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Interactions that Support Children’s Social and Emotional Learning in Preschool.
Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Education.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9182-6403
Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Education.
2015 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Preschool lays the foundations for the first part of a child’s development and learning, should be enjoyable and secure, and should provide pedagogical activities for all children attending. In preschool there are also children with behavioral difficulties who, too often, risk a lack of understanding, stress, and condemnation from preschool teachers as well as peers and parents and thus risk exclusion (Johannesson, 1997). A better adapted approach and activities for these children can create a preschool that includes everyone. Developing abilities in preschool that strongly and robustly support broad control processes, enabling behavioral regulation across cognitive and emotional domains, are described in different scientific disciplines: psychology, psychiatry, sociology, and education (e.g., Collins, 2013, Elsby et al., 2011; Rosenthal & Gatt, 2010; Stier et al., 2012).

The purpose of this study, as a preschool development project, was to examine an approach and an educational platform in which children’s thoughts, ideas, and opinions play a crucial role in every situation contributing to preschool becoming more open and inclusive for all children. The approach and the educational platform were built on empathetic leadership in preschool, confirmation of all children’s feelings, interaction with children with behavioral difficulties, and solving conflict without scapegoats (Algozzine & Algozzine, 2014).

The research questions were as follows:

  1. What impact do alternative responses that are engaging and empathetic rather than critical, questioning, designating, and uncomprehending have on the children?

  2. How can preschool teachers act preventively and find solutions to difficult situations that arise in the child’s everyday life at preschool instead of waiting until the conflict arises and only then act?

  3. Which solutions to children’s individual problems could be found through cooperation and dialogue with the actual child in need instead of through “packaged solutions”?

The theoretical framework ofthis study was the communicative relational perspective (Ahlberg, 2013), which is closely linked tosocio-cultural theory (Säljö, 2000). Withinthe communicative relational perspective, participation,communication, andlearning are viewed as an interlacedtriad that is central to the study ofcommunicative contexts (linguistic and socialcontexts thatsupportand shapeinstitutional activities). How individualsinteract, create meaning, and experience andunderstandtheir situation was also studied.The study hasthereforejoinedan individual perspective witha structuralperspective by assessing schools as social institutions, social practice,the needs of individuals,and conditions.

                      This theoretical framework provides an opportunity to study communication and relationships at different levels and contexts of the activities in preschool. School activities are studied in relation to school organization as well as the individual child. This perspective provides the opportunity to examine a child’s difficulties in relation to the whole school, as well as to the situation in which the difficulty arises. The starting point is the interactions that occur between the child and the surroundings to create knowledge of various communication processes in the school and the school’s meeting with the individual child.

Other researchers have also claimed that special educational needs are no longer focused on curing or amelioration of the child by interventions based on medicine and educational psychology. Special educational needs are instead viewed as social constructions (Ainscow, 1998; Clark et al., 1998; Skrtic, 1991) rather than as individual shortcomings. These perspectives are characterized mainly in that they move the problem from the individual and focus instead on the product of social processes (Clark et al., 1998; Nilholm, 2006). The communicative relational perspective also focuses on social processes but also relations and interactions (Ahlberg, 2013) that make it possible to view it as an antireductionist theoretical framework (Skidmore 1996).

Methods and Methodology

The empirical data for this study comes from a video-ethnographic study in a preschool with 18 children between 1 and 5 years old in which different everyday situations of interactions are studied. Participants were recorded in their natural settings to allow interactional practices to be contextually explored. Video documentation as an ethnographic study of interaction and communication has proven to be particularly valuable for research on interactions with children in schools and preschools (Alexandersson, 2009).

During the spring semester of 2014, field notes and observations in the form of writing and filming were conducted. Interactions between child and child and between preschool teacher and child were observed to visualize and analyze different approaches. The observations were carried out throughout the whole day at the preschool, both in planned activities as well as in spontaneous play, at routine situations, at meals, during drop-off and pick-up, and indoors and outdoors. The observations were processed in the form of reflection, analysis, and written documentation, and they were also linked to the curriculum and to previous research.

This has resulted in extensive material consisting of 45 videos and 57 sets of field notes of different interactions, which made possible a return to the empirical basis after new questions were raised as well as reflexivity in the analysis—which is central to ethnographic studies characterized by not being controlled by a specific analytical interest but an openness to what is happening “in situ” (Baszanger & Dodier, 1997). The way this study approaches the field can be described as using the ethnographical methods of video-recording and observations to study interactions in preschool (Silverman, 2006). The videos were analyzed ethnographically (i.e., qualitatively) to generate a set of insights. The video data was coded to provide a detailed second-by-second analysis of the behaviors and results. To gain a deeper understanding of the content of the videos, the field notes also underwent content analysis. This involves quantity contained and examined methodically, with texts interpreted incrementally and data classification for easier identification of patterns and themes. The content analytical model allows finding clear distinctive categories, narrowing them, and making them specific (Ahuvia, 2008). Overall, these empirical materials are the basis of our results.

