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EECERA 2007 Jane Waters Swansea University Spacious communication: A socio-cultural consideration of the affordances of the indoor and outdoor environment.

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Presentation on theme: "EECERA 2007 Jane Waters Swansea University Spacious communication: A socio-cultural consideration of the affordances of the indoor and outdoor environment."— Presentation transcript:

1 EECERA 2007 Jane Waters Swansea University Spacious communication: A socio-cultural consideration of the affordances of the indoor and outdoor environment for different communication episodes between children and their teachers

2 Questions What kind of interaction takes place between teacher and child in their indoor and outdoor spaces? What kind of interaction takes place between teacher and child in their indoor and outdoor spaces? What are the features of the environment that contribute to the form of this interaction? What are the features of the environment that contribute to the form of this interaction? How can these features be altered to privilege certain types of interaction episode as required by UK policy? How can these features be altered to privilege certain types of interaction episode as required by UK policy?

3 Policy context UK interest in play-based learning for EY children; interest in increased use of outdoor spaces UK interest in play-based learning for EY children; interest in increased use of outdoor spaces Welsh policy context Welsh policy context Foundation phase Foundation phase Focus on play-based approaches for children 3-7 years to replace the current two stage system: 3-5 years (informal), 5-7 years (formal) Focus on play-based approaches for children 3-7 years to replace the current two stage system: 3-5 years (informal), 5-7 years (formal) Focus on the outdoor space as a learning space Focus on the outdoor space as a learning space Impact of the EPPE study Impact of the EPPE study

4 Increased use of the outdoor space Rationale (see Maynard and Waters, 2007): Rationale (see Maynard and Waters, 2007): space to move freely (Rivkin, 1995) space to move freely (Rivkin, 1995) opportunity to explore the world at first hand and experience natural phenomena (Bilton, 2002) opportunity to explore the world at first hand and experience natural phenomena (Bilton, 2002) adults appear to relate differently to children in the outdoor environment (Rivkin, 1998) adults appear to relate differently to children in the outdoor environment (Rivkin, 1998) children can explore who they are and what they can do without fear of being admonished for being too boisterous, loud or messy (Ouvry, 2003; Bilton, 2002) children can explore who they are and what they can do without fear of being admonished for being too boisterous, loud or messy (Ouvry, 2003; Bilton, 2002) wild natural environment supports children’s own investigations (Waite, Davies and Brown, 2006) wild natural environment supports children’s own investigations (Waite, Davies and Brown, 2006) context for authentic, purposeful activities in which the development of knowledge, concepts and skills from across the ‘curriculum’ are embedded context for authentic, purposeful activities in which the development of knowledge, concepts and skills from across the ‘curriculum’ are embedded

5 Implicit implications Policy makers Policy makers Implicit expectation that something different will happen outdoors in terms of learning Implicit expectation that something different will happen outdoors in terms of learning Staff (in Maynard and Waters, 2007) Staff (in Maynard and Waters, 2007) Explicit statements concerning ‘freedom’, being ‘more relaxed with the children’, being able to ‘let go’ Explicit statements concerning ‘freedom’, being ‘more relaxed with the children’, being able to ‘let go’ I suggest that there is an assumption that interaction will be different (and less constrained) outdoors. I suggest that there is an assumption that interaction will be different (and less constrained) outdoors.

6 The EPPE study The EPPE project (Siraj-Blatchford & Sylva, 2004) The EPPE project (Siraj-Blatchford & Sylva, 2004) A pre-requisite for excellence in EY settings is the existence of sustained shared thinking A pre-requisite for excellence in EY settings is the existence of sustained shared thinking A period of verbal communication between adult and child in which thinking is extended A period of verbal communication between adult and child in which thinking is extended May result from child-initiated action or adult initiated action May result from child-initiated action or adult initiated action Policy implications – inclusion of the terminology in the proposed Foundation Phase for Wales Policy implications – inclusion of the terminology in the proposed Foundation Phase for Wales [Assumption – this will happen outdoors] [Assumption – this will happen outdoors]

7 What does SST look like? Key question given the inclusion of this term in the Welsh EY policy agenda Key question given the inclusion of this term in the Welsh EY policy agenda Guidance is in preparation Guidance is in preparation What kind of environments afford SST interactions? What kind of environments afford SST interactions? Is there a difference in the occurrence of SST in indoor and outdoor spaces? Is there a difference in the occurrence of SST in indoor and outdoor spaces?

