Education action research

Introduction & Background

The writer of this paper has chosen to investigate the nature of teacher- child interactions within the early childhood education centre where the writer has worked as nursery teacher.  More specifically this paper will focus on how teacher’s engage in more authentic conversations with the children in classroom. Having conducted an elaborate literature review in addition to the researcher’s professional experience the issue of teacher’s beliefs and academic credentials has emerged as a stronger factor in teacher – child interactions and engagement in ECD settings.  In particular, the writer has developed interest in examining the issue of traditional beliefs on child rearing and its interaction with the teacher’s credentials.

Literature Review

The purpose of this literature review section is to examine the work of other scholars in regard to this topic area. It contains the summary of data collection methods, research methods use, the findings, the analysis of these results and conclusions. The issue of teacher’s engagement and interaction with their pupils in classroom setting is considered as an important factor in child learning and general development of cognitive abilities, social skills, emotions, attitudes and behaviors. This ties in with Lillian Katz‘s argument that 80% of teacher’s interactions with their pupils are directive.  Therefore, teachers ought to engage in more authentic conversations with their children while in class.  However, the nature of this interaction and engagement is subject to cultural setting, traditional beliefs and the teacher’s perceptions.

Teacher’s engagement and interaction

Higgins’s study (2011) mainly seeks to investigate the development of teacher-student relationships and the understandings that teachers and students have of those relationships. This research is relevant to the writer’s professional practice because it looks at the role of the interactive relationship between the teacher and child in classroom setting and how this relationship interplays. Theoretically, this research topic relates more to the classroom setting where the relationship between the teacher and is paramount. The researchers also employed the individual interviews to collect data in addition to classroom observations which was conducted for one week. The researcher also interviewed individuals through semi-structured format. These interviews then transcribed, interpreted and analyzed.

However, the observation methodology may not produce the desired results because people behave differently when they are aware of being watched. Therefore, the teacher and pupils may behave differently when they are know that someone is watching them in the class room. In relation to this specific paper, Higgins research  shed light on how to carry on out such experiential / action research by using a combination of research methodologies and data collection instrument, however the results may not be same. Generally behave differently from the normal self when they know that someone is watching them.

Traditional Beliefs, perceptions & credentials

Furthermore, the effective interaction and engage between the teacher and pupil would depend on many factors among them traditional beliefs, personal perceptions and the teacher’s level of training. The research conducted by Herzog & Ward et al (2004) has examined the relationship between teachers’ beliefs and intentions in regard to the interactive teaching. This topic is significant to early childhood educational setting because contemporary research findings by various scholars have found out that early childhood educators play an integral role in the education of preschoolers by interacting with them. Herzog & Ward et al (2004) have argued that well organized care system has the potentially to produce “positive outcomes for both children and classrooms” and also the adult’s involvement in children’s education has the potentiality to produce quality in the classrooms.

Herzog & Ward et al (2004)’s research does indicate that teachers beliefs does reinforce their intentions to deliver quality education care. This study was done through survey methodology on 71 research samples of ECD educators to participate in the study. The participants were teachers who have worked with children aged between 3-5 years old. The survey specifically examines the participants to give out details of their highest degree they have obtained, the topic they covered in their degree, the ECD teaching Certificate they hold and a list of conferences, workshops and classes they have attended. The study assumed that teachers with higher level of education have a deeper understanding of child development issues.

This study does rightly show that teachers with deeper training and higher education are able to interact with the childhood in appropriate manner than those who do not. This paper does show that the teacher’s interaction with children is likely to have a bearing on the developmental outcomes. This interaction can be done through verbal and non verbal communications as well as observations. These observations may seem to have negative effects on the children’s language development. It also indicates that social conversations do not harm child growth and does not enhance either.

Required Areas of Children learning

There are many aspects of child’s learning that requires teacher’s personal engagement and interaction with the child, which would include reading of story books, arithmetic and the use of ICT.  Regard to reading of story books, Gosen et al (2009) seeks to examine the hypothesis that children’s interaction with teachers at the Kindergarten contributes to children’s knowledge and development. Gosen et al’s papers has indicated that reading aloud  through interaction and directive from the teacher has contributed much to the learning of children and cognitive development because allows them to become competent and fine turned in oral proficiency and  adapt to the linguistic level of the child. Gosen et al has argued that much of the contemporary research tend to focus much on the adults behaviors in interacting with children, but add rather that children themselves are powerful plays in the teacher- pupils.

The participants were asked to read aloud two books in one week which is videotaped and a total of 24 books in 12 weeks. Goshen’s findings expresses similar views to Lillian Katz’s argument which purports that children learn better through guided participation although in the Kindergarten stage learning takes place in a non programmed and informal manner. Although, the writer of this paper does not have problem with findings, the methods used to gather and analyze data may not reflect the real factors about children’s cognitive development by using adults as research subjects.

