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Technological practice in early childhood as a dispositional milieu

This study investigated the learning of a group of four-year-olds as they worked in the construction area of a sessional early childhood setting. The researcher participated and observed as the children constructed with cardboard, rolled painted marbles around in a box to make Jackson Pollock style paintings, added collage and paint to pictures and constructions, and screen-printed cut-out figures and shapes of various kinds. These were described as technological practices, and five of them were compared as contexts for learning dispositions. Although the literature had provided discussion and definition of dispositions in early childhood, the connection between the psychological notion of disposition and an historically or socioculturally framed dispositional milieu had not been researched. The study investigated empirical evidence for a transactional model of the interface between learning disposition and dispositional milieu, and learning dispositions were located in discourse, narrative and technological practice. The affordance of the technology and the tools played an important part in the transaction between individual and environment, in particular the technology's transparency, challenge, and accessibility. The five technological practices were analysed as complex sociocultural worlds in which multiple discourses jostled for privileged positions, children made decisions about whether discourse membership was for display or for exploration, they tackled difficulty with enthusiasm or avoided it in imaginative ways, and they engaged with others from a range of positions of power and responsibility. These sequences of events were described as learning narratives: historically and socioculturally co­constructed event structures about goals, challenge, and agency. A learning narrative was defined, identified, and investigated. Learning dispositions have been defined but not specified for early childhood. This study suggests that dispositions can be interpreted as parts of a learning narrative, and for this study key dispositional domains were identified as privileged discourses, preferred responses to difficulty, and favoured patterns of responsibility. Four learning dispositions emerged from these domains: courage, mindfulness, perseverance, and responsibility. These learning dispositions find a parallel in the strands of the early childhood curriculum document for Aotearoa New Zealand, Te Whāriki. The researcher followed up the observations by interviewing the children for their viewpoint on preferred responses to difficulty using an interview that reflected their experiences back to them as a picture book. Although much of the learning appeared to be attached to the context, and the privileged meaning and intent for that context was a key element, the transactional nature of the learning revealed individual learning dispositions and narratives that were developing in the early years and that may be robust and enduring.
Type of thesis
Carr, M. (1997). Technological practice in early childhood as a dispositional milieu (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12286
The University of Waikato
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