By Beverley Hartman, Head Teacher
Among the many perspectives offered at this year’s major conference for education researchers were some of special interest to early childhood educators. The American Educational Research Association’s 2009 annual conference, held in San Diego in April, attracted over 14,000 professionals with its rich offering of engaging, thought-provoking sessions.The organization, with more than 25,000 members, strives to advance educational research and its practical application.
The association’s early childhood special interest group offered workshops with topics including studies about play, the arts, self-efficacy, assessment and evaluation, literacy and the achievement gap in education. These meetings introduced research that revealed new information and confirmed longer-term understandings.
One session featured Joseph Tobin, Ph.D., professor of early childhood education at Arizona State University and author of two books that compare preschools. Published in 1989, Preschool in Three Cultures: Japan, China and the United States details teacher responses to videos showing a typical day in a classroom in these locations. The reactions highlight the cultural boundaries that guide practices with young children.
Tobin’s new book, Preschool in Three Cultures Revisited: China, Japan and the United States, is a multi-cultural ethnography. To be published this year, the book brings attention to both the changes as well as the consistencies in programs 20 years later. Tobin says that continuity takes as much effort and creativity as change. He points out that prevailing ideas about values and systems shift over time like a swinging pendulum. Noticing how some things change and some remain the same promotes understanding of cultural context and how culture endures.
Professional development is essential in continuing to learn and develop as a teacher. Experiences such as the AERA conference provide information, increase awareness and broaden perspective. Opportunities such as attending the AERA conference place Bing Nursery School teachers in strong positions to bring together research and practice.