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Working environment crucial to preschool grouping

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Smaller groups in preschools contribute to children’s learning and development. But the organisation of the preschool, the working environment and the evolving workplace culture, are crucial to the teachers’ grouping of children into smaller groups. This is the conclusion of a doctoral thesis at the University of Gothenburg.

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Panagiota Nasiopoulou
Panagiota Nasiopoulou.

Previous research clearly shows that the possibility of dividing preschool children into smaller groups for parts of the day leads to a number of benefits to the children’s well-being, learning and development. In her doctoral thesis, Panagiota Nasiopoulou has investigated the preschool teachers’ intentions with grouping, and which factors actually govern whether grouping will take place.

"My studies show that grouping is an educational practice, which is based on the actual situations that arise on a daily basis. Even if preschool teachers point out that the intention is to promote the children’s play and learning, organisational aspects are crucial to their decision to divide the children into smaller groups", says Panagiota Nasiopoulou.

The doctoral thesis shows that relationships and organisational aspects are crucial to grouping. Relationships refer to the interaction between preschool teachers, children, guardians, employees and head teachers. Organisational aspects that create opportunities for or limits to grouping include staff composition in relation to the number of children, duties and the physical space available at the preschool. But there was no clear link between preschool teachers’ level of education or experience, and the implementation of grouping.

Reading and writing not prioritised

Panagiota Nasiopoulou has also examined which of the curriculum’s subject categories preschool teachers prioritise. While language, mathematics, play and motor development were highly prioritised, reading and writing were given a lower priority. Almost two thirds of preschool teachers responded to follow-up questions that reading and writing are not part of the preschool remit, or that the children are too young to be taught reading and writing.

"This indicates that there is a workplace culture that is sceptical of a more knowledge-oriented preschool", says Panagiota Nasiopoulou and continues:

"There is a great need for more targeted skills development that takes into account preschool teachers’ and teams’ different needs, and that efforts are introduced in consultation with preschool teachers and the challenges, dilemmas and issues that exist in the environment in which they work."

The doctoral thesis is based on a survey that was answered by 698 preschool teachers from 46 municipalities in Sweden.

For more details:

Panagiota Nasiopoulou, phone +46 31–786 2007, email panagiota.nasiopoulou@gu.se

Panagiota Nasiopoulou defended her doctoral thesis, The Professional Preschool Teacher under Conditions of Change. Competence and Intentions in Pedagogical Practices, on February 28.

The thesis is published in digital format.