ERG SES C 11, Arts and Education
In Sweden, as well as in in other European countries, there is an enhanced stress in educational legislative acts and common debates on the importance of early experiences in school subjects like mathematics and natural science (e.g., Ministry of Education and Research, 1998/2010). The emphasis on early, increases the demands on the role of preschool as for providing young children with opportunities to deal with, for example, common scientific concepts in hands-on, playful activities. Even so, this stressing of school subjects, seems to have led to a transition from a traditionally theme-based practice into a more subject-oriented one in Swedish preschools (e.g., Thulin, 2011) and has furthermore shifted the focus from what knowledge is needed and enjoyable for the child “today”, to what is desired “in future society”. However, even though early science-competences indeed are important, there are researchers who do not recommend such a unilateral focus on subject content in preschool education (e.g., Sheridan et al., 2009). Asplund Carlsson and Pramling Samuelsson (2003) on their part advocate that the scientific content is included in meaningful activities, where teachers consciously work with children’s ideas of the world. A common way to accomplish this is to make phenomena visual through illustrations. Such an approach is frequent in pre- and primary schools and particularly so in science education (Helldén, Lindahl & Redfors, 2005). This paper presents a study of 5-6-year-old children as they interact and make meaning out of illustrations relating to the concept of evaporation, afforded at a Swedish preschool.
Young children seem use “whatever is at hand” (Kress, 1997, p.28), when creating, interacting or making meaning in a particular situation. Such spontaneous multi-modal ability supports the idea of including explanatory illustrations to introduce, concretize, clarify, repeat complex scientific phenomena, which is also stressed as important in the Curriculum for the Preschool, which states that preschools should strive to ensure that every child “develop an interest in pictures [...] as well as the ability to make use of, interpret and talk about them” (Ministry of Education and Research, 1998/2010, p.10).
However, a wide range of multi-modal materials presupposes that children can handle visual, verbal and physical affordances often at the same time, when grappling with the content (Lemke, 2000). Researchers have recognized that illustrations cannot be assumed to be universal or transparent, but rather dependent on the person doing an interpretation, the situation in itself, and the actual cultural context (Kress, 2003; Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006; Meira, 1998; Pintó & Ametller, 2002; Rogoff, 1990, 1995). Furthermore, previous studies have shown that even if the interpretation of an illustration may seem uncomplicated, preschool children could have great difficulties in interpreting them in an adequate way (e.g., Ljung-Djärf et al., 2014). This area still lacks research and especially investigations focusing on preschool children, which calls for studies like the present one.
The overall aim of the research presented in this paper has been to study what visual information images and bodily-based illustrations used in a preschool context offered the children. The questions were: How are the illustrations handled by the children? Do the illustrations afford the intended meaning to the children? What kind of meaning making do the illustrations render and what can be difficult to grasp?
By using a combination of sociocultural and multimodal theories, the analysis focuses on the situated interaction between the children and the teacher; both in terms of what meaning-making is offered and what the children actually are doing. In the present paper, the findings will be discussed by using a model provided by Engebretsen (2012), which analyzes the balance between multi-modal cohesion and tension.
Asplund Carlsson, M. & Pramling Samuelsson, I. (2003). Det lekande lärande barnet -i en utvecklingspedagogisk teori. Stockholm: Liber. Jewitt, Carey (2008). Multimodality, media, learning and identity. Medien Journal, 32 (1), 31-40. Engebretsen, Martin (2012). Balancing cohesion and tension in multmodal rhethoric. An interdisciplinary approach to the study of semiotic complexity. Learning, Media and Technology 37 (2), 145-162. Helldén, Gustav, Lindahl, Britt, & Redfors, Andreas (2005). Lärande och undervisning i naturvetenskap – En forskningsöversikt. Vetenskapsrådets Rapportserie 2005:2. Vetenskapsrådet. Uppsala: Ord & Form AB. Kress, Gunter (1997) Before writing: Rethinking the paths to literacy: London:Routledge. Kress, Gunther (2003). Literacy in the new media age. London: Routledge. Kress, Gunther, & van Leeuwen, Theo (2006). Reading images: The grammar of visual design. London: Routledge. Lemke, Jay (2000). Multimedia Literacy of the Science Curriculum. Linguistics and Education, 10, 241-271. Ljung-Djärf, Agneta., Åberg-Bengtsson, Lisbeth., Ottosson, Torgny., & Beach, Dennis (2014). Making sense of iconic symbols: A study of preschool children conducting a refuse-sorting task. Environmental Education Research. (Published online: 30 Jan 2014) DOI: 10.1080/13504622.2013.870128. Meira, Luciano (1998). Making sense of instructional devices: The emergence of transparency in mathematical activity. Journal of Reaserch in Mathematics Education, 29, 121-142. Ministry of Education and research (1998/Revised 2010). Curriculum for the Preschool, Lpfö. Stockholm: http://www.skolverket.se/publikationer?id=2704 Pintó, Roser, & Ametller, Jaume. (2002). Students’ difficulties in reading images. International Journal of Science Education, 24, 333-341. Rogoff, Barbara (1990). Apprenticeship in thinking. Cognitive development in social context. New York: Oxford University Press. Rogoff, Barbara (1995). Observing sociocultural activity on three planes: Participatory appropriation, guided participatory, and apprenticeship. Ingår i Wertsch, James V, Río, Pablo del, & Alvarez, Amelia. (Red.). Sociocultural studies of mind. New York: Camebridge University Press. Sheridan, Sonja, Pramling Samuelsson, Ingrid, & Johansson, Eva (2009). Barns tidiga lärande. En tvärsnittsstudie om förskolan som miljö för barns lärande. Göteborg: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis. Thulin, Susanne (2011). Lärares tal och barns nyfikenhet. Kommunikation om naturvetenskapliga innehåll i förskolan. Göteborg: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis. Amendment: The board-and-dice game, which is in use for this study, is produced by authors Malin Hardestam and Kristin Dahl (2010) at a Swedish publishing house: Alvina Förlag. It is stated by the publishers, to be “a game for knowledge”. It is called Vattenvandringen. In English: ”Water-hiking” (my translation). For more information about this game please visit: http://www.alvinaforlag.se/bocker/vattenvandringen.shtml
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