03 SES 06 B, Curriculum Orientations
Policy for the Swedish preschool has successively adapted its goals in order to prepare for the school system. Åsén & Roth (2012) finds support for a change in Swedish preschool policy and practice towards the culture of school. Support for this change is also found in studies about Swedish preschool teachers increasingly highlighting learning as a basic activity in their work (e.g. Alatalo et al 2016; Alvestad & Berge 2009; Westman & Bergmark 2013; Löfdahl & Perez 2009). Such transformations of early childhood education is not unique for Sweden; tensions between child centered- and subject focused goals, has for a long time been a characteristic in early childhood curricula in Europe. This contribution intends to shed light on this curricular relationship through scrutinizing the professional talk of preschool teachers.
Since 2011 “Teaching” has been established as a new mission in the preschool and since 2010 subjects like math, science and Swedish language has been added to the national syllabus. By adding these goals, Swedish preschool now shares some general goals with the preschool class – the latter in which most of six year old children participate – and the comprehensive school. However, the Swedish preschool still has to conduct the tradition of being child- and play centered, according to its national syllabus; thus being kept within boundaries as more or less distinct from the school system. Simultaneously, the current approaching to the school system has become more accentuated ever since the national syllabus was introduced 1998 (Folke Fichtelius 2008). Swedish preschool teachers attempts to include children’s interests while paying attention to the national goals is studied by Thörner (2016) focusing (mainly) on recorded everyday situations. An important issue is how these policy changes are approached by the professionals by highlighting on their professional reasoning, regarding the purpose of the preschool in their everyday work.
In this paper, professional reasoning is approached from the perspective of teachers as social actors in everyday life, shaped by but also re-shaping, the policy context(s) of the preschool. An important dimension of the curriculum is constituted by teachers as curriculum makers (cf. Cuban 1992), in that every curriculum is dependent on how teachers interpret policy in relation to their everyday work. The purpose of this paper is to investigate preschool teachers’ professional talk focusing on the relationship between child- and subject orientation. Discourse analysis will be used an analytic tool focusing on how everyday discourse people borrows from cultural repertoires stemming from a culture’s common-sense way of talking (Potter & Wetherell 1987). The reasoning of the preschool teachers will further analyzed in relation to the policy context foremost formulated on state- and municipal level during the conversation with the preschool teachers.
In order to address complexities of professional reasoning, qualitative interviews performed in the environment of the preschools was done (Potter & Wetherell 1987). 10 preschool teachers participated addressing their specific socio-geographic environment (approximately 50 minutes each). The volume of this sample has been judged as sufficient for the analytic purpose of discerning patterns of complex dilemmatic reasoning across both within individual interviews, and through comparison (of dilemmatic reasoning) between the teacher interviews. In order to approach teachers’ everyday reasoning the interviews were designed as semi-structured conversations between the preschool teachers and me as a teacher educator, explicitly asking for access with the professional field. An interview guide was sent beforehand and read by all (except for one) preschool teachers before the interview was performed. The preschool teachers were informed about the project including their rights regarding participation, anonymization and proper storing of the data. Data was collected in a variety of social-cultural environments such as middle class areas with high amount cultural and economic capital (n=4/10); multi-ethnical areas with low(er) amount cultural and economic capital (n=5/10) and one mixed area regarding amount cultural and economic capital (n=1/10). 7 preschools was visited, whereof 3 preschools including 1 teacher responsible for educational development and 1 teacher without such a responsibility. However, no typical features characterized the preschool teachers with responsibility for educational development. The interviews were all transcribed verbatim. The interview guide addressed the preschool as preparing for school vs representing a tradition within its own right; experiences of the children vs focus on subject goals; how the preschool teacher was working with the school-like goals and how goals were documented; the latter addressing teacher everyday work (Sheridan et al 2011). The interview transcript was read systematically, paying notice to relations regarding child, subject- and teacher orientations, i.e. themes where the teachers were focusing on basic values for preschool education. In the preliminary analysis of each interview, dilemmas on the (i) global level, i.e. through the whole transcript, and on (ii) local level within utterance and/or interaction sequence level, was focused. In line with Potter & Wetherell (1987), discernment of characteristic linguistic repertoires recognizable from established pedagogical traditions has also been highlighted. Examples of linking the two dimensions were also noted.
