Places & Spaces of Literacy [Inter]action: Preschool Practices Providing Equitable Opportunities to Learn
Whittingham, Colleen E
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schoolchildren and the increasing uniformity of early learning standards and classroom practices. To help children achieve maximum benefit from their preschool experience, early literacy instruction must reflect the rich cultural experiences of all children, acknowledging that children from all communities need and respond to a wide range of curricula and practices. This dissertation examined teacher-child interactions in one preschool classroom in a large Midwestern city, focusing especially on the factors mediating those interactions. Mediating factors studied included the policies and protocols of the center in which the classroom is situated, and the classroom place and space. During an 8-week single case study, ethnographic methods complemented by video-based field work addressed three questions: 1) What do racially and linguistically just literacy [inter]actions look like in a preschool classroom? 2) How do preschool policies and protocols both reflect and shape these [inter]actions? And 3) How do the preschool spaces and places both reflect and shape these [inter]actions? Findings indicate the high incidence of a co-constructive participation structure in which meaning-making occurred organically from the interaction, as the topic, duration, and participants in the interaction were not predetermined or planned by the teachers. Within this participation structure, discourse analysis indicated common features of teachers’ discursive moves, positioning students as agentive learners by validating, then elevating, students’ content learning, play narratives, and problem solving strategies. Center and classroom policies and protocols in place supporting these interactions were often necessitated by compliance with external mandates tied to center funding; and yet, routines and practices were intentional and purposeful—in the global sense of serving the center and agency mission and in the local sense of serving the personal and intellectual needs of children and their families. Classroom practices were, first and foremost, pedagogically sound while also in compliance with external policies and protocols. Investigations of place and space required ‘trying on’ combinations of theoretical approaches and methods of analysis new to the field of study. As such, theoretical and methodological implications for research in early childhood settings are discussed, using data to contextualize the discussion.
Subjectearly literacy, language, mediation