Title

Preschoolers’ Engagement in Occupations: Multiple Case Studies of Preschool Communities

Start Time

15-10-2009 2:00 PM

End Time

15-10-2009 3:30 PM

Abstract

This study explores how preschoolers learn to participate in occupations within their class groups. The authors focus on circle time activities as phenomena of interest since teachers use these occupations as media for learning. Although commonly used in preschool curricula, the literature finds that engagement in such adult-led, wholegroup activities is low. The traditional Western perspective of individualism generates teacher interventions for disengagement during circle time designed to modify the behavior of individual students. However this perspective devalues the transactional nature of the classroom as a community and reduces occupation to the sole actor and action. A holistic approach to understanding how children engage in occupations at school can inform alternative interventions. The authors considered each preschool class to be a cultural community: a system in which the children, teachers, activities, and environment co-constructed meaningful occupations. For this paper, case studies of two classes of four- and five-year olds were conducted over four to five months. The first and second authors observed the classes during breakfast and circle time routines, keeping field notes to describe the occurring events. Interviews of primary and assistant teachers were conducted to further understand their goals for class activities. Following data collection, the first and third authors coded the field notes to identify units that illustrated the children’s engagement (and disengagement) in occupations. Peer debriefing among the authors was ongoing throughout data collection and data analysis and supported the reflective process. Credibility of the findings is increased by using the second case study. The findings, reported in this paper, revealed that jobs and social interactions were integral to the meaning of and engagement in occupations during adult-led, whole-group routines. Assigned jobs provided structure for classroom practices while spontaneous “helper” jobs allowed for flexible engagement. The children’s interactions with one another through their jobs allowed them to continuously re-shape the cultural practices of their community. The results of this study contribute to occupational science by moving beyond the traditionally individualistic research of childhood school occupations. Through the illustration of the co-construction of meaning and engagement, the authors show that occupational scientists may further inform practices with children.

References

Corsaro, W. A., & Molinari, L. (2008). Entering and observing in children's worlds: A reflection of a longitudinal ethnography of early education in Italy. In P. Christensen & A. James (Eds.), Research with children: Perspectives and practices (2nd ed., pp. 239-259). New York: Routledge.

Dickie, V., Cutchin, M. P., & Humphry, R. (2006). Occupation as transactional experience: A critique of individualism in occupational science. Journal of Occupational Science, 13, 83–93. Access Article

Malenfant, N. 2006. Routines and transitions: A guide for early childhood professionals. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.

Rogoff, B. (2003). The cultural nature of human development. New York: Oxford University Press.

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Oct 15th, 2:00 PM Oct 15th, 3:30 PM

Preschoolers’ Engagement in Occupations: Multiple Case Studies of Preschool Communities

This study explores how preschoolers learn to participate in occupations within their class groups. The authors focus on circle time activities as phenomena of interest since teachers use these occupations as media for learning. Although commonly used in preschool curricula, the literature finds that engagement in such adult-led, wholegroup activities is low. The traditional Western perspective of individualism generates teacher interventions for disengagement during circle time designed to modify the behavior of individual students. However this perspective devalues the transactional nature of the classroom as a community and reduces occupation to the sole actor and action. A holistic approach to understanding how children engage in occupations at school can inform alternative interventions. The authors considered each preschool class to be a cultural community: a system in which the children, teachers, activities, and environment co-constructed meaningful occupations. For this paper, case studies of two classes of four- and five-year olds were conducted over four to five months. The first and second authors observed the classes during breakfast and circle time routines, keeping field notes to describe the occurring events. Interviews of primary and assistant teachers were conducted to further understand their goals for class activities. Following data collection, the first and third authors coded the field notes to identify units that illustrated the children’s engagement (and disengagement) in occupations. Peer debriefing among the authors was ongoing throughout data collection and data analysis and supported the reflective process. Credibility of the findings is increased by using the second case study. The findings, reported in this paper, revealed that jobs and social interactions were integral to the meaning of and engagement in occupations during adult-led, whole-group routines. Assigned jobs provided structure for classroom practices while spontaneous “helper” jobs allowed for flexible engagement. The children’s interactions with one another through their jobs allowed them to continuously re-shape the cultural practices of their community. The results of this study contribute to occupational science by moving beyond the traditionally individualistic research of childhood school occupations. Through the illustration of the co-construction of meaning and engagement, the authors show that occupational scientists may further inform practices with children.