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Partnerships in Learning: linking early childhood services, families and schools for optimal development. Dr Jean Ashton with Ass Prof Christine Woodrow, Ass Prof Christine Johnston, Ass Prof June Wangmann, Ms Tanya James & Ms Lin Singh University of Western Sydney - Australia.

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Partnerships in Learning: linking early childhood services, families and schools for optimal development

Dr Jean Ashton

with Ass Prof Christine Woodrow, Ass Prof Christine Johnston, Ass Prof June Wangmann, Ms Tanya James & Ms Lin Singh

University of Western Sydney - Australia


Focus of the study l.jpg
Focus of the study families and schools for optimal development

  • Our study identifies and explores the relationship between families, E/C and school teachers in children’s first year of school.

  • It is based on the premise that collaboration and dialogue between all involved in supporting young children’s developing cognition are necessary to provide a secure, relevant learning environment.


Vygotsky understood learning as l.jpg
Vygotsky understood learning as… families and schools for optimal development

  • cooperative,

  • communicative,

  • collaborative,

  • interactive (Dahlberg, Moss & Pence, 1999),

  • providing or being provided with tools and resources for exploring, problem solving and making meaning


Individual understanding l.jpg
Individual understanding… families and schools for optimal development

  • or “individual consciousness is built from outside through relations with others” (Vygotsky, 1997, p. xxiv) as a product of mediated activity.

  • mediators use a range of psychological tools and interpersonal communications to help the learner achieve understanding.


Supporting cognition l.jpg
Supporting cognition families and schools for optimal development

  • Jerome Bruner’s metaphor of “scaffolding”, encapsulates the idea of mediation in cognition through the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).

  • Scaffolding provides “consciousness for two” (Bruner, 1986, p. 75), until such time as cognitive mastery is achieved.


Consciousness for two l.jpg
“consciousness for two” families and schools for optimal development

  • Describes the interactions between

    • parents and children,

    • educators and students

  • It is the kind of mediation or scaffolding of cognitive activity which

    • fosters learning from earliest years

    • sets pattern of self regulation or meta-cognition for the years ahead


Optimal conditions for supporting cognition in school l.jpg
Optimal conditions for supporting cognition in school… families and schools for optimal development

  • are likely when the “vicarious consciousness” (Bruner, 1986), scaffolding or cognitive supports and the base for understanding are congruent with those already familiar to the learner.

  • occur when there is congruence between home and school.


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Congruence… families and schools for optimal development

  • between home and school practices are highly correlated with student success (Rossi & Montgomery, 1994).


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Lack of congruence or dissonance.. families and schools for optimal development

  • attributed to family and school differences can affect children’s and families’ values, skills, and learning styles.


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Educational values amongst families attributed to… families and schools for optimal development

  • educational history

  • socioeconomic status

  • culture and ethnicity


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Educational values of schools… families and schools for optimal development

  • are inherent in preferred or dominant discourses

  • traditionally middle class

  • hold embodied message of preferment, power and control (Gee,1996; 2004)

  • contribute to maintenance of hierarchical structures and distribution of social power (Ashton & Cairney, 2001).


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Lack of congruence therefore… families and schools for optimal development

  • can lead to

    • compromised relationships between educators and parents,

    • false assumptions about families’ aspirations for their children

    • erroneous feelings of dominance and authority by both parties.


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Children benefit most … families and schools for optimal development

  • when parents and teachers

    • share educational goals and

    • engage in effective communication (Christensen, 2002).

  • when there is continuity in programming and pedagogy across the early years with

    • parents,

    • early childhood teachers and

    • school teachers.

  • These factors critical for children whose circumstances may place them at an educational

    disadvantage.


Partnerships in learning transition to school l.jpg
Partnerships in learning – Transition to school families and schools for optimal development

  • Much research has focused on …

    • children’s readiness for school,

    • teachers’ views of children’s knowledge and skills at school entry

    • schools’ readiness for children


For seamless transitions l.jpg
For seamless transitions… families and schools for optimal development

  • program continuity

  • recognition and response to individual learning needs,

  • ongoing communication - teachers in E/C and schools,

  • preparation of children for the transition

  • continued involvement of parents in transition and later learning

  • trusting relationships between families and teachers in E/C services and schools.


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Methodology families and schools for optimal development

  • semi structured interviews - 9 kindergarten teachers

  • teachers invited to:

    • discuss perceptions of children’s adjustment to school

      (e.g. How well do you think students were prepared for the start of school this year?)

    • discuss effects of a range of early childhood experiences on school readiness

      (e.g. What are some factors that contribute to children being prepared for school?)

  • data were analysed using an interpretative inquiry method (Lambert, 2003).


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In general we found that… families and schools for optimal development

  • families and some school teachers saw the value of early childhood services in supporting children’s transition to school,

    • HOWEVER

  • continuum of ideas, philosophies and experiences between the early childhood years and school which would lead, in Vygotsky’s (1997) view, to optimal learning, was not evident.


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Specifically we found… families and schools for optimal development

  • a very diverse community in terms of socioeconomics, social behaviours, living and parenting skills

  • relatively high educational levels (Uni & TAFE) amongst mothers

  • some degree of poverty or neglect amongst children (inadequate clothing, no breakfast or lunch)

  • Speech/language problems not associated with multiculturalism


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We also found… families and schools for optimal development

  • parents and some teachers valued E/C experiences

  • little communication between school and E/C services

  • significant misunderstandings associated with focus of E/C services,

  • lack of interest in what occurs in services

  • mistrust of reports from the educators about children who had attended E/C services.


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Collaboration with EC services families and schools for optimal development

  • Valued by some school teachers

  • Detection of additional needs early important

  • Initiative for communication generally taken by EC teachers

  • Other teachers want no contact with E/C

  • Scornful of “reports” from E/C services


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Collaboration and partnership families and schools for optimal development

  • Essential for mediation of higher mental functions

  • Necessary to establish congruence between values of home, E/C services and school

  • Contributes to quality experiences for children’s overall development

  • Provide a balance between new and continuing experiences


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Collaboration and partnership families and schools for optimal development

  • Hindered by

    • Disregard for E/C experiences

    • Limited appreciation for families’ social, cultural and historical factors

    • Limited awareness of E/C services and their function

    • Lack of trust between E/C and school teachers and families


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We found an ambivalence… families and schools for optimal development

  • on the part of school teachers to the role and contribution of teachers working in prior to school settings.

  • this finding suggests how far the field has still to travel to achieve seamless transitions between the early childhood experience and that of the school.


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Conclusion families and schools for optimal development

  • Mediating children’s developing cognition through scaffolded experiences from a Vygotskian perspective, can become a shared process, relevant to children’s lives, honouring to families and reflecting congruent pedagogies to most effectively support children’s learning.


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