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Title: Towards the advancement of thinking skills in two Maltese kindergarten schools
Author: Gauci, Shirley Ann
ISNI:       0000 0004 9352 3723
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2019
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Literature indicates that amid the current pressure on Early Childhood Education and Care to serve as a preparatory phase for formal education, preschool curricula are dominated by the acquisition of subject matter. Ticking checklists related to academic content are taking centre stage, sidetracking among other things, the cultivation of thinking skills. Malta is no exception and although national policies promote thinking skills, everyday practice reveals a different picture as academic content is still prioritised. In view of this scenario, as a curriculum leader of two kindergarten schools, I conducted insider research to explore how three and four-year-old children, within their particular culture and context, can be enabled to foster and advance their thinking skills. Drawing on sociocultural theoretical concepts, a process of change was set in motion through an intervention that modified pedagogical practices, interactions, strategies of knowledge acquisition and curriculum using the project approach to an inquiry-based pedagogy. Positioning the research within the interpretivist paradigm, a small-scale multiple case study involving four kindergarten settings was designed in three stages. It started by eliciting the views of the Headteacher, as leader of both schools. In the second stage, four case studies were conducted, each focusing on a particular setting. Each case study initiated by focusing on gaining an informed understanding of the situation and subsequently, a workshop was held with the educators in preparation for the intervention. As a third step, a project was explored, based on the children’s emerging inquiries and working theories. Through relational pedagogy, meaningful dialogues, co-construction and an emergent and inquiry-based curriculum, the children applied thinking skills associated with information-processing, problem-solving, critical thinking, creative thinking and metacognition. The views of the educators and the Headteacher were again sought at the end of the projects. The purposive sample consisted of the Headteacher, nine educators and sixty-seven children. Interviews, focused conversations and observations were the research methods selected for data collection. Cross-case analysis was implemented at two points of the multiple case study in order to produce a multi-case report for the presentation and interpretation of the findings. The analysis is illuminated with episodes drawn from the four case studies and insights from the reflective journal kept throughout the research. The findings constitute a promising indication that thinking skills can be fostered in this particular context. However, they also reveal various complexities that may hinder the course towards an authentic implementation of a pedagogy of thinking. Implications and recommendations are offered with the intention of bridging the gap between theory, policy and practice.
Supervisor: Chesworth, Liz Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available