FOLLOW-UP RESEARCH RELATED TO SCIENCE KIDS – A PRESCHOOL SCIENCE PROJECT

Project Details

Short Description

In this project, we analyse a municipality’s experiences of partaking in a professional development programme called Science Kids. We aim to develop knowledge about how participation in such programmes can contribute to the development of science teaching in preschools. The research is done in cooperation with a mid-sized Swedish municipality and empirical data is collected in terms of pre- and post-questionnaires, focus-group discussions, and interviews. Content analysis is used supported by frameworks of curriculum emphases and professional development. The analysis is ongoing and results and discussion related to current and future science teaching in preschool will be presented at international conferences and journals. Preliminarily we can, at this point, say that the participants display a positive attitude towards science in preschool and that they highlight the importance of everybody's participation. There is a pronounced focus on the importance of children being able to understand and discuss science content among themselves. Not so much about decision-making, science in society, and other aspects of science.

Description

Introduction
The project has its background in that the national curriculum stipulates natural science as content in Swedish preschool, i.e. children should be given the opportunity to develop an understanding of "simple chemical processes and physical phenomena" and the ability to discuss natural science. At the same time, many educators in preschool experience science as a difficult area to teach. In line with these difficulties, the Swedish Schools Inspectorate reports that science in preschool is often treated in isolation without connection to the children's own investigations or everyday life (Swedish Schools Inspectorate, 2018). The need for the development of science teaching is emphasised in the same report. The non-profit association BUNT, leads the project Science Kids, which aims to develop science teaching in preschool based on children’s questions. Free web-based teaching materials are developed in collaboration between science centres and preschools. We are collaborating with a mid-size municipality taking part in Science Kids to analyse experiences made.

We aim to develop knowledge about the processes associated with the development of material for preschool science teaching. In particular, the focus is on how workteams’ participation in Science Kids can contribute to professional development in relation to science teaching in preschool. The research questions are:
•What kind of science content can be identified in the empirical data?
•How do participants discuss their work with children’s questions?
•How can participation in a project like Science Kids contribute to the professional development of work teams regarding science teaching?

Background
Research on science in preschool often uses Eshach's (2006) description of science as two knowledge domains. The first includes facts and science theories with concepts. The second includes scientific and investigative approaches such as questions, observations, experiments and discussions, i.e. the processes that have been used to arrive at the facts and theories addressed in the first domain. Both domains can be related to the knowledge area Nature of Science (NOS) (cf. Lederman, 2007; McComas, 2020). Important aspects of NOS possible to illustrate in preschool are, for example, different types of scientific methods and tools as well as human aspects linked to the knowledge processes such as curiosity, creativity, and collaboration (cf. Hansson et al., 2020; Leden et al., 2022). An analytical tool that can be used in the analysis of science content is Roberts' curriculum emphases (Roberts, 1982).

Furthermore, the preschool teacher's own attitude towards science is important for the children's opportunity to learn science; if the teacher has a positive attitude, it can affect the children positively (Fleer, 2009). In addition to aspects linked to the scientific content, research has shown the importance of preschool teachers making an effort to adapt to children's perspectives – a prerequisite for maintaining mutual simultaneity and intersubjectivity in teaching (cf. Fridberg et al., 2019).

According to Timperley (2019), teachers need to operate and be challenged within new frameworks and have access to new knowledge in order to develop new forms of practice. Furthermore, the importance of everyone's participation is emphasised. In other words, a workplace does not seem to "get further due to the development of a few individuals. Instead, the "whole" gains from everyone's participation. Results from a previous professional development project on science teaching in preschool showed that it was indeed imperative that all staff participated (Fridberg et al., 2021).

Research methods
The project is ongoing (2022-2024). Empirical data is collected in collaboration with two preschools in the municipality. Three work teams participate, each with a group of ten children (3-5 years old). Science Kids has an appointed process leader who collaborates with the three workteams together with a project manager from the Science Centre. A lecturer from the municipality supports the process.

The structure of Science Kids will be repeated in four periods: autumn 2022, spring 2023, autumn 2023 and spring 2024. Each period begins with a visit from the project manager from the Science Centre to the relevant children's group. The visit is organised around pre-selected science materials. The process leader and the workteam pay attention to the children's questions and interests and, based on this, choose a science content area for further work.

