UPDATE. D2.4. Suggestions for teacher training focusing on early childhood education

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1 Project no UPDATE Understanding and Providing a Developmental Approach to Technology Education Specific Support Action Thematic Priority: Structuring the ERA / FP Science-and-society-16 D2.4. Suggestions for teacher training focusing on early childhood education Leena Turja University of Jyväskylä Due date of deliverable: Month 32 Actual submission date: Month 36 Start date of project: Duration: Organisation name of lead contractor for this deliverable: University of Jyväskylä (Partner 1) Project co-funded by the European Commission within the Sixth Framework Programme ( ) Dissemination level of this report: Public

2 Suggestions for teacher training focusing on early childhood education Leena Turja University of Jyväskylä, Finland General overview Orientation also to the technological contents is familiar in the over one hundred years tradition of early childhood education. For example in Finland, where the roots of kindergarten pedagogy lay on Fröbel pedagogy, the term experimenting and inventing has been used up to nineties in pedagogical text books to refer to early science and technology education contents. Theses are the subject areas which are typically connected together and often also with mathematics. Arts and crafts is also a typical subject area in early childhood education (ECE) curricula that includes technological orientation; children are supposed to use different kind of material, acquire knowledge and make productions and designs with different techniques and tools. Moreover, the social and cultural learning contents aim to pass on cultural heritage including technology as a human product and activity from one generation to the next. Also environmental studies deal with the relationship of humans, nature, society and technology. However, the contemporary national level curriculum framework texts tend to express the contents and objectives in general terms without explications (e.g. Bertram & Pascal, 2002), thus the orientation to technological contents is usually embedded in this general level curriculum text (Turja, 2007; Turja, Endepohls-Ulpe & Chatoney, 2009). If technology is mentioned it 2

3 is in most cases focused only on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) looking for ways to apply new technologies to education and teach children to use audiovisual media in an appropriate way (Early Technical Education 2003; Turja 2007). National level ECE curriculum framework is essential in many ways, because it guides not only the planning of practical activities in the field of ECE but also the contents of teacher education and in-service training as well as research based development of early technology education, and production of materials for teaching and learning (Turja et al. 2009). Early technical education an EU-project for the education and teaching of children from 3 to 10 years in Germany, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain (2003) revealed that technological education as a compulsory subject area in teacher education is mainly connected to ICT. This is in line with the fact that ICT is the visible area of technology mentioned also in ECE curricula. However, the subject areas of art, handicraft, science and social studies are represented somehow in teacher training and could also deal with objectives and contents of technology education. Nevertheless, European countries differ from each other in concern of the early technological education. For example in Great Britain and in Portugal the ECE curriculum framework includes a more conscious orientation to technology contents, and thus, also the teacher training is supposed to prepare fore coming teachers more consciously to technology education (Early technical education 2003; Turja et al. 2009). Those few studies directed to ECE teachers opinions about and experiences of technology education indicate that the modern term technology education is new or unfamiliar in the context of early childhood (Alamäki 1999; Vuoristo 2007). According to them the ECE activities include also technological activities, but teachers reported of feeling themselves unsure with both the theoretical and the practical knowledge of TE. Teachers considered that they need more knowledge of what technology education means in early years and how to put it in practice. They also felt that their own technological skills ought to be better. Their general attitude towards technological education is positive. Some teachers thought that they only need to look at the daily life and activities with a kind of spectacles of technology education in order to create conscious moments for TE. Anyhow, quite a large part of teachers didn t even answer to these inquiries, which may indicate that their interest and experience of technology education is low. (Alamäki 1999; Vuoristo 2007). One small study implemented in one school in Netherlands revealed that older teachers appeared to pay more attention to technology than younger teachers. An explanation given was that, though older teachers have had less studies of technology as a subject in their training, they do, however, have more experience than younger ones to reflect existing practices and to include technology in their curriculum. (Early technical education 2003.) It is also interesting that when Finnish and Estonian children at the age of four to six years (mostly six years old) were asked what they understood with the word technology, only one third of 39 children gave some kind of own description of this word. Half of children considered that they had never heard this word, and some just couldn t remember what that word means. Does this mean that teachers who do not feel themselves comfortable with the concept technology do not use it in their 3

