Opening Doors. Guiding teachers to intentionally facilitate science for young children [thesis]

Sola Freeman
<p><b>Research has acknowledged the limited range of scientific opportunities for young children in New Zealand early childhood education (ECE) services. The identified reasons include a lack of confidence by ECE teachers, their narrow understanding of science, and their pedagogical approaches to teaching. A complex and non-prescriptive curriculum and dominance of developmental theories in ECE has resulted in science learning via osmosis through a process of a hands-off play-based philosophy of
more » ... practice. Many have argued for pedagogical approaches that can accommodate scientific learning within a play-based sociocultural-historical setting (e.g., Broström, 2015; Fleer & Pramling, 2015; Kumar & Whyte, 2018). This study investigated the things that influence the occurrence of scientific experiences in ECE. It explored how participating in collaborative action research (CAR) and the involvement of a critical friend influences scientific experiences in centres.</b></p> <p>This study involved two phases: a national survey and CAR with teaching teams in six centres. The researcher took on the role of a critical friend through the CAR process, guiding teachers to critically examine their practice and their centre programme. Action plans were achieved collaboratively within each teaching team. Data was collected over 12 weeks in each centre through focus groups, reflective journals, observations, field notes, and through two research hui with participating teachers from all centres.</p> <p>The findings highlighted the importance of the teachers recognising and fostering children's scientific experiences. It found that science was enabled in a variety of ECE settings by a shift in teachers' pedagogical practices, adjustments to centre environments, and recognising and responding to children's interests. Teachers enabled rich, authentic, and meaningful scientific interactions with children by their active participation in supporting and extending children's science interests with intentional teaching practices and provocations.</p> <p>This thesis argues for the value of CAR and the role of a critical friend to facilitate teachers' motivation, engagement, learning and reflection on practice. Seeking a change in practice through professional learning and CAR, brought about ownership of their goals and action plans, and the eventual shifts in teachers' pedagogy of practice.</p> <p>The shift towards intentional teaching practices, provocations, and opening doors to knowledge, validated and forefronted the importance of the teachers' role and emphasised their value in noticing, recognising, and responding to children's scientific interests in authentic and meaningful ways.</p>
doi:10.26686/wgtn.16943407.v1 fatcat:g6snfmtksvb2xebztnjtbqr4ji