Research into practice: innovations and international perspectives.
Harlin, Rebecca P.
Pub Date:
Name: Journal of Research in Childhood Education Publisher: Association for Childhood Education International Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Education Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Association for Childhood Education International ISSN: 0256-8543
Date: Spring, 2009 Source Volume: 23 Source Issue: 3

Accession Number:
Full Text:
Our 21st century children live in a time of global interaction that impacts their books, movies, toys, and television programming. They view images of children living in third-world or industrialized nations, share books written in more than one language or translated from another culture, and play with toys designed for the world's children. Since they are aware of how others in the world live, should our schools and educational systems ignore what is happening beyond our state and national borders? Shouldn't we become more informed about innovations and international perspectives so that we can access the best ideas and question practices that are less than ideal? In addition, we need to anticipate our changing school population's backgrounds and educational needs.

This issue contains a wealth of studies that present innovative practices and question our assumptions about bilingualism, parent programs, and teaching. Usually when we seek solutions for enhancing children's academic performance, we anticipate that these answers must entail complicated strategies or technology that we currently lack. Perhaps the best solutions are more straightforward than we think they will be. Instead, we decide to adopt whole curricula or approaches without considering the culture or the context for which these were designed. We assume that what works in one country may be equally effective in another and fail to examine the philosophical or theoretical foundations that provided the basis for this particular program. Within this issue, readers will discover thoughtful examinations of bilingualism and acculturation along with the impact of parent and homework programs. You may be surprised by what you learn from each of the nine articles.

Enhancing Children's Conceptual Understanding of Mathematics Through Chartworld Software--Ploger & Hecht

Educators, policymakers, and parents become alarmed whenever they read about international comparisons of American children's mathematics performance with children in other developed countries. Each time American children rank lower than those from Europe and Asia, we question how mathematics is being taught in public schools and wonder how we can improve children's performance. In seeking ways to increase children's performance, we need to clarify what we really want. Do we wish to change children's test-taking abilities or actually improve their understanding of mathematics? If we value children's understanding of mathematics, then we need to investigate how this might be accomplished within a classroom context. The study presented in this article shows how a computer software program, Chartworld, enables teachers to provide opportunities for children to build their mathematical reasoning through both independent exploration and teacher-guided discussions and demonstrations. Ploger and Hecht designed a fully randomized, experimental study of 3rd-graders' mathematical knowledge of multiplication, division, and prime numbers.

This study builds upon a theoretical framework of an information-processing model of mathematics skills. As children explore Chartworld, they are afforded opportunities to increase their conceptual awareness of numbers, mathematical symbols, and number operations. With the Chartworld software, children can create colorful models to form interesting patterns. Each exploration and teacher-guided discussion enables children to see how multiples of a number relate to one another. There were two experiments using Chartworld to test its effectiveness on children's conceptual and procedural knowledge--Experiment 1 focused on multiplication and division and Experiment 2 on prime and composite numbers. Experiment 1's subjects included 196 third-graders; 48% were boys and 59.4% were from minority groups (African American, Hispanic, and Asian) who were randomly assigned to either the control group (textbook only) or the experimental group (Chartworld plus textbook). Subjects were pretested and posttested using a written test and a structured interview, then each group received eight 30-minute lessons on multiplication and division. The Chartworld group's time included learning how to use this software program along with the teacher-directed exploration of the mathematical topics. Experiment 2's subjects included 187 third-grade children randomly assigned to either the Chartworld experimental group (107 students) or the control group (80). Subjects were pre- and posttested using a written test and a structured interview. Then both groups received six 45-minute lessons on prime and composite numbers; however, the Chartworld group's instructional time included learning how to use the software program. It should be noted that the topics of prime and composite numbers are usually taught in 4th grade.

Experiment 1's data from the written tests and the structured interviews were analyzed using ANCOVAs to control for any pretest differences. The results showed greater gains for the Chartworld group, with moderate effect sizes. Likewise, Experiment 2's data, analyzed using ANCOVAs, showed greater gains for the Chartworld group, with moderate effect sizes. It should be noted that children demonstrated their mathematical understanding by solving word problems, not simply solving equations. Thus, both experiments demonstrate the effectiveness of the Chartworld software in enhancing student learning of essential mathematical concepts.

