Date of Award

1-1-2010

Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Department

Educational Leadership and Policies

Sub-Department

Early Childhood Education

First Advisor

Irma Van Scoy

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate and describe the ways in which kindergarten children are motivated and learn social studies topics through a Piagetian cognitive constructivist lens. Particular emphasis was placed on how children construct knowledge regarding historical temporal time, perspective taking, and “stand for” relationships. Qualitative research methods were used to gain insight into participants’ perspectives.

From March 11 to April 1, 2009, data were collected from 16 kindergarten children at a Jewish day school about their experiences surrounding the study of Passover. Data were collected through field notes, audiotaping, still photographs, children’s concept webs, and semi-clinical interviews. The data were analyzed using domains (collection of categories that share a certain kind of relationship) and taxonomies (a creation of relationships within domains) (Spradley, 1980) and findings were reported as a result of this analysis.

The greatest contribution of this study is likely the specificity with which it conveys the children’s ability to use logico-mathematical knowledge in the three above- mentioned areas. In the research regarding historical temporal time, analysis of children’s responses found 11 ways in which children approached the topic using logico- mathematical thinking. The findings from the section on perspective taking describe that all 16 children were able to take another perspective, 13 out of 16 children were able to take the perspective of two different characters and four children were able to reach levels above the two-character perspective range. The research regarding “stand for” representation found that out of the possible responses, 73% indicated that children knew that there was a “stand for” relationship, 64% indicated that children were able to state the referent, and 39% could clearly explain the connection between the object and referent.

These three areas were analyzed individually and collectively. A common finding of the study supports that when the topic of the children’s study is contextualized in their lives the children’s abilities to exhibit higher reasoning skills are stronger than would typically be predicted. An explanation of why a contextualized topic of study leads to adaptations of mental structures that enhances the children’s ability to use logico- mathematical thinking is included.

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