The Challenge of Implementing Small Group Work in Early Childhood Education

  • Clodie Tal Levinsky College of Teachers Education
Keywords: Small group work, cooperative learning, discourse, action research, teacher education, preschools

Abstract

This paper seeks to improve our understanding of the challenges faced by teachers and student-teachers
in the process of implementing small group work (SGW) in early childhood education (ECE). In light of
the discrepancy between the clear benefits of SGW in education – its solid theoretical foundation – and its
sparse and poor implementation, we posed the following research questions: (a) What are Israeli teachers’
perceptions of and attitudes toward small group work and its implementation in ECE? And (b) What do
teachers see as problematic or, conversely, helpful in overcoming difficulties related to its implementation
in ECE? Both qualitative and quantitative methods were employed: a questionnaire with closed and openended
questions to measure the attitudes and perceptions of thirty experienced teachers, as well as action
research documenting the implementation of SGW in two cases. Findings showed more positive attitudes
toward SGW than toward the feasibility of its implementation, which was frequently associated with
drilling skills, rather than discourse that supports the construction of knowledge. Difficulties in
implementing SGW included a lack of coordinated staff work and the absence of routines and planning of
space and time. The action research indicated that the effective implementation of SGW necessitates
planning, observation, and documentation of both the interactions in groups as well as classroom
management aspects related to its implementation, and that it requires a commitment to the children’s
well-being and learning.

Author Biography

Clodie Tal, Levinsky College of Teachers Education

Clodie Tal, PhD, is a developmental psychologist who
currently heads the Master's degree program in Early
Childhood Education at Levinsky College of Education, Tel
Aviv, Israel. She has been extensively involved in service
training in communities throughout Israel. Her main areas
of research interest are teacher-child and teacher-parent
relationships, teachers’ values, promoting children's social
competence, classroom management, and teacher-children
dialogic discourse, in general, particularly focused on
children picture-books.

Published
2018-06-27