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    Opportunities > Outcomes: Seeking to Establish a Nurturing Environment in the Junior Infant Classroom

    O'Grady, Gavin (2022) Opportunities > Outcomes: Seeking to Establish a Nurturing Environment in the Junior Infant Classroom. Masters thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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    The significance of well-being in education has become a priority for schools over the past number of years, particularly with the impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic. However, the concept of well-being is not clearly defined and arguably, like many other aspects of education, has fallen victim to neoliberal policies and agendas. Within previous curriculum frameworks and The New Draft Curriculum (N.C.C.A., 2020) it is apparent that well-being can be treated as a subject that is driven by an outcomes-based and measurable approach. Neoliberal approaches are observed to create unrealistic expectations on educators to solve the multitude of problems children face in their daily lives. These expectations can lead to controversies within our practice, ranging from a sense of guilt for not 'fully providing' for every child in a class to cases of teacher burnout. A nurturing environment is one based on opportunities, rather than focussing on outcomes. Through adapting a nurturing pedagogical approach, I hoped to create an environment that was more conducive to the well-being of the child – rather than measuring it. This environment identifies the importance of reciprocal relationships and recognises the role of the child and the voice of the child as educational factors within the classroom. Self-study action research was the chosen research methodology for this project. It was a suitable methodology as it is a values-laden, predominantly qualitative approach, in which the practitioner endeavours to enhance their practice. Within this self-study action research project, an exploration was conducted on both the relationships within the class and the teacher’s role in the agency of the child. Throughout the process, a focus was also placed on the promotion of the voice of the child. Within this exploration, and through identifying gaps in my pedagogical approaches, I sought to establish a nurturing environment within the classroom. Critical reflection and questioning were essential from the preliminary stages right through to the conclusionary stages of the research journey. Triangulation was ensured throughout the data collection and validation processes. The project was structured on Carr and Kemmis’ (1986) Model of Action research, with a four-step approach of observing, planning, acting and reflecting. After the baseline data was gathered, the project took a unique format, choosing to run three action-cycles concurrently rather than the traditional consecutive approach. Each action-cycle had its own interventions in the form of relational sociograms, a multi-modal approach to communication and expression and using puppets to create a socio-dramatic world. Each intervention led to a number of environmental and personal findings, but ultimately, everything intertwined in the form of an ‘overarching finding.’ This ‘overarching finding’ presented as a solar-system of the nurturing environment that I sought to establish. Within this solar-system, it was essential to provide opportunities for the children to identify the need for and benefit of reciprocal relationships, a multi-modal approach to discussion and expression and facilitate an active approach to socio-dramatic play to encourage the agency of the child and their social-emotional development. In providing such opportunities to the children and supporting them to find their own meanings in a shared learning environment, the practitioner is manifesting a nurturing pedagogy and truly embodying the educative value of care.

    Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
    Additional Information: M.Ed. Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education
    Keywords: Opportunities; Outcomes; Nurturing Environment; Junior Infant Classroom;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education
    Item ID: 17241
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 29 May 2023 11:30
      Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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