Participation and Attendance of Priority Group Children in ECE

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3.1 Purpose of the Study

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The aim of this project was to investigate the participation and attendance of priority group children in early childhood services and identify initiatives for strengthening these. The study specifically focused on identifying initiatives to increase ECE participation in areas where children are not participating in quality ECE before beginning school in New Zealand. The priority groups represented in this study are largely Maori and Pasifika children, and children from low socio-economic communities. This project focused on investigating the reasons for low attendance and went further to trial strategies to increase the childrens attendance and participation.

3.2 Theoretical Perspective

In this section, the research was based on theoretical frameworks that provided an overview and exploration on how participation in the ECE was carried out and how it can be improved. Theoretical perspectives help in shaping the stance of people and, therefore, understand the content of research. The theoretical approach that was used in the study was phenomenological perspective. The approach sought to explain and elaborate how individuals experience different phenomena and appearances of things and how people value them. Phenomenology can be explained as handling one experience in different ways. The theory usually views the human behavior as the way in which people interprets what is seen (Karlsson, 1993). The use of phenomenological perspective enables the researcher to be able to explore the experience from the first person point of view.

The approach can be used to reveal on how different experiences can be transformed by real experiences for the participants. It recognizes the relationship that is independent of the person who knows the experience and what is known by those particular people (Cho, 1984).The application of the phenomenological perspective made the research to be more defined thus the researcher was able to be recognized. The approach was used to gather information and find out the experiences that investigated their learning experiences. The researcher sought the childrens understanding of the Early Childhood Education, and if the skills that they were impacted with were helpful, the approach also examined the knowledge of the parents on the importance of the ECE. The researcher had to learn first the children experiences in the ECE and also the childrens perspective so that the deductions could be drawn (Bullington, 2013).

The researcher applied this perspective to be able to observe how the experiences occurred and the reaction of the children on those perspectives. The perspective was a bridge in which the investigator used so that the children could build a trustworthy relationship with them, their parents and their teachers. The involvement of the researcher in the behavior and the experience of the children made him or her understand the idea of children participation in the ECE and the fact that the parents should be involved as much as the teachers in the participation of the children in the ECE.

The use of phenomenological perspective was able to make the researcher understand the contribution of the parents towards the children participation in the ECE and the determination of the children towards the experience. The use of phenomenological perspective enabled the investigator to gain information on the sociocultural context of the children and the parents of New Zealand. In this way, the researcher was able to access the childrens lives and, therefore, easy to note the problems that the children were facing and how the problems decreased their participation in the ECE (Valle & Halling, 1989). The researcher wanted to find out whether the majority of the New Zealand children had gained experiences in the social culture learning in the ECE. Culture beliefs, practices, tools and social interaction were the basic knowledge that was to act as an indication that the children were participating a lot in the ECE. The approach sought to determine the behavior phenomena

3.3 Research Design

The paper presents an Action Research project that forms a natural part of the researchers professional cycle of improvement.

Action Research process

The researcher followed the research model below so that he would acquire the findings regarding the study.

Adopted from O'Brien (2001)

The model applied various terms to complete its action research process. The approach examines the perspective in which the action took place, the action itself and the appropriate techniques that were used to for the approach. The action research method is usually regarded as a way that involves practical perspective of tackling a problem. The researcher applied the method so as to identify what was threatening the children participation in the ECE, the evaluation and the gravity of the damage, the action that is supposed to be taken so as to be able to improve on the participation of the children and also reduce the barriers that were befalling on them. A group of researchers modified the action plan that the researcher used among those being The Teacher- Researcher Movement that has its origin in the UK. The researcher applied the module to diagnose the issues that posed as a barrier to children participation, how various plans were implemented, a collection of data and analyzing it. The approach is cyclic such that one action or one factor depended on the other for the whole module to be a success.

The use of the approach or the method was meaningful as the researcher applied it to deal with the complexity of the matter under research and the objectives that the researcher had set at the beginning of the research. The investigator found out that the action research module enabled him or her to achieve the objectives that were used to formulate recommendations.