4 pedagogical vocabulary? In this case, they probably do not implement a conscious technology education either. (See more in the UPDATE Deliverable D.2.2.) ECE teachers, of which over 90% are female, have already developed a certain type of identity as a technological agent due to the socialization by the surrounding society which guides people to different kind of interests, schooling and professions according to their gender. In the contemporary western societies technology is still strongly seen to belong to males, which is also connected to the fact that girls and women are under-represented in technological professions, studies and training programmes. For ECE teacher education and in-service training this generates a demanding challenge to overcome those gender-biased attitudes and self-images of the female teacher students already developed during their own childhood and basic education. More over, these future teachers need to know how this gender biased hidden curriculum works in our society and how to actively act against it beginning from the early age when the basement of gender identity and self-image starts develop. In the recent study about teacher opinions (Vuoristo, 2007) a part of kindergarten teachers tended to think that technological activity and interests are more natural to males than females while the others thought that people have a personal interest in technology that is not dependent on the gender. However, teachers saw that the surrounding society directs strong expectations toward children concerning the gender typical behaviour, and thus is impacting on their growing identity. Teachers regarded themselves as important models for children and considered that their own technological skills and positive attitudes towards technology are to be enhanced in order to avoid gender biased early learning. In conclusion, gender sensitive education is needed both in the field of early childhood education and in ECE teacher training. 4

5 2 Some results of the student inquiry in Finland, Germany and Estonia Teacher students of early childhood education were consulted about their experiences of teacher training and their ideas to develop contents and methods of training concerning orientation to technology education. The original inquiry consisted of the individual questionnaire (APPENDIX 1a) and focus group discussion about given themes (APPENDIX 1b). The research method is described in the APPENDIX 3, Finnish kindergarten teacher students answers in the individual questionnaire and the focus group interviews concerning technology education studies in teacher training. The whole inquiry was implemented with 10 Estonian teacher students qualifying for teaching children at 6 9 years of age and with 13 Finnish kindergarten teacher students qualifying for teaching children at 1 to 7 years of age. The results of the qualitative data are presented in the APPENDIX 3 and 4. Moreover only the quantitative part of the questionnaire was filled by 48 German teacher students qualifying for teaching children at 6 12 years of age and 44 Finnish kindergarten teacher students qualifying for teaching children at 1 to 7 years of age (altogether 57 students gave their rating when the data of the former group of 13 students was added here). The tables of the statistical analyses to describe the whole group ratings and make comparisons between countries (Finland, Germany and Estonia) by one way ANOVA and post hoc tests are presented in the APPENDIX 2. Although the Estonian data was quite small it was added to this analysis to get some idea of the students views in different countries. 2.1 Definitions of concepts technology and technology education (n= 13 Finnish and 10 Estonian teacher students) Technology: Most of the students described that technology is technical equipments, information technology, electronics, mechanics, machines and devices; knowledge of their structure, functioning and how to use them. They also thought that technology means designing and creating something new. Some pinpointed the ability to construct and fix or maintain technical equipments. Only few mentioned that with the help of technology we can make our life easier and advance our wellbeing; it covers different areas of life. These students took a wider point of view; they looked at the meaning of technology and the relationship between human beings and technology and they considered technology as an activity directed to the environment that people modify with a help of science and research. Implicitly, some students considered technology also as different systems and processes, but this was rare. Technology is a broad notion that covers different areas of life. There is food technology, clothing technology, IT and many other fields. 5

6 Technology is a mechanism, which makes the life in the society simpler and faster. It includes the means of transport, the means of communication (mobile phones), program software (computers), etc. Technology education: Based on the student s answers it was clear that students have at least a theoretical knowledge about what technology education is and where does it aim at. Usually the students thought that technology education is about familiarizing children with technology. They learn to use safely familiar technological equipment in everyday life. They saw that it s important to give children positive experiences and increase children s interests towards technology. Many students thought also, that in technology education children should have an active role in exploring technological world. Some pinpointed that children should get an idea about what technology is and for what purpose different objects are developed; also a historical point of view was mentioned once. A couple of students also mentioned that in technology education learning is based on problem solving where a child has a permission to try new things. Knowledge and usage of different materials and appropriate techniques is connected to this experimental trying and creating. Home economics, handicrafts and natural sciences were seen those curricular areas suitable to connect early technology education. In Estonian data the information technology was strongly stressed as a central subject. One student couldn t see any early steps to the technological world; this student saw that technology education is so difficult subject that little children do not have a capacity to understand and follow it. The possibilities to use playful activities and make visits to neighbourhood to get to know technological professions and roles were not mentioned (comp. Turja et al. 2009). 2.2 Evaluations of teacher training in consideration to technology education and students own readiness to educate children (n= 57 Finnish, 48 German and 10 Estonian teacher students) With ten claims (APPENDIX 1) we wanted to examine what kind of qualification teacher training provides for technology education in early years from the students point of view. On ground of the answers the students seemed to consider early childhood technology education as an important subject area, and students motivation to implement technology education in practice has increased somehow during the studies. However, students felt that they haven t got enough knowledge and skills to put technology education in practice. Confidence with their own skills about technology education weren t increased significantly during their training. All of the students would have hoped to get more knowledge and skills in the teacher training about technology education. Almost everybody needed also more information about what is technology education in early childhood and what are the aims of technology education. As a group, students knowledge and skills to apply gender sensitive education in their own practice was seen quite good. In the context of technology education they, anyhow, were unsure about the idea of gender sensitive pedagogy. 6

