Children as teachers, families as learners

Project Director: Margaret Carr and Jeanette Clarkin-Phillips

Project Dates: 2012 - 2014

Partnerships: Tai Tamariki Kindergarten, the kindergarten community and Wellington Region Free Kindergarten Association

This was a two-year Teaching and Learning Research Initiative (TLRI) funded project about young children as museum guides, explaining their understandings about a museum exhibit or object to teachers, family and friends. The research explored ways in which these shared experiences invited conversations that included families' social and cultural knowledge, engaged families in their children's learning, and influenced family expectations and aspirations for their children.

The aims of this action research project were:

  • Children as teachers:to analyse the dual-focus (discipline-specific and dispositional) nature of these dialogic skills;to explore opportunities for children to co-construct resources with the teachers (e.g, a slide show, an exhibition of their own, a book or pamphlet) about their interest in order to act as docents or teachers for their families.
  • Families as learners: to enable families to recognise their children's competence as teachers of museum knowledge in ways that raise family expectations and invite funds of knowledge from home; to encourage families to become familiar with the language of learning that is available in a museum and valued.
  • Teachers as learners and teachers: to assist teachers to recognise some key features of the ways that an educational context can afford the development of children as teachers and families as learners.
  • The project: to develop resources and strategies that will assist early childhood centres and schools to plan their work with museums.

Why was this research important?
In exploring how children as teachers might engage families as learners, the research contributed to new knowledge about how young children explain their understandings to others and the ways in which the educational context can afford this competence. The research also contributed to new understandings about how children as teachers might engage families in their children's learning, influence family expectations and make visible the families' funds of knowledge. There are implications for practice in that the findings made recommendations and provided examples for other early childhood centres to plan work with museums and engage families in this experience.

What we did
We  researched these aims in partnership with the teachers, children and families at Tai Tamariki Kindergarten (housed on the ground floor of Te Papa Tongarewa National Museum). Teacher-researchers, university-researchers and child-researchers worked together to co-construct resources (a slide-show, series of photographs, or a book, for instance) that represented or connected with their favourite objects or exhibits in the permanent collections at Te Papa. Teacher-researchers, university-researchers, child researchers and family-researchers shared ideas and knowledge about these objects or exhibits using the slide show and /or book as a catalyst for conversation. Tai Tamariki children visited their favourite object or exhibit with their families and act as docents, explaining their interests and understandings. In the second year we introduced a second kindergarten (a kindergarten where families may not usually visit a museum) to this process, sharing the research at Tai Tamariki before visiting Te Papa with their kindergarten peers and then their families.

Carr, M. & Clarkin-Phillips, J. (2014) Children as teachers: families as learners (PDF - 546.37 KB)