Young children reflecting on their learning: teachers’ conversation strategies

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<ul><li><p>This article was downloaded by: [Ume University Library]On: 18 November 2014, At: 17:00Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK</p><p>Early Years: An International ResearchJournalPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:</p><p>Young children reflecting on theirlearning: teachers conversationstrategiesMargaret Carr aa University of Waikato , Hamilton , New ZealandPublished online: 14 Sep 2011.</p><p>To cite this article: Margaret Carr (2011) Young children reflecting on their learning: teachersconversation strategies, Early Years: An International Research Journal, 31:3, 257-270, DOI:10.1080/09575146.2011.613805</p><p>To link to this article:</p><p>PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE</p><p>Taylor &amp; Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (theContent) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor &amp; Francis,our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as tothe accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinionsand views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors,and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor &amp; Francis. The accuracy of the Contentshould not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sourcesof information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever orhowsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arisingout of the use of the Content.</p><p>This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &amp;Conditions of access and use can be found at</p><p></p></li><li><p>Young children reflecting on their learning: teachers conversationstrategies</p><p>Margaret Carr*</p><p>University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand</p><p>(Received 14 March 2011; final version received 9 August 2011)</p><p>A two-year research project with teachers in nine different early childhood cen-tres was designed to explore and extend opportunities for young children toreflect on their learning. This was described as children becoming wise abouttheir learning journeys; the aim was to find ways to assist them to articulatetheir understanding of what they had learned and how they had learned it. Thelocation for extending these abilities and dispositions was children and teacherstalking together as they revisited and reviewed documented learning events. Thispaper highlights the strategies that worked well for thoughtful conversations,and comments on those strategies that did not. It argues for the value of childrenas co-authors in conversations about their learning; these conversations can con-tribute to their developing views about how they learn and assist them to con-struct continuities of the learning that is valued in this place.</p><p>Keywords: early years; pedagogy; dialogue; learning stories; narrative</p><p>Introduction</p><p>For two years, from 2008 to 2009, a group of teachers in nine early childhood cen-tres worked on an action research project to explore the ways in which young chil-dren could become more aware of their learning journeys, and perhaps about thelearning journeys of others too. The research team connected the teachers with theuniversity (a university researcher) and a professional development programme (thedirector of the programme and visiting facilitators). In particular we wanted toexplore how teachers could develop and enhance this ability and disposition. Wecalled this the Learning Wisdom project, inspired by a growing literature on thistopic (Craft, Gardner and Claxton 2007; Sternberg and Jordan 2005; Sternberg,Reznitskaya and Jarvin 2007).</p><p>Nicholas Maxwell (2007) defined wisdom as the capacity to realise what is ofvalue; and Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi and Jeanne Nakamura (2005, 2312) hadreplied to the question how does wisdom develop? by saying that Two key anddynamically interrelated factors appear to be openness to experience and a capacityto reflect on experience to make sense of it. This paper discusses some of the waysin which teachers and young children, together, might develop this dynamic interre-lation between an openness to experience and the capacity to reflect on experienceto make sense of it. This is somewhat contested terrain in early years discussions.</p><p>*Email:</p><p>Early YearsAquatic InsectsVol. 31, No. 3, October 2011, 257270</p><p>ISSN 0957-5146 print/ISSN 1472-4421 online 2011 TACTYC</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Um</p><p>e U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p> Lib</p><p>rary</p><p>] at</p><p> 17:</p><p>00 1</p><p>8 N</p><p>ovem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>Folk views (Olson and Bruner, 1996; see Carr, 2001a, 120 on folk models ofassessment in the early years) can include the notion that deliberate reflectionspoils spontaneous open-ended play. This paper argues that it is valuable for chil-dren to reflect on their learning experiences at least some of the time and that teach-ers can develop strategies to assist children to do this.