01 SES 02 B, Empowerment, Agency and Teacher Quality in Professional Learning
This contribution examines how professionals in early childhood education account for time constraints in their work when engaging with audio-video recorded material during training sessions. One particular aspect of work is investigated here: relations with parents when educators welcome children in the morning, and when they report on children’s activities during pick-up encounters in the afternoon.
In recent years, relational work with parents has become recognized as an integral part of skills and competences in early childhood education. In public policies as well as in institutional practices, a clear move towards “coeducation”, “collaboration” and “partnership” between parents and professionals can be observed (Bonabesse & Blanc, 2013). Yet, beyond prescriptions and intentions, very little is known regarding how these collaborations and partnership relations are being enacted in practice and how they take shape in everyday encounters and interactions. From the existing literature in the sociology of education and intercultural psychology, encounters between educators and parents can be regarded as challenging situations, which may comprise conflicts of educational norms between families and institutions (Bouve, 1999), epistemic asymmetries between parents and educators (Scalambrin & Ogay, 2014), power relations and conflicts of legitimacy (Cheatham & Ostrosky, 2009).
Another set of difficulties related to the “coconstruction” of partnership in early childhood education stems from the often uncertain and unpredictable nature of encounters between educators and parents. While these encounters may take the form of organized face-to-face meetings, for example at the end of the school year, the relationship with parents is essentially built up on a daily basis, "on the doorstep" (Chatelain-Gobron, 2014), at the time of the children's arrivals and departures and the informal "transmission" practices they involve. These are often furtive moments that are not conducive to in-depths exchanges, because of time constraints and the many activities that have to be accomplished alternatively or simultaneously. As such, daily encounters with parents are highly mediated by language use and communication skills. They constitute particularly dense interactive moments, characterized by the complexity and instability of participation frameworks. Coping with the contingencies of such interactions is not self-evident. It requires high adaptive skills from educators and a range of capacities categorized in the literature as “interactional competences” (Pekarek et al., 2017).
Based on these premises, the research program we report on aims at understanding the sorts of interactional competences required and mobilized by educators when encountering parents in their work, and how these interactional competences can be developed through specific training programs using video-based interaction analysis as a method for professional learning and development.
In this paper, we focus on one particular aspect of interactional competences, namely the capacities educators have to adapt to the specific temporal contingencies of the encounters they have with parents when they bring their children to the facility in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon. By combining a video ethnographic approach with a video-based training method (see method section), we examine the sorts of accounts produced by professionals when they engage in a collective analysis of their work based on videotaped recordings of their interactions with parents. The research questions we raise are the following: What do professionals say about the importance of time in everyday encounters with parents? What sorts of categories are used to refer to time constraints during collective data sessions? What are the particular interactional competences recognized by professionals in relation to the temporal dimension of their work during drop off and pick-up interactions? What can be the contributions of video-based interaction analysis for the development of interactional competences in continuing education?
To respond to these questions, principles of interaction analysis are implemented both as research and training method. Interaction analysis can be defined as a multidisciplinary approach, borrowing concepts from the micro-sociology of everyday life (Goffman, 1961), ethnomethodology (Garfinkel, 1967), conversational analysis (Schegloff, 2007) and communication ethnography (Gumperz, 1982). Its objectives consist in describing in detail how individuals coordinate their actions when they are experiencing “social encounters” and collectively engage in goal-directed actions. Over the past two decades, the field of interaction analysis has expanded significantly in the direction of work analysis, particularly under the influence of Workplace Studies (Luff, Hindmarsch, Heath, 2000) or applied conversation analysis (Antaki, 2011). This work has highlighted the centrality of interactions in the conduct of professional activities in a wide range of occupations (Goodwin, 2017). More recently, video-based interaction analysis has also been applied to the field of initial and continuing vocational education (Filliettaz, 2014; Koskela & Palukka, 2011). Methodological principles on which they are based have been transposed into training activities and have been considered as significant contributions to learning and professional development. An increasing number of experiences exist, which propose to train professionals in a video-based interactive analysis of their work (Stokoe, 2014; Trébert & Durand, 2018). From there, an empirical research and training design has been implemented in two childcare institutions in the canton of Geneva, Switzerland since 2018. In a first phase of the research, a video-ethnographic survey was conducted in these two institutions. Encounters between parents and educators were audio recorded during morning arrivals and pick-ups in afternoons for a period of two weeks. The data set related to this video-ethnographic phase comprises 180 hours of recordings of naturally occurring interactions between educators, parents and children during face-to-face encounters. In a second phase, a training program was implemented and addressed to groups of volunteer educators who had been observed in the video-ethnographic phase. During the training, participants were introduced to principles of interaction analysis and experienced a collective data analysis of video recordings of their interactions with parents, as captured during the video-ethnographic phase. The data from these co-analysis sessions were in turn video recorded and transcribed using Transana Multi User software. The data set related to the training comprises 14 hours of collective analysis of data performed by two groups of educators and moderated by the researchers.
A systematic analysis of collective data sessions involving professionals shows that educators have the ability to recognize time constraints as a structuring ingredient of their encounters with parents. Different sorts of categories are used during collective analysis sessions for referring to time and temporality. One first set of categories refers to the sequential organization of encounters with parents. Educators commenting on video recordings of encounters with parents orient to rhythmic patterns of drop off and pick-up encounters, as well as the sequential progression of actions composing such interactions. They also often make visible the complex range of actions that are conducted simultaneously or alternatively. One second set of categories is related to mechanisms of typification. Beyond the situated nature of the encounters they analyze, educators make visible the sorts of typical or generic expectation and resources they use when engaging in drop off and pick-up encounters. These may apply to parents and children, but also to particular staff members or institutional practices. To finish, results also show that professionals have the ability to perform specific reasoning or cognitive resources when facing time constraints in their encounters with parents. For instance, they display anticipation skills as well as a capacity to adapt permanently to the evolving contingencies of interactions as they unfold. More globally, results highlight the potential of video-based training conducted according to the principles of interaction analysis for the continuing education of early childhood educators. They show how the confrontation with video data transcribed and described in their interactive materiality can support learning and development processes in continuing education and may contribute to the development of interactional competences in service-oriented occupations.
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