7 In the comparison of the different nationalities, the Estonian students were most optimistic with their own technological agency education studies. Otherwise the Finnish and the Estonian students were similarly pleased with their training while the German students had adopted the most critical attitude toward the acquired knowledge and skills within early technology education. However, taken separately the smaller group of Finnish students (n= 13) who participated also in focus group interviews and were seen as pilot students within the new technology education teaching, the results were more critical (see APPENDIX 3). It could be possible that in the Finnish teacher training the lecturers of science and technology education had learned to modify the TE course to meet better the students needs within the three years of UPDATE project, where one aim was to develop teacher training. Accordingly, the answers of the last studied students (n=44) were more positive affecting the whole Finnish data. On the other hand, to be critical does not necessarily mean that the received training has been worse than others training. It is also possible that students who are more conscious about the issues of TE tend to demand also better teaching in this area. Anyhow, the evaluation indicated that there should be more detailed and concretising teaching about the aims, methods and contents of early technology education, and the methods to implement TE in a gender sensitive way. 2.3 Ideas to develop of teacher training in consideration to technology education (Focus group interview, n= 13 Finnish and 10 Estonian teacher students) In general the Estonian students concentrated more on the primary school education than on preschool children s education. 1. What kind of things would you like to learn concerning (a) your own technology skills and (b) children s technology education? Students saw that they would need more time to advance their own technological skills. They thought that familiarising themselves with technology and technological terms properly is important because in this way they could get enough courage to put technology education in practice. On the other hand students realised that the amount of the technology education hours is limited so they didn t want to use too much time practicing their own technology skills. The role of training as modifying students attitudes was seen more essential than improving skills. Students point of view is seen from the next quotations. Experiences of succeed needed also for teacher students not just for kids. It means so much to get a positive image of technology education in the field where majority of educators are female. Students felt that they still needed more basic knowledge about what early technology is and what are the aims of it. Interviewees needed also some concrete information about the reasonable content to explore with the children. Students saw that knowing the content of primary schools first classes technology education could help them to set goals and find reasonable content for children in kindergarten. 7

8 Especially they wanted to get ideas how to engage technology education in everyday life of centres and children, and how to benefit all that already existing material available in centres for technology education purposes. They wanted to know more about gender equal ways of teaching and open ended tasks to carry on with children. 2. How would you like to study those issues in question? Interviewees said that the way of study technology education in early childhood teacher training should be practical and experimentally executed. Only a brief lecture about what technology education is in early years and what does it contain could take place before practical studies. Demonstrations of practice with real children should be followed the theoretical instruction. It could be beneficial if students could plan together different kind of ideas about how to put technology education in practice, and it would be even more beneficial if they could try the created ideas in practice first with their school mates and afterwards with a group of children. Students needed more time to internalise the learning contents and to explore and try different materials and tools and their accessibility. Specialised subject teachers were also seen as important to provide with a more specific training for teacher students. 3. On what courses/in what kind of context your own technological competence knowledge, skills and attitudes has been developed during the teacher training? 4. On what courses/in what kind of context you have been in touch with contents that concern (also) technology education? 5. In your opinion, what kind of possibilities different subjects in the existing curriculum could offer to include also themes and contents of early technology education into them? Some possible courses or contexts to learn own technology skills were Computer studies, Music education, Handicraft, and searching for information for studies (Estonian students). The courses to include early technology education contents deal with general didactics, and practical periods in the field as well as handicraft and art education classes (Estonian students). Finnish students hoped that there would altogether be more possibilities to choose courses along their own interest. They suggested that there would be one compulsory leading course about technology education which would be followed by advanced optional studies. That would enable those students who are more interested about technology education to go deeper into the subject. Especially they hoped that early childhood education teacher training would include also some courses from technical and textile handwork. However, making changes in curriculum level is difficult and requires lots of resources. That is why it would be also advisable to combine technology education also with courses already existing (e.g. art education, music education, environmental studies, science and math studies), but teachers and students should become more aware of it and make it more visible. A close co-operation with the kindergartens could also inspire future kindergarten teachers mostly female ones to put technology education in practice. 6. What sort of benefits there could be in emphasizing technology education in teacher training? The interviewed teacher students saw that technology issues are important to handle also in kindergartens, technology is all around in children s life and it is a self-evident 8

