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  • This version of the article has been accepted for publication by Taylor and Francis

    in EECERJ Volume 26 Issue 1, 2018

    1

    Educational language practices described by preschool teachers in

    Norwegian kindergartens

    Hansen, Joakim Evensen & Alvestad, Marit

    Department of Early Childhood Education, University of Stavanger, Stavanger, Norway

    Corresponding author: Joakim Evensen Hansen, University of Stavanger, Faculty of

    Arts and Education, 4036 Stavanger, Email: joakim.e.hansen@uis.no, Phone: 0047-

    95307443

    Marit Alvestad, University of Stavanger, Faculty of Arts and Education, 4036

    Stavanger, Email: marit.alvestad@uis.no

    mailto:joakim.e.hansen@uis.nomailto:marit.alvestad@uis.no

  • This version of the article has been accepted for publication by Taylor and Francis

    in EECERJ Volume 26 Issue 1, 2018

    2

    Educational language practices described by preschool teachers in

    Norwegian kindergartens

    This article focuses on educational language practices as described by preschool

    teachers in Norwegian kindergartens in groups consisting of one-to-three-year-

    old children. Research indicates a relationship between high-quality childcare and

    language development, yet there is a need for more research on educational

    practices in high-quality settings. The kindergartens in this study have a high

    score (five to seven/good to excellent) on the subscale 'Listening and Talking' on

    the Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale-Revised. The study is based on

    qualitative analysis of semi-structured interviews with six preschool teachers in

    four kindergartens. The findings indicate a holistic dialogical approach to

    educational language practices. Varied social settings and strategies are used for

    language learning and aspects of planning and assessment are seen as important

    in these kindergartens. The preschool teachers highlight the importance of

    children's language learning during day-to-day activities in kindergarten.

    Keywords: educational language practices, language learning environment,

    ECEC quality, one-to-three-year-olds, ITERS-R

    Introduction

    Supporting children's language learning has high priority in Norwegian kindergartens,

    and the focus on language seems to be increasing (Gulbrandsen and Eliassen 2013;

    strem et al. 2009). Research exists on how preschool teachers can support and

    promote children's language learning in groups consisting of three-to-six-year-old

    children (Gjems 2013; Gjems and Lkken 2011); however, there is a need for research

    on educational language practices among one-to-three-year-old children in relation to

    aspects of early childhood education and care (ECEC) quality (Sandvik, Garmann, and

    Tkachenko 2014). The Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale-Revised (ITERS-R) is

  • This version of the article has been accepted for publication by Taylor and Francis

    in EECERJ Volume 26 Issue 1, 2018

    3

    one of the most widely used observational measurement tools for describing the

    characteristics of a global quality in ECEC settings for infants and toddlers

    internationally (Mathers et al. 2007; Harms, Cryer, and Clifford 2006). The study

    presented in this article is an independent part of the national longitudinal research

    project Better provision for Norway's children in Early Childhood Education and Care

    (BePro; www.goban.no) which focuses on ECEC quality.

    In this study, the focus is on educational work on language learning in groups of

    children aged between one and three years old. The aim of the study is to examine

    Norwegian kindergarten staff's description of how they support and promote children's

    language development. Accordingly the research question is: what characterises

    educational language practices as described by preschool teachers in kindergartens

    with high quality scores on ITERS-R? Educational language practices are defined as

    'practices concerning work, planning and assessment'. The study is based on

    sociocultural theoretical perspectives in order to understand children's language

    development and the importance of the social context for language acquisition (Slj

    2001; Vygotskij 1978). In this article we present a case study building on interviews

    with six preschool teachers in four kindergartens. Additionally, field notes are used to

    support the findings from the interviews.