What are the implications for educators? First, Ploger and Hecht note that the teacher's role is crucial to Chartworld's success. Although there is value in allowing children to experiment and play with the software, by itself exploration does not support learning concepts. It was through the teacher's guided inquiry that children not only learn WHAT but also WHY these mathematical relationships exist. It is unlikely that the children would develop understanding of the commutative properties of multiplication by simply clicking the mouse to make patterns of stripes. Second, this study demonstrates the value of software that appeals to children's curiosity while providing visual demonstrations of relationships. Third, teachers must be careful observers of children's spontaneous explorations to build richer, deeper understandings of concepts through guided discovery. Thus, Chartworld software affords opportunities to learn multiple concepts, but without a knowledgeable teacher to allow free exploration and guidance, it's just a series of pretty patterns!

Predictors of Immigrant Children's School Achievement: A Comparative Study--Moon, Kang, & An

The United States is, and probably always will be, a nation of immigrants. Since the beginning, we depended on immigrants to build our infrastructure--the Erie Canal, transcontinental railroad, subways, bridges, and highways. Immigrants support agriculture, design buildings, and provide technological innovations. We also recognize that some groups of immigrants succeed academically and acculturate more readily than others, and these are the immigrants who become America's competitive workforce. Then there are the others who fail to learn English, finish high school, or develop the requisite skills for jobs above the minimum wage. Can we afford to let one group consistently succeed while the other fails? Isn't it time that we learned about our two largest groups of immigrants, Asians and Hispanics, and investigated both the predictors for their success as well as possible interventions? To learn more about these two groups, Moon, Kang, and An studied predictors of achievement for kindergartners who are at the beginning of their schooling, rather than students graduating high school.

Previous researchers identified several variables that impact immigrant students' achievement, particularly language difficulties and cultural differences, while others highlighted the influences of differences in socioeconomic status, levels of parental involvement, and home environment. Adding to this body of knowledge, Moon, Kang, and An's study investigated seven parenting variables as predictors of their children's school achievement in order to determine the most powerful predictors, as well as to identify differences in predictors for Korean and Mexican children. These independent parenting variables included acculturation, parents' school involvement, parenting style, parents' English fluency, family income, and length of stay in the United States. The dependent variable, children's school achievement, was measured by their recent grades in English, mathematics, and science.

The researchers recruited their participants from churches, Korean language institutes, Korean community centers, Mexican churches, and Mexican community centers. These participants included a purposive sample of 103 Korean American parents of young children (Grades 13) living in the Dallas Fort Worth area; most of the group (68% was female. The Mexican American sample comprised 100 parents, of whom 82% were female. Data were obtained from four sources: 1) a demographic questionnaire, which provided information on family income, levels of English proficiency, years of residency in the United States, education, and employment status; 2) the Short Acculturation Scale (SAS), a 12-item multiple choice questionnaire tapping language use and ethnic loyalty, media, and ethnic social relations, resulting in a score of I for low acculturation to 5 for high acculturation; 3) parent school involvement scale, consisting of 11 items drawn from preexisting scales, with parents rating each item as 1 (never) to 4 (often); and 4) Parenting Style and Dimensions Questionnaire (PSDQ), a 32-item scale with parents rating items as 1 (never) to 5 (always).

Data analysis from the demographic questionnaire revealed higher levels of education and family income for the Korean parents. Korean children's achievement was significantly higher than that of the Mexican children. Results from the demographic questionnaire, the SAS, and PSDQ for both Korean and Mexican samples showed significant correlations for parents' English fluency, acculturation, and parenting style to their children's school achievement. Analysis of the parent school involvement scale data found higher levels for the Mexican parents. Both Mexican parents' length of stay in the United States and parents' school involvement were significantly correlated with children's school achievement. Stepwise regression analysis identified four significant variables--acculturation, parenting style, parent education, and length of stay in the United States as the best combination for predicting children's school achievement. When each group was analyzed separately, the best combination of predictors for Korean children's achievement included acculturation, parenting style, and family income; while for the Mexican children, the best predictors were length of stay in the United States and parent education.

