ucla_faculty_sponsorEdith Mukudi Omwami
abstractChildren in their early age are “natural scientists” and have ability to observe, explore and discover the world, it is an important period for them to form the cognition of the world (Worth, 2010). For young children, they have ability to ask questions and make prediction to perform their cognitive skills, which could be the basis of science thinking and learning (Sackes, 2014). As a child who have science learning experience, it could support his/her early development of scientific knowledge and skills, and moreover, it could lay the foundation for scientific learning during his/her whole academic lives (Sackes, 2014). In addition, for children, master of science knowledge could influence their potential to seek out a career in science related field and would make children become competitive in the global market place (Trundle, 2010).
The U.S. Department of Commerce (2011) states that STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematic) jobs will grow three times as fast as non-STEM job and it becomes the top ten most wanted employees. From 2004 to 2014, the STEM-related employment increased 11.4 percent while other job increased 4.5 percent, and this growth will continue at the above average. Comparing with China, according to President Xi Jinping’s “Chinese Dream,” China has set a goal of becoming a world-class innovator by 2050, and in order to achieve this goal and transit from manufacturing-based economy to an innovation-driven, knowledge-based economy, the development of science and technology play an important role (Han & Appelbaum, 2018).
Under this situation, this research will pay attention to science education, especially focus on the early childhood science education. By doing the research, it could help early childhood teachers know what is the effective curriculums and activities that could evoke children’s interest in learning science. Moreover, since early childhood educators have great influence on a child’s potential to seek out a career in science, so based on the understanding of their attitudes and beliefs towards science education at the early age, it could to some extent benefit the future job market in science related field.
project_summaryThis study will examine preschool children’s science education, especially would focus on what are teachers’ practice in the development of children’s understanding of science concepts and knowledge, and how teachers’ verbal intervention during the class would affect children’s cognition of science concepts and knowledge. This study would also do a comparison study about preschool education in China and America. Because of the two child policy in China, the demand for preschool education increase rapidly while the education system is imperfect and the development is slower than America. The goal for this research is to explore the different approaches early childhood educators using in teaching children science between the U.S. and China.
For this research, I will use both observations and interviews as my main approach. During the observations, I will focus on the interaction between teacher and children. Moreover, through my observations, I plan to explore what are the effective curriculums and activities that could promote children’s learning toward science concepts. And in addition, I want to further understand how the teachers’ verbal intervention would have positive or negative effect toward children’s interest and acceptance of science knowledge. In addition, for the interview, this research plan to conduct semi-structured interviews both in China and America. Based on the interviews, this research tries to explore preschool teachers’ different understanding about early childhood science education between America and China, and also want to know how those early childhood teachers interpret the goals and science curriculum in science teaching.
goalsThe goal for this research is to explore the different approaches early childhood educators using in teaching children science between the U.S. and China. This study focuses on what are teachers’ practice in the development of children’s understanding of science concepts and knowledge. In addition, the intent for this research is to examine the interaction in the classroom between children and teacher, including what types of questions teacher ask to help children keep curiosity, and also what kind of words the teacher use that are helpful in guiding children learn science knowledge. For this research, I want to know how teachers’ practice, including active engagement, intervention, pedagogy using, and activities/curriculum design that would affect children’s science knowledge learning in the class.
benefits_of_researchBy doing the research, it could help early childhood teachers know what is the effective curriculums and activities that could evoke children’s interest in learning science. Moreover, since early childhood educators have great influence on a child’s potential to seek out a career in science, so based on the understanding of their attitudes and beliefs towards science education at the early age, it could to some extent benefit the future job market in science related field.
dissemination/publicationsThis research is PhD dissertation research of Education Department of University of California, Los Angeges.
I do not anticipate at this moment to disseminate any findings of this research outside the dissertation, but any future publication would be disseminated through peer reviewed scholarly journal outlet focus on early childhood education and comparative & international education.
selection_criteriaThe kindergarten classrooms that servicing children from 5 to 6 years old will be selected, and the teachers who is teaching in the selected observation classrooms will be selected as the participants for this research.
methodsFor this research, I will use observations, interviews and Video-cued interviews as my main approach.