    The Norwegian context

    Over the last few decades there has been a rapid growth in the Norwegian ECEC sector,

    and in 2015, 80.7% of one-to-three-year-old children were attending kindergarten, in

    contrast to 40.9 % in 2002 (Statistic Norway 2016). From the previous political focus

    on the quantity and development of universally accessible childcare, there has been a

    shift towards content and quality (Gulbrandsen and Eliassen 2013; Vassenden et al.

    http://www.goban.no/

  • This version of the article has been accepted for publication by Taylor and Francis

    in EECERJ Volume 26 Issue 1, 2018

    4

    2011). Norwegian national policy documents (Ministry of Education and Research

    2013) and the Norwegian Framework Plan and guidelines (Directorate for Education

    and Training 2015; Ministry of Education and Research 2011) emphasise the

    importance of early and good language stimulation, and that all children should

    experience a rich and varied language environment in kindergarten (Hansen and

    Alvestad 2015).

    The Norwegian Framework Plan for the Content and Tasks of Kindergartens is

    an integrated play-based curriculum promoting a holistic approach to learning

    (Lohmander et al. 2009; OECD 2006). It provides guidelines for fundamental values,

    content and tasks for kindergartens, and gives staff, parents and supervisory authorities

    a framework for their work. It states that all kindergartens must be goal-oriented with

    regard to the children's development and learning, and that they have to stimulate

    children's linguistic and social competence (Ministry of Education and Research 2011).

    Linguistic competence is central in the overall content of the framework plan and

    Communication, language and text is one of the seven subject areas (Ministry of

    Education and Research 2011, pp. 21, 24). The framework plan emphasises the

    importance of early childhood as the fundamental period for the development of

    language, and states that providing all children with a rich and varied language

    environment is an important factor in language development. Systematic language

    stimulation is highlighted as an obligation for the kindergarten, and it must be based on

    knowledge, considered, planned, justified, organised, purposeful and coherent,

    according to the national guidelines (Hansen and Alvestad 2015).

    Theory and research

    Sociocultural theoretical perspectives focus on situated social practices and the use of

  • This version of the article has been accepted for publication by Taylor and Francis

    in EECERJ Volume 26 Issue 1, 2018

    5

    mediating tools/artefacts in learning and development processes. Vygotsky's work has

    contributed towards educational research and is widely used in this field. A central

    concept in his work is the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) with the guidance of

    adults or more capable peers (Vygotskij 1978). Bruner emphasises the importance of

    social context in supporting and assisting children's development by using the

    scaffolding concept (Bruner 1996). Taking a Vygotskian approach, Bodrova and Leong

    (2007) argue for the use of language in a meaningful way in contexts that are relevant to

    children. In this study, language development is understood as a process that

    incorporates acquisition of components such as vocabulary, syntax, semantics and

    pragmatics. The development of these aspects allows children to successfully

    communicate and interact with adults and other children (Burger 2015; Hoff 2006).

    Language learning environment

    Studies show that good quality in ECEC has a significant impact on children's language

    development (Bauchmller, Grtz, and Wrtz 2011; Lekhal et al. 2011). The British

    Effective Provision of Preschool Education (EPPE) study found associations between

    outcomes for children in terms of cognition and language, and effective pedagogical

    practices. The aspects of effective practices identified were adult-child verbal

    interactions with elements of 'sustained shared thinking' (SST), knowledge and

    understanding of the curriculum and knowledge of child development (Siraj-Blatchford

    et al. 2003; Sylva et al. 2007). Siraj-Blatchford (2009) argues for the importance of the

    pedagogical sequence of 'modelling progressive reduction of scaffolding extension'

    to support children's learning and provide SST in early years. The importance of adult

    support was also evidenced by the Harvard Home-School Study where the quality of

    extended conversations with teachers was identified as being important for children's

  • This version of the article has been accepted for publication by Taylor and Francis

    in EECERJ Volume 26 Issue 1, 2018

    6

    long-term language and literacy development (Dickinson and Tabors 2001). In this

    study, the use of extended discourses, exposure to rare words and the classroom

    curriculum were dimensions of childcare