Campbell’s (2009) paper examines how early childhood teachers interact with the preschool children to provide technology based learning approach. This paper is based on innovative pilot project that was conducted at the University of Canberra with  a view of providing pre-service early childhood teachers with the skills, confidence and ideological change required to include technology enhanced learning as part of the early childhood curriculum. The researchers here have used the narrative inquiry to provide and explore individual meaning to the use to computers for learning. The data was collected through semi structured interviews with the lecturer of the intensive LwT program and the ECD course convener.

The participant observation method was also used on ECD teachers. The research also employed the thematic analysis of the weekly entries in the learning diaries of the 60 Early Childhood students who had enrolled on the intensive course program. The data obtained from these feedback surveys were then fed into examine through thematic analysis. The results from the findings shows that the use of ICT is effective in promoting positive learning amongst the student and course the teacher’s participation played an integral role.

However, the teachers who are not conversant with the ICT experienced anxiety and stress, lack of confidence and fear, and some even rejected it completely. The weakness of ICT to teach or enhance learning has been identified in the lack of appropriate educational hardware and software which are relevant to learning and teaching. This study has indicated that while the young children may enjoy learning through the ICT, most teachers are terrified about the idea.

Traditional Child rearing beliefs affects

In one way of another, the traditional child rearing beliefs is believed to have a bearing on how the professionally trained teachers provide learning, deliver their teaching programs and offer services of care to their children in class. Betawi (2010) has investigated the relationship between teachers’ credentials and teacher’s childrearing beliefs and preschooler’s social development at Jordan/Amman private preschool settings.           This paper has touched on the issue of teacher’s beliefs and academic qualification which play an important role in the social development learning experiences of children in the ECD setting. The researchers used various research methodologies and data collection instruments to obtain data and also to analyze the results.  For instance, the question about child rearing beliefs and the Teacher’s credentials were assessed through (PM) Parental Modernity, while the Young Children’s social development was assessed through the use of Social Skills Improvement System and analysis of possible relationships was done through multiple regressions.

Research topic & Research statement

Teacher ‘s engagement with their pupil is seen as positive factor in then delivery of ECD teaching programs and provision of care which in the view of scholars like Lillian Katz, such interactive ought to be more directive in approach. In other words, teacher should provide direction on how the learning process is being implemented in classroom settings. Moreover, the literature review that the researcher has conducted on this topic has helped to refocus and sharpen the research statement and topic to be explored further by this action research.

The research statement and topic reads as follows;

What role does the teacher’s beliefs and credentials have in facilitating and developing positive learning for preschoolers in the early child educational settings.

Research Questions:

The research questions to be explored are

1). What are the traditional beliefs of child rearing and how do they manifest in an ECD setting?

2). Should the professionally trained teachers include traditional beliefs in caring and teaching preschoolers?

3). What types of care programs should teachers provide as part of their professional teaching practice?

4). Does it matter whether a teacher has low or higher academic credentials? What impact does this have on the preschooler’s learning, behaviors and general development?

The Significance / Benefits of the Study:

This study aims to contribute to the academic, professional and research work in the field of Early Childhood Education. This project has adopted and developed a point of view that teachers beliefs and academic credentials play an important role not only informing how teachers interact or engage with their pupils but has a direct impact on the learning outcomes.

The author is supporting Lillian Katz‘s argument that 80% of teacher’s interactions with their pupils are directive.  Therefore, teachers ought to engage in more authentic conversations with their children while in class.  This study is beneficial to different stakeholders both in the field of education and community in general in following ways;

A).To the education  officials and policy makers it will show them the importance of supporting and funding Preschool teachers to access further education and provide them with the teaching resources they need.

B). To ECD teachers and participants, this research will provide them with the appropriate measures for improving their teaching and learning performances, and also on how to provide care for preschoolers in the classrooms settings.

C). To the community , this research will become a tool for enlightening the parents and the community at large to by creating awareness concerning the impact of traditional child rearing beliefs and the teachers beliefs on the behaviour, educational development and the general welfare of children in the preschool settings. These research findings can be used as a tool for advocating change in the methods of teaching delivery, care system and parents / community attitudes.

Research Methods

This research will be conducted for a period of three months through Survey Questions and case studies.  The survey method will employ to get the views of the teachers which will be administered through semi structured questionnaires to obtain data from participants. A Questionnaire (which is attached in the appendix) in most cases includes a set of written questions which are restructured by the researcher to extra information from the respondents, (Adams et al, 2012 & Boudah, 2011). The survey questions research is considered by social scientists as the most effective method of obtain data from people and analyze their general views, experiences and attitudes (Adams, 2012 & Boudah, 2011).  However, surveys are not effective when it comes to measuring the feelings, attitudes and beliefs of the individuals being studied with relation to a complex social phenomenon (Barbie, 2013).

