently researching young children’s use of digital media in creative and expressive ways with 5 UK settings and 4 Swedish Pre-Schools. She is also involved in international research exploring the nature of transdisciplinary classrooms and languages of evaluation in the UK, Spain, Sweden and Romania, both funded by Erasmus +.

Debi believes that all children are born creative and able to express themselves in many modalities and languages of expression. However, they must receive and be within environments that support and enable these strengths and competencies to grow and evolve.

Beyond Debi’s courses that she offers she is happy to work in bespoke ways with you on developing your own professional development as well as offering consultancy in creative and reflective practices, so please do get in touch to discuss the possibilities of working together.

Debi’s work has a specialist focus on:

  • how the expressive arts are a mode of visual and verbal communication and thinking
  • developing enabling environments that promote curiosity and thinking
  • mark making and the journey into signs, symbols and codes (writing)
  • recognising children’s interests in enquiry based learning
  • the role of visual arts and creating and thinking critically
  • creating contexts and preparing materials for children’s creativity
  • observation and pedagogical documentation of children’s learning
  • digital and technological languages of creative expression and imagination
  • the principles and practice of the Reggio Emilia Pre-Schools and Infant-Toddler Centres

Areas of expertise​

  • Creativity

  • Mark-Making and Children's Graphicacy

  • Expressive Arts, Communication and Multi-Modality

  • STEAM and STEM

Sample courses

Creative thinking through the visual expressive arts and design

This course highlights how creativity and critical thinking are essential characteristics of learning across all areas of learning in the EYFS.  You will examine specifically how to support your young children as they move from exploration and investigation of materials/resources to a point of thinking and expressing creatively and critically with them.   You will come to know how to observe and support their progression in learning through the visual expressive arts and design, and how to enrich their skills and reasoning, their imagination and possibility thinking in exploration and investigations of ideas in mediums such as different kinds of paint, drawing media, sculptural materials, wire, found objects and loose parts including the use and combination of technology and digital media in creative and communicative ways.

You will leave feeling confident to construct playful situations of creative and expressive learning that considers the interplay of using open-ended and ‘intelligent materials’ as well as thinking about the choices we can make in presenting and curating materials and tools that widen the possibilities for your children’s expression and communication of their ideas, feelings, thoughts and theories of the world. 

Essential Questions;

  • How can you recognise, support and build on young children’s creativity and critical thinking through the visual arts with your children?
  • What are the playful learning contexts that you can design in your settings using creative enquiry and the considered curation of materials and resources?
  • How can you use ‘intelligent materials’ to develop your children’s ability for creative possibility thinking and their expression of ideas, thoughts, emotions and experiences?
  • How can the arts and creativity help your children to construct knowledge and understanding whilst developing their language, communication, and vocabulary?

Captivating Learning: Making the ordinary extraordinary

Young children are deeply curious, so when adults stimulate, encourage, and activate their curiosity, they can make the everyday an extraordinary and joyful occasion for deep learning.  Joy comes from the aha moments, and the successes felt when achieving things.  It also comes from the desire to know more and do more when the child joins in experiences that are meaningful for them.  Understanding the motivations that underpin your children’s play, learning and development is key to designing your environments and curriculum that are rich in agency, which foster a sense of belonging and that gives time to wallowing in experiences that are active, irresistible and rememberable.

You will explore how you can use technological and digital media together with more traditional materials of an early years setting to transform your environment and create rich and engaging opportunities for play and learning; making the invisible visible, playing with ideas of scale, using light and shadow to transform objects, and creating immersive projected lightscapes on the floors, corners and surfaces of your setting for your young children to play, make,  build, and construct within.

Essential Questions;

  • How can I captivate my children’s curiosity inside and outside with opportunities for discovery, learning and knowing more that are truly motivating for my children?
  • What is my role as adult, interacting and observing children, and using these observations in meaningful ways to plan for and assess captivating learning?
  • How can I create authentic learning experiences, by slowing down and looking for wonder with my children?
  • How can I support my children’s language and communication and the development of their vocabulary?

STEAM in the early years

The arts in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) can bring together and integrate these subjects that are often considered as isolated or separated subjects. This course will reveal how the arts can weave these disciplines together in more transdisciplinary ways to create rich, deep, and broad-based opportunities for investigation and experimentation that enables children to construct conceptual knowledge and express their own theoretical ideas (children’s hypothesising and thinking). Putting the ‘A” into STEAM cultivates creativity and critical thinking, reasoning, problem-solving, language and communication skills and is rooted in playful and embodied experiences that do not separate out mind and body.  

Essential Questions;

  • How can you build complex and evolving learning experiences that involve the arts in STEM based subjects?
  • How can you plan and resource opportunities for STEAM in everyday contexts and opportunities?
  • How to develop your children’s capabilities to experiment, discover and reason out their thinking through a STEAM approach to learning?

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