8 Theoretical context Socio-cultural approach (Rogof, 2003) Socio-cultural approach (Rogof, 2003) Classification of interaction episodes as spacious or narrow (Bae, 2001) Classification of interaction episodes as spacious or narrow (Bae, 2001) Gibson’s affordances (1979) Gibson’s affordances (1979) Kytta’s analysis of potential affordances (2002, 2004) Kytta’s analysis of potential affordances (2002, 2004)

9 Affordance 1 Following from Gibson (1979) and Heft (1988) Following from Gibson (1979) and Heft (1988) Kytta (2002, 2004) suggested affordance resides in the interface between the individual and the environment but potential affordances can be described by an observer with an individual in mind Kytta (2002, 2004) suggested affordance resides in the interface between the individual and the environment but potential affordances can be described by an observer with an individual in mind

10 Affordance 2 Physical aspects: Physical aspects: A stone may afford throwing (size and shape fits the hand of a particular child) A stone may afford throwing (size and shape fits the hand of a particular child) Will only be thrown if this affordance is perceived by the child Will only be thrown if this affordance is perceived by the child Also affective aspects: Also affective aspects: Will only be thrown if the child perceives the socio-cultural environment as conducive to the throwing of stones Will only be thrown if the child perceives the socio-cultural environment as conducive to the throwing of stones ‘physiognomy of the milieu’ (Heft, 1988) ‘physiognomy of the milieu’ (Heft, 1988) The ‘discourse’ of the space The ‘discourse’ of the space

11 Interaction The totality of what passes between two people when they communicate, including: The totality of what passes between two people when they communicate, including: Verbal communication Verbal communication Body language Body language Gaze Gaze Facial expression Facial expression

12 Defining interaction episodes Bae (2001): Bae (2001): Narrow communication patterns: Narrow communication patterns: the teacher responds to content rather than mood, evaluates rather than validates the child's contribution, the child’s vitality at the outset is subdued if not invalidated by the end of the interaction (p.4) the teacher responds to content rather than mood, evaluates rather than validates the child's contribution, the child’s vitality at the outset is subdued if not invalidated by the end of the interaction (p.4) May lead to the child being ‘cast into the position of having to find the correct answer’, doubting ‘whether or spontaneous sharing of thought is OK’ May lead to the child being ‘cast into the position of having to find the correct answer’, doubting ‘whether or spontaneous sharing of thought is OK’

13 Bae (2001) Spacious patterns: Spacious patterns: recognised by the teacher's ‘attentive and emphatic presence’, a confirmation of the child’s meta- communicative signals, tolerance of mistakes, the interaction is rounded off without trouble and in ‘good mood’ (p.3) recognised by the teacher's ‘attentive and emphatic presence’, a confirmation of the child’s meta- communicative signals, tolerance of mistakes, the interaction is rounded off without trouble and in ‘good mood’ (p.3) May lead to the child forming expectations about the value of their own ideas, the value of communicating and sharing these ideas. May lead to the child forming expectations about the value of their own ideas, the value of communicating and sharing these ideas.

14 SST It is proposed here that SST requires spacious communication patterns: It is proposed here that SST requires spacious communication patterns: It is a genuine co-construction of meaning between two participants It is a genuine co-construction of meaning between two participants What the child brings must therefore be valued, the teacher must be ‘present’, the episode should end in ‘good mood’ What the child brings must therefore be valued, the teacher must be ‘present’, the episode should end in ‘good mood’

15 Pilot study Setting Setting EY unit within an urban primary school with a high proportion of children from new immigrant and asylum seeking families EY unit within an urban primary school with a high proportion of children from new immigrant and asylum seeking families Minimal green outdoor space – small garden area, sloping tarmac yard Minimal green outdoor space – small garden area, sloping tarmac yard Indoor and outdoor activity recorded and analysed in detail with attention paid to body movement, gaze, facial expression Indoor and outdoor activity recorded and analysed in detail with attention paid to body movement, gaze, facial expression Episodes in which the child initiated interaction were classified as spacious or narrow Episodes in which the child initiated interaction were classified as spacious or narrow

