School Drawing For Kids researchers have provided many arguments for why drawing may contribute to science learning. However, little is known about how teachers in early childhood education (ECE) make use of drawing for science learning purposes. This article examines how teachers’ views and framing of drawing activities influence the science learning opportunities afforded to children in the activities. We use activity theory to analyze teacher interviews and observation data from ten science classrooms (children aged 3–8 years) where drawing activities occurred.
The interviews reveal that few teachers specifically relate drawing to science learning. Rather, they portray drawing as a component of variation in teaching and learning in general. Looking at what happens in the classrooms, we conclude that drawing has a relatively weak position as means of communicating and learning science. Instead, the teaching emphasizes writing or ‘making a product’. However, there are examples where teachers explicitly use drawing for science learning purposes.
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School drawing for kids is often put forward as an integral part of scientific practice. Throughout the history of science, drawing has been used to document concrete science content, spanning from small organisms to astronomical objects, as well as to visualize ‘the invisible’ (Hoffman & Wittman, 2013). In early childhood education (ECE), it is common for children to draw as a part of their science lesson, partly because drawing serves as a substitute, or precursor, for writing.
The fact that drawing is a common mode of expression in ECE is potentially positive given the many arguments provided by researchers for how drawing may contribute to science learning. For one, researchers point out that students’ drawing may enhance their conceptual learning in science since drawing makes their understanding explicit and helps them to organize their knowledge effectively (Ainsworth et al., 2011). Second, students’ drawings may function as evidence or indications of students’ conceptual knowledge and progress in science (Chin & Teou, 2010). Third, students should learn to draw to visually communicate knowledge in science the same way scientists do (Danish & Phelps, 2011).
A sociocultural approach to drawing in the science classroom
Building on sociocultural theories, we assume that drawing in science class is an act of participating in a specific community (Wertsch, 1991, 1998), typically consisting of the teachers and children in the classroom. When children draw, they interact with teachers, peers, material, and the norms and languages that apply in their classroom. These interactions shape how they make (scientific) meaning while drawing. Herein, we use activity theory (AT) (Engeström, 1987) to describe and analyze drawing activities in ECE science classrooms. According to AT, classroom activities can be understood as collective activities where the participants in the classroom community head towards a shared object.
In our studies of science teaching in ECE, AT helped us identify how elements, such as local rules, division of labor, and material tools, interact and how they affect the science learning opportunities afforded to children (Sundberg et al., 2016, 2018). We found that the teachers’ views on teaching and learning played a crucial role in how science was afforded to children. Accordingly, we presuppose that teachers’ views on drawing in science affect children’s possibilities to use drawing to communicate and learn science.
ECE teachers’ views on the role of drawing in science education are underexplored in research. Nevertheless, some studies of ECE classrooms indicate that children’s drawing practices are influenced by how their teachers view drawing in science; for example, drawings should be detailed and accurate (Danish & Saleh, 2015) and descriptive, without embellishments (Ero-Tolliver et al., 2013).
Aim and research questions
We concur with previous research that drawing activities may provide many pedagogical benefits. Such as supporting assessment, conceptual learning, communication, and visual literacy in science. Noting that little is known about whether the potential pedagogical benefits of drawing are actually realized in. ECE science classrooms, we aim to contribute knowledge on how and why ECE teachers. Use drawing for science learning purposes in their classrooms. We seek to respond to the following research questions:
- What are the teachers’ views of the role of drawing in science teaching?
- How do the teachers frame drawing activities in science teaching?
- How do the teachers’ views and framing of drawing activities influence the science learning opportunities afforded to children?
Our study has the potential to contribute unique perspectives on. Why and how pedagogical potentials of drawing are realized in ECE science teaching. This since the study examines and combines two previously underexplored issues: drawing activities. As situated in a cultural context and ECE teachers’ views on the role of drawing in science teaching.
Context and method
The Swedish context
We have conducted the study in Sweden, where ECE includes three school forms. Preschool (for children aged 1–5 years), preschool class (6 years), and primary school (7–9 years). Preschool classes and primary school are compulsory. Although preschool is voluntary, about half of the 1-year-old children, 89 percent of the 2-year-olds, and 94 percent of the 3–5-year-olds are enrolled in preschool (Statistics Sweden, 2019). The three school forms have different cultural-historical grounds and are currently influenced by different pedagogical policies.
Sandberg et al. (2017) conclude that Swedish preschool teaching is characterized by intertwining care, play, and children’s interests. The preschool curriculum allows for subject integration and does not promote individual knowledge assessment. Whereas, in Swedish primary school, teaching is influenced by distinct school subjects and individual assessments. Preschool-class, states Sandberg et al. (2017, p. 249), ‘is both metaphorically and literally placed between preschool and primary school’.
We base the current study on data from the three school forms, assuming that. Such data will provide a wide range of responses to our research questions. Still, we do not consider school form as the sole indicator of the cultural context. In line with results from our previous studies of preschool contexts (Sundberg et al., 2016, 2018 ), we assume that the local classroom culture shapes why and how teachers use drawing for science learning purposes in their classrooms.
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