What are the implications of these results for educators? First, the research findings show that the relationship between acculturation and student achievement may be more complex than currently understood and possibly mediated by cultural differences in values and goal setting. Second, while authoritative and authoritarian parenting styles are usually associated with higher achievement, this may not be true of all cultures, and may even be mediated by socioeconomic status. Parents from higher socioeconomic groups not only may espouse higher aspirations and goals for their children, but they also possess the resources to support their children's learning through tutoring and the parents' own ability to assist with schoolwork at home. Third, educators should note that levels of parent involvement in schooling did not lead to higher student achievement. It should be noted that the Korean children had higher levels of achievement, but their parents had lower levels of school involvement than the Mexican group. Yet, their teachers assume that parents who are not involved in school activities are not really interested in their children's education. This is a misconception that must be addressed. Fourth, the role of immigrant fathers in children's academic success was not investigated in this study and certainly warrants further investigation. Finally, parent education programs need a complete redesign to accommodate differences in languages, parenting styles, skills, education levels, and social networking. The current parent education model, based on middle class, American parenting, is not the "one size fits all" model that will work with immigrant families. Instead, these programs must be designed to serve and support the families in systematic, culturally appropriate ways.

Biliteracy and Bilingual Development in a Second-Generation Korean Child: A Case Study--Ro & Cheatham

In the United States, bilingualism is neither universally valued nor promoted as it is in other developed countries. However, this perception may change in light of the prediction that 40% of the future U.S. school-age population will speak a language other than English. Previous research has shown that these children lose their home language, especially when they are completing schooling in an English-only environment. Among current immigrants, Koreans are one of the largest groups and this population relies on heritage language schools as a means of maintaining their children's fluency in the home language. Given these resources, as well as those available in children's homes, how are the children's bilingualism and biliteracy impacted? Ro and Cheatham have conducted a six-year qualitiative study of second-generation Korean children; in this article, the authors present a case study of one boy across his 4th-grade year.

Building upon previous research on code-switching, home literacy, and language environments, as well as the loss of the heritage (home) language, Ro and Cheatham sought the answers to three questions: 1) identify the child's and his parents' linguistic goals; 2) reveal the factors impacting the child's bilingualism and biliteracy; and 3) trace the child's progress in Korean oral language. The setting for this study was a primarily white Midwestern university city with a high percentage of Korean international students. Within this city, there was a Korean cultural center, a Korean heritage language school, and several Korean churches, all of which, taken collectively, afforded multiple opportunities to use the language, both spoken and written. The case study child resided with his parents and two younger siblings in a middle to higher SES neighborhood made up of mostly whites and the child attended an English-only public school in this community. Both parents held university degrees, were bilingual in Korean and English, and used both languages at home. Resources within the home included books and videos in English and Korean, along with frequent opportunities to communicate with family members in Korea through telephone calls and letters. Data sources for this ethnographic study included written documentation of oral language and literacy behaviors, interviews, and participant observation. It should be noted that the first author was the child's teacher at the Korean heritage language school and was acquainted with the family.

Data analysis uncovered two themes: 1) the parents' values on Korean and English and their roles in supporting their child's facility in both languages; and 2) the child's perspective and attitudes toward both languages. Both parents placed high value on their son's maintaining and expanding his knowledge of Korean. Thus, they had not only supplied their son with many literacy events and materials for both Korean and English, but also had hired a biweekly Korean tutor and sent him to the Korean heritage school. However, the parents were unable to counter their son's shift to using English only, and eventually seemed to give up speaking to him in Korean at home, while continuing to speak Korean to their two younger children. They began to rely more on the tutoring and heritage school to support their son's Korean language and literacy, essentially relegating that responsibility to his Korean teachers and tutor. While the child initially used and liked both languages in kindergarten, as he progressed in his English-only school, he began to prefer English and began to feel ashamed of his family's speaking Korean. The child also felt that English was the easier of the two languages to speak, read, and write. Over time, his attitude toward Korean literacy and language was considerably less positive than that for English. Through tutoring the child's Korean literacy skills increased, but they were not at a level commensurate with those of native Korean children. His oral language proficiency in Korean also decreased over time.

