Encouraging young children to talk about materials : reflections on the influence of context on young children's expression and development of scientific ideas
This study arises from an optimistic view of young children's learning and in a gradual move
away from the `deficit model', focuses on what young children can do. A significant amount
of research, within a constructivist framework, has elicited older children's ideas about
science concepts, including the area of materials, the focus of this project, which extends such
work to focus on the voices of children aged three to five years.
A number of tasks were developed to encourage talk about materials. Pilot Phase
investigations refined key task criteria as markers of task design. These prioritise familiarity
of task, ownership and control, social collaboration, and the integral role of adults in
interaction. In the subsequent stages of action research, the research tasks were implemented
with children aged 3-4 years in a nursery, and evaluated by practitioners in a range of early
years' settings. Transcript data was analysed to explore the ways in which the children
communicated ideas in their early explorations.
The substantive findings provide evidence of the ability of young children in materials
science and suggest implications for science learning and teaching in the early years. The
children's use of a range of modalities to communicate their understanding highlights the
need for practitioners to be aware of the importance of such child adult interactions. Bloom's
framework (1992) is evaluated and extended to analyse children's actions and talk, and a
model of interaction is proposed which both explains the data from this study and summarises
a theoretical approach to science learning in the early years. In this model, elicitation tasks are
learning experiences for children and opportunities for adults to hear children's voices with
integrity and authenticity.
Trust is a methodological imperative in research interaction. Integral to the report is
reflection on relationships, serendipitous moments and personal learning and development.