2010, Volume 13, Journal Articles

NZ Research in ECE Journal Volume 13 (2010)

early childhood research journal


Andrew Gibbons and Helen Hedges

Joint Lead NZRECE Editors
NZRECE Journal, Vol. 13, 2010, pp. 1 - 4.

Abstract: Issues of visibility and identity are important to early childhood education and the communities of teachers, parents, children, policy makers and researchers it draws on. This is not to say that, for instance, all teachers consciously seek to determine who they are as a teacher of infants, toddlers and/or young children, or that all teachers in the early childhood sector seek an affiliation with a universal early childhood teaching identity. But it is to say that these matters occupy the interests and advocacy of many teachers and scholars. The articles in this volume of New Zealand Research in Early Childhood Education provide evidence of the importance of visibility and identity through narrating various perspectives on early childhood education that have implications for the nature of being a teacher, parent or researcher and relationships with other members of their communities. In other words, each of the following contributions has something important to say, or infers something important, about the visibility and identity of early childhood community members in relation to their day to day experiences. These visions are complex and at times competing.  

‘You’re Allowed to Play’:  Children’s Rights at Playcentre

Sarah Te One
Victoria University of Wellington
NZRECE Journal, Vol. 13, 2010, pp. 5 - 16.

Key words:  play, rights, values, philosophy, parents, Playcentre

Abstract: Recent research in New Zealand investigated perceptions of children’s rights in three different early childhood settings. This article reports on research investigating perceptions of children’s rights in a playcentre (Te One, 2009). With its strong, coherent philosophical commitment to free, spontaneous play, the playcentre data revealed that both children and parents believed that children had a right to choose where they wanted to play, and that they should be able to play freely, uninterrupted by others. Influenced by the ‘playcentre way’, some parents changed their attitudes about children and children’s rights, recognising children’s actions as agentic. Consequently, this group of parents transformed the way they parented. However, as in any community, minor conflicts of interest emerged and this paper suggests that a children’s rights-based approach has the potential to resolve these tensions. 

Breaking out of the Child-rearing Cell:  Parental Outcomes from Participation in Japanese Playcentres

Junko Satoh (Japan Association) and Suzanne Manning (New Zealand Playcentre Federation)
NZRECE Journal, Vol. 13, 2010, pp. 17 – 28.

Key words:  child-rearing, Playcentre, Japan, parent support, cultural context

Abstract: Changing demographics of Japanese society since World War II has meant that fewer mothers of young children could rely on extended family networks to provide parenting advice and practical support. This has resulted in increasing isolation for these mothers or, as it has been termed in Japan, ‘child-rearing in a cell’. Playcentres were introduced to Japan in 2002 as parent support initiatives to address this issue and help isolated mothers build support networks. This paper reports on a recent study which looked at the impact on Japanese mothers of participation in a Playcentre. The results showed the mothers were motivated to attend by the opportunity to participate alongside their children and it was this active involvement that resulted in the formation of strong social and support networks. Their parenting confidence was also increased through the formal and informal education opportunities offered. These are indications that Playcentre can be viewed as successful in providing a tool for a Japanese mother to ‘break out of her cell’ and re-connect with the community. The results were compared with the New Zealand study of adult participation in Playcentre (Powell et al., 2005) and found to be similar in the way support networks were generated. There were some differences in emphasis between the two countries due to the collectivist nature of the Japanese culture versus the more individualist New Zealand culture, and the nature of the different parenting discourses. Ongoing research on the impact of Playcentres in Japan would be useful to confirm these preliminary results.

Perspectives on Inclusivity and Support in Organised and Informal Activities for Parents of Preschool Children

University of South Australia
NZRECE Journal, Vol. 13, 2010, pp. 29 – 42.

Key words:  playgroups, parents, social networks, support, fathers, parenting

Abstract: A focus on parents’ communities and social networks has increasingly become central to research on young children’s developmental contexts. In this paper interviews conducted with 26 participants in two playgroups and one neighbourhood social network were analysed to identify key aspects of social interaction associated with feelings of inclusion and exclusion. Benefits thought to derive from social interactions with other parents were also identified. Benefits experienced by participants included empathy, acceptance, a sounding board for trying out ideas, tips about solving specific childrearing problems and someone to mind their children for short periods. Where parent interaction was encouraged and facilitated by a group leader, there appeared to be a greater sense of belonging for adults. However, things did not always go smoothly leading in some cases to feelings of being judged, of not belonging, of being forced into a competitive situation vis à vis the children and of being made to feel that fulfilling one’s own social needs was inappropriate. Challenges for fathers of being connected with supportive social networks are also considered. Connections between some of these experiences and the broader social forces which promote particular ideas about successful parenting and childrearing are discussed. Suggestions are offered for activity coordinators and their support services. 

The Power of Discursive Practices:  Queering or Heteronormalising?

