Does Child-Centered Teaching Require as Much Specialty as It Thought?: Pre-Service EC Teacher’s Views on Co-Constructing, Deconstructing, and Community Building

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Üzüm S., Yapar N. B., Demircan H. Ö.

Emerging Researchers' Conference, ERC2023, Glasgow, England, 21 - 22 August 2023, pp.1

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Glasgow
  • Country: England
  • Page Numbers: pp.1
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


Introduction & Literature

Considering a child's developmental characteristics during the preschool years supports teachers in effectively interacting with children and constructing effective educational and training programs (Trawick-Smith, 2017). Thus, when creating learning opportunities for children, it should be remembered that each child's developmental speed and learning method is unique. In other words, it is essential that teachers are aware of the developmental characteristics of the children in order to successfully instruct and educate preschoolers (Berk, 2016; Bredekamp, 2016). To support children's learning in the best possible way, preschool teachers should offer learning experiences using different teaching methods that put children at the center. It is crucial that the activities included in the education programs are carried out with very different methods for children to benefit from their environment at the highest level (Güven et al., 2013). Additionally, learning experiences must be presented to preschool children with planned and programmed activities by implementing different methods (Dinç et al., 2011). 

When the studies are examined, the importance of preschool teachers knowing and applying methods suitable for children's characteristics in different activities comes to the fore (Güven et al., 2013). Since it is necessary to create activities where teachers will get to know more complex teaching methods closely, they should be used in ECE settings. Although there are a wide variety of complex teaching methods in the literature, studies have revealed that preschool teachers use a limited number of learning methods (Güven et al., 2013), which are mostly simple and subtle verbal teaching methods (Mac Naughton & Williams, 2009). Considering teachers' preferences for these subtle and simple teaching methods in the education process, these can form the foundations of the more complex ones: co-constructing, deconstructing, and community building as instances of specialist teaching methods. 

Co-constructing is a way to highlight children’s voices and perspectives because it involves active participation in the learning process, where they establish meaning and build knowledge about the world together with the staff (Mac Naughton & Williams, 2009). Similarly, deconstructing serves as a way of thinking critically about social relationships, enabling children to comprehend their everyday interactions with others and the world (Mac Naughton & Williams, 2009). Finally, community building refers to the staff and children groups developing and improving together through learning that gives children a sense of belonging (Mac Naughton & Williams, 2009). All these three are considered specialist and child-centered teaching methods (Mac Naughton & Williams, 2009). Including them in the early childhood education undergraduate programs would be beneficial for pre-service teachers to be familiar with these methods, which promote critical thinking, analytical research, interest (Hesson & Shad, 2007), and learning (Deci & Ryan, 2000) in the classroom. Within this purpose, this qualitative study aimed to explore the co-constructing, deconstructing, and community building as child-centered specialist teaching methods from the perspectives of early childhood pre-service teachers. 

It is significant to start these implementations with a quality undergraduate education since they allow learners to build their own learning and understanding by putting them in the position of constructors (Darling-Hammond, 2009). It is thought that when specialist child-centered teaching methods: co-constructing, deconstructing, and community building (Mac Naughton & Williams, 2009) are presented, it can contribute to the professional development of pre-service teachers. Within this context, the research questions were determined as follows:

RQ.1.: What are pre-service EC teachers' views regarding specialist child-centered teaching methods: co-constructing, deconstructing, and community building?

RQ.2.: To what extent does the theoretical information given and discussed in the course contribute to pre-service teachers transferring their knowledge from theory to practicality in using specialist child-centered teaching methods: co-constructing, deconstructing, and community building?

Methodology, Methods, Research Instruments or Sources Used
The current study is designed as phenomenological research because it aims to describe the essence of pre-service teachers' experiences and to discuss the meaning of these experiences by using their statements and works (Creswell, 2014; Wilson, 2015). For this purpose, data were collected from the pre-service teachers (N=20) taking the "Teaching Methods in ECE" course regarding their views on specialist child-centered teaching methods: co-constructing, deconstructing, and community building. Thus, convenience sampling was preferred for a feasible data collection procedure, and volunteer participation was ensured through a consent form in the current study.

The data was collected through five different instruments. Firstly, an open-ended survey consisting of questions about the specialist child-centered teaching methods and their use was applied to the participants at the beginning and the end of the semester. Secondly, in-class small group activities were presented with various case scenarios that could take place in an ECE setting, and they were asked to solve them using each of the specialist child-centered teaching methods. Thirdly, each participant was asked to evaluate their own solution with a self-reflection form and the other group's solution with a peer evaluation form. Fourthly, in the last two weeks of the course, participants were asked to write an activity plan for each of these specialist child-centered teaching methods and present their activities in the class in a discussion environment. Finally, the participants were randomly grouped for the focus group meetings related to the three child-centered specialist teaching methods at the end of the semester, and these sessions were audio-recorded. All data were analyzed through discourse and content analysis techniques. Using different data sources for each analysis aimed to contribute to the study's credibility.

The data collected during the analysis is planned to be coded independently and simultaneously by two researchers with a thematic coding method to contribute to the study's confirmability. The coding will be evaluated and unified in meetings with three researchers. Content analysis is planned to analyze open-ended surveys, activity plans, and in-class group activities. Moreover, the discourse analysis technique is planned to be used to analyze self-reflections/peer evaluations, transcriptions of focus group meetings, and verbal feedback during the presentations of activity plans. 

Conclusions, Expected Outcomes or Findings
The study results are expected to provide a basis for a deeper understanding of the necessity to include practical application and reflective practice opportunities in early childhood teacher education. At the end of the study, it is expected that the pre-service teachers’ views on understanding, evaluating, and implementing specialist child-centered teaching methods will change positively. With this study, it is expected that the theoretical information provided and discussed in the course will contribute to the extent of the transfer of knowledge from theory to practice by using specialist child-centered teaching methods with the support of classroom practices. Furthermore, it is expected to determine pre-service teachers' views on the applicability of specialist child-centered teaching methods and the specialty required for their practice.

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