Glykeria Fragkiadaki

Department of Educational Science and Early Childhood Education of the University of Patras – Greece

Thesis: The approach of concepts and phenomena from Natural Sciences in the framework of cultural- historical theory: clouds in preschoolers thought

Research supervisor: Konstantinos Ravanis

Research in Early Childhood Science Education constitutes a field which has been approached in various ways during the last decades from a cognitive, psychological and epistemological perspective. Currently, the relevant literature has significant effects on how young children approach concepts and phenomena from the natural world and the single processes through which they establish their scientific understanding. Although research in Early Childhood Science Education is a multi- disciplinary field, the theoretical approach of the process of scientific thinking development in its wholeness and complexity still remains a desideratum. In parallel, empirical documentation and the development, selection and use of the counterpart and appropriate methodological principles and tools are crucial issues which are systematically raised.

In that framework the main aim of my dissertation is to deal, in a theoretical and in a methodological level, with the whole process of the development of young children’s scientific thinking about concepts and phenomena from the natural world. Namely, the research focus is on illustrating the dialectic independence between kindergarten children conceptualization about the natural phenomenon of clouds creation and movement and broaden social, cultural and material environment through which they are develop.

Based on cultural- historical theory and the vygotskian and post-vygotskian interpretations about development and learning we theoretical struggle with the concept of environment/ context perceived as the source of development and we understand thinking as a developmental process. Following mainly Vygotsky’s concept of internalization we approach development of children’s scientific thinking as a social and cultural process and we are trying to capture it “in its movement”, as social becomes an individual. Aiming also to a ‘historical-developmental’ perspective we choose to focus on the origins and the processes of the development and not at its results. Additionally, according to the developmental research methodology that Vygotsky developed and to Rubinstein’s conceptualization of unity of analysis and synthesis we are oriented towards the use of units of analysis in order to study children’s thought. Overall, we attempt to response to the main concepts and principles of the genetic research methodology.

The main research challenge is focused on how the methodology of Early Childhood Science Education research can be released from the dominant linear model for data interpretation and explanation? Additionally, how the relevant research can be devolved from the diptych elements- results searching which is an analytical type methodological formula corresponding most and referring to methodological options borrowed from the field of Exact Sciences?

In that regard, the most basic problem that we are dealing with in the present state of the research is to form and develop a systemic analytical framework that can capture the whole child and his/hers interrelations with the context as a unity in order to get a better understanding about the way that young children develop their scientific thinking. Thus, we have mainly focused on the use of the theoretical concept of perezhivanie as a unit of analysis and as an analytical tool. In this case, we are very interesting in exploring the possibilities and the limitations of using that dynamic concept in the field of Early Childhood Science Education. However, despite the many theoretical approaches that are available in the international bibliography the concept of perezhivanie remains a quite difficult concept to deal with (Blunden, 2010; Smagorinsky, 2011; Veresov, 2015). Hence, we are kin on developing a further, solid and operational understanding of the concept and we believe that the ISCAR Summer University provides a unique opportunity to achieve that.

Two years ago I participated to the 5th ISCAR Summer University that the Moscow State University of Psychology and Education organized with the title “Moving with and beyond Vygotsky: Interdisciplinary research perspectives”. That experience meant to be a focal point at the drawing up procedure of my dissertation and a great motivation for a reflection and a redefinition of my research orientations. In particular, through 2014 ISCAR Summer University community I had the opportunity to clarify and expand my theoretical knowledge in relation to the cultural- historical theory, to construct a clearer view of the features, the multiple perspectives and the dynamic of cultural-historical research methodology, to discuss various methodological issues that troubled me during the first period of my thesis development, to accept interesting recommendations that acted very crucially to the improvement and further development of my research project.

To the 6th ISCAR Summer University I really hope to deal with a new experience of presenting and discussing my research development and get a new feedback according to the way that it was redefined since my previous experience at the Summer University. Namely, I hope that there will be an opportunity to discuss more thoroughly specific methodological issues that concerned the use of the concept of perezhivanie as an analytical tool and also the use of the main principles of the experimental- genetical method under the perspective of Early Childhood Science Education.

Presentation “The Approach of Concepts & Phenomena from Natural Sciences in the Framework of Cultural- Historical Theory: Clouds in Preschoolers Thought”

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