Expected Outcomes and Results

The purpose of this study was to gain more knowledge about how to approach and interact with children with behavior problems in preschools in order to ensure the children’s inclusion, security, self-esteem, and development. The analysis shows that the way in which preschool teachers respond to children in every situation of interaction has an impact on children. An empathetic leader asks the children and makes use of their competencies and experiences in order to develop relationships and interactions within the group. When leadership and empathy go hand in hand, conditions for both group and individual to develop their social skills are created. This is the ability to ‘Learn to LiveTogether’ (Rosenthal & Gatt, 2010).

Another conclusion is that those preschool teachersgive childrengood opportunitiesto learnabout themselves, interact with others,and gain insightabout their own and others’feelings, needs, and limits in anopen and respectfulclimate (Stier et al., 2012). They becomeengaged andinvolved ineach other and canreflect onwhy theyfeel and reactas they do.Children’swillingness and abilityto cooperate witheach other and withpreschool teachersdeveloped powerfully.Even in interactionindifficult andcontroversial situations, the children oftenswitchedfromdifficult emotionsand resistancetopositive feelings andconstructive action.

The analysis also shows the impact for children whose surroundingsoften areat odds with, for example,activechildrenreactingwith unexpectedlystrong feelings.To respond to thesechildren’s behaviorwithirritation, criticism, and condemnationwillmake the childfeeloffended, insulted,andleft out.One solution is not toput the blame onthe child,but tofind other ways to deal with the situation. It is alwaysthe preschool teacherwho has theresponsibility for how aconflictdevelops, and their task is togently andrespectfullyguide childrenthrough the conflictso that no oneisoffended. This study is important for teachers in preschool and gives examples of constructive action, particularly for children with behavioral problems.

Intent of publication: 1. International journal of Inclusive Eduaction,  or 2) International journal of Early Childhood

 

 

References

Ahlberg, A. (2013). Specialpedagogik i ideologi, teori och praktik—att bygga broar. Stockholm: Liber.

Ainscow, M. (1998). Would it work in theory? Arguments for practitioner research and theorising in the special needs field. In C. Clark, A. Dyson, and A. Millward (Eds.), Theorising special education (pp. 123–137). London: Routledge.

Alexandersson, U. (2009). Sofias situationer för samspel. In A. Ahlberg (Ed.), Specialpedagogisk forskning. En mångfasetterad utmaning (pp. 167–183). Lund: Studentlitteratur.

Algozzine, K. & Algozzine, B. (2014). Schoolwide prevention and proactive behavior interventions that work. In P. Gardner, J. M. Kauffman, and J. Elliott (Eds.), The Sage handbook of emotional and behavioral difficulties (pp. 55-72). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications Ltd.

Ahuvia, A. (2008). Traditional, interpretative and reception based content analyses: Improving the ability of content analysis to address issues of pragmatic and theoretical concern. In R. Franzosi (Ed.), Content analysis, Vol. 1 (pp. 183–202). London: Sage.

Baszanger, I., & Dodier, N. (1997). Ethnography. Relating the part to the whole. In D. Silverman (Ed.), Qualitative research: Theory, method and practice (pp. 8–23). London: Sage.

Clark, C., Dyson, A., & Millward, A. (1998). Theorising special education? Time to move on? In C. Clark, A. Dyson, & A. Millward, (Eds.), Theorising special education (pp. 156–173). London: Routledge.

Collins, B. (2013). Empowerment of children through circle time: Myth or reality? Irish Educational Studies, 2013, 32(4), 421–436. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03323315.2013.854459

Espy, K. A., Sheffield, T., Wiebe, S., Clark, C., & Moehr, M. (2011). Executive control and dimensions of problem behaviors in preschool children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 52(1), 33–46.

Nilholm, C. (2006). Special education, inclusion and democracy. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 21(4), 431–445.

Rosenthal, M., & Gatt, L. (2010). “Learning to Live Together”: Training early childhood educators to promote socio-emotional competence of toddlers and preschool

children. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 18(3), 373–390.

Skidmore, D. (1996). Towards an integrated theoretical framework for research into special educational needs. European Journal of Special Education, 11(1), 33–47.

Sandberg, A. (2014). Med sikte på förskolan—barn i behov av stöd. Lund: Studentlitteratur.

Silverman, D. (2006). Interpretation qualitative data. London: Sage Publications Ltd.

Skrtic, T. (1991). Behind special education. Denver: Love Publishing Company.

Stier, J., Tryggvason, M.-T., Sandstrom, M., & Sandberg, A. (2012). Diversity management in preschools using a critical incident approach. Intercultural Education, 34(4), 285–296.

Säljö, R. (2000). Lärande i praktiken. Ett sociokulturellt perspektiv. Stockholm: Prisma.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015.
Keyword [en]
behavioral problems, inclusion, interaction, preschool, video-ethnographic study
National Category
Educational Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-27555OAI: oai:DiVA.org:miun-27555DiVA: diva2:923566
Conference
ECER´s 31 th Congress, Budapest, August 2015.
Available from: 2016-04-26 Created: 2016-04-26 Last updated: 2016-09-29Bibliographically approved

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