Understanding choices in the grouping of children within early childhood education : an Auckland based study of same-age / multi-age grouping arrangements
Permanent link to Research Bank record:http://hdl.handle.net/10652/2353
The New Zealand early childhood sector is characterised by a diverse range of early childhood education settings. In grouping children, early childhood settings adopt one of two grouping arrangements - some centres choose to arrange children homogeneously in same-age groupings whilst others adopt heterogeneous, multi-age grouping arrangements. Historically, same-age and multi-age grouping arrangements have been left relatively unquestioned, particularly within the Aotearoa / New Zealand context. As participation in early childhood education continues to grow, it is timely that we question these grouping arrangements in order to best understand the issues and complexities associated with each of these approaches. This study was designed as a qualitative investigation of teacher beliefs surrounding same-age and multi-age grouping arrangements in early childhood education within the bicultural context of Aotearoa / New Zealand. The aims of this study were to address teacher beliefs about the otives and values that underlie these grouping arrangements, to identify the advantages and disadvantages unique to each of these settings and the ways in which these two settings can be improved. To meet these aims, 23 early childhood teachers within Auckland participated in one of four focus groups from which data was collected and thematically analysed. This thesis provides support for previous Aotearoa / New Zealand research into same-age and multi-age groupings and recognises that both settings offer children unique and differing learning experiences. Through a critical analysis of the data collected from the focus groups four key themes emerged – ‘The organisational perspective’, which is concerned with the underlying motives behind the on-going existence of same-age and multi-age groupings, ‘The teachers’ perspective’, that identifies the teachers’ beliefs in regards to the advantages and disadvantages of same-age and multi-age settings, ‘The cultural perspective’ that questions the relevancy of these grouping arrangements within the Aotearoa / New Zealand context and finally, ‘Improvements’ in which the teachers make recommendations for the improvement of practice in both grouping arrangements. These themes are used to categorise data and assign meaning to the findings. This study acknowledges that further research is needed to understand the cultural nature of same-age and multi-age settings and suggests that the inclusion of a wider group of key stakeholders would provide more generalizable findings.