As we can surmise from these results, children's bilingualism and biliteracy can be stalled or averted by English-only schooling. This finding is counterintuitive for many educators, who might think that children from families (like the one portrayed in this study)--families with greater financial and sociocultural resources--would be better able to support their children's bilingualism and biliteracy than those families who only speak the home language and who have fewer resources. In the United States, where English language and literacy are valued, and in some states mandated over other languages, this overwhelming amount of exposure to the English language throughout schooling cannot be matched by the opportunities outside of schooling to maintain, expand, and develop oral language and literacy in the home language. Thus, our English-only schooling not only overrides families' values, but also motivates children to become more proficient in English. In effect, we are robbing children of their individual heritage and identity by discounting and undermining their home language.

Parental Involvement, Parenting Behaviors, and Children's Cognitive Development in Low-Income and Minority Families--Chang, Park, Singh, & Sung

Early childhood educators and researchers have recognized the impact of parents' involvement, levels of interaction, and attitudes on their children's cognitive, linguistic, social, and emotional development. Therefore, most intervention programs, such as Early Head Start, Head Start, and Title I, have mandated parent participation and education as part of their design as well as their federal funding. Each local project]program is responsible for designing appropriate parent involvement to meet the needs of an individual community's culture and context. Previous research on Head Start's effectiveness has focused more on the outcomes for the children being served by these programs than on the effects on parents' skills and behaviors. This study was intended to address this oversight by examining the longitudinal effects of Early Head Start parenting programs on both parents' behaviors from different ethnic and linguistic backgrounds and on their children's subsequent cognitive development.

Using data from the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation cross-national study of 17 sites during the period of 1996-2001, Chang, Park, Singh, and Sung assessed three types of parental involvement--parenting classes, group socialization, and support group meetings--and their effects on both parenting behavior and their children's cognitive development scores from birth to age 3. In the sample were four ethnic and language groups: 1) an English-speaking reference group made up primarily of whites; 2) the English-speaking African American group; 3) the English-speaking Hispanic group; and 4) the non English-speaking Hispanic group. Groups 2-4 were compared to Group 1, the reference group. Data sources included parent interviews conducted at three intervals--6, 15, and 26 months--after enrollment in the programs to determine the frequency of parent participation in parenting classes, group socialization, or parent support groups. Additional data on parent behaviors were obtained from home observations of parental linguistic and cognitive stimulation and from video recordings of parental cognitive stimulation, parental supportiveness, detachment, and intrusiveness. A 14-point scale was used for parental linguistic and cognitive stimulation and a seven-point scale was used to score the three parenting measures on the videotapes. Children's cognitive development was evaluated using the Bayley MDI scores at 14, 24, and 36 months of age.

The results showed differences in the degree of impact of each type of parent intervention programs on the various ethnic and language groups' parenting behaviors. Both the parenting classes and group socialization were effective for all four groups in increasing parents' linguistic and cognitive stimulation at home. However, the African American mothers participating in parent intervention and group socialization exhibited fewer detachment behaviors and higher levels of at-home cognitive and linguistic stimulation than the mothers in the reference group (who were mostly white). Parent support groups were effective in increasing participants' levels of supportiveness while decreasing intrusiveness. For non-English speaking Hispanic mothers who began with higher levels of parental intrusiveness than the reference group, this change was remarkable, as they began to increase their levels of participation in their children's education. Finally, the results showed that parents' linguistic and cognitive stimulation developed through changes in parenting behaviors had significant effects on their children's Bayley MDI scores.

A study such as this one should encourage program evaluators and developers to attend to components that support and develop positive parenting behaviors, rather than focusing solely on what happens within the early childhood center or school. Along with acknowledging such demographic variables as parents' education, race, income, and language spoken in the home, program evaluators need to consider and plan ways to address parenting behaviors such as stimulation, supportiveness, detachment, and intrusiveness. If we truly believe that parents are not only their children's first teachers, but also our partners in education, then we must equip them with the knowledge, skills, and support to fully participate in their children's education.

