10 SES 06 B, Inquiry and Action Research for Teacher Learning: Examples from Netherlands, Turkey and Finland
Emphasizing the active thinking process of integrating prior knowledge with existing knowledge, inquiry-based learning is an educational strategy in which students follow methods and practice similar to those of professional scientists in order to construct knowledge (Keselman, 2003). Inquiry-based teaching and learning is a trending approach in many educational settings and a very popular topic of research in education (Pedaste, et al, 2015). Since 2005, inquiry-based teaching and learning also became popular in educational settings in Turkey as well. In 2005, Turkish Ministry of Education adopted constructivist philosophy in education and restructured the nation-wide curriculums for all levels of education. Similar and more specific efforts to encourage teachers to use scientific inquiry in their instruction were made by organizations like National Research Council (2000) and European Commission (2007).
In recent years, there is another major change happening in Ministry of Education’s approach concerning early childhood education in Turkey echoing similar international efforts like the ECEC (Melhuish., et al, 2015). Ministry of Education renewed early childhood education curriculum in 2013 according to its constructivist philosophy (MEB, 2013) and put more emphasis on designing a learning environment that triggers children’s innate motivation to learn about the world around them by using inquiry.
Inquiry based learning actively engages students in learning, arouses students’ curiosity and enables them to feel the excitement of engaging with the learning materials like real scientist during knowledge construction process. It develops knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas, encourages students to use data as evidence (Anderson, 2002; Crawford, 2007). Inquiry approach involves students asking questions, exploring and investigating phenomena, gaining experiences and making observations, and then developing explanations for those experiences (Hackling, 2007). Considering young children’s lack of experience with science and limited cognitive tools for literacy and numeracy, in early childhood education a guided inquiry approach is more commonly used which provides structured experiences (Hackling, 2007), guided and collaborative participation (Hedges, 2000) between the teacher and children through certain steps. Children manipulate materials, make observations and/or measurements, record and then discuss and interpret these observations. Most important task that falls on the teachers’ shoulder to support a meaningful inquiry experience is to determine an appropriate context and learning experiences that allow young children to construct new knowledge based on the cognitive resources they bring to the task (Samarapungavan et al., 2008).
Unfortunately, teachers, especially early childhood teachers, struggle to implement inquiry in their classrooms. Previous studies demonstrated a strong association between early childhood teachers’ science content knowledge and their practice of teaching science (Kallery & Psillos 2001). They also suggested that the availability of instructional materials influenced teachers’ choices of instructional practices (La Paro &Pianta 2000; Yi 2006). Moreover, some of these studies indicated that teachers’ expectations for students’ success and their perceptions of children’s capacity for learning influenced their instructional practices (Alvidrez & Weinstein, 1999), suggesting one of the reasons early childhood teachers spend less time teaching science concepts might be the perception that young children are incapable of learning science concepts. These findings give us a general idea about in-service teachers’ struggles but very little information is available in the literature with regards to the pre-service early childhood teachers’ struggles implementing inquiry. There is a dire need to study the challenges pre-service early childhood teachers face implementing inquiry for activities in early childhood education. Therefore, this research, conducted with Turkish pre-service teachers, aims to investigate the following questions: What challenges pre-service early childhood teachers face while implementing what they learn about inquiry in their practicum experiences? Are there any common challenges that can be address by teacher education programs?
Since this research aims to investigate the challenges pre-service teachers face in practice from the specific lenses of inquiry and early childhood education, a reductionist qualitative approach was preferred, namely qualitative content analysis. As Scheier (2014) explains; compare to other qualitative approaches which open up the obtained data, qualitative content analysis helps researchers with reducing the amount of material. It enables researchers to focus on selected aspects of meaning related to research questions and theoretical lenses that frame these questions.This qualitative approach also enables researchers to analyze large volumes of data collected from various sources. The data collection process for this research was consisted of three phases. First, sixty-ninepre-service teachers were given a 4weekstraining about the implementation of inquiry for early childhood activities. Before the training they were asked to answer 7 written interview questions about inquiry andhow to implement it in early childhood education settings. After the trainingthey prepared lesson plans for an inquiry activity. Following 2 weeks they implement inquiry activities in their early childhood practicum setting. These activities were recorded and each pre-service teacher were asked to watch his/her own video and reflect on it. Pre-service teachers also received a short training on how to think critically and reflect on their own practicum experience. Finally, they watched and criticized sample video examples of these practicum experiences as a whole group for 6 weeks and at the end asked to answer the same written interview questions. Data collected from all these sources were analyzed following Mayring’s (2014) steps of inductive category development for content analysis: (a)determining the research questions and theoretical background, (b) establishing the selection criterion for the text and category definitions and level of abstraction, (c) working though the texts line by line, new category formulation or sub-assumptions, (d) revision of the categories and rules after 10-50% of text, (e) final working through the material, building of main categories if useful, (f) intra/inter-coder agreement check, (g) final results, evaluations, frequencies and interpretation. As Krippendorff (2012) suggested, inter-coder reliability issueswere handled by establishing an intra-coder agreement. Independent coderscoded the text and before the coding of the whole text, all coders used the intra-coder agreement test to assure stability. In addition, semantic validity was assured by using experts’ judgements on the correct reconstruction of the meaning of the material and appropriateness of the category definitions.
