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Preschoolers making sense of progressive illness : a Reggio Emilia inspired study Phillips, Lynda Jane

Abstract

This qualitative study, inspired by the underlying pedagogy of the preschools in Reggio Emilia, Italy, expands on current limited research on young children's understanding of their siblings' progressive life-limiting illness. Two well siblings three-to-five year-old participated in a learning group with three other preschool children in five two-hour sessions. Sessions were co-constructed from the children's understanding and recorded using digital video and audiotape, still photographs and the running record format. All of the children's representations were collected. These records of the children's learning formed the data for this study. The data was analyzed via microgenetic analysis of the children's movement through all quadrants of the Vygotsky Space. The quadrants of the Vygotsky space are formed by over laying two dimensions of space: public - private and social - individual. The first dimension public-private space is characterized by the degree to which cognitive activities are visible and therefore available for observation. The second dimension social - individual, reflects the degree to which the students use their own knowledge or the knowledge obtained from the group. Movement through the quadrants is recursive and at any one time a child's cognitive functioning may be characterized as existing in one of these quadrants (Gavelek & Raphael, 1996). Microgentic analysis is associated with the work of Vygotsky and allows for the systematic analysis of children's learning. Microgenetic analysis allows one to focus on the process of change by examining the records of the children's learning (digital-video and audio taped recordings; running records; still photographs; children's representations) through densely spaced time intervals. It allows one to see where the learning begins and how the individual difference in knowledge affect the learning of the group. The results are presented in the form of pedagogical documentation, which is a tool that has its origins in the schools of Reggio Emilia. The young, well siblings, generally considered to be at risk for numerous psychosocial issues, demonstrated a sophisticated understanding of illness concepts, processes and equipment not previously identified within current literature. These findings suggest that young children's understanding revolves around the illness process and as such has implications around content when developing support programs for the young, well sibling.

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