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JURIJ MARINKO, MA Education: VALUES AND PRESCHOOL CHILDREN

natisni E-pošta

irena3

Abstract

This paper intends to contribute to values that should be transmitted to preschool children.

Kohlberg, Piaget, Montessori and a number of contemporary relevant scholars think that preschool children can and should be acquainted with values and that this can contribute to living together in harmony and peace. The most important educators of preschool children are families and kindergartens who transmit values like respect the work of other children, waiting, patience, resign, discipline (Montessori), how to differentiate between right and wrong, honesty (Thompson), how to care for others, about justice and rights: not hurting others, mutual helping and sharing, being kind, nice, do what is expected in class, do one's best, make friends, include others in play (Johansson et al.), understanding lies (Peterson and Siegal), encourage children to reflect on what is right and wrong, develop children's feelings for the nature and human-made environment (Ojala and Talts), trust, respect, honesty, responsibility, fairness, compassion and self-control (Nowak-Fabrykowski), about inclusion/exclusion on the basis of gender and ethnicity (Wainman et al), over-consumption (Kopnina), and religious experience (Cavalletti). These values are the basis on which parents and kindergartens should form their actitivities for preschool children.

Key words: values, preschool children, family, kindergarten

1 Introduction

Preschool children get involved in activities like construction games, playing with toys, reading books, playing in the sandpit, using playground equipment, language, communication, art/creativity, health and physics whereas other themes seem to be more neglected, especially ethical and social issues (Kallestad J.H., Odegaard E.E., 2013). However, a number of researchers point out that the preschool period is the best time to start developing ethical values.

People can live together in harmony and peace, and survive if they respect values and realize them (Aydin and Akyol Gurler, 2012; Hokelekli, 2011; Oksuz, 2011 in Nesliturk, 2014). Values defined as belief and rules that guide our behaviour (Hestead and Taylor, 2000 in Nesliturk, 2014) help to create the way of thinking of individuals, understand the world and give meaning to the developments in the social environment. Protecting the values and transferring them from generation to generation is very important for the quality of life.
Family is the most basic institution that transfers values from generation to generation and prepares children for their life in the society as it is the first social structure where humans are born, raised, cared and protected (Akkaya, 2008; Sengun, 2013 in Nesliturk, 2014). Also the kindergarten is important for children's development (Aral & Bütün Ayhan, 2008; Aral, Kandır, & Can-Yaşar, 2002; Haktanır & Aktaş, 1994; Kandır, 2001; Şimşek-Bekir & Temel; 2006 in Arslan, 2010). Preschool children get socialized and start to acquire the social values, attitude and behaviour expected from them (Dinc, 2011 in Nesliturk, 2014). In this period, children simulate parents' and teachers' behaviour and take them as model. Behaviour of parents and teachers as model and their attitude to children are among the most important information sources for children (Bornstein and Bornstein, 2007; Uyanik Balat and Balaban Dagal, 2009; Uyanik Balat, 2012 in Nesliturk, 2014).

2 Piaget and Kohlberg about children's understanding morality

Among the most important scholars who investigated moral development in relation to cognitive development are Piaget and Kohlberg (Thompson, 2011; Öztürk 2010). According to Piaget children form their understanding of morality under the influence of adults. Also Kohlberg believed that children's moral thinking developed in stages and that children formed their own personal and subjective moral system when they were 13. Both Piaget and Kohlberg suggested that moral education should start at the preschool level. Kohlberg believed that children should should learn moral values through moral dilemmas (Thompson, 2011) and that teachers play crucial roles in moral education. Teachers should be good models and should teach children in creative ways, provide an environment for children to explore moral issues in a constructive way because children are impressionable and they imitate people they admire. Although both Piaget and Kohlberg made large research of moral development, they were also criticised.

3 Contemporary researchers about transmitting values to preschool children

Also a number of contemporary authors (Johansson et al., 2014) claim that education in values should start already in the preschool years because this is important for a tolerant and responsible society. Although some people would argue that children have less experience than adults, they can actively contribute to constructiong social order ( Cobb, Danby & Farrell, 2005; Cobb-Moore, Danby & Farrell, 2009; Corsaro, 2009; Danby & Theobald, 2012; Thornberg, 2009, 2010 – in Johansson, 2014). Children are able to differentiate between distinct social domains and separate moral values from conventional and personal values (Killen & Smetana, 2006; Thornberg, 2009; 2010 in Johansson, 2014).

This opinion is expressed also by some Slovenian authors and by Maria Montessori. Jarc (2014) claims that preschool children between three and six years are extremely susceptible to the development of their character and behaviour. Montessori kindergartens teach children to respect the work of other children and wait till they can get the object which they wish. This represents the change and adaptation of the child and beginning of its social life. Society is not based on individual wishes but on several activities which require waiting, patience, resign, discipline.

