14 SES 01 A, Reading Competencies and Writing: Parental Feedback, Family and Teachers' Perspectives
The primary focus of this paper is to gain a deeper understanding of teachers’ perspectives about how to promote children’s writing development in the Swedish preschool class. How do teachers describe their work to address this challenging goal and support children's early writing development?
Through extensive research findings, it has been noted that pedagogical transitions between school forms and levels are important for children’s well-being and learning. A pedagogical transition entails a move, for example, from one school to another, and should be understood as a process that ends only when the individual has established herself or himself in the new culture (Dunlop, 2007). Within the research group Pedagogies of Educational Transitions (POET) at Mälardalen University, a research project has been conducted over the last five years (Garpelin, 2011). It concerns early pedagogical transitions between preschool, the preschool class and primary school, and it has addressed various aspects of these transitions, including children’s learning journeys related to literacy (Sandberg, Hellblom-Thibblin, & Garpelin, 2015). This project, as well as other Swedish studies (Alatalo et al. , 2017; Fast, 2006), has addressed that the organization with three school forms (preschool, preschool class and primary school) can involve a risk of discontinuity for children’s learning and development in literacy. The preschool class was introduced in Sweden in 1998 as a voluntary form of school for all children six years of age; its aim is to create a bridge from preschool to primary school in order to prepare children for their future education (The National Agency for Education, 2016). Since the introduction of preschool class in the public school system, the concept has been discussed and criticized both in research and in the political sphere in regard to education, interaction or lack of interaction between the various professionals and the lack of guidelines in policy documents, to name a few examples (Ackesjö, 2010). Based on these, a closer look at this topic, with in-depth knowledge of the pedagogical learning environments and the transitions between them for young children, seems particularly important, especially for those who may be in need of special support.
Some children learn to read on their own without formal instruction by exploring writing independently and learning to understand the connection between letters and sounds. Over the last years, there have been studies of which language activities children experience in the preschool class, showing a focus on phonological awareness, sounds, letters, and the alphabetical code (Sandberg; 2012). Teachers working in preschool classes have been shown to have a doubtful attitude towards children’s own writing (Fast, 2007). Another finding is that teachers in preschool class sometimes lack skills in the area of literacy because their preschool-teacher training did not include knowledge about young children’s written language development (Alatalo, Meier & Frank, 2017). In addition, research shows that it is very important how the delivering and receiving teachers interact and collaborate to create an arena for a common understanding of the educational content (Karila & Rantavuori, 2014; Peters, 2010; Sandberg et al., 2015).
The theoretical frame for this study is based on Vygotsky’s (1978) sociocultural perspective on learning. Vygotsky emphasized that social interaction is the main driving force in children’s learning and development. Together with a more competent person, the child can perform a task and learn a skill that she is not yet capable of on her own. In addition, the concept of scaffolding has been useful (Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1996).
This small-scale interview study is part of PhD thesis with an overarching aim to deepen the understanding of teaching literacy in the Swedish preschool class. The empirical material is based on qualitative interviews with twelve preschool-class teachers working in seven different municipalities in Sweden. Nine of the teachers are educated preschool teachers and three are teachers with a degree in teaching in the early school years. Both of these professions are qualified to work in preschool classes in Sweden. For this study, the teachers’ professional experience of preschool-class teaching varies from one semester to more than twenty-five years of working with six-year-old children. The teachers were contacted by e-mail and informed about the aim of the study and the ethical guidelines for research (www.codex.vr.se), which have been carefully considered in the study. The qualitative interviews can be described as thematically open, that is, open in the sense that the researcher has consistently strived to develop the conversation but, at the same time, to follow a structure based on a number of previously determined subject areas or themes (Forsey, 2012; Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009). The study aimed to access the teachers’ perspectives on how to promote children’s early writing in the preschool class. The interviews took place in the teachers’ workplaces in seven different municipalities in Sweden. The interviews began, in most cases, by discussing the preschool class schedule and its content. Each interview lasted approximately one hour and was recorded in its entirety on an MP3 player. The recordings were then transferred to computer files and made anonymous. The interviews were analyzed using content analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006). The analysis of the empirical data began when the interviews were transcribed and analyzed in several steps. Initially, the data were organized in different codes; then, a process of identifying, analyzing and searching for patterns and themes was initiated in order to capture knowledge based on the data in relation to the aim of the study.
