THE CHALLENGES AND PROMISES OF APPLYING INTENTIONAL CHILD OBSERVATION STRATEGIES: A MULTIPLE CASE STUDY OF SIX KINDERGARTEN TEACHERS IN SAUDI ARABIA

Open Access
Author:
AL-RABIAH, NADA YOUSEF
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
September 30, 2008
Committee Members:
  • Dr James Johnson, Dissertation Advisor
  • James Ewald Johnson, Committee Chair
  • Gregory John Kelly, Committee Member
  • Jolynn Carney, Committee Member
  • Robert James Stevens, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • CHILD OBSERVATION
  • TEACHER-CHILD RELATIONSHIP
  • TEACHER TRAINING
Abstract:
The purpose of this qualitative method case study was to explore teachers’ observational practices and beliefs about child narrative observation. The participants were six early childhood teachers and 15 children—two teachers and five children in each of three classrooms. The study was conducted in a private kindergarten. Teachers’ classroom practices were seen via participant observations in the first phase. Qualitative structured individual and group interviews, field notes, and teachers' personal logs were used in this multiple case study to generate the data set and for narrative assessment analysis. In accordance with the literature on child-observation which asserts that systematic narrative observation facilitates the establishment of a quality relationship between the teacher and the child (Howes & Ritchie, 2002; Jablon, Dombro, & Dichtelmiller, 2007), the second phase included an intentional observation (IO) program designed by the author. The whole study lasted nine weeks, including both field observation and training in the IO program, which is a training program with distinct steps designed to foster observational skills, sensitivities, and behaviors in teachers. Before the researcher provided IO training, the six teachers drew their own logos and sketches of the children, and wrote lines of poetry describing the children. These activities were included to encourage the teachers to talk about individual children who were participating in the study; they were also encouraged to speak about their perceptions of and beliefs about teaching in early childhood education (ECE). Each teacher was interviewed three times over the course of the study upon completing the Student-Teacher Relationship Scale (STRS) (Pianta, 2001) for the five children in her iv classroom chosen for the case study. The STRS was administered to generate some of the interview questions about assessing and working with individual children. The participant teachers’ satisfaction with and perceived usefulness of the IO training program were estimated via interviews. Finally, more information was gained in a reflective group dialogue session upon the termination of the study. Estimates of satisfaction with the program and its potential were based mainly on teachers’ self-reported changes in their perspectives, along with discernible change patterns that surfaced over time in their personal logs. The data were used to describe the teachers’ beliefs and practices. Results showed that five teacher-participants believed they were improving their relationship with their students, as well as their self-conceptualization and confidence as teachers. The sixth teacher was an exception— she, occasionally, showed resistance to apply the techniques, citing job demands. This study suggests that IO may be a useful means of enhancing a teacher’s feeling of self-worth. The program might help the teacher to establish a better relationship with children, as well as being useful in improving teachers’ attitudes towards and practices relating to ECE and the teacher-child relationship in ECE settings. Many challenges exist in applying the IO program in Saudi Arabia. Educational administrations have high expectations and make demands of teachers, requiring them to perform in certain ways. Another major challenge is the resistance of some teachers to surrender their pre-existing perceptions of and values relating to the nature of child-teacher interaction.