The use of the approach or the method was meaningful as the researcher applied it to deal with the complexity of the matter under research and the objectives that the researcher had set at the beginning of the research. The investigator found out that the action research module enabled him or her to achieve the objectives that were used to formulate recommendations. The researcher aimed at acquiring knowledge about the reason the participation of children in the ECE was faced with challenges and acquiring knowledge on the importance of children participation in the ECE

The researchers goal was to empower the parents and the society on the issues concerning the children participation in the ECE after acquiring the knowledge, after creating awareness so that the barriers were eradicated, the need for putting hands together and work as a team was an important goal that brought forth the need for the society to change. For the research design model to be completed, the researcher implemented all the levels of stages in the action research process and recorded the findings or the results.

3.4 Selection and Recruitment of participants

The researcher carried out the study with participants in two kindergartens involved in the PDSA- Rapid Change Cycle initiated by the Ministry of Education. The rapid change cycle is a process that helps early childhood educators to assess the results of a change or improvements. If the implemented initiative is not effective, it enables the organization to introduce and try new changes that might be more effective. The two kindergartens used as a basis for this research study were to implement the new initiatives. An example of an initiative is the introduction of 30 hours of free childcare to increase the participation of children. Further proposed initiatives involve the kindergartens providing breakfast, or introducing dance classes or similar events to improve the attendance and participation of children.

The researcher invited two early childhood teachers and two parents/caregivers from within each of the two kindergartens. The invitation for the parents to participate in the research was displayed on the kindergarten notice board, together with the information sheets and consent forms. The information sheets and the invitation letters were returned to the respective head teachers who then forwarded them to the researcher. The investigator allowed the interested participants to seek further information and clarification whenever they needed. The sample of families who participated in the research project predominantly belonged to the priority above groups. They were recruited by their willingness to take part in the proposed initiatives and also given permission to participate in the research project. The first two families who provided consent from each kindergarten were selected for the interview process.

The invitations to the teachers were sent via email to the respective kindergartens along with the information sheet and consent form. The researcher then conducted a short information talk in each kindergarten to help teachers understand the purpose of the research and before answering the questions. The Selection focused on the teachers who were taking an active part in introducing, implementing and monitoring the new initiatives and their willingness to participate in the research project.

The teachers and parent participants in each of the participating kindergartens were asked to take part in the two focus group interviews with the researcher. Separate focus group interviews were conducted in each kindergarten with separate interviews carried out with the parents and the teachers. The first of the two interviews with each participant group took place prior to the implementation of the initiative/s and the second interview after the initiative/s were implemented. The focus of each interview was to obtain the participants perceptions and opinions in relation to the reasons for non-attendance and participation of children in ECE services, the perceived benefits of early childhood education and an evaluation of the implemented initiatives (the interview schedules for the two sets of interviews are included in the Appendix of this application). Each focus group interview took approximately 20 minutes and were recorded with a digital recording device and later transcribed to aid in the data analysis process. The information regarding childrens background (like ethnicities), attendance (monitoring attendance and absenteeism) and participation were collected from software called Infocare, which is used by the head teachers in the respective kindergartens. The identity of the respective children whose information was utilized was anonymous to maintain confidentiality throughout the study.

Prior to approaching the kindergartens, permission to proceed with the research in the two kindergartens was sought from the Kindergarten Association head office by sending an Information Sheet and Informed Consent form to gain approval. The Ministry of Education collaborated with teachers in the two kindergartens to identify the initiatives to be implemented. The researcher was supported in implementing the proposed initiatives, by the teachers from the respective kindergartens, support staff from head office and facilitators from the Ministry of Education, whose role is to introduce the PDSA and rapid change cycle within kindergartens.

3.5 Data collection

From each kindergarten parents/caregivers representing two families were invited to participate in digitally recorded focus group interviews conducted before the initiative started. Also, they participated after the initiatives were implemented, to assess the progress of the initiative and capture their perceptions, opinions, beliefs and attitudes. These open-ended interviews were semi-structured in nature with questions and prompts used to guide the discussions.

Anyone who accepted to take part in this project was asked to participate in the different initiatives that w...

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