</p><p>Why is it valuable for children to reflect on their learning?</p><p>One of the reasons for enabling children to reflect on their learning is to contributeto their developing views about how they learn, and their identities as learners;these views may be established in the early years and are often resistant to change(Smiley and Dweck 1994). Writing in A Handbook of Wisdom about foolishnessas in some sense the opposite of wisdom (Sternberg 2005, 332), Robert Sternbergrefers to Carol Dwecks research on beliefs about fixed intelligence:</p><p>Dweck (2002) suggested that one form of foolishness arises when people have falsebeliefs about their own intelligence, for example that their intelligence is fixed ratherthan malleable. These people believed that effort demonstrates incompetence ratherthan intelligence. Because they believe that intelligence is fixed, they may fail to uti-lize opportunities to raise their level of intellectual performance. (Sternberg 2005,336)</p><p>Folk psychology and folk pedagogy, our everyday intuitive theories about learningand teaching and about what childrens minds are like and how they grow, are verypowerful, enhancing or constraining childrens opportunities to learn. Dwecks workon mindset has provided insights on barriers to learning in early childhood (Burhansand Dweck 1995; Carr 2001b). One of the implications of her research is that whenchildren have conversations about their learning journeys with adults whose ideasthey trust, they become aware of the ways in which their intelligence is malleable.And, as Dweck has concluded:</p><p>The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when itsnot going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allowspeople to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives. (2006, 7)</p><p>Part of the process of reflecting on being a learner is to practise clarifying and artic-ulating ones ideas and listening to other perspectives. Research from the EPPE(Sylva et al. 2010) and REPEY (Siraj-Blatchford et al. 2003; Siraj-Blatchford andManni 2008) projects in England developed the pedagogic strategy sustainedshared thinking as a feature of effective pre-school settings. Their analysisrevealed a general pattern of high cognitive outcomes associated with sustainedadultchild verbal interaction, and they argue for the value of articulating onesideas:</p><p>The notion of ideas becoming apparent to the thinker is one echoed by Dewey (1938),Hoyles (1985) and Damon and Phelps (1989) amongst others, who argue that the pro-cess of articulating ones ideas publicly promotes the process of self-reflection; forcingthe speaker to bring to consciousness the ideas that s/he is just beginning to graspintuitively and to justify and declare these ideas (Hoyles 1985, 209). (Siraj-Blatchfordand Manni 2008, 8)</p><p>258 M. Carr</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Um</p><p>e U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p> Lib</p><p>rary</p><p>] at</p><p> 17:</p><p>00 1</p><p>8 N</p><p>ovem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>They comment on the high percentage of closed questions which usually receivevery short responses by the teachers in their study, and they point out that manyopen-ended questions are often closed questions in disguise, since there is onlyone expected and correct answer. This finding supports the early study of BarbaraTizard and Martin Hughes (1984) on talking and thinking at nursery school in com-parison with more reciprocal conversations at home.</p><p>One of the principles of an early years pedagogy, articulated in Te Whriki, theNew Zealand early childhood curriculum (Ministry of Education 1996), is thatChildren learn through responsive and reciprocal relationships with people, placesand things (1996, 43). Taking some ownership in a conversation enables the lear-ner to make connections with his/her own experiences in a meaning-making discus-sion. Tizard and Hughes were especially interested in the situations in which thechildren asked questions, thereby taking on some of the authorship of a conversa-tion and playing a part in its reciprocity and sustainability. Asking timely andappropriate questions was an issue for the teachers in the Wisdom research groupas well.</p><p>A further reason for these discussions about learning is to enable children to rec-ognise what learning is valued in this place a comprehensible purpose for beingthere. Neil Mercers research in primary schools had concluded that:</p><p>. . . the quality of childrens educational experience is significantly affected by theextent to which their dialogue with the teacher gives what they are doing in class acontinuity of meaning (so that activity is contextualised by the history of past experi-ence) and a comprehensible and worthwhile purpose. (Mercer 2002, 145)</p><p>One assumes, of course, that the educational purpose is indeed comprehensible andworthwhile, and, although a national curriculum is very helpful in this regard, tea-cher education, professional development and action research projects with teachers(like this project) strengthen teachers ability to articulate a continuity of worthwhilemeaning and to talk with children about episodes of learning they have noticed,recognised and documented as part of that continuity.