Elementary Organizational Structures and Young Adolescents' Self-Concept and Classroom Environment Perceptions Across the Transition to Middle School--Parker

It seems as though the phenomenon of "getting children ready" for the next level of schooling will not die quietly. We wish we could focus our attention on the children we are teaching rather than on anticipating the expectations of the next institution's teachers. Yet, preschool teachers are charged with getting children ready for kindergarten while elementary teachers must prepare students for middle school. Is there any proof that planning these transitions actually works? Since many researchers have suggested that the transition to middle school can be the most challenging, Parker's study sought to compare students' self-concept and perceptions of classroom climate as each group emerged from two elementary schools with differing organizational structures to enter the same middle school.

Adolescence is a time of changes--academically, motivationally, and emotionally along with the surprising (and sometimes horrific) physical metamorphosis. Developmentally appropriate middle schools were supposed to be designed with these very changes taken into account and to do a better job of educating young adolescents than junior high schools. For some districts, the developmentally appropriate middle school does not exist, but in others all of the components--interdisciplinary teams, integrated curriculum, and instructional strategies that capitalize on students' socialization--are clearly evident. Parker's study includes a sample of 125 fifth-grade students from two elementary schools, one of which was departmentalized (different teachers for each content area) and the other self-contained (same teacher for all subjects). The data source for students' self-concept included the Piers-Harris Self-Concept Scale, which included subscales for rating self-concept across physical appearance, popularity, happiness, anxiety, and intellectual/school status. For students' perceptions of classroom environment, the Modified Classroom Climate Instrument, a 25-item survey, was administered and subjects rated their responses on a Likert scale on items assessing personalization, participation, independence, investigation, and differentiation. Subjects responded to both instruments twice--in May of their 5th-grade year and October of 6th grade.

Results at the end of 5th grade showed one difference for self-concept--the students in the departmentalized school rated themselves higher on physical appearance--and one difference in independence in favor of the self-contained school's students. Results for the 6th-grade data showed the effect of time on students' self-concept in the form of higher ratings on appearance, popularity, and intellectual/school status, along with lower levels of anxiety. For the classroom climate variables in 6th grade, there were significantly higher ratings of participation and investigation. When the data from each elementary school were analyzed separately, there was a significant difference for independence, with the departmentalized students' ratings increasing while the self-contained students' ratings declined.

Some readers may be surprised by these findings that adolescents' self-concept ratings increased while levels of anxiety decreased upon entering middle school. Although this study is limited by its sample, it does raise some questions worth considering. First, did entering a developmentally appropriate middle school promote a smoother transition for these students? Second, did this district's extensive transition program for middle school enhance students' adjustment and self-concepts? Perhaps being familiar with the school building, teachers, schedule, and policies beforehand enabled the students to feel more confident and less anxious about their new school. Third, should districts reconsider the departmentalized elementary school as the solution to "getting ready for middle school"? It would seem that if these questions were investigated on a larger scale, we might finally be able to eliminate school organizational plans that only make sense to adults, but do nothing to enhance the educational experiences of the children they are supposed to serve.

Preadolescents' Self-concept and Popular Magazine Preferences--Bosacki, Elliott, Bajovic, & Akseer

Children and young adolescents are bombarded by cultural and social images through programs and advertisements on television and the Internet, as well as by the messages in music, video games, and magazines. Images of the ideal female and male body types and appropriate gender behavior communicate values and standards that alarm many parents, teachers, and politicians. As a result, children's advocates have focused more on what is being seen and heard on our airwaves and lobbied for legislation to address electronic media. Yet, little attention has been paid to the impact and influences of the print media, particularly the popular magazines that young adolescents regularly read. Grounded in prior research on adolescent media experiences and self-concept, Bosacki, Elliott, Bajovic, and Akseer's investigation focused their longitudinal study on adolescents' magazine preferences and reading habits and the subsequent impact on their self-concept, particularly adolescents' self-descriptions.