Kate Jarvis and Susan Sandretto
University of Otago
NZRECE Journal, Vol. 13, 2010, pp. 43 – 56.

Key words:  heteronormativity, heterosexual matrix, queer theory, feminist poststructuralist theory, discursive practices

Abstract: This paper is derived from a study conducted in Aotearoa New Zealand by the first author who, together with six early childhood teachers, explored the queer theoretical concept of heteronormativity. This concept refers to the idea that society polices sexualities, which ensures heterosexuality is perceived as the only ‘normal’ sexuality. Language and actions, or discursive practices, in society visibilise and therefore privilege the heterosexual subject over other sexual subjectivities. This paper examines the power of discursive practices to inform teaching in ways that visibilise or invisibilise diverse sexual as well as gendered lives using a feminist methodology and a queer and feminist poststructural theoretical framework. Exemplars of queer and heteronormalising discursive practices provided offer teachers an opportunity to examine how they enable children to think and act in ways that interrupt the policing of sexualities. The authors also contribute some thoughts about the benefits as well as challenges associated with using alternative theories and tools to queer, or further queer, learning environments.

Innovation and Self-Organisation: The Documentation of a Central Character Story

Elaine Mayo (University of Canterbury) and Kay Henson and Helen Smith (Kidsfirst Kindergartens Bush Street, Christchurch)
NZRECE Journal, Vol. 13, 2010, pp. 57 – 70.

Key words: stories, character, reflection, learning community, practitioner-research

Abstract: This paper describes a teaching innovation where a “Central Character” was interwoven with the stories shared in a kindergarten, and how that innovation was documented. The paper traces the origins and evolution of the notion of a Central Character, what directed it and what children, families and teachers learned through it. We found that the central character concept was the vehicle used by this kindergarten to build family connections and support holistic learning for children and their families. We gained deep understandings about the values, threads of learning and historical and environmental teaching practices that underpinned the use of Central Character stories. This paper explores some of the key methodological insights that guided and emerged from our research. We claim first that the sociocultural understandings of learning which underpin the early childhood curriculum point towards collaborative ways of researching and learning about the impacts of our practices as teachers and researchers, second that understandings of complexity thinking and theory about self-organising systems can enable teachers involved in practice-based research to be innovative in their investigations, and third, that the collective knowledge which emerges as we work together influences the culture of the learning community. 

Who is The Troll?  Children as Active Learners Presented as a Learning Story about the Troll from a Norwegian Barnehage

Liv Torunn Grindheim, Sidsel Hadler-Olsen and Modgunn Ohm
Bergen University College, Norway
NZRECE Journal, Vol. 13, 2010, pp. 71 – 86.

Key words:  learning story, narrative, learners, outdoors, dialogue, barnehage

Abstract: We present a case study about a child initiated project. In this project learning takes place among peers, outdoors, in a wood in Norway, searching for the Troll. We reveal the process of learning by combining the Learning Stories approach (Carr, 2001) and constructing of co-narratives. Learning is considered contextual and social and more than individual skills. From their common experiences the children narrated their learning through dialogues. Inspired by a mosaic approach (Clark & Moss, 2005) we reveal children’s different ways of communicating by discussion and making stories, drawings and photos. The case is built upon the teacher’s stories about her experiences in the project. Children are presented as active and competent learners, and we exemplify how teachers may work and scaffold children’s learning processes.

From a Good Idea to a Robust Research Design:  A Discussion of Challenges in Designing Early Childhood Research for Beginning Researchers

Claire McLachlan
Massey University College of Education, Palmerston North
NZRECE Journal, Vol. 13, 2010, pp. 87 – 100.

Key words: beginning researchers, research, design, mixed methods

Abstract: Designing and carrying out research in the area of early childhood education is one that is attempted by many, including experienced and beginning researchers, postgraduate and undergraduate students as well as by people working in a range of different early childhood services. For all, the principle of a robust design is key to successful data collection and analysis, but creating a strong design that is best suited to answering research questions and the research context can be challenging, particularly given ongoing tensions regarding the nature of appropriate educational research methods. Issues of epistemology, theoretical position, methodology and choice of methods for early childhood research will be explored in this paper, along with some working principles and practices for beginning researchers.

Discovering Meanings in Research with Children

Karen Liang Guo
Unitec Institute of Technology, New Zealand
NZRECE Journal, Vol. 13, 2010, pp. 101 – 112.

Key words: phenomenology, interpretive, meaning, child informants, participant perspectives, children’s voices

Abstract: Drawing on a qualitative research study this paper explores the aspect of ascribing meanings in research. It presents an example of research with young children which illustrates a ‘meaning-seeking’ experience. Ascribing meaning is an external realisation of an inner thought, with the emphasis on the uniqueness of children’s own voices and the researcher’s commitment to seeking information from children’s sociocultural contexts. A strong rationale for the importance of meaning in human experiences can be located in phenomenology. The idea of meaning as having its basis in social interactions has been manifested in the sociocultural paradigm. It is argued here that the phenomenological and sociocultural emphasis on ‘meaning’ as the core of life experiences constitutes a useful conceptual perspective which can guide research with children. This emphasis encourages researchers to explore research issues from research participants’ perspectives, grasp their interpretive frame, and understand the meanings that participants bring to them. This in turn provides a means for reaching a profound understanding of human actions, experiences and existence. 