Research Approach

            This research paper has adopted the Qualitative approach. Qualitative research deals with quality of the data in order to investigate a topic like children’s relationship. It mainly focuses on the understanding of the meaning and making sense of the issue being studied. The researcher intends to employ the qualitative approach to understand the phenomena of teacher – pupil’s interaction within the ECD setting (Edwards, 2010).  According to Johnson & Christensen (2011) qualitative data must be prepared, organized and presented in an appropriate source of information like book form or computer before they are interpreted and analyzed.  In most cases, it goes hand in hand with the interpretivist philosophy so as to produce meanings and understandings (Hughes, 2010, p .59). The Interprevist research philosophy is mainly concerned with how people make sense of circumstances by focusing on relationships. This approach uses the participant’s local knowledge and circumstances which are more specific to the setting where the research is being conducted (Hughes, 2010. p. 42).

Research Data Collection

The data will collected mainly from as sample of 20 ECD Teachers from different schools in Melbourne through in depth Interviews and participant Observation. These participants will be recruited through writing. The writer intends to write letters and sent them to various ECD centers as asking them to accept my application to conduct the research in their respective schools. The Questionnaire (attached in the Appendix) will be used to extra information from the participants (Edwards, 2010).

The researcher will also employ the participant observation method to collect data by being involved in the teaching interaction process while listening, enquiring, looking and recording all proceedings on the context. Participant observation has been widely used in social science research as a means of collecting data. This method is quite effective in watching and participating in group activities and relationships and also by directly engaged on all the occurrences. Researchers such as Adams et al (2012) and Boudah (2011) have recommended participant observation the best method for engaging with the research subjects and at the time exploring their beliefs and attitudes especially in education research setting. However, this method has weakness when it comes to the issues of reliability of the data, given that this type research cannot be replicated in a different setting (DeWalt & DeWalt, 2011).

Data Analysis and Interpretation

Data analysis and interpretation are part of understanding and applying the result to its purpose in a logical sequence manner. It is about using the information to make appropriate decisions which in this case would relate to informing teaching practice or arriving to general conclusions. The researcher intends to use Mac Naughton & Hughes ideas on recurring themes. Thematic analysis will be used to interpret the results from the research process. These themes will be disseminating through the living educational theory which is useful in educational action research. By applying this educational theory, the researcher will be able to find meaning that is relevant to teacher student interaction model (Schram, 2006).

Ethical implications of this research

Just like other research, this study will have ethical implications which will be addressed in this paper. The researcher will carry out this project according to the research protocols, codes of practices and ethical guidelines aimed at protecting both the researcher and research subjects concerning moral decisions that are likely to arise from this study such as;

a)                  Informed Consent:  The researcher will ask for consent from the participants before engaging with them and visiting their work places. This consent must be provided for through writing or verbally. In addition, given that the researcher will be observing children directly, there is need to write to the school authorities and the parent of children being observed (Farrell, 2005).

b)                   Confidentiality:  This about the participants that any information shared with the researcher will not be passed on to the outsiders. The names of all the participants will remain anonymous and their identities will not be revealed to any organization or thirty parties without their approval or in the case of children full approval from parents and school authorities (Farrell, 2005).

c)                  Deception: The researcher promises not use deception or false impression to obtain information or share information with outsiders or manipulating the research results to produce what the researcher wanted to have. The researcher will not abuse the privilege given to coerce the participants to do the contrary or offer them money to take part in research process (Dockett et al, 2009).

d)                  Plagiarism: This is about using the ideas of someone else without giving credit where it is due or acknowledging the source. Plagiarism is simply stealing someone’s ideas or imitating their views, languages and thoughts whilst pretending that they are ours (Johnson Christensen, 2011 p.100).

e)                   Privacy: This has to do with respecting the opinion and views of other people and share them in public through publication or broadcast (Dockett, 2009).

Analysis of the Research and Methodologies

This research proposal promises to be effective and is likely explore this issue about the traditional beliefs in teaching practice has caught the attention of many scholars all over the world.  This study will generally examine an area believed to have an impact on teacher student relationship in a teaching environment. The relationship between teacher and student within the context of teaching is widely covered in the literature. However, this paper seeks to examine aspect of the issues touching on this relationship that is likely to affect the delivery of teaching programs.

The proposed methodologies for undertaking this study such as surveys, participant observant, interviews are widely accepted and recognized in the field of social science and action research in education. The narrowing down of the research perimeters to specific setting will enable the researcher to find out the issues from the settings that are generally applicable in wider educational settings. The findings from this study will enforce the researcher’s. Professional practice and the issues raised will enable ECD educators, practitioners and students to change their perceptions and methods of interacting with and relating with children in their settings (Mertler, 2008).

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