This Canadian study, conducted over three years, aimed to describe the relationships between adolescents' preferences for particular popular magazines and their self-descriptions as well as to determine differences according to age and gender. As part of a larger study of 5- to 13-year-olds' media preferences and habits, the researchers focused on 223 participants from grades 6 through 8, drawn from 14 elementary schools serving various socioeconomic and ethnic populations. Most of the children spoke English as their main language. Data sources included the parts of the Media Self-Report Questionnaire (a 22-page, paper and pencil instrument used in the larger study) related to self-concept, magazine reading, and preferences. For example, one question directed children to "list five things to describe themselves." First, two researchers independently coded the data, then frequency counts for grades and gender were tallied.

Across the three years of the study, boys' self-descriptions were consistent, using "cool" and "athletic" every year along with "smart" and "funny," while girls' descriptors became more diverse. Girls described themselves as "funny," "smart," "nice," and "friendly." Surprisingly, descriptors for physical appearance were not used by any of the participants. Gender differences in terms of magazine preferences were found, with girls reading magazines about fashion, celebrities, or entertainment (Teen People, Seventeen) while boys read about sports and video games (e.g., Sports Illustrated). Across the three years of the study, girls not only read a greater number of magazines, but did so with greater frequency than boys. However, magazine reading for both genders increased across time.

What can we learn from these results? First, it is surprising that the young adolescents read more magazines than we thought they did, and this should please educators and parents who wonder whether or not this age group reads for pleasure at all. Second, their self-descriptions did not reflect our preconceived notions that they would see themselves in terms of their physical attributes, rather than their social or emotional traits. Third, this finding is remarkable, given that most of the magazines regularly read and preferred by the girls featured thin, buxom models, while the boys' magazines portrayed athletic, muscular models. Thus, for this study's participants, magazines had little effect on self-definition, contradicting other researchers' findings. Future studies should explore questions about not only the messages children and young adolescents identify from print and electronic media, but also the impact of these messages on their subsequent gender roles, identification, and expectations. Therefore, we may need to attend more closely to developing media literacy at school and at home so that students will be able to interpret, recognize, and refute the information and images aimed their way.

Making Sense of Competing Contructs of Teacher as Professional--Sisson

In today's era of high-stakes testing, curriculum standards, and educational mandates, teachers struggle to maintain their professional beliefs, stature, and decision-making. These struggles can intensify as teachers attempt to implement programs designed and intended for cultures outside their own. When the Reggio Emilia schools began, their philosophy, approach, and curriculum arose from the Italian community of teachers and parents with shared beliefs, culture, and vision. Thus, the Reggio Emilia schools represented a common set of understandings and aspirations for the young children being served. As appealing as the Reggio Emilia approach has been to educators in the United States and other countries, its implementation brings a set of contradictions, issues, and problems that many neither recognized nor anticipated. Obstacles to one of the approach's goals, the teacher viewed as a professional, becomes evident when parents do not understand the Reggio Emilia philosophy and when the teachers' and parents' beliefs about schooling differ. While previous research on implementing this approach have focused on ways to adopt it to the American setting, the study presented in this article shows teachers' struggles with the philosophy and their relationships with parents.

Sisson's descriptive study focused on eight teachers transitioning from the American image of early childhood teachers, defined by standards and accountability, to the Reggio Emilia view as the trusted professional. Thus, this comparative case study shows how teachers negotiate between these two competing images of the teacher as professional in two sites; one (a university-affiliated program) was considered to be a model Reggio Emilia program and the second was a site with Reggio-inspired teachers. The teachers at the first site had visited and studied the schools in Italy, participated in a study group, and were engaged in research projects along with parents, children, and student teachers. The teachers at the second site had not visited the schools in Italy, but were members of a Reggio study group in their community. Classroom participant observations, videotaped, one-hour group interviews at each site, and artifacts (parent literature, newsletters, documentation of children's learning) supplied by participants constituted the three data sources for this study. Qualitative analysis of the data sources was conducted to identify themes.