For the observations, I plan to observe the children from kindergarten around 5 to 6 years old. And I would like to observe two classrooms for about two months. For each of the classroom, I plan to do two times observations a week. I will take notes during the class and I also want to videotape the class. I will only focus on how teachers’ practice, including active engagement, intervention, pedagogy using, and activities/curriculum design that would affect children’s science knowledge learning in the class. In addition, I will also observe and videotape the activities the teachers conduct to teach children science related knowledge outside classroom that in the playground or the activity area in school. For my observations outside the classroom, I will mainly focus on the teachers. I will observe and record the information about what kind of activities the teachers conduct to teach children science related knowledge outside classroom, what the teachers do when they conduct the activities outside the classroom, how teachers guide the activities, and teachers’ verbal and non-verbal interventions during the activities.
In addition, for the interview, this research plan to conduct two semi-structured individual interviews. For each of the interview, it will last from about one hour to 90 minutes and will be audio-recorded and transcribed. All of the interviews will be scheduled at a time and location convenient for the participants. Moreover, for each of the interview, it will have a guide with a list of questions that will be covered during the conversation, but it is not necessary to strictly follow with those questions and are flexible to be edited during the interview process. And for the questions, it will ask more open-ended questions and allow flexible discussion with interviewees.
Moreover, I will conduct 3 to 4 video-cued interviews for each of my participant, and for each of the video-cued interview, it will last about 60 minutes. Based on the videotape in the class, I will edit the videotape down to 20 to 30 minutes that focus on the science education in the class and show this edited tape to the teacher in whose classroom I have filmed. And then I will ask the teacher his/her purpose/objective to conduct the activities or conservations, and also the result they expect to achieve after the activities or conservations.
instrument_explanationsFor observations, first, I will ask permission to video and record what happens during a class. Since it is difficult for me to notice every interaction between children and teachers, using a video camera will help me record these interactions that show teachers’ verbal intervention in teaching science during the class. I will set up the camera to specially focus on teachers and record their behavior, speech, and interaction during the class. I will also use a timesheet to record the time, participant name, and what happened during the class, such as participants’ interactions with children. I will also observe activities outside the classroom since the extracurricular activities are also part of school education that will affect children’s scientific knowledge learning. I will also ask permission to video these activities and how these children interact with teachers during the event. Using videos and time sheets will help me document what happened in the class and outside activities. I will use these during data analysis to determine what information is useful for research purposes.
For each of the interview, it will last about 60 to 90 minutes and will be audio-recorded and transcribed by myself. All of the interviews will be scheduled at a time and location convenient for the participants. Each of the interview will have a guide with a list of questions that will be covered during the conversation, but it will not be necessary to strictly follow those questions; the questions are flexible and able to be edited during the interview process. The questions will be open-ended questions to allow flexible discussion with interviewees.
According to Seidman’s (2013) methods, interviews will begin with asking the participants to tell as much as possible about their background information or life history, including their previous education background, their hobbies and the length of time they have been a preschool teacher. This background information will help me understand the teachers’ previous experience related to science and science education. In addition, since teachers will influence the results of children's scientific knowledge learning, I will continue asking open-ended questions to explore their understanding of early childhood science education, their interpretations of the goals of teaching children science, and their experiences with teaching children science. For all of my follow-up questions, I will attempt to get my interviewees to more deeply discuss ideas based on his/her answer.
In the end, for the video-cued interview, I will: (1) videotape a day in the class; (2) edit the videotape down to 20 to 30 minutes that focus on the science education activities in the class and also the conversations between teacher and children; (3) show this edited tape to the teacher in whose classroom I have filmed; (4) ask the teacher his/her purpose/objective to conduct the activities and conservations, and also the result they expect to achieve after the activities and conservations.
justification_of_methodsQualitative research method is the ideal method for this research. I will use observation and interview to explore how teachers teach children science related knowledge.
separate_informed_consent1. Consent form for teachers about the observations in their classes;
2. Consent form for teachers about the interviews.
risk_minimizationFor the observation, since participants in this study will be observed and video-recorded, so some participants may feel a slight discomfort to be observed and filmed.
For the interview, the study will ask participants to share their experience about teaching children science and also their understanding of early childhood science education, some participants may feel a slight discomfort to share.