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Durham e-Theses
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Observational Studies in nursery schools: an enquiry involving seven nursery schools and using three observational techniques

Cooper, Margery Gascoigne (1976) Observational Studies in nursery schools: an enquiry involving seven nursery schools and using three observational techniques. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



The studies were undertaken in seven Nursery Schools in order to give emphasis to the value of observational methods of enquiry in work with young children. Three techniques were adopted adhering to the following principles. 1) suitability for use by practising teachers. 2) inviolability of school settings and programmes. The whole is prefaced by a short account of the development of observational techniques over the last century. The First Study is a psychological ecology of the total indoor play space of each Nursery School, using recording schedules to highlight the population densities of the designated areas, their mobility patterns and qualities of elicited behaviours. The Second Study records, with the use of machines, the verbal behavioural responses of the children against the continuing background of uninterrupted play with manipulation of the variable of teacher presence. The third study of teachers' descriptions of the children's behaviours using a standardised multiple choice technique. While each study had its own particular structure, it was hypothesised that each would be complementary to the others. Conducted entirely in the schools, with teacher co-operation, the data was later processed by simple count and by computer. The quality of data from each study dictated the choice of statistical technique. The ecology study revealed the characteristics of the play areas in respect of population density, mobility and qualities of behaviour with reference to sex and age differences. Adult presence was thought to be a most powerful determining influence on children's choice of play area, superceding area density and quality of equipment. Within the second study the manipulation of this variable showed the adult drawing children’s verbal response towards herself in a didactic setting with some emphasis on the age factor. She favoured teaching method was Socratic and verbal control was through suggestion rather than request. Ratings of behaviours corresponded favourably with the hypothesised distribution, socio-economic factors playing no part in the judgment of behaviour or quality of home and school integration. Items from the three studies revealed high correlation within each and correlation between children's ways of expressing personal feeling through speech. The educational implications underlying the three studies pointed to the need for wider and more predictive assessment procedures, new ways to promote more intensive interaction between children and adults together with some imaginative departures from the traditional programme. The schools, though happy, positive places, did not appear to be structuring programmes likely to utilise the dynamic forces of human growth and development in the early years.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:1976
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 Sep 2013 15:35

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