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Bridging the gaps: Science learning continuity across early years transitions.

The project will advance our understanding of how to bridge the gaps related to science teaching between preschool, preschool class and years 1-3 in primary school.

The project is an applied research where researchers and teachers will collaborate on creating and testing teaching interventions in a cyclic process aiming at improving science learning continuity across sectors. The research will generate knowledge highly relevant in a situation where the quality of science teaching is discussed both in political and research contexts as the results will provide knowledge about how children are afforded a subject related continuity across sectors in early years education.

Project overview

Project period

2017-01-01 2020-12-31

External funding

The Swedish Research Council, 2017-2019: SEK 6,372,000

Subject

Ämnesdidaktik

Project description

The main purpose of the project is to advance our understanding of how to bridge the gaps related to science teaching between preschool, preschool class (transition to school class) and years 1-3 in primary school. The project aims to produce knowledge that is useful for both practice and teacher education and is therefore based on applied research conducted in collaboration with teachers representing preschool, preschool class and years 1-3. In the proposed project researchers and teachers will collaborate on creating and testing teaching interventions aimed at science learning continuity across sectors. The project will involve several units, each including a preschool, a preschool class and a class representing years 1-3. Each unit will be represented by 1-2 teachers and the project is initiated by individual interviews with the teachers. Then begins a cyclical process of reflection, intervention and evaluation. Together the researchers and teachers make an inventory of problems focusing on barriers and opportunities to develop their science teaching in a way that promotes continuity across the three sectors. Interventions will be developed based on the problem inventory and implemented in the educational settings. Possible areas for interventions may be developing teaching about the nature of science, asking "productive questions" that promote scientific inquiry, or helping children develop their "working theories" for relationships and phenomena in nature. After the intervention researchers and teachers meet to reflect over the experience.
The process then goes into a second cycle where prior experiences are starting points for reformulations of problems and refinements of new interventions. Engeström's theory of expansive learning will be used as a theoretical framework for analysing the process of developing the interventions since this theory is concerned with how participants identify problematic objects, and how they expand these objects by creating new models, concepts or tools (Engeström and Sannino 2010). Qualitative data will be collected from individual interviews with teachers, observations of the implementation of the interventions, and focus group discussions. Activity Theory will be used to analyse how educational cultures interact with science teaching. The following research questions will be considered throughout the project:
- What characterises science teaching in preschool, preschool class and years 1-3 of primary school? I.e. what activities occur, what learning objects exist and what material and symbolic tools are used by teachers in connection with these?
- What perceptions do teachers in preschool, preschool class and years 1-3 have concerning their responsibility to teach science?
- What perceptions do teachers have of science teaching in the adjacent sectors?
- What are the obstacles to and opportunities for continuity across preschool, preschool class and years 1-3 when it comes to science education?
- What features of the interventions assist science learning continuity across preschool, preschool class and years 1-3?

The research will generate knowledge highly relevant in a situation where the quality of science teaching is discussed both in political and research contexts. This since the results will provide knowledge about how children are afforded a subject related continuity across sectors in early years education. Educational research is often criticized for producing results that are difficult for teachers and principals to apply in their practice. Our approach is therefore based on a collaborative research between practitioner and researcher to ensure results with relevance to both practice and educational research.