Infant-toddler (10 months to 36 months) development of scientific concepts through everyday activities as part of family practices

2017-02-27T05:15:23Z (GMT) by Sikder, Shukla
Over the past three decades more attention has been directed to research in early year’s science education. This is because science activities can provide rich possibilities for supporting children’s learning and development. In addition, research has shown how science related activities at a young age support children to develop positive attitudes towards science. However, most of the studies that have been undertaken focus on children’s science learning in formal settings, such as preschool or childcare settings. There is limited research on how families can support very young children’s science learning at home where parents are the child’s first teacher. Compared with research generally in science education, empirical research of children aged from birth to three has received limited attention worldwide, particularly for the infant-toddler age group. Thus, this thesis investigates the conditions that are created in everyday family life for the development of infants-toddlers’ science concept formation. The aim of the study reported in this thesis is to fill this gap, by determining how play and regular activities lead to the development of infants’-toddlers’ scientific concept formation within everyday family practices. Specifically, the study investigated the involvement of parents, other adults and peers, in everyday contexts for supporting the development of infant-toddler’s scientific concepts. Over the past two decades, the trend in researching science learning in the early years has developed interest to a socio-cognitive approach, with an emerging number of studies that draw upon cultural-historical theory. A cultural-historical reading of science education positions science as a form of cultural knowledge that is historically and collectively formed and understood, rather than as something that is located within the individual. Following a cultural historical point of view, children develop concepts as part of their everyday context. Concepts develop gradually and the process of conceptual development starts in early childhood. For young children Vygotsky’s theory of concept formation foregrounds the value of context in combination with the dynamic and evolving nature of concept formation. Children learn scientific concepts, through adult mediated processes for developing understanding, learning and comprehension. Adults assist children to develop scientific concepts in everyday life. Everyday concepts and scientific concepts are dialectically related. That is, the everyday concept is learned in the everyday context where a personal motive for engaging with scientific concepts can emerge and scientific concepts learned during interactions with adults as abstract concepts, help explain everyday practices for the child. Considering infants-toddlers science learning through social interactions in everyday context, Vygotsky’s cultural-historical research has been drawn upon as the theoretical framework for this research. A cultural historical methodology encompasses a unique system of interconnected instruments for realising the analysis of the process of development in its wholeness and complexity. Studying children’s development in science examines the individual trajectories within sociocultural contexts. From the point of the whole exposition of the child, cultural-historical theory refers to the complex process of development of higher mental functions where development is always a complex and contradictory process but first of all, it is a dialectical process of qualitative change. In order to understand children’s science learning, the study design must be framed to include the science learning context of the family home. In the study reported in this thesis, three children from three Bangladeshi families in Australia and Singapore were followed in everyday family life. All three children (age 10 to 36 months) were born abroad and in each of the family homes they practice their Bangladeshi culture. Digital video observations were the tools used for data collection. Approximately 30 hours of video data and approximately 3 hours of interviews data were gathered from infant’s-toddler’s everyday life over one year. This study focused only on three Bangladeshi families’ everyday context in Australia and in Singapore and it does not seek to represent the Bangladeshi context. Dialectical-interactive approach from cultural-historical research methodology has been applied for analysing the data. It is argued that science learning is possible from infants-toddlers age where parents or other adults or more competent peers act as mediators to support young children to develop small science concepts in play and other everyday activities. Small science is a new way of understanding science at the infant-toddler age. Small science has been defined as simple scientific narration of the everyday moments that infants and toddlers experience at home with their families. Small science moments are created through parent-child conscious collaboration and social interactions are the main criteria to learn small science concepts in the infants-toddlers life. In order to achieve a successful outcome from these play moments, one might consider the dynamic aspects of a play motive, and the successful play motives that create the rich possibilities for infant-toddler’s development of small science concept formation in their everyday culture. Parents think that possibilities of science concept formation during the infants-toddlers age do not entail extra effort for parents; rather, the science concepts could be advanced as part of the social situation of development in the infant-toddler’s everyday context. This study contributes to the theoretical knowledge, methodological understanding and the development of pedagogical approaches for science learning, as well as practices in early childhood science education.