The findings suggest that these teachers were attracted to the Reggio Emilia approach because of its image of the teacher as professional, which coincides with previous research. These participants noted that as they sought to be perceived by parents as the trusted professional, this notion was challenged by parents' views of the teachers more as service providers than as knowledgeable professionals. This view caused the teachers to try to prove that the children were learning by providing documentation to the parents who were demanding accountability. This requirement to document children's progress caused teachers to negotiate between their own views of professionalism and the American and the Reggio Emilia perspectives. Participants used parent education as a means to increase parents' understanding of the Reggio Emilia approach, hoping to begin a shared vision of schooling while overcoming parents' preconceived notions of children's learning.

Many researchers and educators will find the power struggles portrayed in this study interesting and enlightening. What the teachers understood and valued about the Reggio Emilia approach was not shared by the parents. Not only were there differing levels of knowledge and beliefs for teachers and parents, but also conflicting expectations and shared values of early schooling. This dynamic was further complicated by adopting a program not designed for American schools and culture. What the teachers were just beginning to fully understand about becoming Reggio Emilia teachers, the parents did not comprehend at all. For parents, both centers were places where their children received care while the parents worked or were otherwise occupied. The parents did not select these centers based on their understanding or belief in Reggio Emilia schools. In the United States, we have sought to elevate the status of teaching as a profession through adopting standards, certification examinations, accreditation, and even national licensing. None of these efforts have changed the public's perceptions of teachers above that of technicians, nor have parents elevated early childhood teachers to a level above a service provider. This study proposes that parent education may be an effective way to change this perception of teachers, and future studies should explore this idea further. Additional investigations should explore how teachers work toward becoming a true profession, redefining and broadening their role in educational research and policy.

Kindergarten Teachers' Perspectives on Developmentally Appropriate Practices (DAP): A Study Conducted in Mumbai (India)--Hegde & Cassidy

As the previous study shows, adapting programs or curriculum standards designed for one country or culture may not be effective in another. Developmentally appropriate practices (DAP), an approach proposed and originally designed for U.S. schools, espoused a constructivist philosophy that inspired and influenced some teachers while confusing others. Since teachers are the ones who interpret and implement DAP, how they apply these practices is influenced by their beliefs, culture, and classroom contexts. Initially, classroom practices were categorized as either DAP or DIP (developmentally inappropriate practices), but this dichotomy is inconsistently applied and interpreted across classrooms and countries. What may be considered DAP in one classroom or culture would be DIP in another. Herein lies the problem that Hegde and Cassidy chose to investigate. Their study takes a closer look at how teachers in India interpret and apply DAP in their classrooms.

Indian early childhood education differs from that in the United States in several ways--funding (national government), the types of care (custodial child care or preschool), teacher education (diploma programs for bachelor's degree holders), and class size (50-75 children per room). Thus, the contexts for Indian teachers implementing DAP are considerably different from those for which DAP was intended in the United States. This study provides the forum for teachers to articulate their concerns and opinions about implementing DAP in the large city of Mumbai. The sample included 12 teachers from lower (4-year-olds) and upper kindergarten (5-year-olds), representing each of the four zones in Mumbai. All of the teachers spoke, read, and wrote in English and their schools were English medium schools. All of the teachers completed a one-year diploma course in early childhood and all but one had bachelor's degrees in other fields. The primary data source was a researcher-constructed interview composed of 9 open-ended questions regarding schedules, meeting children's needs, planning, and child-centered and play-based curriculum. It is important to note that the questions did not use the term DAP or ask directly about teachers' perceptions of DAP. Teachers' interview responses were audiotaped and later transcribed.

Qualitative data analysis identified six themes: 1) child-centered vs teacher-directed, 2) importance of worksheets, 3) group activities for socialization, 4) issues with implementing play, 5) need for change in early childhood education, and 6) teachers' beliefs vs practices. It was dismaying to learn that some classrooms allowed almost no free play at all, but this is also understandable, given the large class sizes. It was interesting to note that only two teachers did not value worksheets; most felt that these provided evidence and evaluation of children's learning that was useful to teachers and expected by the parents. Teachers valued group activities not only for their socialization, but also as a means to train children to wait their turn. In terms of play, teachers identified a number of barriers, including parents' beliefs, number of children per class, and a lack of toys and equipment. Among the areas where teachers expressed a desire for change in early childhood education were their recognition as professionals, salaries, and improved, ongoing teacher training. Finally, teachers outlined their struggles with implementing developmentally appropriate practices that support children's learning and the realities of teaching large numbers of children.