9 part of their culture. Including these contents to teacher training should increase teacher students positive attitude towards technology education. With positive and experimental attitude we could achieve more than by improving separate skills. Teachers also feel more self-confident, when they have had a wide-ranging training. 7. Should children s gender issues be more considered in technology education? Both boys and girls need to learn the same things. Gender differences are not important in this issue. Woodwork can be interesting for girls and sewing for boys. It is stressed that children's interest should not be inhibited, especially when it comes to gender. It is possible to motivate also girls towards technology. Teachers need to be competent also in forwarding the knowledge to girls and in attracting their interest in the subject. That is to say that modifying teacher student s attitudes combined with a close co-operation with the kindergarten could inspire future kindergarten teachers mostly female ones to put technology education in practice, both for girls and boys. Conclusions All of the interviewed students had been given information about early childhood technology education. Still students felt that they haven t got enough knowledge and skills in teacher training to put technology education in practice. According to this, there is a challenge of improving our teaching methods and increasing technology education in curriculum level. 9

10 3 Suggestions for organising and developing ECE teacher training to enhance technology education The interviewed teacher students saw that technology issues are important to handle also in kindergartens, technology is all around in children s life and it is a self-evident part of their culture. However, technology education has only a marginal role in early childhood teacher training. More traditional content areas such as arts and handicraft and textile work may serve the aims of technology education, but they may also lead the students to acquire quite a narrow view of technology education. Gender sensitive education is needed both in the field of early childhood education and in ECE teacher training. The teacher students, mostly female ones, need to overcome their personal barriers as technological agents ( barriers concerning skills, attitudes, and self-image). They also need to learn the ways to implement gender sensitive pedagogy in the ECE practice with young children. Accordingly, there are some suggestions to take in consideration in organising ECE teacher training and planning the objectives and contents of the curriculum. - Teacher students need some independent lessons about early technology education the aims, contents and methods of it - combined with practical demonstrations about how to put the ideas of TE in practice. A wider vision to and comprehension about technology and technology education has to be provided to teacher students. Activities that are typical for young children (e.g. play) should be connected with technology education. - Technology education should be better and more consciously integrated also into other studies (i.e. arts and music, gym, math and science education, environmental studies, ICT studies, home economics and practical periods in the field of ECE) - Optional studies of TE need to be available; The name of the courses should be regarded carefully not to frighten but to tempt mainly female kindergarten teacher students. These studies should offer more practical skills and knowledge for working with children in practice. - The students need more information about gender sensitive education that looks for individually suitable ways to implement technological activities according to boys and girls interests and also actively acts against the effects of the gender biasing hidden curriculum. - Students own technological agency (skills and attitudes) are also important to be developed during the studies. Positive experiences of TE encourage students to continue their professional development in the field, and skilful and reflecting practitioners in the kindergartens may motivate students on this journey. 10

