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EECERA 2007 Working within the ZPD? Exploring interpretations of projects Sarah Chicken, University of the West of England Professor Trisha Maynard, Swansea.

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Presentation on theme: "EECERA 2007 Working within the ZPD? Exploring interpretations of projects Sarah Chicken, University of the West of England Professor Trisha Maynard, Swansea."— Presentation transcript:

1 EECERA 2007 Working within the ZPD? Exploring interpretations of projects Sarah Chicken, University of the West of England Professor Trisha Maynard, Swansea University

2 Aims 1. To explore how Reggio pedagogues appear to interpret ‘working within the ZPD’ through an exploration of projects. 2. To investigate how Welsh teachers interpreted Reggio projects and to consider what this might tell us about their construction of teaching and learning and how these teachers might interpret ‘working within the ZPD’.

3 Context – Foundation Phase for Wales – play-based curriculum for all 3-7 year olds by 2010 Why? 1960s/1970s: A child-centred approach? 1970s/ 1980s: Concerns expressed about the lack of engagement with subjects; perceived over-complexity and informality of pedagogy 1988: A National Curriculum for England and Wales 2000+: Concerns expressed about an over-emphasis on subjects; perceived over-formality of pedagogy

4 What are projects? Hadow (1931), Plowden (1967), Katz and Chard (1989): Groups of children engaged in problem solving; Context dependent upon the interests of children; Projects run along side other parts of the curriculum; ‘Systematic instruction’ of basic skills. Reggio Organic nature – no pre-determined curriculum – all knowledge is open to question; Focus upon the process of learning; ‘Authentic contexts’; May have a fantastical nature –e.g. how to catch a shadow. Socio-constructivist or socio-constructionist – a reinterpretation?

5 What is the ZPD? Different interpretations lead to different practice (Wells 1999) ‘It is treated as an attribute, not of the student alone, but of the student in relation to the specifics of a particular activity setting. In other words, the zone of proximal development is created in the interaction between the student and the co-participants in an activity, including the available tools and the selected practices, and depends on the nature and quality of that interaction as much as on the upper limit of the learner's capability.’ (Wells, 1999) ZPD as an ‘interactive space’ ?

6 Nature of knowledge  Never only one truth  Multiple perspectives (Dahlberg, Moss and Pence, 1999)  Focus upon process (Rinaldi, 1993) Role of learner/ adult  Strong, capable, curious ( Malaguzzi, 1993)  Protagonist in the learning situation  Partner, nurturer and guide (Edwards, 1998)  Scaffolder, (Wood, Bruner and Ross, 1976)  Intelligent action ( Wood and Attfield, 1996) Knowledge- able other  Interaction essential in knowledge construction – hence projects  All participants can hold this role (Wells, 1999)  Context laden  Resources, situation Role of Language  Vygotsky - Verbal  Symbolic and expressive languages viewed as tools for cognitive development. Reggio interpretations of elements of the ZPD displayed through projects

7 Research Methods Research team - Seven teachers and two researchers Socio cultural approaches - Action Research Seminars - Supporting reflective practice but also input about Reggio philosophy Observations and interviews Interviews and recordings of seminars transcribed and analysed Field notes of observations, seminars, internet and telephone conversations analysed Documentary evidence: photographs, final reports and reflective journals analysed

8 Findings (1)-How were projects interpreted? Cerys, (3-4)Ffion, (4-5) Cerys felt that ‘Reggio and the Foundation Phase are the same’. Reggio discourse was taken on very quickly. Children were placed by the teacher into ability groups such as ‘The Farm’ and asked: What do you want to know? Projects were started with props and questions ‘in case the children did not have ideas…some children require intervention.’ All activities were planned by the teacher. Children were seated in ability groups and worked independently. Verbal language was used to ask children what they would like to do or what they knew. Art used to make representations of project artefacts e.g. clay horses and painting Angel fishes. Throughout observations there was a difference between rhetoric and practice. Initial observations were teacher-dominated in terms of dialogue and content. Reggio discourse taken on quickly - uncertain how to proceed. Started from Scheme of work – What do you want to learn about? Children discussed which insect that they were most interested in finding out about. Children placed in groups such as ‘the Snails’, ‘Worms’ and investigated problems such as ‘what do snails eat?’, ‘Where do worms live?’ Children not able to move from designated groups. Most activities completed alone. ‘Group discussions’ often between one child and the teacher. Ffion felt she needed to ‘negotiate’ the direction of learning. Ffion’s colleagues were concerned about ‘when do you tell the children the right answer?’ Ffion felt that the project had made her value colour mixing and observational drawing. At the end of the research she asked ‘Was this a project?’

