01 SES 07 B, Professional and Organisational Learning
The research investigates the role of tacit and explicit knowledge as a means to promote parental empowerment in day nurseries. The aims of research are:
- Analyzing the educational environment of day nurseries, especially the communication between parents and teachers;
- Examining the different types of learning (formal or informal) and knowledge (explicit or tacit) teachers use in counseling parents;
- Understanding how this store of knowledge can help teachers to develop a reflective stance as a way of improving their ability in promoting parents’ empowerment.
Helping parents to develop the ability to feel competent in the daily decisions concerning the child is a crucial task for day nurseries teachers (Urban, 2008). To support parents’ empowerment, teachers develop skills based on different kinds of knowledge, a particular “blend” – consisting of formal learning and personal experience, commonsense or lessons learned “in the field” - which refers to a set of variously elaborated educational paradigms on early childhood (Bove, 2011; Lindon, 2010). Analyzing this combination of knowledge allows them to identify the "epistemological compass" adopted by teachers in supporting parents, and to evaluate it as a contribution to the development of reflective professional practices (Macintyre, 2007; Paige-Smith, Craft, 2007).
This range of knowledge may operate both at an explicit and tacit level. The explicit level denotes an objective and rational knowledge that can be expressed in words, sentences, numbers or formulas and is essentially context free. It includes theoretical approaches, problem solving, manuals and databases (Nonaka, Takeuchi, 1995; Huntly, 2008). So, in terms of professional background, explicit knowledge refers to the kind of resources a teacher is consciously aware of utilizing to inform the everyday practice in day nursery. This systematic knowledge is readily communicated and shared through print, electronic methods and other formal means. Explicit knowledge requires a level of academic knowledge or understanding that is gained through formal education or structured study (Smith 2001).
In contrast, tacit knowledge refers to the level which one is not focally aware of or consciously attending to in a given situation (Polanyi, 1958, 1967). Tacit knowledge is about knowing more than we can tell, or knowing how to do something without thinking about it. This highly personal, subjective form of knowledge is usually informal and can be inferred from the statements or behaviors of others (Collins, 2010). Tacit knowledge is made up of mental models, values, beliefs, perceptions, insights and assumptions implicitly shared by the team of teachers (Smith 2001). This level of knowledge tends to be local and context-linked and is more easily unfolded in a free and open environment, where people exchange ideas and practicalities face-to-face such as casual conversations, storytelling and mentoring.
Analyzing the explicit and tacit knowledge of teachers is critical as it allows identifying the way they blend formal and informal sources of information and “precipitate” them into professional practices with children and parents (Hargreaves, 1998; Elliot, Stemler, 2008). Learning by doing has a recognized place as a relevant approach to build teachers expertise, but the success of such a strategy is strictly connected to the development of a reflexive stance on the part of teachers, enabling them to recognize how explicit and tacit knowledge is intertwined during everyday interaction with children and parents, concurring to create a situated expertise (Kim, 2011; Postholm, 2008). Thus, reflexivity is crucial in developing more skilled practices through a critical appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of different knowledge types in promoting parental empowerment. Therefore, a detailed analysis of the links between explicit and tacit knowledge would provide valuable suggestions about the improvement of teachers’ professionalism, especially regarding family education.
Bove, C.M. (2011), “How teachers talk and think about parents in ECEC in Italy today”. Family education and childhood services, (vol. 1), Firenze University Press. Collins, H. (2010), Tacit and Explicit Knowledge, Chicago, University of Chicago. Elliott, J. G., Stemler, S. E. (2008), “Teacher authority, tacit knowledge, and the training of teachers” in Scruggs T. E., Mastropieri M. A. (eds.) Personnel Preparation (Advances in Learning and Behavioral Disabilities, Volume 21), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.75-88 Hargreaves, D. (1998), Creative Professionalism: the role of teachers in the knowledge society. London, Demos. Huntly, H. (2008), “Teachers’ Work: Beginning Teachers’ Conceptions Of Competence”, The Australian Educational Researcher, Volume 35, Number 1. Kim, H. (2011), “Exploring freshmen preservice teachers' situated knowledge in reflective reports during case-based activities”, Internet and Higher Education, vol. 14, p.10-14 Lindon, J. (2010), Understanding child development. Linking Theory and Practice, London, Hodder Arnold. Macintyre, C. (2007), Understanding Children’s Development in the Early Years Questions practitioners frequently ask, New York, Routledge. Nonaka I., Takeuchi H. (1995), The Knowledge Creating Company, New York, Oxford University Press. O'Connell, R. (2011), “Paperwork, rotas, words and posters: an anthropological account of some inner London childminders' encounters with professionalization”, The Sociological Review, 59(4), 779-802. Paige-Smith, A., Craft, A. (eds.) (2011), Developing Reflective Practice in the Early Years (2nd ed.). Berkshire: McGraw Hill, Open University Press . Polanyi, M. (1958), The Study of Man, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul. Polanyi, M. (1967), The Tacit Dimension, New York, Anchor book A540, Doubleday. Postholm, M.B. (2008), “Teachers developing practice: Reflection as a key activity”. Teaching and Teacher Education, 24, 1717-1728. Robinson M. (2011), Understanding Behaviour and Development in Early Childhood, London and New York, Routledge. Smith, E. (2001), The role of tacit and explicit knowledge in the workplace, in Journal of Knowledge Management Volume 5, Number 4, pp. 311-321. Sommer, D., Samuelsson, I., Hundeide, K. (2010), Child Perspectives and Children’s Perspectives in Theory and Practice, London and New York, Springer. Urban M. (2008), “Dealing with uncertainty: challenges and possibilities for the early childhood profession”, European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, v16 n2 p135-152.
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