223 – Examining the process of science concept formation in infancy and toddlerhood: A cultural historical exploration

Presentation - ECV2022-223

Examining the process of science concept formation in infancy and toddlerhood: A cultural historical exploration

Gillian O’Connor, Monash University, Australia (gillian.oconnor1@monash.edu)
Laureate Professor Marilyn Fleer, Monash University, Australia (marilyn.fleer@monash.edu)
Dr Prabhat Rai, Monash University, Australia (Prabhat.rai@monash.edu)

Background: There is an imminent need to develop our understanding of science concept formation during infancy and toddlerhood. Early science learning experiences are essential for the development of children’s scientific knowledge and inquiry skills. However, our understanding of science learning, as it occurs for children from birth to three, is extremely limited.

Aim: To build our understanding in this largely unknown area of science education, a study was conducted to explore how children, during infancy and toddlerhood, form science concepts through their imaginary play (within the context of their everyday educational reality).

Method: The study used a Cultural-Historical framework to design Conceptual PlayWorld Educational Experiments. The Conceptual PlayWorld (CPW) is a collective model of practice that supports the learning of science concepts through play. Five CPW educational experiments were implemented at an early childhood education centre in Melbourne, Australia; 68 children (aged 8–46 months) and 17 educators participated. Digital visual methods were used for the collection and analysis of the qualitative data. How the biological science concepts, animal characteristics and habitats developed and were supported within the context of the CPWs, was examined.

Results: Under the conditions of a CPW, very young children could interact with (everyday) science concepts in a way that was meaningful to them. In addition, the process of sustained shared thinking between the child and educator, fostered within the CPW, resulted in the deepening of children’s conceptual understandings of science concepts (at an everyday level).

Conclusions: The findings from the study suggest that the Conceptual PlayWorld creates motivating conditions for infants and toddlers in science.

Implications for children and families: Findings from the study will enhance educators’ ability to support you, our youngest learners, to develop everyday understandings of science concepts through play.

Implications for practitioners: This study contributes to enhanced pedagogical practices for science education in the early years by understanding how children, during the first three years of life, form science concepts through their imaginary play.

Funding: This research was funded by the Australian Research Council [FL180100161], awarded to Marilyn Fleer.

Key words: science, early years education, infancy and toddlerhood, concept formation, Cultural-Historical Theory

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

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