Authors Meilan Zhang, et al. focused their study on an experienced kindergarten teacher, Sarah. Sarah joined other teachers in her professional development program to do collaborative action research with a Problem-Based Learning model. Their goal was not only to promote student growth but Sarah’s professional learning as well.
Sarah’s research was aimed toward answering the question of how to engage kindergarten students in deep science discussion rather than just participating in activities. She began to have regular Science Talks (discussions) with her class in which she set a comfortable atmosphere and regular routine. She used tally sheets to record student participation and videotaped the sessions. She also met with peers and facilitators on a regular basis to discuss research progress.
In initial discussions students just stated their ideas but with regular practice what gradually emerged was the students’ ability to ask relevant questions of each other as well as articulate appropriate responses to others’ thinking. Best of all, their discussion engagement and participation transferred to other subject areas.
As for Sarah herself, she found her professional growth was enhanced by learning how to deal with misconceptions (revisit and keep parents informed) and by using Science Talks as a basis for assessments and flexible lesson planning. She was listening more and talking less with her class.
The authors suggest that since action research is “demanding and time consuming and requires a great commitment from teachers” (Hendricks 2005), it needs to be seen as relevant and useful to teachers so they should choose to do research of interest to them. Collaboration with peers and scaffolding from mentors are also valuable components for successful action research.
This study proves that kindergarten is not too early to begin to teach appropriate academic interaction between students. They construct their knowledge together and these discussions can be used to get students to understand the big ideas not only in science but in other subject areas as well.
Zhang, M., Passalacqua, S., Lundeberg, M., Koehler, M. J., Eberhardt, J., Parker, J., & … Paik, S. (2010). “Science Talks” in Kindergarten Classrooms: Improving Classroom Practice Through Collaborative Action Research. Journal Of Science Teacher Education, 21(2), 161-179.