Jyrki Reunamo
University of Helsinki
Department of Teacher Education

The child as an agent of change in kindergarten situations

The childs action can be seen in two ways. First the child can be seen as assimilating and accomodating in the situation. The child accommodates himself/herself to the laws of the reality and eventually maybe adopts them as his/her own way of seein and doing things. Piaget is an example of a researcher, who has studied the child from this perspective.

But from another perspective the child changes the reality and its laws. The child not just adopts himself/herself to the reality, but is also an active producer of reality and creator of itīs laws. In early childhood education you have to be aware of the childīs participation in the development of the process in order to help children cope with being the agents of their situations. To see child as a whole youīll need both perspectives.

The third point of the research is the perception of change. The child not only changes the reality, but the way the child perceives change and who is the agent of change moulds the development of the situation. In fact the way things are seen effects the way things will work out. The purpose of the research is to study the relationship between childs perception and his/her functional relation to the situation.

The interview of the children: 73 children participated in the research from four randomly selected kindergartens in Helsinki area. Childrenīs age varied from two to seven years. The material was collected in years 1997 and 1998. 15 different situations were told to the children. Childrens answers (strategies of coping with the situation) were documented. The answers were categorized in order to how the children saw themselves as acting in the given situation. Is he/she adapting to it or is he/she changing the situation. Hereīs an example and some answers.

Youīre playing and somebody comes to disturb you . What do you do?



Child adapts herself/himself

The boundaries of the situation are tested

The child adapts the situation

Sometimes it happens. I do nothing.

Iīll ask him to leave.

Yeah. Iīll get angry

Iīll do nothing.

Maybe Iīll tell the teacher.

I hit him in the face so that he leaves.

I do nothing.

Iīll tell the teacher or cry.

The worse for him.

Nothing. It doesnīt bother me.

I have friends. I tell teacher.

Then Iīll start to tease him.

Childrenīs answers weīre categorized in five categories: adapting, moulding, changing, disengaging and uncertain. Then all the answers were counted together by the category. This gives a profile, which shows the childīs way of perceiving situations.

The observation of the children: The observation was conducted from 8.00 in the morning until noon in the kindergarten at two minuts intervals. Among the observed things were for example the childs ongoing activity and the object of the childs perception. The child was observed once and then the observed child was changed. Altogether 1679 observations was recorded. All the obserations were counted together by the category. This gives a profile of the childs typical action in the kindergarten.

To support the interview and observation the teachers and parents gave estimations of the childrensīs typical ways of acting in different situations.

The results: The childrenīs profile of seeing things and their profile of doing things indeed are strongly related. This gives a lot of promising connections between childrenīs perception of change and their action. This shows that this way of perceiving the child is meaningful and relevant. We can only help those things to develop that we can perceive. Man has to perceive change in order to be a part of it. A child has to keep up practicing his/her participation in the development of the process. This way also life-long learning can develop to not only a way of understanding but a way of becoming. (More information of the research in finnish in http://www.helsinki.fi/~reunamo/ . English version under construction)