Thompson (2011) says that moral education teaches children how to differentiate between right and wrong and pays additional attention to honesty that should be transmitted to the children.

Some contemporary investigations of values and rules in the preschool education make a research of values from the children's perspectives. The idea of children as active subjects of constructing their value systems has got international attention in the last years (Corsaro, 2009 in Johansson, 2011). Broström (2012) claims that children are seen as active subjects and participants who have a legitimate basis in the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child. However, the voice of children is not always what it is supposed to be. Hreinsdottir and Davidsdottir (2012) report that the Icelandic National Curriculum Guide for Preschools emphasizes children's active participation in planning and evaluating within the preschools, but children often have no power and have to listen to adults.

Johansson et al. (2014) examined young children's understandings of values and rules which referred mainly to treatment of others and participation in school. The scholars made interviews about moral and conventional values of children in Australia. Moral values include opinions about how to care for others, about justice and rights. Conventional values refer to socially constructed rules for order and how to behave in school (Killen and Smetana, 2006 in Johansson, 2014). Johansson et al. claim that it is necessary to conduct more research upon holistic and interactive traditions, such as phenomenology, to understand how children learn values. These traditions stress the complexity of influences on learning values which include the ideas of children and educators, the influence of context and culture, and children's relationships and experiences. The authors focused on the questions: What does it mean to do the right thing in school? What are the rules in school, who determines the rules and what happens when the rules are broken? Doing the right thing implies, from the perspective of the children, that one shows concern for others' wellbeing. When the children spoke about doing wrong, they often referred to not hurting others. However, they also described mutual helping and sharing, indicating reciprocity as an important moral value. Not hurting others was described on moral grounds and on the idea that fighting and hitting hurts and that hurting others is not a nice thing to do. In one of the schools the rule of not hurting others was interpreted even as not hurting others' feelings. When speaking about doing wrong children mentioned hitting, pushing, being mean, teasing, destroying others' things, punching, kicking, scratching, etc. When speaking about fairness the children mentioned being kind, nice, help others. The children mentioned social customs and manners like being polite, using nice words, do what is expected in class, do one's best. Doing the right things means to share, to make friends, include others in play. The children already understood the golden rule: treating others as yourself - reciprocity. They also referred to the school rules, to discipline and manners and to the authority of their teachers.

Peterson and Siegal (2002) focused on the problem of preschool children's understanding lies and mistakes because social relationships are based upon open communication. If children do not lie, they can expect trust and friendly relationships with others. The researchers found out that children aged 3 years already correctly distinguished between lies and mistakes (much better than expected). Preschool children attached greater blame to the informed person who had deceived deliberately than to the uninformed person who had believed that he was speaking the truth. Peterson and Siegal mention that similar high level of awareness of meaning of lying was found by another study made by Gilli, Marchetti, Siegal, and Peterson who tested a group of Italian preschoolers.

Ojala and Talts (2007) compared children's learning achievements between Finnish and Estonian kindergartens, among other subjects also in the area of ethics. In the field of ethics children in Helsinki achieved much higher scores than in Tallinn. The Finnish preschool curriculum guidelines refer to strengthening childrens' positive self-image, their ability to learn skills, encourage children to reflect on what is right and wrong, develop children's feelings for the nature and human-made environment. The pedagogical approach stresses the importance of a child centred approach. The Estonian Framework Curriculum for Preschool Education emphasizes especially development of children's intellectual, social, physical development which are viewed as obligations that children should achieve before they start school. There is quite a lot of continuous drill of numbers, letters, writing etc. Both curricula emphasize learning of basic skills like language, interaction, mathematics, ethics and philosophy, health, physical, motor development, and art and culture. However, the Finish curriculum gives more attention to a positive selfimage, abilities to learn actively, be interested in learning, to concentrate on the activity, etc. while in Estonia, more emphasis is
on acquiring subject-specific knowledge, such as reading and writing, mathematics and natural science. The Finnish preschool children got much higher mean scores in ethics than those in Estonia (especially girls). Learning achievements in science and the environment, healthy sense of self-esteem, and physical and motor development were higher in Estonian preschool. The authors think that teaching ethics is much more difficult task for Estonian than for Finnish children because Estonian preschool education combines the characteristics of recent totalitarian society and the attempt to achieve the level of
the advanced societies at an accelerated rate. However, they also ask if this is really so because teachers' education in Finland gives more knowledge in certain areas (like ethics).

