ERG SES G 04, Communities and Education
The development of a child’s emotional competence throughout the preschool period is critical for supporting their developing and future social competence, transitions to school and long-term academic success (Denham, Bassett, Mincic, Kalb, Way, Wyatt & Segal, 2012).
During the preschool years, children (3-5 year-olds), are required to exercise their skills of emotional competence to build and maintain social relationships in a variety of contexts (Halberstadt, Denham & Dunsmore, 2001). Preschool children with well-developed emotional competence are more likely to be judged as friendly and prosocial by their peers and teachers (Denham, Blair, DeMulder, Levitas, Sawyer, Auerbach–Major, & Queenan, 2003), this foundation providing a generative base for ongoing friendship and academic success. Thus, a focus on promoting young children’s emotional competence in the early years has long term benefits for children and their communities.
Recent evidence points to issues associated with young children’s emotional competence in the early years, and the capacity of some children to satisfactorily cope with the social and emotional demands of their first year of formal schooling. The Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) has reported the number of children developmentally vulnerable in the emotional maturity domain at around 8 % (8.9 % in 2009, 7.6 % in 2012, and 8.4 % in 2015) (AEDC, 2016). Additionally, the Queensland Education Department (2018) recorded 1145 suspensions of Queensland preparatory children for behavioural issues in 2017, with this figure almost double the number made in 2013 (651).
The preschool years are situated within a critical phase in development of emotional and social competence, as fundamental developmental milestones for social and emotional competence occur during this phase (McCabe & Altamura, 2011). Rich learning opportunities for optimal development of children’s emotional competence therefore are important for all children prior to the school years and particularly for those children considered ‘at-risk’ (Campbell & Ramey, 1994). Additionally, the preschool years offer one of the most critical periods for early identification and intervention of behavioural problems before more permanent patterns form (Poulou, 2015).
Children develop their emotional competence through a dynamic process of co-construction with others in their environment; their parents, family, caregivers, educators and peers (Denham, Bassett, & Zinsser, 2012). The prime emotional socializer role, once predominantly enacted by parents, is now increasingly shared with educators and carers as preschool children spend more time in education and care services (DEEWR, 2013). The strategies used by parents to socialize their children’s emotional competence has been well researched (Swartz & McElwain, 2012); however, very little research has been conducted into the strategies used by educators to promote young children’s emotional competence (Denham, Bassett, & Zinsser, 2012). The study thus aims to describe how teachers view themselves in the role socializers of young children’s emotional competence, and what internal thoughts, internal states, knowledge and external tools they call upon to enact their role as socializers of preschool children’s emotional competence.
A sequential explanatory mixed methods design will be used in this research study. This mixed method research design is framed by a pragmatic worldview (Cresswell, 2013), concerned with research methods that will most satisfactorily answer the research questions. This research was designed specifically to allow educators’ voices to be heard through the action of ‘the pen’ (online survey), ‘alongside peers’ (focus groups) and ‘from within teaching action’ (observer participation). The qualitative component of this research is conducted using an hermeneutic phenomenological perspective (van Manen, 1987)
This project considers how preschool educators view their readiness to promote preschool children’s emotional competence. An online survey, the Preschool Educators’ Readiness for Promoting Children’s Emotional Competence scale adapted from Preschool teachers’ resilience and their readiness for building children's resilience by Bouillet, Ivanec & Miljević-Riđički (2014) was used to collect responses from early childhood educators working with 3-5 year-olds in a variety of early education and care services across Queensland Australia. Within the online survey, likert item statements are grouped into themes about educators’ competence, supportive attitudes, willingness and perceptions of institutional environment and conditions to promote children’s emotional competence. The larger overarching study uses mixed methods, including hermeneutic phenomenology influenced by van Manen (1997) with focus groups for qualitative data collection. Together, the survey and focus group methods aim to give a picture of the diversity of views of early childhood educators regarding their experience of promoting young children’s emotional competence. In planning the survey, it was recognized that the survey completion process would act as a reflection task for staff consistent with that required for national quality standards (ACEQA, 2011) and thus support educators in their role. This function of the survey design was shared with educators as an added benefit of participation. To access participants, three strategies were used. Initially, one early childhood governing body agreed to distribute the invitation to their Queensland preschool educators, then individual Day care centres and Preprep centres were approached for interest in participating, and finally social media was used. The introduction email provided to educators included an information sheet containing background information for the study, confidentiality, privacy, research contacts, the intention and value of the research and the online link (URL) to access the online survey. Approval for the study was then obtained through ethics at Griffith University and registered as GU ref no: 2017/122. Data analysis using SPSS version 24 was undertaken on the survey data. Descriptive analysis was undertaken on the 26 items in the Readiness survey looking at response frequencies against key demographic variables. While there are limitations from obtaining a small sample of 76 participants, this sample size still enables exploration of some pattern identification within responses. Further explanation of responses were given through open-ended comments which concluded the survey