The empirical data consists of pre- and post-surveys and focus groups with the workteam and the municipal lecturer. In addition, the documentation of the process leader is collected, and follow-up interviews are conducted with the process leader, the project manager, the municipal lecturer, and the principals at the two preschools. Data is analysed by using both conventional and directed content analysis (Hsieh & Shannon, 2005).

Results – ongoing analysis
The analysis is ongoing and will be intensified and completed by the end of 2024. One of the interests of the study is to get an insight into what science content comes into focus in this type of project. This is studied by analysing how the participants talk about their didactic choices related to science and children's questions about science. The analysis uses the seven curriculum emphases (Roberts, 1982). Solid foundation is about learners getting a stable foundation for future studies. Correct explanation focuses on factual knowledge and the value of knowledge for its own sake. Everyday coping focuses on the benefits children/students can derive from science to understand everyday life. Science, technology and decisions focuses on the role of science in society and how science knowledge can be used to make informed decisions. Self as explainer is based on the need and desire to be able to explain phenomena one is curious about in the here and now. Scientific skill development focuses on scientific methods and procedures to enable learners to investigate things themselves. Nature of science focuses on knowledge of how science works and what characterises scientific knowledge. The curriculum emphases as a theoretical framework enable an analysis of both what is emphasised and what is not in the participants' discussions. Thus, it is possible to draw conclusions about what should be emphasised or adjusted in professional development processes.

Furthermore, we analyse the development of work teams and the role of management according to Timperley's (2019 p. 42) three levels (basic level, development level and integrated level). Three perspectives, motivation to participate, knowledge and skills, and the role of leaders are analysed based on the three levels. For example, motives for participating in a professional development project can be analysed based on 1) basic level: new ways of teaching science in preschool, 2) development level: teaching science through investigative approaches and 3) integrated level: teaching science through investigative approaches based on children's questions. The three levels move towards an increasingly specific and engaging rationale for active participation. Similarly, the other two perspectives move from the basic to the integrated level.

Preliminarily, we can say that the participants display a positive attitude towards science in preschool, even though some refer to negative experiences in their own schooling. They discuss difficulties if the entire work team is not part of the process. The curriculum emphases that come into focus are related to the importance of children being able to understand and discuss science content among themselves. There is quite a strong focus on providing children with correct facts and language. There has so far been few discussions of decision-making and science in society. We also notice that stereotypes of scientists might be confirmed in that the project manager from the science centre is dressed in a lab coat.

Discussion and conclusion
Results related to science content and aspects of professional development will be presented at the conference and discussed in relation to published research and future professional development projects.

References
Eshach, H. (2006). Science literacy in primary schools and pre-schools. Springer.
Fleer, M. (2009). Supporting scientific conceptual consciousness or learning in ‘a Roundabout way’ in play-based contexts. International Journal of Science Education, 31(8), 1069–1089.
Fridberg, M., Jonsson, A., Redfors, A., & Thulin S. (2019). Teaching Chemistry and Physics in Preschool – a Matter of Establishing Intersubjectivity. International Journal of Science Education 41(17), 2542-2556.
Fridberg, M., Jonsson, A., Redfors, A., & Thulin, S. (2021). Undervisning om kemi- och fysikrelaterade vardagsfenomen i förskolan: Samverkan med ett skolområde kring kompetensutveckling och forskning. Kristianstad University Press.
Hansson, L., Leden, L., & Thulin, S. (2020). Book Talks as an Approach to Nature of Science Teaching in Early Childhood Education. International Journal of Science Education, 42(12), 2095-2111.
Hsieh, H. F., and S. E. Shannon. 2005. “Three approaches to qualitative content analysis.” Qualitative health research 15(9): 1277-1288.
Leden, L., Hansson, L., & Thulin, S. (2022). Characteristics of book talks about nature of science. Science Education, 106(6), 1469-1500.
Lederman, N. G. (2007). Nature of Science: Past, Present, and Future. In S. K. Abell & N. G. Lederman (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Science Education, 831-879. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
McComas, W. F. (2020). Nature of Science in Science Instruction. Springer.
Roberts, D. A. (1982). Developing the concept of “curriculum emphases” in science education. Science Education, 66(2), 243-260.
Skolinspektionen (2018). Förskolans kvalitet och måluppfyllelse – ett treårigt regeringsuppdrag att granska förskolan. Skolinspektionen.
Timperley, H. (2019). Det professionella lärandets inneboende kraft. Studentlitteratur.
Short titleScience Kids
StatusActive
Effective start/end date22-09-0125-06-30

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