Providing materials and spaces for the negotiation of meaning in explorative play: teachers´ responsibilities
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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OriginalversjonEducation Inquiry. 2012, 3 (3), 335-352. 10.3402/edui.v3i3.22039
This article aims to illustrate how both physical and social factors influence possibilities for children’s learning (meaning negotiation) in visual art contexts in early childhood education. The main discussion relates to teacher’s responsibilities in providing physical and social contexts for such meaning negotiations. The processes I wish to illustrate are complex and, in order to make them comprehensible within the scope of this article, only a few examples with interactions with the same girl, the same materials and the same teacher are chosen from a qualitative, arts-based study in a single Norwegian preschool. The purpose of the study was to understand how young children (aged 3–5) negotiate meanings while playing with tangible materials. The study showed that both the materials’ qualities and the teacher’s attitude to explorative play with the materials were important determinants of the content of the children’s learning. In the presented examples, the teacher made materials available but did not pre-define the products that should be made. This allowed the girl to explore the possibilities and challenges that emerged from her experiences of the materials and tools. In line with the contemporary understanding that young children have right to contribute to curricula, as is required by the Norwegian Kindergarten Act, this article exemplifies the teacher’s responsibilities for providing for children’s contributions and for facilitating spaces for the negotiation of meaning between materials, children and teachers.