COI Wycliffe Nga Tamariki Kindergarten: The Flight of Our Kite

Publication Details

This is the final research report of Wycliffe Nga Tamariki Kindergarten, a round one ECE Centre of Innovation.

Author(s): Penny Haworth and Joy Cullen, Massey University, Heather Simmons, Liz Schimanski and Pam McGarva, Wycliff Nga Tamariki and Eileen Woodhead, Napier Kindergarten Association.

Date Published: June 2006

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Executive Summary

This report describes a Centre of Innovation research project carried out at Wycliffe Nga Tamariki Kindergarten between April 2003 and June 2006. The setting for this study was selected as one of the first six Centres of Innovation. The Kindergarten's defining characteristic was the way in which it worked to embrace families from the local Samoan Upu Amata within its community of learners. The use of information and communication technology to enhance communication between the Samoan families and the Kindergarten was another significant feature. In this way Wycliffe Nga Tamariki Kindergarten illustrated the achievability of some key aims from the government's ten year strategic plan for early childhood education, Pathways to the Future: Ngā Huarahi Arataki (Ministry of Education, 2002).

The teachers in the Kindergarten hold an additive perspective on bilingualism, and this is also supported by members of the Upu Amata community. The emphasis on the community of learners also led, as the research evolved, to more confident use of sociocultural perspectives when analysing the findings from the study. Reflective discussion within the team focused on the broader context for learning and included input from a range of participants in the community of learners. Hence, the process was essentially advanced through a series of provocations.

The research undertaken at Wycliffe Nga Tamariki Kindergarten took a collaborative action research approach that was in itself innovative, as teachers took the lead role as teacher-researchers supported by research associates, rather than the reverse. The research team thus included teachers, researchers, and both Samoan and non-Samoan teacher aides, as well as a wider Focus Group that informed the team's reflections at critical points in the study.

The study followed three action research cycles which became increasingly intertwined as the team explored children's interactions from a number of angles. At first, children were observed in interaction with their friends. The investigation then moved on to generate working theories about how to support children's learning, and finally their literacy development. Over the course of the study a number of useful insights were also gained into how to further enhance the community of learners at Wycliffe Nga Tamariki, and the bilingual development of all children within this setting. In addition, there was some exploration of the effects of peer support on the cognitive and language development of children from differing age groups.

As a result of the study, the teacher-researchers have generated a number of useful working theories about how to support children's friendship interactions, their learning, and their language and literacy development within a bilingual community of learners. In particular, the range of mediators that facilitate bilingual development have become more visible; six teaching strategies that support children's learning have been discovered; and a number of elements which contribute to the effectiveness of the Wycliffe Nga Tamariki Kindergarten's community of learners have been identified.

The teacher-researchers have become more confident in their positioning of bilingualism as an additive enrichment of children's learning. They have moved from an initial stance on play-based learning, to one in which there is more awareness of how peers, adults, and cultural tools contribute to children's learning. These insights not only portrayed children as active learners, but also highlighted how teachers could take a more proactive role in supporting that learning.

The six significant teaching strategies highlighted by the study include being aware of children's need to revisit their learning; moving intuitively between co-construction and scaffolding; integrating all resources available, including cultural and community resources across the curriculum; having fun as part of the learning process; the need to ask more open questions of the children to allow for their interests, rather than teachers' pre-emptive knowledge, to lead the way; and the need for teachers to actively promote peer interactions to support learning.

The study has also highlighted the significance of members of a community of learners having a sense of belonging. As a result, teacher-researchers have become more aware of the need to become learners and to engage with aspects of Samoan language and culture so as to make the setting more meaningful for their wider community of learners. Roles within the community of learners have also visibly become more fluid and flexible, as all participants are in fact learners, including teachers, parents and other adults, as well as children. The study has thus resulted in many valuable practical implications for children, the wider community, for teaching, and for teachers themselves, who have become teacher-researchers in the process.

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