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The semantics of power Exploring language as a construct of negotiation and collaboration with children.

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Presentation on theme: "The semantics of power Exploring language as a construct of negotiation and collaboration with children."— Presentation transcript:

1 The semantics of power Exploring language as a construct of negotiation and collaboration with children

2 Presenters and researchers Deborah Harcourt Director of Research and Professional Development EtonHouse Education Centre, Singapore Heather Conroy Director of Pedagogy EtonHouse Preschools, Singapore

3 Research context (physical) Singapore An island nation between Malaysia and Indonesia with a population of 4.5m, Chinese ethnic majority EtonHouse 9 international preschool settings in Singapore and 6 in China

4 Research context (pedagogical) Researchers in roles as agents of change Research provoked by our own position as co- constructors of change Our theoretical position (Vygotskian) informing our work with practitioners and student teachers and children

5 Semantics Using terms that have a traditional early childhood connotation: The culture of didactic and age-stage pedagogy Deconstructing the meanings: The bridge between the known and that which is new Reconstructing the meanings: Seeking a shared understanding (intersubjectivity) Using reconstructed thinking to inform and enhance practice with a sensitivity to the values and security that have been placed on certain terminologies Continue to move the dialogue to more sophisticated levels as base line understandings grow

6 Research questions How are the semantics of early childhood terminologies understood by practitioners and how do they then influence classroom practice? What power relationships are exposed through these terminologies? What key learning experiences inform the individuals construction of meaning?

7 Research methodology Word-response survey to elicit current understandings of the terms commonly used Interviews with randomly selected respondents Classroom based observation of interviewed respondents (audio and video as a provocation for reflection on practice)

8 Survey (presentation 1) ToysMaterials and resources LessonsLearning experiences Lesson plansLearning plans NeedsCompetencies WeaknessesPotentials DisciplineGuidance ActivitiesLearning opportunities AssessmentEvaluation ReportingSharing ThemesTopics of interest DisplayDocumentation NaughtyChallenging

9 Survey (presentation 2) ToysChallenging LessonsPotentials Lesson plansGuidance NeedsEvaluation WeaknessesLearning experiences DisciplineLearning plans ActivitiesDocumentation AssessmentCompetencies ReportingTopics of interest ThemesSharing DisplayLearning opportunities NaughtyMaterials and resources

10 Theoretical assumptions Image of child Image of educator UNCROC (1989) New sociology of childhood Social construction of knowledge: A Vygotskian perspective of knowing and meaning making

11 Image of child Child as citizen holding rights Child as sophisticated thinker and communicator Children, from birth, hold a strong desire to make and share meaning Children have their own ideas, interests, theories and fascinations which need to be acknowledged by adults if we are to work in collaboration with the child

12 Image of educator This construction is a fluid/dynamic construction of meaning Influenced by the specific context (social setting) in which the educator finds himself/herself Within a specific temporal context (students at the end/at the beginning of their studies) The individuals construction of meaning is informed by a set of values and beliefs which are in turn socially constructed through the interactions and observations made by the individual.

13 UNCROC A significant platform in which to focus on childrens participation in matters that concern them (i.e. curriculum) Acknowledges the rights of children within the socio-political arena (i.e. decision-making processes) A mandate for advocacy and action around the views of young children (i.e. role of the educator)

14 Sociological thinking Construct of children and childhood is driven by the socio-cultural context Construct of teaching behaviors that rest on the springboard of language

15 Social construction of knowledge Knowing is a highly personal construct Vygotskys work on knowing (relationships) Context of constructing meaning influences understanding

16 Participants Newly enrolled student teachers (15 days in to the course) group 1 More mature group of student teachers with a few weeks left in their course who have been consistently exposed to constructivist thinking and democratic classroom principles group 2 Mixed group of qualified teachers with a range of teaching experience (few months - 18 years) group 3

17 Responses Group 1 Learning experiences: Something which I go through which helps me A better word for lessons – more flexible A time or moment when you expanded your knowledge through activity What someone has absorbed and understands during learning or can just be an experience – not gaining any knowledge, just purely engaging in it Lessons: Teaching Structured curriculum Formal planned educational Something that will be talked about/taught to students and students will be engaged in

