Professional development making a difference for children : co-constructing understandings in early childhood centres : a thesis presented in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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Massey University
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This thesis reports an investigation of the ways in which teachers in four early childhood centres valued children's voices as the basis for developing authentic learning experiences with them. The purpose of the study was to support teachers as they identified the changes they needed to make in their programming in order first to hear and second to engage with and extend children's thinking. In the process of the research, teachers identified their current philosophies of learning and the evidence of this in their practices, with a view to working increasingly in sociocultural modes of interaction with and planning for children's understandings. Changes in three propositions related to children's and adults' development of understandings, around which this report is organised, also represent the changes in the teachers' thinking about children's learning. Teachers in four case study centres were involved in reflecting critically on their practices, in progressively focused action research programmes. Through critical analysis of teacher-child dialogues, it became increasingly clear that the metaphor of scaffolding, as researched in the psychological literature, was an inadequate one to support these teachers in developing and maintaining intersubjectivity with children. A more adequate metaphor for the sharing and revisiting of ideas seemed to be that of co-construction. In order to hear and respond to the child's voice, as the foundation for developing intersubjectivity and co-constructing meanings, the teachers found they needed to work collaboratively with their community of learners. A model representing levels of intersubjectivity was developed in response to the struggle to conceptualise similarities and differences between scaffolding and co-constructing learning. The model was useful in supporting understandings of the teacher's roles in planning for children's learning from a sociocultural perspective, through the development of ongoing and in-depth projects. The participant teachers' transformation of their own participation and some influences on these changes were further clarified as a diagram linking the personal, the interpersonal and the institutional/community planes of interaction.
Preschool teaching, Constructivism, Preschool education, New Zealand