Preliminary results showed that inquiry training gain importance and meaning for early childhood pre-service teachers after they reflect on their practicum experience during which that they tried to implement inquiry for activities in early childhood education. The pre-service teachers faced various challenges during these practicum settings, however, some of these challenges were more specific to the amalgamation of inquiry and early childhood contexts. First, some pre-service teachers were using pictures and videos instead of the actual objects or materials that were the topic of inquiry activity, like pictures of footprints instead of actual ones. This preference created a very limited experience for the children, they get easily distracted and pre-service teachers could not follow the lesson plan or restructure it to include student interest. Conversely, when pre-service teachers put all the objects and materials in front of the children and asks them to investigate them, children showed little interest to answering their questions. Handling learning materials and properly introducing them to the children during inquiry activities was one of the biggest challenges pre-service teachers faced. While many of the pre-service teachers prepare questions that were promoting children’s critical thinking and understanding, they could not respond to children’s unexpected, sophisticated, intelligent answers with meaningful positive remarks or follow up questions that promote further explanations and deeper understanding. Moreover, when pre-service teachers ask too many rote question children become disinterested and bored. Pre-service teachers struggle to pose authentic interesting questions and intrigue children, as well as to incorporate children’s own questions into the inquiry process. Pre-service teachers also struggle to handle classroom management and inquiry processes together. Children’s off task behaviors distract pre-service teachers and they could not carry on the inquiry process.
Alvidrez, J., & Weinstein, R.S. (1999). Early teacher perceptions and later student academic achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91, 731–46. Anderson, R. D. (2002). Reforming science teaching: Whatresearch says about inquiry. Journal of Science TeacherEducation, 13(1), 1–12. Crawford, B. A. (2007). Learning to teach science as inquiryin the rough and tumble of practice. Journal of Research inScience Teaching, 44(4), 613–642. European Commission. (2007). Science education now: A renewed pedagogy for the future of Europe. Brussels: European Commission. Hackling, M. (2007). Inquiry and investigation in primaryscience. In V. Dawson and G. Venville (Eds), The art of teachingprimary science (pp. 127–148). Crows Nest, NSW: Allen &Unwin. Hedges, H. (2000). Teaching in early childhood: Time to merge constructivist views so learning through play equals teaching through play. Australian Journal of Early Childhood, 25(4), 16–21. Kallery, M., &Psillos, D. (2001). Pre-school teachers’ content knowledge in science: Their understandings of elementary science concepts and of issues raised by children’s questions. International Journal of Early Years Education, 9, 165–177. Keselman, A. (2003). Supporting inquiry learning by promoting normative understanding of multivariable causality. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 40(9), 898-921. Krippendorff, K. (2012). Content analysis: An introduction to its methodology. Sage. La Paro, K.. M., &Pianta, R.C. (2000). Predicting children’s competence in the early school years: A meta-analytic review. Review of Educational Research, 70, 443–484. Mayring, P. (2014). Qualitative content analysis: theoretical foundation, basic procedures and software solution. Klagenfurt. Melhuish, E., Ereky-Stevens, K., Petrogiannis, K., Ariescu, A., Penderi, E., Rentzou, K., ... &Leseman, P. (2015). A review of research on the effects of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) upon child development. MilliEğitimBakanlığı(MEB)TemelEğitimGenelMüdürlüğü (2013). Okulöncesieğitimprogramı. Ankara NRC (National Research Council) (2000). Inquiry and the national science education standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Pedaste, M., Mäeots, M., Siiman, L. A., De Jong, T., Van Riesen, S. A., Kamp, E. T., Manoli, C. C., Zacharia, Z. C., Tsourlidaki, E. (2015). Phases of inquiry-based learning: Definitions and the inquiry cycle. Educational research review, 14, 47-61. Samarapungavan, A., Mantzicopoulos, P., & Patrick, H. (2008). Learning science through inquiry in kindergarten. Science Education, 92(5), 868–908. Schreier, M. (2014). Qualitative content analysis. The SAGE handbook of qualitative data analysis, 170-183. Yi, L.Y. (2006). Classroom organization: Understanding the context in which children are expected to learn. Early Childhood Education Journal, 34, 37–43.
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