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An investigation of the social competence of pre-school children in three settings
Elkins, Julie Ann
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
A case study of four children's social competence during their transition from pre-school to Primary School
Paper One: An investigation of the social competence of pre-school children within three pre-school settings Abstract This paper is the first of two that investigates the concept of social competence in pre-school children within their pre-school and as they move onto their first year at school. Research has identified the development of social and emotional skills as key to a child’s future well being. Using a social constructionist perspective (Vygotsky, 1978; Rogoff, 1990), this project aimed to identify how pre-schools develop children’s social competence. Twenty-one children were observed in their free choice time at pre-school. Systematic observations recorded child-to-child activity and naturalistic observations recorded the children’s interactions with the adults present. Semi-structured interviews took place with the managers of the pre-schools. There were distinct beliefs amongst the pre-schools about how children’s social competence should be promoted. The observations revealed that the pre-school children were ‘sociable’ either by attaching to an adult or a peer. Adults were also communicative with the children within the ‘free choice’ periods but this was characterised by brief interactions with a broad content of making a request, ensuring a health and safety criteria was met rather than in sustained communication about play. It was concluded that pre-school practitioners may benefit from better targeted training to develop their skills in facilitating children’s social competence within play and that parental input could play a part in developing this. Paper 2 A case study of four children’s social competence during their transition from pre-school to Primary school Abstract This study undertook an examination of four children’s social competences during a period of 18 months while they experienced the transition from pre-school to Primary school. Transition has been described as a time of ‘discontinuity’ (Margetts, 2002). Using Bronfennbrenner’s (1979) ecological framework, there was a focus on the interactions of the child during transition as well as on the school level of influence. The data was explored using a case study approach; the play experiences of four children were recorded using two types of observation (both systematic and naturalistic), semi-structured interviews with pre-school and school staff were conducted and questionnaire data using the Social Competence Behaviour Evaluation, Pre-school edition (LaFreniere and Dumas, 2003) was taken from parents and teachers. In this study, schools had differing approaches to transition and there were found to be gaps in the transition process for children who had had no prior contact with the school. Social competence did not change over transition, except for a dramatic decrease in parent scores for two children. It was argued that children may benefit from more individualised approaches during transition and also better communication between pre-school settings and Primary schools.
DEdPsy in Educational, Child and Community Psychology