Not only have the ideals and intentions of DAP been debated within the United States, this study shows that DAP is called into question around the world. Just as it is difficult for U.S. schools to truly adopt the Reggio Emilia approach because it was not designed for our culture, DAP may actually be DIP in other cultures with different values, numbers of children per classroom, and parents' expectations. It should be noted that the teachers in this study were attempting to incorporate practices that they neither fully understood nor had sufficient preparation to implement. Future studies should identify the culturally, developmentally, and individually appropriate practices that support young children's learning in particular contexts.

Academic Enrichment in High-Functioning Homework Afterschool Programs--Huang & Cho

Homework assignments have become commonplace, even for kindergartners in U.S. schools with the expectation that homework is beneficial to students' learning by developing study habits and extending their understanding of concepts. For children from less-advantaged families, completing homework can be problematic when the resources at home (e.g., computers, knowledgeable adults, and materials) are scarce or missing altogether. To support these students, as well as those whose working parents need supervised child care, afterschool programs were established. Some programs are housed in elementary and middle schools, while others are held in community centers and churches. Just as these programs vary in location, their offerings range from academic support to social activities, such as sports, clubs, and games, and their staff varies from teachers to untrained volunteers. Previous research focused on the most essential components of afterschool homework programs. Huang and Cho build upon this foundation and investigate the instructional strategies and techniques from high-functioning homework programs that have led to higher student academic performance.

Huang and Cho's study was part of the third phase of a larger national study conducted by the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) on exemplary afterschool homework programs. Huang and Cho's sample included the seven programs selected for their success in improving students' academic performance and/or program attendance and engagement. The criteria for selecting each program included being in operation for at least two years, serving 50 students, and having two sites that used similar materials or strategies for homework assistance. Most of the students being served were white, especially in the rural programs, but African American, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American children were included, usually in the urban programs. The CRESST instruments used for data collection included staff and parent surveys, taperecorded and transcribed interviews, and observation protocols at each of the 14 sites, two from each of the seven exemplary programs. Survey data were analyzed quantitatively, while the interview responses were analyzed using CRESST-created codes.

Four common strategies and practices were identified through the data analysis: 1) homework support, 2) study skills, 3) motivational strategies, and 4) communication with the day school. Personnel for homework assistance included teachers, university student tutors, volunteers, and paid assistants. Some programs offered specialized, one-to-one assistance for children and others used peer tutors. Among the study skills were 1) time management and organization, usually in the form of homework planners; 2) note taking, including outlining; 3) test preparation, such as practice test, studying notes, and coaching; and 4) using reference materials appropriately, such as Internet resources and the more traditional dictionaries and encyclopedias. Establishing an open, informal environment enabled most programs to build student motivation, confidence, and willingness to ask questions. In addition, some programs used local mentoring programs supported by college sororities and fraternities, incentive/reward programs, and enrichment activities or clubs, such as Girl/Boy Scouts. While all of the programs established communication with the day schools to keep updated on students' progress and needs, the frequency varied across programs, as did the form of communication--verbal conversations or daily written homework prescription forms completed by the classroom teachers.

What are the implications for educators and researchers? First, for homework programs to effectively increase student achievement, they have to be well-designed, incorporating the four strategies identified in this study, which collectively support student independence and promote positive attitudes toward schooling. Second, effective programs must have capable, competent staff in sufficient numbers to offer quality academic support to all of the children attending the program, and the staff must be responsible for communicating with the day teachers to ensure that the services being provided meet the students' needs and the teachers' expectations. Third, motivational strategies to keep students engaged and finishing their homework should not be overlooked. In other words, children need to have a tangible reward, such as the club and social activities, to entice them to invest some effort and to regularly attend the program. Future studies should investigate how students perceive the elements of effective homework programs. What do they perceive as valuable or helpful? What suggestions do the students have to improve programs' effectiveness? It seems that we would want to know what the consumers of these programs believe and perceive, wouldn't we?

Rebecca P. Harlin

Florida Atlantic University
Gale Copyright:
Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.