The results of this study indicate that teachers’ attitudes about the importance of developing children’s early writing in preschool class differ. Some teachers consciously work with specific writing methods to model and support children in their writing and reading development, while others put less emphasis, if any, on developing children’s writing. Two different themes, joint writing and children’s own writing, appear in the interviews. It has been difficult to distinguish between the two themes, as they are often intertwined, and therefore, some examples may fit both themes. Several examples illustrate how the teachers in the interviews describe how they encourage children to write their own words, for example, using their own pictures. Children use their own ability to write words, and they write words they can based on their individual skills and interests. This is a way for the children to start becoming aware that letters are used to form words and have a communicative function. In the interviews, teachers describe how they support children’s early writing in different ways; these include both high-level and low-level support. An example is that teachers write words on the whiteboard when they work with different thematic content through joint writing. The children then continue to draw and write words about the topic in their own theme books. Those children who cannot yet write have the opportunity to copy and imitate the teacher’s writing using the words on the whiteboard. To summarize, the findings of this study are in line with earlier research showing a picture characterized by significant differences among preschool classes and a weak connection to grade 1 when it comes to literacy. Something that has not been addressed previously is how teachers in the Swedish preschool class describe their didactical work with children’s early writing.
Ackesjö, H. (2010). Läraridentiteter i förskoleklass. Berättelser från ett gränsland [Teacher identities in preschool class]. Licentiatstudie Göteborg: Göteborg University. Alatalo, T., Meier, J. & Frank, E. (2017). Information Sharing on Children’s Literacy Learning in the Transition From Swedish Preschool to School. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 31(2), 240-254. Braun, V. & Clarke, V. (2006) Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77-101 Dunlop, Aline-Wendy (2007). Bridging research, policy and practice. In A-W. Dunlop, & H. Fabian (Eds.). Informing transitions in the early years. Research, Pol-icy and Practice. (pp.151-168). Midenhead: McGraw-Hill/Open University Press. Fast, C. (2007). Sju barn lär sig läsa och skriva: familjeliv och populärkultur i möte med förskola och skola [Seven children learn how to read and write: family life and popular culture in the meeting with preschool and school]. Diss. Uppsala: Uppsala University. Forsey, M. (2012). Interviewing individuals. In S. Delamont. (Ed.) Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education. (pp. 364-376). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited. Garpelin, A. (2011). Borderlands, Bridges and Rites of Passage – Understanding Children’s Learning Journeys from Preschool into School. Research Project funded by the Swedish Research Council. Stockholm: VR. Karila, K. & Rantavuori, L. (2014). Discourses at the boundary spaces: Developing a fluent transition from preschool to school. Early Years, 34(4), 377–391. Kvale, S. & Brinkmann, S. (2009). Den kvalitativa forskningsintervjun [The qualitative research interview]. Lund: Studentlitteratur. The National Agency for Education. (2016). Läroplan för grundskolan, förskoleklassen och fritidshemmet 2011 [Curriculum for the compulsory school, preschool class and the recreation centre 2011, revised 2016]. Stockholm: Skolverket. Peters, Sally (2010). Shifting the lens: Re-framing the view of learners and learning during the transition from early childhood education to school in New Zealand. In D. Jindal-Snape (Ed.) Educational transitions: Moving stories from around the world (pp. 68-84). New York: Routledge. Sandberg, G. (2012). På väg in i skolan om villkor för olika barns delaktighet och skriftspråkslärande [On their way into school. About conditions for participation and literacy learning for different children]. Diss Uppsala: Uppsala University. Sandberg, G., Hellblom-Thibblin, T. & Garpelin, A. (2015). Teacher’s perspective on how to promote children’s learning in reading and writing. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 30(4), 505-517. Wood, D., Bruner, J.S. and Rossthe, G. (1976). Role of tutoring in problem solving. Child Psychol. Psychiat., 17, 89 -100. Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in society. The development of higher psychological processes. London: Harvard University Press.
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