Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Big Steps in Little Lives: An Examination of the Types and Quality of Parent-Child Interactions During Informal Educational Opportunities
by Homant, Katherine Sue, Ph.D., Oakland University, 2020, 220; 27669381
Abstract (Summary)

Many young children are entering kindergarten below the baseline standards. Intervention programs have been designed to address children’s kindergarten readiness and include techniques to support parents’ interactions with their children. One such intervention includes parents mediating children’s learning during informal educational opportunities (IEOs). Researchers found that the frequency with which young children attended IEOs had a positive relationship with their cognitive development when assessed in kindergarten (Smith & Niemi, 2006).

The current study used a qualitative ethnographic design to gain a deeper understanding of what happens during IEOs between parents and their children. Specifically, this study examined the types and quality of interactions between parents and children and the types and quality of interactions between children and the IEO environment.

Sixteen participants, eight parents and eight children, chose which IEO they attended from a qualified list, including: local children’s museums, science museums, zoos, and aquariums. Parents’ and children’s verbal and nonverbal interactions were audio recorded throughout their IEO experience. Parents and children were interviewed in person immediately after their IEO. One additional follow-up question was sent via text seven days later. All data were transcribed and analyzed using a grounded theory approach (Charmaz, 2006).

The study’s findings suggest that parent-child interactions during IEOs have intrinsic qualities that mediate children’s learning. Three overarching themes emerged from the data analysis. One, the hands-on or “real life” nature of exhibits held children’s interest and sparked reciprocal conversations consisting of inquiry and insight with their parents. Two, children’s independence when using exhibits was a special feature of the IEO. Three, parents’ timely mediation techniques supported children’s learning.

The methodology developed in this study may provide a model for future studies. The data obtained in this study provide evidence of the richness of parents’ interactions during IEOs, which may support the children’s cognitive development and overall school readiness. The findings of this study may have program implications, including having at least a minimum number of IEOs offered to young children attending preschool programs. The findings may also inform interventions designed to improve children’s kindergarten readiness, especially during the transition from preschool into kindergarten.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Bhargava, Ambika
Commitee: Wakabayashi, Tomoko, Oden, Sherri L., Smith, Julia
School: Oakland University
Department: Education
School Location: United States -- Michigan
Source: DAI-A 82/2(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Early childhood education, Developmental psychology, Educational psychology, Individual & family studies
Keywords: Field trips, Informal Educational Opportunities, Kindergarten readiness, Parent-Child Interactions, Pre-K transition to Kindergarten, Young children and museums, Zoos, Aquariums
Publication Number: 27669381
ISBN: 9798664720013
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