Regarding the purpose of the preschool, when the “child” and comparisons with school was topicalized, the preschool teacher´s draws on child-centered repertoires. Boundaries of child- respective subject centeredness are manifested when comparing preschool with school. However, when school-like ”goals” in the syllabus is focused, teacher-centered repertoires were instead prominent, in which boundaries distinguishing preschool from school was dissolved. These opposing themes (cf. Wetherell et al. 2001) are mostly located in different contexts (within the individual interview) appearing as two different and parallel logics, rather than as one coherent logic. Thus, to address relations between preschool and school implied boundary talk, while addressing subject knowledge in the syllabus – sometimes related to future participation in school – did not. Dilemmatic tensions are also manifested locally i.e. within many sequences and utterances. Talk addressing the general purposes of preschool could be interpreted as local answers to top-down state policy due to its proper affirmations of different directives in the policy texts (cf. Biesta et al 2017). However, connections between children’s experiences and school-like subjects were also formulated in the language of everyday work, such as listening for children’s initiatives and developing themes, more or less corresponding to content knowledge in the syllabus with interests within the group of children. This professional talk is expressed in temporal modes, like “first… and then” and focused on both children and the goals in the syllabus. Thus, the child- and subject foci do not appear only as separated but also as co-present and related to teacher judgement (Author 2014) when everyday professional work is addressed; i.e. themes of content knowledge and being continually sensitive to interests of the children. Such professional reasoning could be interpreted as creative ways of handling tensions implicitly present in the national syllabus, regarding the general purpose(s) of the preschool.
Alatalo, T, Meier, J & Frank, E (2016) Transition between preschool and preschool class: A question about interweaving care and Knowledge. Early Childhood Educational Journal, 44: 155. Alvestad, M & Berge, A (2009) Svenske førskolelærere om læring i planlegging og praksis relatert til den nasjonale læreplanen. [Swedish preschool teachers on planning and praxis in relation to the national syllabus]. Nordisk barnehageforskning [Nordic early childhood education research] (2), 57–68. Author (2014) --------------- Biesta, G, Priestley, M & Robinson, S (2017) Talking about education: exploring the significance of teacher´s talk for teacher agency. Journal of Curriculum Studies. 49:1, 38-54. Cuban, L (1992) Curriculum stability and change. In Jackson, Philip (ed.) Handbook of Research on Curriculum. American Educational Research Association, 216-247. Folke-Fichtelius, M (2008). Förskolans formande: statlig reglering 1944-2008. [The shaping of preschool. State regulation 1944-2008] Diss. Uppsala: Uppsala universitet. Löfdahl, A & Pérez, H (2009) Between control and resistance: planning and evaluation texts in the Swedish preschool. Journal of Education Policy, 24, 4, 393-408. Potter, J & Wetherell, M (1987) Discourse and social psychology: Beyond attitudes and behaviour. London: Sage. Sheridan, S, Williams, P Sandberg, A & Vourinen (2011) Preschool teaching in Sweden – a profession in change. Educational Research, 53: 4, 415-437. Thörner, A (2016) ”Vi kan inte bara utgå från barnens intresse”. Pedagogers guidning av barns intresse i förhållande till förskolans målstyrning. [”We cannot only base it on the children's interest” - Educators guidance of children's interest in relation to goals and guidelines.] Högskolan i Borås. Westman, S & Bergmark, U (2014) A stengthened teaching mission in preschool: teachers´experiences, beliefs and strategies. International journal of early years education. Vol. 22, No. 1, 73-88. Wetherell, M,Taylor, S & Yates,S (2001) Discourse as Data: A Guide for Analysis. London, UK: Sage. Åsén, Gunnar & Vallberg Roth, Ann-Christine (2012) Utvärdering i förskolan: en forskningsöversikt. [Evaluation in preschool: reveiw of research ] Stockholm: Vetenskapsrådet.
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