16 Preliminary findings Episodes when the child brought an idea or question to the interaction were rare Episodes when the child brought an idea or question to the interaction were rare It was possible to classify these short episodes of interaction as narrow or spacious It was possible to classify these short episodes of interaction as narrow or spacious There were no differences in the types of interaction episode taking place in the indoor and the outdoor spaces between teacher-child There were no differences in the types of interaction episode taking place in the indoor and the outdoor spaces between teacher-child There were no episodes of sustained shared thinking identified in the pilot study There were no episodes of sustained shared thinking identified in the pilot study

17 What afforded spacious communication? What environmental factors afforded the spacious communication episodes? What environmental factors afforded the spacious communication episodes? Teacher was interviewed before data collection and after the findings had been presented to her. Teacher was interviewed before data collection and after the findings had been presented to her. Key finding: Key finding: Identification of language development as key learning objective and personal rationale Identification of language development as key learning objective and personal rationale

18 Tentative conclusions Affordances for interaction Affordances for interaction While affordances reside within the space between person and environment, features of the interactive environment include the extent to which the teacher permits engagement (opens or closes the interactive space, Payler, 2005) While affordances reside within the space between person and environment, features of the interactive environment include the extent to which the teacher permits engagement (opens or closes the interactive space, Payler, 2005) In this setting, when the content of the child’s enquiry was closely aligned to the teacher’s objectives for learning (indoors and outdoors) there appeared to be more ‘space’ for children’s enquiry, and more validity given to their contribution In this setting, when the content of the child’s enquiry was closely aligned to the teacher’s objectives for learning (indoors and outdoors) there appeared to be more ‘space’ for children’s enquiry, and more validity given to their contribution

19 Freedom outdoors? The interaction episodes between adult – child outdoors were no different from those observed indoors. The interaction episodes between adult – child outdoors were no different from those observed indoors. See also Maynard and Waters (2007) See also Maynard and Waters (2007) What, then, is the benefit - in terms of interaction - of being outdoors? What, then, is the benefit - in terms of interaction - of being outdoors? Main study will include data collection on child- child interaction. Main study will include data collection on child- child interaction.

20 Discussion: Kytta We can analyse the interaction episodes in terms of Kytta’s (2004) model of potential affordances We can analyse the interaction episodes in terms of Kytta’s (2004) model of potential affordances Kytta considers potential affordances for physical action in her work Kytta considers potential affordances for physical action in her work Potential affordances include: Potential affordances include: Field of promoted action Field of promoted action Field of free action Field of free action Field of constrained action Field of constrained action

21 Kytta 2004

22 Potential affordances Potential affordances are made up of three particular subsets: Potential affordances are made up of three particular subsets: the field of promoted action (socially + culturally promoted) the field of promoted action (socially + culturally promoted) the field of constrained action (design features, inclusive or otherwise nature of the setting, socially + culturally restricted) the field of constrained action (design features, inclusive or otherwise nature of the setting, socially + culturally restricted) the field of free action (children’s independent discovery of affordances of an environment) the field of free action (children’s independent discovery of affordances of an environment)

23 Fields of action adapted The field of promoted interaction The field of promoted interaction socially + culturally promoted socially + culturally promoted school norms, teacher expectation, teacher objectives, parental expectation, children’s understanding of the space school norms, teacher expectation, teacher objectives, parental expectation, children’s understanding of the space The field of constrained interaction The field of constrained interaction design features, inclusive nature of the setting, social- cultural restrictions design features, inclusive nature of the setting, social- cultural restrictions equipment, resources, rules, other people: what/who is there to interact with or about/ in what ways? equipment, resources, rules, other people: what/who is there to interact with or about/ in what ways? The field of free interaction The field of free interaction children’s independent discovery of affordances of an environment children’s independent discovery of affordances of an environment what kinds of interaction children try out (with each other and what they bring for consideration to the teacher); children’s enquiry, questions and comments what kinds of interaction children try out (with each other and what they bring for consideration to the teacher); children’s enquiry, questions and comments

24 Discussion The adaptation of Kytta’s model provides a way of considering the socio-cultural and physical features of a space that may impact upon the interactions afforded within the space The adaptation of Kytta’s model provides a way of considering the socio-cultural and physical features of a space that may impact upon the interactions afforded within the space In the examples shown today the field of promoted action (i.e. the teacher’s ideas about what should happen, what is valuable) appeared to dominate the affordances for interaction between child and teacher both inside and outside the setting In the examples shown today the field of promoted action (i.e. the teacher’s ideas about what should happen, what is valuable) appeared to dominate the affordances for interaction between child and teacher both inside and outside the setting