The study reports on the views of 76 participants who completed the Readiness for promoting children’s emotional competence scale . A summary of the demographic background of participants with comparison of Daycare (long day care) and Preprep participants was first undertaken, this showing both individual characteristics, their experience and the location in which they worked. The survey participants represent a very experienced group of early childhood educators. Almost half of the participants were aged fifty years and over. Additionally, participants from regional and remote areas were well represented by 57.8 % of participants while 42.1 % of participants representing metropolitan areas. The large majority of participants came from PrePrep centres, with the remaining from Daycare centres. More Daycare services were directly invited to the survey than Preprep services due to higher number of services in each map location, however, fewer participants came from within the Daycare sector. Responses to the 26 scale statements revealed some interesting patterns across the different items, with clearly different levels of agreement/disagreement shown. The mean responses of the statements from the readiness scale indicate that the majority of participants share similar beliefs, attitudes and opinions for many of the statements (twenty out of twenty-six). The statements that received almost unanimous agreement were those that related to the theme of “Supportive attitude towards promotion of emotional competence” and a “Willingness to promote emotional competence”. In particular almost all participants believe that promoting emotional competence helps children’s behaviour. Participants also believe that it is important to share the child’s journey of emotional competence with their family and almost all participants believe that this socializer role is important even when parents do not collaborate with their socialization efforts. Finally, analysis of response patterns against centre location and also staff experience were undertaken to profile respondent response patterns.
Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA). (2011). Children’s education and care in Australia. Retrieved 27/01/2013 from: http://acecqa.gov.au/earlychildhood-in-australia/ Australian Early Development Census (AEDC), 2015 AEDC National Report. https://www.aedc.gov.au/resources/detail/2015-aedc-national-report Bouillet, D., Pavin Ivanec, T., & Miljević-Riđički, R. (2014). Preschool teachers’ resilience and their readiness for building children's resilience. Health Education, 114(6), 435-450. Creswell, J. W. (2013). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage publications. DEEWR (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations). (2013). Child Care in Australia. August 2013. Retrieved from My Child government website https://www.mychild.gov.au/sites/mychild/files/documents/04-2015/child_care_in_australia.pdf. Denham, S. A., Bassett, H., Mincic, M., Kalb, S., Way, E., Wyatt, T. & Segal, T. (2012). Social–emotional learning profiles of preschoolers’ early school success: A person-centered approach. Learning and Individual Differences, 22(2), 178–189. Denham, S., Bassett, H., & Zinsser, K. (2012). Early childhood teachers as socializers of young children’s emotional competence. Early Childhood Education Journal, 40(3) 137-143. Denham, S. A., Blair, K. A., DeMulder, E., Levitas, J., Sawyer, K., Auerbach–Major, S., & Queenan, P. (2003). Preschool emotional competence: Pathway to social competence? Child development, 74(1), 238-256. Queensland Education Department (QED), (2018). https://qed.qld.gov.au/publications/reports/statistics/schooling/students Halberstadt, A. G., Denham, S. A., & Dunsmore, J. C. (2001). Affective social competence. Social development, 10(1), 79-119. Howes, C. (1987). Social competence with peers in young children: Developmental sequences. Developmental Review, 7(3), 252-272. McCabe, P. C., & Altamura, M. (2011). Empirically valid strategies to improve social and emotional competence of preschool children. Psychology in the Schools, 48(5), 513-540. Poulou, M. S. (2015). Emotional and behavioural difficulties in preschool. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24(2), 225-236. Queensland Education Department (QED), (2018). https://qed.qld.gov.au/publications/reports/statistics/schooling/students Saarni, C. (1999). The development of emotional competence. New York: Guilford Press. Shuttlesworth, M., & Shannon, K. (2015). The role of social and emotional learning in the preschool classroom. International Journal of Psychology Research, 10(1), 45-71. Swartz, R. A., & McElwain, N. L. (2012). Preservice teachers’ emotion-related regulation and cognition: Associations with teachers’ responses to children's emotions in early childhood classrooms. Early Education & Development, 23(2), 202-226. Van Manen, M. (1997). Researching lived experience: Human science for an action sensitive pedagogy (2nd ed.). Ontario, Canada: The Althouse Press.
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