</p><p>This paper is about inviting and provoking children to develop experience withmore authoritative and accountable (Greeno 2006) patterns of responsibility for theirlearning; and for teachers to find ways in which they can provide those invitationsand provocations.</p><p>Revisiting event stories</p><p>We sited the conversations in opportunities to review documented events of learn-ing. Research on mothers reminiscing with very young children about events ofthe day (Nelson 2000; Nelson and Fivush 2004; Reese and Newcombe 2007) hashighlighted that revisiting or reviewing event stories can contribute to the chil-drens meaning-making and autobiography. Katherine Nelson, writing about hergroups work on the emergence of the encultured self (2000, 191, 192) had thisto say:</p><p>The great amount of research on young childrens construction of personal memorieswith adults that my group and others have carried out over the past two decades(Fivush and Hudson 1990; Nelson and Fivush in press) indicates that children learn</p><p>Early Years 259</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Um</p><p>e U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p> Lib</p><p>rary</p><p>] at</p><p> 17:</p><p>00 1</p><p>8 N</p><p>ovem</p><p>ber </p><p>2014</p></li><li><p>about themselves and construct their self-stories through the medium of narrativizingexperiences with others. . ... In my view, children learn to narrativize, and in so doingthey learn to remember their specific past and to imagine their specific future.</p><p>In the same year, Katherine Nelson and Robyn Fivush reported that their (l)ongi-tudinal studies indicate that an elaborative maternal reminiscing style facilitateschildrens developing autobiographical skills (2004, 286). Because under-fives inmany countries now spend considerable time with teachers in early childhood set-tings away from home, it was our view that teachers too could engage in elabora-tive reminiscing revisiting and reviewing conversations with children, in orderfor children to expand their views about learning in general, to make meaning ofthe educational purpose in this place, and to construct self-stories about being alearner.</p><p>Opportunities and contexts for conversations on learning</p><p>In the early practising phase of the project, teachers became alert to opportunitiesto initiate spontaneous conversations on these matters, using phrases like Remem-ber last time, or This looks different or You couldnt do this last week andHow did you learn to do that?. Here is an example from Jane, one of theteachers:</p><p>Jane (teacher): Oh, Danielle you know how to swing! How did you learn to do that?Danielle: You just teached me! . . . Remember?J: No, I forgot.D: Yeah, you teached me.J: Oh. What did I teach you?D: You said put my legs back and out, back and out.J: Oh, I see. And does it work?D: Yes, I swing my legs to make it go. See, I can go high.J: Yes, you are going higher and higher.</p><p>Danielle (four years old) is reminding Jane, through words accompanied by actions,that she has learnt something new and that teaching and a mutually valued learningoutcome were connected. The action research project explored the value of moredeliberate occasions for talking about learning.</p><p>One of the major catalysts for this talk was Learning Stories, and the photosor DVDs attached to them. Learning Stories as an assessment tool have becomecommonplace in early childhood centres in New Zealand (and in a number ofother countries); this tool was developed with teachers in five different types ofprovision (Carr 1998) in response to the then new early childhood national curric-ulum in which the outcomes were described as learning dispositions and work-ing theories. The development of this assessment tool has been discussedelsewhere (Carr 2001a; Carr, Hatherly, Lee, and Ramsey 2003; Carr and Leeforthcoming). Learning Stories are stories about learning, documented by teachers,often dictated by children and, in school, written by the learners themselves. Theyinclude text that describes the context and nature of the learning episode, an anal-ysis of the learning, usually one or more photographs (occasionally a DVD), anda suggestion about future work. A number of teachers in New Zealand schools</p><p>260 M. Carr</p><p>Dow</p><p>nloa</p><p>ded </p><p>by [</p><p>Um</p><p>e U</p><p>nive</p><p>rsity</p><p> Lib</p><p>rary</p><p>] at</p><p> 17:</p><p>00 1</p><p>8 N</p><p>ovem</p><p>be...</p></li></ul>


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