9 Findings (2) Rachel (5-6)Rhian, (5-6) Initially felt ‘projects’ and her usual ‘topics’ were the same. Started with scheme of work - ‘growing’- What do you know? What do you to find out? All children involved. Grew plants and looked for information. Chose who they worked with. Children became concerned about a real problem – how to protect plants from footballs. A small group of self-selected children worked on this problem. Conversations became focused on helping children to find a solution. ‘I could see it happening in front of my eyes…. the class began to bubble….the language was rich and enthralling.’ Felt had underestimated the use of art as a ‘thinking tool’. Towards the end of the project: ‘we want everyone to be at the same level but …is it really necessary for everyone to be able to make an electrical circuit by the end of year two?’ ‘It had been a challenge and a luxury to focus on children’s learning’. Recognised a difference between Reggio discourse and previous language - unsure how to proceed. Initially felt the teacher should teach skills and have control. Started from her usual scheme of work: ‘minibeasts’. Asked children what they knew. Wanted all children to find out about insects. During hot weather children wanted to make fans and buses for butterflies. Rhian concerned: ‘butterflies don’t need fans!’ Attention shifted to a small group of interested children. Felt her role was changing - becoming more able to stand back – not always easy. Allowed children to choose involvement and collaborative partners – but battled with external pressures. Amazed at ‘streetwise children’ who came up with creative solutions whilst ‘brighter’ children struggled. Resolved to pay more attention to the analysis of thinking: her ‘slow awakening’. Began to annotate different ‘work’: valuable but time- consuming. Moved towards discussion of issues with small groups of self-selected children – but worried about ‘content’. ‘ Did I ever really listen to their ideas? Would I have valued or let them explore them anyway?.. They have to jump through our hoops to get recognition for their ‘intelligence’.

10 What might interpretations of projects indicate about constructions of teaching and learning? Reggio pedagoguesWelsh teachers Role of learner/ adult Strong, capable and curious ( Malaguzzi, 1993) Protagonists in the learning process Partner, nurturer and guide ( Edwards, 1998) Scaffolder (Wood, Bruner and Ross, 1976) Intelligent action (Wood and Attfield, 1996) Weak? Empty vessel? Transmitter of given information Guide in the sense of guiding in a given direction- towards ‘certain’ knowledge External pressure impacting on interpretation of role, interpretation of children and interpretation of knowledge. Knowledge- able other All participants can hold this role Context laden Not seen as relevant – activities do not facilitate interaction Children perceived to have quantifiable knowledge deemed as ‘knowledgeable others’ Change in some settings where teachers began to use more ‘open’ projects – teachers questioned nature of intelligence and ability

11 Reggio pedagoguesWelsh teachers Role of language Symbolic and expressive languages viewed as tools for cognitive development. Language primarily perceived as a tool for transmission of information (at least initially). Emphasis upon VERBAL language. Art seen in terms of skills. Nature of knowledge Never only one truth. Multiple perspectives (Dahlberg, Moss and Pence, 1999). Focus upon process (Rinaldi, 1993). Socio constructivist/ constructionist? Only one truth – factual information. Projects seen as a way of imparting factual knowledge. Product not process. Behaviourist /Socio – constructivist?

12 Concluding thoughts While Reggio teachers appeared to interpret the ZPD as an ‘interactive space’, the teachers in the Welsh study appeared to interpret it as the distance between one pre-determined subject goal (knowledge and skills) and the next. (Progress was linear – movement through a series of targets and goals.) In this way the Welsh teachers had a different and possibly a more simplistic view of the ZPD than the Reggio pedagogues. This is not surprising given the cultural and contextual differences. It is interesting to note that the educational context in England and Wales shifted in the latter part of 20 th Century towards a focus on subjects and an attempt to simplify conceptions of the learning process. How might the Foundation Phase be interpreted?

13 References(1) Central Advisory Council for Education (1967) Children and their Primary schools ( The Plowden Report). London: HMSO. Consultative Committee on Education (1931) The Primary School, (The 1931 Hadow Report) London: HMSO. Dahlberg, G., Moss, P. & Pence, A. (1999) Beyond Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care, Routledge: London. Edwards, C. (1998) “Partner, Nurturer, and Guide: The Role of the Teacher.” in Edwards,C., Gandini, L. & Forman,G. The Hundred Languages of Children. The Reggio Emilia Approach – Advanced Reflections, (2nd edition). London: Ablex Publishing Corporation. Katz L.G. & Chard S.C. (1989). Engaging children’s minds: The project Approach Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation

14 References (2) Malaguzzi, L. (1998) History, Ideas, and Basic Philosophy. An Interview with Lella Gandini in Edwards, C., Gandini, L., Forman, G. The Hundred Languages of Children. The Reggio Emilia Approach - Advanced Reflections, (1st edition). London: Ablex Publishing Corporation. Rinaldi, C. (1993) The Emergent Curriculum and Social Constructivism, in Edwards, C., Gandini, L., Forman, G. The Hundred Languages of Children. The Reggio Emilia Approach - Advanced Reflections, (1st edition). London: Ablex Publishing Corporation. Wells, C. G, (1999) Dialogic Teaching: towards a socio- cultural practice and theory of education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Wood E. & Attfield J. (1996) Play, learning and Early Childhood Paul Chapman Publishing, London. Wood, D., Bruner, J. & Ross, G. (1976). The role of tutoring in problem solving. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, 17,


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