11 All teacher education should be research based. There is only a small body of academic research in the field of early technology education. Strengthening this research area provides more opportunities to develop ECE teacher education to meet the challenges of the contemporary society. References: Alamäki, A How to educate students for a technological future: Technology education in early childhood and primary education. Doctoral dissertation. University of Turku. Bertram, T. & Pascal, C. Early uears education: an international perspective. Birmingham: Centre for Research in Early Childhood. Available in (Retrived on ) Early technical education. Project for the education and teaching of children from 3 to 10 years. EU-project in Germany, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain Available in (Retrived on ) Turja, L ECE Curriculum analysis in Finland. UPDATE -project report. Turja, L., Endepohls-Ulpe, M. & Chatoney, M A conceptual framework for developing the curriculum and delivery of technology education in early childhood. International Journal of Technology and Design Education 19 (4), , DOI /s Vuoristo, J Jo päiväkodissa on mahdollisuus saada kokemuksia teknologiasta. Tytöt, pojat ja varhaislapsuuden teknologiakasvatus. Master thesis.[it is possible to get experiences of technology already in child care centre. Girls, boys and technology education in early childhood.]. Department of Educational Studies/ Early Childhood Education, University of Jyväskylä. 11

12 APPENDIX 1a The original questionnaire for individual students to evaluate early childhood teacher training in consideration of technology education contents What do you think technology is? What do you think technology education is in early years and what are the objectives of it/ where does it aim at? Claims: (The assessment scale is 1 = strongly-disagree, 5 = strongly-agree) 1. I have had enough information in teacher training about what is technology education in early years 2. I have had enough information in teacher training about what are the aims of technology education 3. I have had enough knowledge and skills in teacher training to implement technology education 4. Technology is a natural part of my everyday life and I feel capable to utilize technology 5. During the teacher training my confidence in my skills as a technological actor has been strengthened 6. Teacher training has motivated me to act as a technology educator 7. I would have wanted to receive more knowledge about technology education in my teacher training 8. I consider technology education as an important part of early childhood education 9. I have had enough qualification in my teacher training to take into account the gender of children in early childhood education 10. I have had enough qualification in my teacher training to take into account the gender of children in technology education 12

13 APPENDIX 1 b Key questions for focus group interview. (With these open ended questions we want to examine student teachers wishes and suggestions for proving technology education in teacher training. Answers will help us to develop the curriculum of kindergarten teacher training.) 1. What kind of things would you like to learn concerning (a) your own technology skills and (b) children s technology education? 2. How would you like to study those issues in question? (Forms of learning/ teaching, contents of learning) 3. On what courses/in what kind of context your own technological competence knowledge, skills and attitudes has been developed during the teacher training? 4. On what courses/in what kind of context you have been in touch with contents that concern (also) technology education? 5. In your opinion, what kind of possibilities different subjects in the existing curriculum could offer to include also themes and contents of technology education into them? 6. What sort of benefits there could be in emphasizing technology education in teacher training? 7. Should children s gender issues be more considered in technology education? - Do you think technology education is as important for both girls and boys? - Is it possible to affect on girls motivation towards technology with technology education in early years? How? (The leader of focus group interview is supporting the flow of the discussion and is ready to add sub-themes to be discussed when needed. Mainly the group is let to discuss as freely as possible about the themes presented to it. The discussion is to be recorded for further analysis.) x 13

14 APPENDIX 2 Results of the student Inquiry Quantitative analysis TABLE 1 Early childhood and primary education teacher students opinions about their teacher training concerning children s technology education - Students in Finland, Germany and Estonia (Statistical descriptions) Contents of questions for students Scale: 1 = Strongly agree 5 = Strongly disagree N Mean Got enough information in training about the issue of technology education (TE) Got enough information in training about the aims of TE Got enough knowledge and skills in training for TE implementation Good confidence in own technological agency 95% Confidence Interval for Mean Std. Deviation Std. Error Lower Bound Upper Bound Finland (13) x) 57 (1,92) Germany Estonia Total Finland (13) 57 (2,15) Germany Estonia Total Finland (13) 56 (2,46) Germany Estonia Total Finland (13) 57 (3,15) Germany Estonia Total Minimum Maximum 14

15 Training increased confidence in own technological agency Training increased motivation to work as technological educator Wanted more knowledge of TE in training TE is important in early childhood education Got enough qualification in training to educate gendersensitively in general Got enough qualification in training to implement gendersensitive TE Finland (13) 57 (2,23) Germany Estonia Total Finland (13) 57 (3,07) Germany Estonia Total Finland (13) 56 (4,53) Germany Estonia Total Finland (13) 57 (4,07) Germany Estonia Total Finland (13) 57 (3,69) Germany Estonia Total Finland (13) 56 (2,77) Germany Estonia Total x) Descriptive information of the smaller Finnish student group (N=13), that participated in focus group interview x 15