Nowak-Fabrykowski (2008) made a research of kindergarten teachers' experiences with development of caring dispositions in children. She describes the differences among pro-social moral action (helping someone in discomfort, pain, danger), moral reasoning (focuses on generally accepted moral rules or norms) moral development (wider than moral reasoning which includes moral emotion and behaviour, moral character and personality and moral reasoning). Nowak-Fabrykowski claims that kindergarten teachers should teach trust, respect, honesty, responsibility, fairness, compassion and self-control. Also Nowak-Fabrykowski describes differences between preschool education in two countries and similarly as Ojala and Talts finds out that one country puts more emphasis on ethics than the other. She mentions that the community organisations united into the Ohio Partners in Character Education (OPCE) are working to improve and advance character education, while schools in Cleveland do not find character education as important as literacy or math. It is even harder to find a school that is willing to agree to introduce character education in their curriculum. Many schools say: 'yes, we teach character but we have to concentrate on preparation for State-mandated tests'. The research of Nowak-Fabrykowski contained questions: How long have you been teaching? Are you teaching specific lessons on caring? Could you elaborate on specific lesson plans, books and activities? Do you remember some episodes, stories in which your students demonstrated caring? What would you advise the new teachers struggling to help develop caring dispositions? Very few teachers answered but some gave examples: they pass the »kindness necklace« to someone who has been caring/kind. Some try to be models how to be a kind, caring teacher in the classroom; there is role playing with children, stories about caring and kindness, they use everyday opportunities: helping a child that does not understand work, that gets sick in class, use thank you and excuse me, make Valentine's Day cards for veterans in hospital, welcome special needs children, each child donates stuffed animals and health care products to poor children, children offer to tie someone's shoe, share glue stick, play together on projects, bring in five toys to share with a hunger centre. The kids care about their friends when they are absent for being out sick. In one school there is a course on social skills. The teacher told the story about a child who emptied his piggy bank so he could give the children their 20 items. Every year she prepared rules of behaviour such as 'Always walk, keep hands and feet to yourself, use kind words, be quiet when the teacher is speaking, try to work things out yourself'. When someone does something wrong or uses 'words that hurt', children put their knees together and each tells their side of the story. They work it out. She role-plays this in the beginning of the year. The 'Peace Bridge' has been mentioned as great programme helping children to develop social skills.

When asked about teaching specific lessons on caring, the researcher got examples like:
One teacher who has been teaching for 23 years is implementing a 'Fishing for Kindness' chart. The child receives a paper fish on a chart (next to his name). When he is caught being kind to others, helping others, sharing, taking turns complimenting others, saying please and thank you he earns one fish. On Fridays the child with the most fish wins a prize (toy). The teacher with 28 years of teaching experience emphasised establishing rules called 'We care':
(1) We listen to others.
(2) Our hands are for helping (we do not hurt anyone on the outside or inside).
(3) We are responsible for what we say and do.
(4) We use caring language (words that are kind, necessary and true).
(5) We care about each others feelings.
These rules are reviewed daily on a chart. A copy is sent home.

Some teachers recommend accentuating the positive, speaking kindly, praising good deeds, politeness and kind acts in front of other children, showing by example, praising the positive dispositions they witness, reading and discussing stories, feelings, relate life to books and books to life, building a peaceful classroom, stressing that hands are for building a better world, helping handicapped children in wheelchairs - opening doors, moving chairs out of their way, helping very shy children and befriend with them, helping a child after he was in the car accident - taking care of him like a little brother, helping younger children tie shoes, picking up spilled work, helping each other sweep, getting tissue for crying child, getting janitor for spilled lunch tray, doing something for others (Mother's day booklet of chores, Fathers' Day booklet of chores for Dad, Christmas family gift made( tin of popcorn), Thanksgiving treat (bread to share with family and friends), Grandparents' Day programme-songs and treats, singing for Seniors in the end of the school year etc. The children also read a number of books with ethical points.

The most useful programmes and activities proved to be discussing caring and kindness, establishing classroom rules: never hurt someone on the inside or the outside, kindness mark on the tally chart if the teacher sees children demonstrate a kindness, children befriend and help shy children, children share toys with those that miss their moms. Another example that was given was a 'kindness chart'. Children fill hearts every day if they do something nice for someone. The parents also fill out the form if their child does something in one or more of these categories: showed sharing and caring; respect; responsibility and kindness. They read this in class and parents love this activity.

