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Teacher competence in change

A study of teacher competence in preschool

Project members: assoc. professor Sonja Sheridan (project leader), professor Anette Sandberg, assoc. professor Pia Williams, Ph.D.-student, Tuula Vourinen

Funded by: the Swedish Research Council


Preschool constitutes the first step of the Swedish educational system. Despite a long preschool tradition, an academic teacher education and a comprehensive preschool system, we nevertheless have limited knowledge of the constitution of teaching as a profession in preschool. Thus, studying teacher competence is of great importance since research shows, for example, that pedagogical approach, attitudes and views of knowledge are all important aspects for preschool quality.

The aim of the present study is to study teacher competence in preschool both in general, and in relation to a number of specific areas, from the perspectives of different stakeholders. The research focus on teacher competence is directed towards the meaning given by teachers, educators, students, directors and parents. The research questions are:

  • What meaning is given to teacher competence in preschool, both generally and within a range of specific content areas?
  • What relationships exist between the meaning of teacher competence in preschool as understood by different stakeholders: students, teachers, teacher trainers and parents?
  • What teacher competences are highlighted as important by the teachers, and how are these competences reflected in their work with the children?

The theoretical framework is based on interactionistic perspectives in which individuals and the environment influence, and are influenced by each other in a continuous interaction (Bronfenbrenner, 1979, 1997; Ball, 2006; Bruner, 1996; Sommer, 2003). Theories of teacher competence/competences could here be summarized as the ability, over time, to relate oneself both to the expectancies and demands of society, as well as to one's own qualifications/conditions (Garbarino & Scott, 1992).

The study has been conducted in 30 preschools in three Swedish geographical regions. The data production is carried out in different stages and encompasses video-observations, stimulated recall, interviews and questionnaires. Thirty preschool teachers have participated in the data-production of video-observations, stimulated recall and interviews. The focus of the analyses is on the teachers' conceptual understanding, teacher competence, what teachers express, how they act and why they do what they do. In addition, a questionnaire has been sent to students participating in the final terms of preschool education programs in 20 Swedish universities and universities collages. A questionnaire has also been given to all of the teachers in the participating preschools and to the parents in these preschools. The data has been analysed using SPSS.

Preliminary results show that students' perceive that, during their education they develop competences such as; A pedagogical competence - children's learning and development; A social competence - to collaborate with children and creating opportunities for children to learn how to collaborate and; A didactic competence - related to children's perspectives and reflections about their own acting. Analyses of the interviews with the teachers highlight a complexity of interacting competences such as, know-how, acting and interacting. The expected results will lead to knowledge which can be used by teachers and educators to develop their competence in order to create better conditions for children’s learning and to enhance preschool quality. The results also generate knowledge that is of importance to research on early childhood education, both at a national as well as international level, as it provides new insights into the nature of teacher competence in preschool.

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Project leader
Associate professor, Sonja Sheridan, University of Gothenburg, E-mail

Project members
Associate professor, Pia Williams, University of Gothenburg, E-mail
Professor, Anette Sandberg, Mälardalen University, E-mail
PhD student, Tuula Vuorinen, Mälardalen University, E-mail

Contact Information

Department of education, communication and learning

PO Box 300, SE 405 30 Gothenburg

Visiting Address:
Pedagogen B, Läroverksgatan 15

Phone:
+46 (0)31 786 0000

Fax:
+46 (0)31 786 2391

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