16 TABLE 2 Comparison of early childhood and primary education teacher students opinions about their teacher training concerning children s technology education in three countries (One way ANOVA results, Finland, Germany and Estonia) Sum of Squares df Mean Square F Sig. Got enough Between Groups information in training Within Groups about the issue of TE Total Got enough information in training about the aims of TE Between Groups Within Groups Total Got enough Between Groups knowledge and skills Within Groups in training for TE implementation Total Good confidence in own technological agency Training increased confidence in own technological agency Between Groups Within Groups Total Between Groups Within Groups Total Training increased Between Groups motivation to work as Within Groups technological educator Total Wanted more knowledge of TE in training TE is important in early childhood education Got enough qualification in training to educate gender-sensitively in general Between Groups Within Groups Total Between Groups Within Groups Total Between Groups Within Groups Total Got enough Between Groups qualification in Within Groups training to implement gender-sensitive TE Total

17 TABLE 3 Multiple comparison of early childhood and primary education teacher students opinions about their teacher training concerning children s technology education in three countries (Results of Games-Howell pos hoc test, Finland, Germany and Estonia ) Dependent Variable Got enough information in training about the issue of TE Got enough information in training about the aims of TE Got enough knowledge and skills in training for TE implementation Good confidence in own technological agency Training increased confidence in own technological agency Training increased motivation to work as technological educator (I) (J) Country Country of the of the informant informant Finland Mean Difference (I-J) Std. Error Sig. 95% Confidence Interval Lower Bound Upper Bound Germany * Estonia Germany Finland * Estonia Finland Estonia * Finland Germany * Germany * Estonia Germany Finland * Estonia Finland Estonia * Finland Germany * Germany * Estonia Germany Finland * Estonia Finland Estonia * Finland Germany * Germany Estonia Germany Finland Estonia Finland Estonia Finland Germany Germany.539 * Estonia * Germany Finland * Estonia Finland Estonia * Finland * Germany * Germany * Estonia Germany Finland * Estonia Estonia * Finland Germany *

18 Wanted more knowledge of TE in training TE is important in early childhood education Got enough qualification in training to educate gender-sensitively in general Got enough qualification in training to implement gender-sensitive TE Finland Germany * Estonia Germany Finland.605 * Estonia Finland Estonia Finland Germany Germany Estonia Germany Finland Estonia Finland Estonia Finland Germany Germany.977 * Estonia Germany Finland * Estonia Finland Estonia Finland Germany Germany * Estonia Germany Finland * Estonia *. The mean difference is significant at the 0.05 level. Estonia Finland Germany TABLE 4. Background information of the Finnish and German informant students a) : Gender of the students Gender female male Total Country of the informant Total Finland Germany Count % 92.9% 7.1% 100.0% Count % 83.7% 16.3% 100.0% Count % 88.6% 11.4% 100.0% a) Estonian information about gender is missing 18

19 TABLE 5. Background information of the Finnish and German informant students b) : Age of the students Age of the student (years) Total Country Finland Count % 2.3% 18.6 % 34.9 % 14.0 % 9.3% 7.0% 2.3% 2.3% 4.7% 2.3% 2.3% 100.0% Germany Count %.0% 14.6 % 47.9 % 18.8 % 6.3% 6.3% 4.2% 2.1%.0%.0% 100.0% Total Count % 1.1% 16.5 % 41.8 % 16.5 % 7.7% 6.6% 3.3% 2.2% 2.2% 1.1% 1.1% 100.0% b) Estonian information about age is missing TABLE 6. Background information of the Finnish and German informant students c) : Number of semesters studied c) number of semesters studied Total Country Total Finland Germany Count %.0% 77.2% 15.8% 7.0% 100.0% Count % 10.2% 20.4% 65.3% 4.1% 100.0% Count % 4.7% 50.9% 38.7% 5.7% 100.0% c) Estonian information about the number of semesters is missing; d) Two semesters in a study year 19