18 Responses Group 1 Learning plans Something that I put together that is useful/helpful A chart which helps a teacher map out various topics A more informal educational schedule Different ways that lessons can be taught materials/resources that will be used Lesson plans Something that I think through in order to teach A table which helps the teacher to stay on track A schedule for lessons Planning and outlines of what will be taught

19 Responses Group 2 Learning experiences Involves interactive and reciprocal relationships Involves collaboration Construction of knowledge and extended learning through a variety of experiences Lessons Teacher directed Introducing or imparting knowledge Focussed on academic knowledge

20 Responses Group 2 Learning plans Catering for the process of learning Plan with the childrens current interests and investigations in mind Planning based on observations collected on childrens interests Lesson plans Structured with an end product A plan to be completed and carried out Making a plan based on what the teacher wants to teach

21 Responses Group 3 Learning experiences More open ended (15 years experience) Children learn through most experiences (teaching 8 years) Activities/explorations which provide opportunities for learning (teaching 2.5 months/EEC trained) Lessons Not so open ended About teaching not learning, to finite, too short One way teaching

22 Responses Group 3 Learning plans Made with a learner Far more worthwhile Activities which plan to scaffold childrens understandings Lesson plans Made with a curriculum in mind Curriculum based, about content not learning Planned lessons

23 Example: Findings Group 2 Where the student teacher appears to be in the process of constructing an image of child/teacher as collaborators/co-constructors in the learning process….the teaching strategies tend to be those mediating strategies of encouraging, supporting and acknowledging For example: Final semester students Encourage the child to talk about any events or interests and try to keep the conversation going by asking open ended questions so that the child can continue the conversation with ease

24 Findings ZPD: With support, R (3.5) will be able to use the pictures of a story book to create his own story Learning experience: R (3.5) will be invited to select a story book that is of interest to him. If he is able to sustain interest, the book can be read to him several times so that he will be familiar with the text. R can then be invited to read the book to tell his own story line based on the illustrations or from recalling the text. Teaching strategies: To read books of interest to R (3.5), to listen to his ideas regarding the book. To encourage his awareness of the letters and their sounds by acknowledging his attempts to identify letters and sounds, to encourage him to recall from the pictures what the story line has been. The teacher should acknowledge his attempts to read and provide support by being an active listener. The teacher should also support any other ways that R wishes to express his ideas e.g. drawing or writing.

25 Findings ZPD: With support R (3.5) will be able to use the letters of the alphabet in play related writing. Learning experience: R (3.5) will be invited to engage in dramatic play experience involving a shop, or restaurant where he can adopt a role. He can be scaffolded by experienced players in using scribbles and invented spelling in play related writing. Teaching strategies: To be involved in the planning meeting for the game, to facilitate time, space and materials, to demonstrate to R strategies which will support his participation e.g. taking on a role within the play…the teacher can also be a co-player so that she can guide, question and help children evaluate their ideas.

26 Findings ZPD: With support R (3.5) will be able to narrate a story. Learning experience: R (3.5) and a group of peers would be invited to continue a story started by the teacher. Each child would take a turn to contribute a line to the story. The teacher will record these ideas along with the name of the contributor so that a book can be compiled and read back to the children. The children may also draw illustrations for the stories. Teaching strategies: The teacher must empower the children to make them feel part of the group and to be able to speak up…the teacher must provide encouragement and practice good listening to respect the stories told by the children. The teacher is also co-constructing shared meaning and knowledge with the children

27 Findings ZPD: With support R (3.5) will be able to follow given instructions for an activity Learning experience: R (3.5) will be invited to participate in a treasure hunt where verbal instructions are given (support the skill of listening) Teaching strategies: The teacher has to model good listening skills by allowing children to talk without interrupting them, going down to their eye level to maintain eye contact. The adult must reduce unnecessary noise in the environment so that it is conducive to good listening

28 New questions When does the paradigm shift occur? What units of study or professional development experiences inform the shift?

29 Implications Delivery of units of study: What order is most valuable e.g., beginning with philosophical discussions The importance of faculty speaking the same language ; with the same shared meaning Professional development: Impact of discussion around image of child; childrens rights and the construct of childhood within the context of learning

30 Thank you Deborah Harcourt Heather Conroy

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