Operationalising Social and Emotional Coping Competencies in Kindergarten Children

Jan Deans, Erica Frydenbergand Haruka Tsurutani
The University of Melbourne
NZRECE Journal, Vol. 13, 2010, pp. 113 – 124.

Key words: early childhood, coping, social-emotional competence

Abstract:  In order to assess a child’s competence in the social and emotional domains of development, specifically emotional recognition, regulation and expressiveness in interactions, it is necessary to have an understanding of the types of stresses and problems children face at that developmental stage. Building on the work of Frydenberg and Lewis (1993, 2008) in the child and adolescent coping arena, the purpose of this project has been to understand the coping actions of four and five year old children; in particular identify the ways in which the children describe their coping and how their parents’ descriptions concur and amplify these. The participants in the project were twenty Australian four to five-year-old children attending a three-day a week kindergarten program, and their parents. This paper presents an overview of the first phase of a three-phase research project and discusses the analysis of data collected via child interviews and a parent on-line survey. By expanding understandings of children’s coping strategies, the variety of ways in which children express their ideas about coping and parents views of their children’s coping, early childhood educators in both Australia and other countries can more effectively respond to the social emotional needs of young children. 

Physical Activity in the Early Childhood Education Centre Environment

Patricia Lucas and Grant Schofield
Auckland University of Technology
NZRECE Journal, Vol. 13, 2010, pp. 125 – 136.

Key words: young children, physical activity, environment, accelerometer

Abstract: This investigation describes the physical activity behaviours of children attending early childhood education centres and the possible influence of environmental factors on the levels of these behaviours. Participants (N=78) aged between 3 -5 years wore accelerometers for approximately 18 hours over several days of centre attendance. The raw accelerometer data was used to calculate minutes of sedentary, light, and moderate to vigorous physical activity. Physical environments of early childhood education settings were assessed using estimated measures of indoor and outdoor area and the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS). Overall a significant period of time was spent in sedentary activities and males were significantly more active than females. The results showed interesting relationships between physical activity and the various measures of indoor and outdoor space. This study raises issues regarding the amount of time children spent during the early childhood education centre day in sedentary activities. More work needs to be done to understand how this relates to total daily physical activity. How teachers utilise the environment to promote and deliver physical activity for young children in the early childhood education setting requires further investigation. 

What Makes a Teacher-Parent and Family Partnership?

Bill Hagan and Lindy Austin(Manukau Institute of Technology) and Marianne Mudaliar(Counties Manukau Kindergarten Association)
NZRECE Journal, Vol. 13, 2010, pp. 137 – 144.

Key words: academic-practitioner partnership, family involvement, parent-teacher communication, action-based research

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to investigate teacher-parent and family partnerships within two kindergarten settings. Working with families is one of the most important aspects of being an early childhood professional, but it is an area that teachers receive little preparation for (Nieto, 2004). This exploratory study focused on improvement of parent-teacher relationships at two kindergartens. An academic-practitioner partnership was formed to provide support to teachers in undertaking action research. Action-based research was thought to provide a useful approach for the teachers to investigate a range of value attributes such as participation, partnerships and connectedness with families and communities. As a result of their action-based research, the teachers realised that having sound relationships with parents and whānau (including extended family members) necessarily underpinned all educational conversations. 

Teaching to Care:  Emotional Interactions between Preschool Children and their Teachers

Maria L. Ulloa, Ian M. Evans, and FionaParkes
Massey University, Wellington
NZRECE Journal, Vol. 13, 2010, pp. 145 – 156.

Key words: ecological, emotional, interactions, preschool, development

Abstract: This study investigated interactions between teachers and children at three early childhood centres over a period of 10 weeks. We aimed to explore what aspects of teacher–child interactions influence preschool children’s emotional competence, and how these experiences can be harnessed to improve children’s emotional understanding in everyday situations. It was observed that the quality of these interactions also coloured the emotional atmosphere of preschool classrooms. A naturalistic observational methodology was implemented, and observations were conducted on a time sampling basis by two observers. Results suggest that the settings promoting interactions which consider children’s emotions, and which used more responsive strategies such emotion coaching were observed to have less aggressive conflict and more often worked towards resolution. These findings highlight the importance of teacher’s strategies when facing children’s emotional communications and the quality of interactions provided to support young children’s emotional competence. Preschoolers would benefit from these emotion learning opportunities. Teachers would benefit from further training in emotional awareness in order to meet children’s emotional needs. Differences identified between the centres have provided interesting possibilities for further research.


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