Early childhood teachers' pedagogical practices:  what they know, think, and do with children experiencing parental separation and divorce

Year: 2013

Author: Mahony, Linda, Walsh, Kerryann, Lunn, Joanne, Petriwskyj, Anne

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

  The context, mapping of the literature and aim of the project Parental separation and divorce involving children has become a common phenomenon in Australia. Recent statistics suggest there were one million dependent children living in Australia in 2010 who had experienced the separation or divorce of their parents. Children experience various effects of parental separation or divorce such as diminished outcomes in emotional adjustment, mental stability, anti-social behaviour, and academic achievement, yet for other children, it generates resilience. These reactions have implications for classroom teachers. The effects of parental separation and divorce may present teachers' with challenges when interacting with, and engaging young children in their learning programs. With informed knowledge and thinking, teachers can use pedagogical practices to facilitate wellbeing and promote learning in young children who are experiencing parental separation or divorce. This qualitative study explored the pedagogical practices of early childhood teachers, and what they know, think, and do with young children experiencing parental separation and divorce.
Research method
The systematic grounded theory design, as espoused by Corbin and Strauss (2008), was applied in this study. Twenty-one semi-structured interviews and a focus group were used to explore the pedagogical practices of government school early childhood teachers in Victoria, Australia, regarding young children experiencing parental separation and divorce.
Three theoretical perspectives were integral to this study. Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory provided the overarching theoretical perspective for exploring the influences of interconnecting contexts and interactions between early childhood teachers and young children. Amato's divorce-stress-adjustment model provided a way to understand divorce. Schön's theory of reflective practice was used to understand teachers as reflexive practitioners.
Findings of the study will be presented. Findings have revealed that teachers engaged a complex, pragmatic, and reflexive decision-making process to inform their work with young children experiencing parental separation and divorce. Key findings showed that teachers' knowledge was informal and individual. Teachers have applied a range of reflexive thinking techniques to their knowledge to inform their pedagogical practice. The actions of teachers focussed on constructing emotional, behavioural, and academic support for young children, as well as constructing partnerships with parents, school personnel, and community members to assist them to construct support for children.
Contribution to the field
The findings of this study have the potential to contribute to the development of a pedagogical decision-making framework to inform teachers' work with young children experiencing parental separation and divorce. They will also contribute to scholarship by developing new knowledge about this phenomenon, as well as extending theoretical frameworks related to the thinking processes of early childhood teachers. Results from this study have the potential to influence policy by recommending consistent school policies and procedures within and across schools.