01 SES 12 C, Professional Development and Pre-school Education
As in many other European countries early childhood education, including preschool, includes teaching in the area of subject knowledge. In Sweden this is related to a changed policy in order to connect preschool with the school system. Since 2011, “teaching” has been established as a new aspect of the preschool’s mandate and, since 2010, subjects like maths, science have been added to the national syllabus. Earlier, subjects has also been part of a preschool tradition already present in Fröbel’s kindergarten. In this earlier approach the intention was not to prepare for the forthcoming school and its subject content. Today, the national preschool syllabus has subject goals that overlaps with those of the school, often stated in a rather detailed, academic form. In addition, the Swedish school inspectorate has also included the preschools in its evaluations.
According to the Swedish education act, practice should be based on scientific knowledge and proven experience. These changed directives comes with increasing expectations and demands on the preschool teacher profession for implementing this assignment. In light of this background we aim to support the preschool teachers to develop a professional and inside-out based (Stanley & Stronach 2013) knowledge for acting as professionals in this changed context. In this contribution we will direct our interest on the subject area of science and technology.
Previous research has identified possibilities or lack of possibilities for science and technology learning in early childhood environments, with a tendency to a ‘diagnostic’ approach to preschool teacher knowledge. However, this research does not go far enough in investigating programs for developing preschool teachers´ science content knowledge (e.g. Nilsson, 2014; Fleer, 2009; Nilsson & Elm, 2017). Against the background of the need for including preschool teachers experiences and knowledge in a fair way (cf. Berry et al. 2008), while simultaneously recognize the need of further development in subject content, in the institutional frame of the preschool, we will address preschool teachers pedagogic content knowledge (PCK). The latter (PCK) refers to teachers´ understanding of the content and experiences and attitudes towards science. Our research question reads: In what ways can collaboration between preschool teachers´ and researchers contribute to preschool teachers’ professional learning and the preschool development with special regard to preschool teachers’ pedagogic content knowledge?
Our methodological approach is guided by Participatory Action Research (PAR) highlighting the need of a democratic process, developing of practical knowledge related to issues that are of great concern for the participants (Reason & Bradbury 2001). Furthermore, PAR recognizes our partners’ knowledge and experiences as a vital element to be brought into the research process (Brydon-Miller, Greenwood & Maguire, 2003). Thus, an important factor is the interaction between the researcher and the interests within the educational field, in order to promote both researchers and the practitioners work and goals. From this starting point there is initially an explicitly stated drive to meet on equal terms and to support each other to develop.
The other leg, pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) includes teachers’ understanding of how children learn, or fail to learn; in relation to this specific subject matter has been found to be an important matter. That is, a perspective on professional development that focus on preschool teachers´ understanding of the content, pedagogical content knowledge and attitudes towards science (cf. Schulman, 1987; Van Driel & Berry, 2012). Representation of teacher content knowledge (CoRe) by means of a commonly developed table, is systematically used as a tool to trigger preschool teachers´ ideas of both science and technology content as a tool for development and cooperation.
9 preschool teachers during 1,5 year (currently ongoing) participates in the research project which includes both indoors- and outdoors activities focusing on technology and science content, paying attention to children’s perspectives. The teachers are meeting in reflective group sessions once a month. For this paper data was collected through a qualitative approach consisting of 23 + 29 hours recorded semi structured interviews with the participating preschool teachers from one preschool unit. The interviews were conducted after the first and third semester of participation. Data was then analysed out from thematic content analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006). As Braun and Clarke (2006) argue, it is a method that requires researchers to be clear about what they do, why they do it and how the analysis is conducted. The analyses of the data in this study were part of an inductive process from a) transcription → b) identifying emergent initial codes → c) searching for themes → d) reviewing and revising themes → e) defining and naming themes → f) formulating the result (with the starting point in identified and named themes). First, the interviews were transcribed verbatim. Some of the statements made in the interviews that did not correspond to the subject were not transcribed. Second, the data was read, and assigned initial codes. The third step involved searching for overall themes, based on the initial codes. In this step, the researchers sorted the data under each theme separately. In the fourth step themes were compared, data were reviewed the themes revised. In this process, similarities were identified in the themes that had emerged in the analysis of the interviews. Related examples of the participants’ learning were examined and refined until consensus was reached. Fifth, to establish the validity of the coding and identified themes, the authors worked to finally define and name the themes. The main data was then compared with the themes and provided a critical overview in terms of aspects being overemphasised, under represented, too vague or biased. The final step in the analysis, with a starting point in the themes, was to formulate the results.
Our results from the interview data shows that the use of CoRe:s contribute to focus on the speciﬁc content in a more systematic way. Some of the preschool teachers expressed how the use of the CoRe:s and the formulation of ‘Big Ideas’ supported them to establish the fundamental ideas of the topic they were teaching. With documentation in CoRe preschool teachers have been able to make visible aspects of their own practice and to see the educational value of a current situation. In their collegial work, the documentation of CoRe contributes to the preschool teachers distancing themselves from their daily practices and makes them evaluate their actions and activities. Further, the use of CoRE seems to provide a different point for innovative change in the preschool development. In this way, the collective knowledge of a team becomes qualitatively different to that of a single individual. In addition, other themes also comprises: improved knowledge of processes for planning; visibility of different aspects in the daily practice and in children's learning processes; a broader view connected to international and national development in preschool and society, and a practice on scientific basis. Our research contributes with how “teachers and other professionals on the field of education learn and develop throughout their professional career” in the developing field of early childhood education and its raising expectation of subject knowledge. We also attempt to show how teacher development and the research process is dependent on their reciprocal development in order to be accomplished. In a time characterized by rapid policy changes in the educational systems in Europe, the need for practitioner-researcher collaborations supporting professionalism based on conscious professional agency is of great concern.
Berry, A., Loughran, J. & van Driel, J.H. (2008) Revisiting the Roots of Pedagogical Content Knowledge. International Journal of Science Education, 30:10, 1271-1279. Braun, V. & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, vol. 3. (2). p. 77-101. Brydon-Miller, M., Greenwood, D. & Maguire, P. (2003). Why action research? Action Research, vol. 1. (1). p. 9-28. Fleer, M. (2009). Supporting scientific conceptual consciousness or learning in ‘a Roundabout Way’ in play-based contexts. International Journal of Science Education, 31(8), p. 1069–1089. Nilsson, P. (2014). When Teaching Makes a Difference: Developing science teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge through learning study. International Journal of Science Education, 36(11), 1794-1814. Nilsson, P. & Elm, A. (2016). Capturing and developing early childhood teachers´ science Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) through CoRes. International Journal of Science Education, 28 (5), 406-424. Reason, P & Bradbury, H (2001). Introduction: Inquiry and participation in search of a world worthy of human aspiration. Peter Reason & Hilary Bradbury (eds.) Handbook of Action Research. London: SAGE. Skolverket (2011). Curriculum for the preschool Lpfö98. www.skolverket.se Shulman, L. S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57, 1-22. Stanley, E. and, & Stronach, I. (2013) Raising and doubling ‘standards' in professional discourse: a critical bid. Journal of Educational Policy, 28(3), pp. 291-305. van Driel, J. H., & Berry, A. K. (2012). Teacher professional development focusing on pedagogical content knowledge. Educational Researcher, 41(1), 26 - 28.
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