25 Implications How might this setting develop the capacity for spacious communication, and potentially SST? How might this setting develop the capacity for spacious communication, and potentially SST? Privilege the field for free interaction by placing value on what the child brings, offers, enquires Privilege the field for free interaction by placing value on what the child brings, offers, enquires Review the field of promoted interaction by challenging notions of content-based objectives Review the field of promoted interaction by challenging notions of content-based objectives Review the field of constrained interaction by providing rich spaces for interaction Review the field of constrained interaction by providing rich spaces for interaction

26 Rich spaces for interaction The outdoors (particularly the wild natural environment) may provide this rich space for interaction The outdoors (particularly the wild natural environment) may provide this rich space for interaction But spacious communication and sustained shared thinking will not happen simply because teacher and children are outside But spacious communication and sustained shared thinking will not happen simply because teacher and children are outside Other aspects of the socio-cultural features of the space need to reviewed Other aspects of the socio-cultural features of the space need to reviewed

27 After word: interactional affordance This concept is a ‘work in progress’ This concept is a ‘work in progress’ Similar to the conceptualisation of the physical affordances of a space for an individual so I hope to develop this concept to enable a conceptualisation of the affordances for interaction offered by a space to individuals Similar to the conceptualisation of the physical affordances of a space for an individual so I hope to develop this concept to enable a conceptualisation of the affordances for interaction offered by a space to individuals ‘Interactional affordance’ then may be defined as the affordances offered by a space to individuals for interaction ‘Interactional affordance’ then may be defined as the affordances offered by a space to individuals for interaction Interactional affordance is heavily influenced by the socio-cultural context of both the space and the individuals Interactional affordance is heavily influenced by the socio-cultural context of both the space and the individuals

28 References Bae, B. (2001) Qualitative aspects of dialogue between children and adults in pre- school institutions 23rd World Congress of OMEP, Santiago, Chile 29/07/ /08/2001. Bae, B. (2001) Qualitative aspects of dialogue between children and adults in pre- school institutions 23rd World Congress of OMEP, Santiago, Chile 29/07/ /08/2001. Gibson, J. J. (1979/1986) The ecological approach to visual perception. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum. (Original work published in 1979). Gibson, J. J. (1979/1986) The ecological approach to visual perception. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum. (Original work published in 1979). Heft, H. (1988). "Affordances of Children's Environments: a functional approach to environmental description " Children's Environment Quarterly 5(3): Heft, H. (1988). "Affordances of Children's Environments: a functional approach to environmental description " Children's Environment Quarterly 5(3): Kytta, M. (2002). "Affordances of children's environments in the context of cities, small towns, suburbs and rural villages in Finland and Belarus " Journal of Environmental Psychology 22: Kytta, M. (2002). "Affordances of children's environments in the context of cities, small towns, suburbs and rural villages in Finland and Belarus " Journal of Environmental Psychology 22: Kytta, M. (2004). "the extent of children's independent mobility and the number of actualized affordances as criteria for child-friendly environments." Journal of Environmental Psychology 24: Kytta, M. (2004). "the extent of children's independent mobility and the number of actualized affordances as criteria for child-friendly environments." Journal of Environmental Psychology 24: Maynard, T. & Waters, J. (2007) Learning in the Outdoor Environment: a missed opportunity? Early Years Maynard, T. & Waters, J. (2007) Learning in the Outdoor Environment: a missed opportunity? Early Years Payler, J. (2005) Opening and closing interactive spaces: early years pedagogy and four year old children’s contributions to it in two English settings. Paper presented at BERA Annual Conference, 2005, University of Glamorgan. Payler, J. (2005) Opening and closing interactive spaces: early years pedagogy and four year old children’s contributions to it in two English settings. Paper presented at BERA Annual Conference, 2005, University of Glamorgan. Rogof, B. (2003) The cultural nature of human development Oxford. OUP Rogof, B. (2003) The cultural nature of human development Oxford. OUP Siraj-Blatchford, I. & Sylva, K. (2004) Researching pedagogy in English pre- schools BERJ 30 (5): Siraj-Blatchford, I. & Sylva, K. (2004) Researching pedagogy in English pre- schools BERJ 30 (5):


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