20 APPENDIX 3. Finnish kindergarten teacher students answers in the individual questionnaire and the focus group interviews concerning technology education studies in teacher training Technology education in early childhood teacher training and its improvement challenges: results of students focus group discussions in teacher training at University of Jyväskylä Riikka Majander Anna-Liisa Puranen Leena Turja 1 Introduction Early childhood education concerns the years 1 to 7 years, when children enter the compulsory school. 96% of six years old children enter the preschool for one year before school-start % of children at the age of 3 5 years are in outside home early education (the amount of children increases with the age). Teachers in early childhood education are qualified after studies in high-school (Polytechnical universities) or studies of 180 European study points at university (Bachelor of Educational Sciences). There are only very general national level guidelines conducting the delivery of teacher education. Thus, each university has quite a lot of autonomy in designing the curriculum and the content of studies inside the given structure. In the University of Jyväskylä the tendency to strengthen scientific and academic studies and give less room for practical studies (e.g. music, arts, gym, crafts, and technology) can bee seen by analyzing the curriculum documents across the 14 years existence of kindergarten teacher training in the university. For example, such an independent subject as crafts do not exist anymore, although it has traditionally been an important subject in kindergarten teacher education during its 100 years history. Technology education is connected to the course of science, technology and mathematics in early years. This 3 study week long course gives only limited possibilities to offer students deeper studies than just an introduction of the contents, targets and methods of technology education, science and mathematics. Students have an opportunity to get some more practical studies by selecting optional courses from the course tray. However, there are many other competitive courses with which to fill the place for optional studies. The objective of this study is to find out (1) how the kindergarten teacher students experience their studies concerning technology education and (2) what kind of ideas do they have in order to develop teacher training in enhancing technology education. This study belongs to the UPDATE project area WP2, and it is connected to the Deliverable Suggestions for teacher training. Method. Students point of view in technology education studies were examined in May 2009 in kindergarten teacher training at University of Jyväskylä by using focus 20

21 group interviews and an individual questionnaire with numerical evaluations. Students had already passed their obligatory technology studies. In Focus group interviews the students were asked to take their own friends with them to join the group so, that the members of the group will know each others well and the discussion will be as free as possible. Altogether 13 students took part into the discussions. Only one of them was a male student. Two researchers were present to take care of the run of the inquiry and the recorded group discussion. They also gave some background information about UPDATE project and technology education in early years. The interviewed groups consisted of three to five volunteer second or third year students. Altogether there were three interviewed groups and totally there were thirteen early childhood education students who answered the questions, twelve of them were female and one male. One interview took about one and half an hour. (1) Before the actual interview the students were asked to write down their own descriptions about what technology and early childhood technology education is. After that researchers rehearsed shortly the definition of technology education so that everyone would have the same understanding about the issue in question. After that the students were given ten claims to make their individual numeric evaluation concerning technology education and their own technological competence. The quantitative questionnaire 1 was filled before the group discussion (APPENDIX 1a). (2) The individual questionnaire was followed by a focus group interview where the key discussion themes (APPENDIX 1b) were given on the paper for the group and if needed, the interviewers made also some more specified questions to enhance the group discussion. The meaning of the interviews was to examine what kind experiences this student have got in their teacher training and what kind of ideas for improvement students could offer about arranging technology education in early childhood teacher training. The recorded (Mp3) interviews where transcribed for a qualitative content analysis and the numerical evaluations were coded for a statistical analysis. The numeric evaluations were analysed by SPSS program to describe the student experiences with means and standard deviations. In this report we have collected the main results of the qualitative data concerning students definitions of the concepts and the results of focus group discussions concerning the students experiences of current technology education studies, and their opinions about contents and issues that should be highlighted in the future as well as the methods how to study technology education efficiently from the students point of view. The short statistical description of quantitative data is presented here also, but this data is also connected to a larger international data to analyse more specifically 2. 1 Only the quantitative data was collected also from the second year students in the autumn term 2009 after their technology education studies. There 44 students of which 3 were male ones gave their individual numeric evaluation for the ten claims concerning technology education and their own technological competence 2 The analysis of quantitative data is given in the context of analysis of the joined data of students questionnaires in three countries, i.e. Finland, Germany and Estonia (APPENDIX 2). 21