On the question what to advise the new teachers who would like to develop caring dispositions one teacher advised to always accentuate the positive, speak kindly to the children, praise good deeds, politeness and kind acts in front of other children - show kindness to others first to teach what it means. Another teacher advised taking multicultural classes, visiting students at home and letting children know that you care. Other advice was to establish rules: the most important is to never hurt someone on the inside or the outside'. 'Show by example and praise the positive dispositions you witness'. 'Use reading and discuss stories, feelings, and relate life to books and books to life'. 'Put emphasis on "Love to be Loved", build a peaceful classroom, stress that hands are for building a better world, community for everyone'. The teacher with 27 years of teaching experience said 'Treat your students as you would want your own children to be treated. Ask yourself: Would you like your own offspring in your classroom? Why yes? or Why not?' Other advice is to demonstrate empathy for others. Discuss how would you feel if it happened to you.

Emilson and Johansson define values as qualities in social actions that teachers and children experience, express and negotiate and which can be framed as positive and negative, good and bad (Emilson; Johansson 2013). The analysis revealed that children's participation depends upon their own willingness to participate and teachers' willingness to offer children opportunities to participate. The children show the initiative by expressing opinions, challenging normal practices and influencing the content of circle time. It was also found that teachers offer children individual and collective opportunities to participate in decision-making. These processes require a lot of communication. The teachers should listen to children carefully and be sensitive to children's opinions.

An Australian study investigated young childrens' opinions about including others in their play (Wainman et al., 2012). By preschool age, most children say that it is unfair to exclude someone from an activity because of gender (Theimer, Killen and Stangor, 2001 in Wainman, 2012). In this study the authors investigated how five to eight-year old children think about inclusion/exclusion on the basis of gender and ethnicity, and how children justify their decisions. The researchers asked children if they wanted to play with somebody of different gender of skin colour and then asked all the children whether or not the child should be included and why they decided for a certain answer. The findings show that exclusion based on gender or ethnicity was viewed as wrong by the majority of the participants; however, children made a distinction between these two types of exclusion. In line with previous research, (Killen et al., 2002; Theimer et al., 2001), children in the study judged that gender exclusion was more legitimate than exclusion based on ethnicity. The research showed that the majority of children were inclusive and rejected the ideal of not playing with somebody of different gender and colour.

Kopnina (2013) explored the Dutch children's attitudes toward consumption in order to contribute to environmental education. Consumption is one of the largest contributors to the current environmental crisis as "the world is consuming too much energy and materials to
sustain itself" (UN News Center, 2010 in Kopnina, 2013). Care for the environment has become an important part of the education but over-consumption is still a rather rare topic treated in preschool education (Barratt Hacking, Barrett, & Scott, 2007 in Kopnina, 2013). Kopnina claims that educational modules and/or syllabi for reduction of (sustainable, responsible, green) consumption still have to be developed. Kopnina's study which investigated the attitudes of children and their parents toward consumption revealed that the children generally discussed consumption as related to environmental problems and expressed relatively high environmental concern. The children saw "sustainable consumption" as the only solution to the perceived problems. However, she found differences between three different groups of children. Those who belonged to relatively rich society felt guilty because of too much consumption while one of the groups which contained mailny immigrants saw consumption as something desired.

Cavalletti (2008) stresses one more aspect of ethical development in preschool education, namely religious experience. According to her religious forming in the preschool period contribute to the child's harmonious development and prepare the child for later years.

Conclusions

The above mentioned scholars present a number of values that are transmitted to preschool children in different parts of the world and in different ways: respect the work of other children, waiting, patience, resign, discipline (Montessori), how to differentiate between right and wrong, honesty (Thompson), how to care for others, about justice and rights: not hurting others, mutual helping and sharing, being kind, nice, do what is expected in class, do one's best, make friends, include others in play (Johansson et al.), understanding lies (Peterson and Siegal), encourage children to reflect on what is right and wrong, develop children's feelings for the nature and human-made environment (Ojala and Talts), trust, respect, honesty, responsibility, fairness, compassion and self-control (Nowak-Fabrykowski), about inclusion/exclusion on the basis of gender and ethnicity (Wainman et al), over-consumption (Kopnina), and religious experience (Cavalletti).

Some of these authors also describe practical methods how they transmit ethics to preschool children. Montessori emphasizes external conditions that enable concentration. Nowak-Fabrykowski describes a number of cases like teachers who try to be models how to be a kind, caring teacher in the classroom, role playing with children, telling stories about caring and kindness, using everyday opportunities: helping a child that does not understand work, that gets sick in class, use thank you and excuse me, make Valentine's Day cards for veterans in hospital, welcome special needs children, each child donates stuffed animals and health care products to poor children, children offer to tie someone's shoe, share glue stick, play together on projects, bring in five toys to share with a hunger centre. The kids care about their friends when they are absent for being out sick. Nowak-Fabrykowski mentions giving lessons of caring, reading books about caring, etc.

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