The pedagogical transformation of the kindergarten's outdoor environments into learning and play places through participatory approaches (Doctoral thesis)

Γκέσιου, Γεωργία Α.

In an international perspective, there is a growing interest in outdoor environments and how they are related to children's learning and development (Moser & Martinsen 2010; Mannion, Fenwick & Lynch 2013; Christie, Higgins & McLaughlin 2014, Waller et al., 2017). All the above researchers agree that the cultural and physical environment plays a vital role in children’s development and learning. At the same time, current research approaches prove that the learning-space relationship is not a simple quantitative relationship where better environments "produce" better learning (Woolner et al., 2012), and propose the transformation of outdoor learning spaces into places that contain dynamic and versatile possibilities and opportunities for the entire school community.The great lack of research data in Greece on: (1) outdoor learning and play environments, (2) children’s participation in decision- making and in the designing process, and (3) the participatory methods as tools for the pedagogy of listening and the interpretation of children; creates an overriding field of research where the necessity of this research lies. The present PhD thesis explores the quality of the Greek kindergarten outdoor environments and describes the rationale of their improvement and the educational opportunities that they can offer as learning and playing spaces. The content of the present thesis stresses the need for a systematic review of the perception of outdoor play in Greek society and then the conduction of an empirical research consisting of three emerging phases. Initially, we intended to study the perspectives, experiences and practices of kindergarten teachers regarding the organization, use and role of outdoor environments in the educational reality. Secondly, we examined how some factors, such as the involvement of the entire school community (children, teachers, parents) in decision-making, designing and implementation of changes, can influence the quality, use and the perception of outdoor school environments as learning and play spaces that are horizontally involved in all aspects of kindergarten’s everyday life.The empirical research is structured in three phases, examining the emerging research questions. Initially through conducting semi-structured interviews with kindergarteners we studied the perspectives, views, experiences and practices of kindergarten teachers regarding outdoor learning and play. Based on the research questions that emerged after the analysis of the interviews, the second research- phase consisted of the kindergarten teachers’ monthly calendars records and interviews, offering both qualitative and quantitative data on the use of outdoor environments. Subsequently, in view of the findings of the first two phases, the third research phase involved the implementation of the Participatory Action Research (PAR) in two school units.The research findings add new data to the international scientific research, that aims at the continuous empowerment of all those involved in the educational process in order to involve them in designing the learning and play environments and their learning experiences. The outcomes of the present research indicate that the participants were enabled to explore and discover challenges that affected their lives, to motivate change within themselves, as well as their surroundings. Our findings revealed that we unlocked changes on (1) the outdoor settings (sense of identity, multiple affordances, flexible structures), and (2) the educational culture (reappraisal of the educational value of outdoor play, construction of a sustainable participatory culture with children
Institution and School/Department of submitter: Πανεπιστήμιο Ιωαννίνων. Σχολή Επιστημών της Αγωγής. Παιδαγωγικό Τμήμα Νηπιαγωγών
Subject classification: Περιβαλλοντική εκπαίδευση
Keywords: Μάθηση και παιχνίδι σε υπαίθρια περιβάλλοντα,συμμετοχική προσέγγιση,ενδυνάμωση,συμμετοχική έρευνα δράσης,προσέγγιση του μωσαϊκού,outdoor learning and play,participatory approach,empowerment,participatory action research,mosaic approach
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