A culture for science in early childhood education: Where cultures meet cultures
Backshall, B. J. (2016). A culture for science in early childhood education: Where cultures meet cultures (Thesis, Doctor of Education (EdD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10289/10702
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/10702
In recent years there has been an increase in literature advocating for and describing early childhood science education; however, little attention has been given to the complex interplay of cultural communities of practice that influence science learning and teaching in a play-based curriculum. This study examined where and how science learning could be privileged when many cultural practices were being enacted at the same time. This study investigated how science learning and teaching was enacted within a play-based curriculum in three kindergartens in Aotearoa/New Zealand. The investigation also explored the influences of professional learning for teachers on their definition of the culture of science and explored aspects of how children learn science. The field work took place over a period of seven months. Data was collected through weekly sessional observations, interviews with teachers, children and parents, as well as the documentation teachers made of children’s learning. The professional learning sessions with the teachers were conducted halfway through the data collection so that the second half of the data collection could take into account the influences from the professional learning sessions. Three conceptual reference points from sociocultural theory framed the data analysis. The reference points were multiple cultural communities of practice, semiotics within and across communities of practice and teacher influence on children learning science. The thesis argues, and provides evidence for, four science-education-related communities of practice that interact to create opportunities for teaching and learning science with young children. The four communities are the everyday, early childhood education (in this case in Aotearoa/New Zealand), science, and science education. The interaction of the four communities has been defined as a “quadruple move”, indicating that all four communities are involved when science learning takes place. The concept of hybridity was used to illustrate that some practices were used in a similar way by all four communities and this was seen to support children learning science. The research highlighted that children were using a combination of semiotic artefacts within their science learning. This was analysed through the concept of intertextuality. Intertextuality also identified that each child might interpret the same artefact differently. The implication is that teacher awareness of the quadruple move and the interplay of semiotic artefacts in and across the four communities will enrich children’s science learning in a play-based curriculum setting. Teacher influence on children learning science was identified through the teachers' affordance of science learning in their kindergarten’s physical and social environment and teacher affordance to children learning science content knowledge and practices. Also of influence was teachers’ attunement to children’s interest in the physical environment that had the potential to connect to a science community. Examples from the study illustrated that involving children in exploring the physical environment using scientific practices was a way to sustain and enrich their learning. The findings identified teachers’ interactions were enriched by a broader understanding of science knowledge and practice when they recognised the connections to their kindergarten contexts and their children’s interests. The implication is that teachers’ awareness of the quadruple move and the interplay of semiotic artefacts in and across the four cultural communities will enrich children’s science learning in a play-based curriculum setting.
University of Waikato
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