22 2 Students preliminary individual definitions: What is technology and technology education in early childhood? Students wrote down brief descriptions about what do they think technology and technology education is. Students views were quite parallels. Technology. Most of the students described that technology is technical equipments, information technology, electronics, machines and devices. They also thought that technology means designing and creating something new. Some pinpointed the ability to construct. Only few mentioned that with the help of technology we can make our life easier and advance our wellbeing. These students took a wider point of view; they looked at the relationship between human beings and technology and considered technology as an activity directed to the environment that people modify with help of science and research. As the whole, the understanding about technology was quite well possessed by the students. The only thing students didn t take into consideration was considering technology as different systems and processes. Technology is operating with technical and electrical equipments and electricity. It s also related to physics because in technology we need for example skills how to connect electricity. Technology is something that we automatically expect that men are able to do but women don t have to know how to do it. Technology is operating with machines, trying new things, excitement, wondering and creating new things. It s improving people s well being and communication systems. Technology education. Usually the students thought that technology education is about familiarizing children with technology. They saw that it s important to give children positive experiences and increase children s interests towards technology. Many students thought also, that in technology education children should have an active role in exploring technological world. A couple of students also mentioned that in technology education learning is based on problem solving where a child has a permission to try new things. Based on the student s answers it was clear that students have at least a theoretical knowledge about what technology education is and where does it aim at. Here are some examples of the students answers. Early childhood technology education is unfamiliar concept for me and I wouldn t know how to put it in practice. Anyway it would be important to increase positive attitude towards technology and make it easy to approach. Technology education includes things mentioned above ( operating with machines, trying new things, excitement, wondering and creating new things, improving people s well being and communication systems). The goal is to inspire and support all children to try and invent new things 3 Students individual evaluation of implementation of technology education in their training The following table shows how the students evaluated the teaching and learning concerning technology education in their teacher training. 22

23 TABLE Evaluating technology education in early childhood teacher training (n=13). Claims: (1 = strongly-disagree, 5 = strongly-agree) mean standard deviation 1. I have had enough information in teacher training about what is technology education in early years 1, , I have had enough information in teacher training about what are the aims of technology education 3. I have had enough knowledge and skills in teacher training to implement technology education 4. Technology is a natural part of my everyday life and I feel capable to utilize technology 2, , , , , , During the teacher training my confidence in my skills as a technological actor has been strengthened 6. Teacher training has motivated me to act as a technology educator 7. I would have wanted to receive more knowledge about technology education in my teacher training 8. I consider technology education as an important part of early childhood education 9. I have had enough qualification in my teacher training to take into account the gender of children in early childhood education 10. I have had enough qualification in my teacher training to take into account the gender of children in technology education 2, , , , , , , , , , , , The students evaluations were quite critical in question of received technology education contents and as a group, they quite strongly agreed that they should have got more technology education training. They also quite strongly agreed that technology education is an important part of early childhood education. They relied average well on their own technological skills and the general ability to implement gender sensitive education in early childhood context. The answers represent the experiences of the pilot students having first time some kind of technology education in their training as a result of curriculum innovations made during the UPDATE project. 23

24 4 Students needs concerning their own skills about technology and their learning about early childhood technology education focus group discussion 1. What kind of things would you like to learn concerning (a) your own technology skills and (b) children s technology education? In the focus group interviews the students were asked what kind of things they would like to learn concerning their own technological skills. Students answered that they would need more time to advance their own technological skills. They thought that familiarizing themselves with technology and technological terms properly is important because in this way they could get enough courage to put technology education in practice. On the other hand students realized that the amount of the technology education hours is limited so they didn t want to use too much time practicing their own technology skills. Technology education role as modifying attitudes was seen more essential than improving skills. Students point of view is seen from the next quotations. Experiences of succeed also for students not just for kids. It effects so much if the positive image of technology education is not provided in the field where majority of workers are women. Students also told us what kind of things they would like to learn concerning children s technology education. Students felt that they still needed more basic knowledge about what technology education in early childhood is and what are the aims of it. As well interviewees needed concrete information about what are the reasonable content to explore whit the children. Students saw that knowing the content of primary schools first classes technology education could help them to set goals and finding reasonable content for children in kindergarten. Especially they wanted to get ideas how to engage technology education in day care centers everyday life and how to benefit for technology education purposes all that already existing material available in centres. just such practical tips how we could engage technology education in day care centres everyday life. 5 Ways to improve technology education focus group discussions 2. How would you like to study those issues in question? 3. On what courses/in what kind of context your own technological competence knowledge, skills and attitudes has been developed during the teacher training? 4. On what courses/in what kind of context you have been in touch with contents that concern (also) technology education? Interviewees said that the way of study technology education in early childhood teacher training should be practical and experimentally executed. Only brief lecture about what is technology education in early years and what does it contains could take place before practical studies. Overall students hoped improvement about that they would get more time to explore and try different materials and tools and their accessibility. Interviewees also wanted more clearness for the structure of the 24

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