Understanding choices in the grouping of children within early childhood education : an Auckland based study of same-age / multi-age grouping arrangements

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Authors
Beach, Aroha
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Degree
Master of Education
Grantor
Unitec Institute of Technology
Date
2013
Supervisors
Cardno, Carol
Ritchie, Jenny
Type
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
Keyword
mixed classes
same age classes
ability grouping
Auckland (N.Z.)
early childhood education
New Zealand
Treaty of Waitangi (1840)
ANZSRC Field of Research Code (2020)
Citation
Beach, A. (2013). Understanding choices in the grouping of children within early childhood education: An Auckland based study of same-age / multi-age grouping arrangements. A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Education, Unitec Institute of Technology, New Zealand.
Abstract
RESEARCH QUESTIONS. 1. What reasoning and values lie beneath the practice of grouping young children in same-age and multi-age settings? 2. What are the perceived advantages and disadvantages of same-age and multi-age grouping decisions in early childhood education? 3. In what ways do same-age and multi-age grouping arrangements reflect the values of both Pākehā and Māori and our obligation to the Treaty of Waitangi? 4. What improvements to practice can be made in same-age and multi-age settings? The New Zealand early childhood sector is characterised by a diverse range of early childhood education settings. In grouping children, early childhood settings adopt one of two grouping arrangements - some centres choose to arrange children homogeneously in same-age groupings whilst others adopt heterogeneous, multi-age grouping arrangements. Historically, same-age and multi-age grouping arrangements have been left relatively unquestioned, particularly within the Aotearoa / New Zealand context. As participation in early childhood education continues to grow, it is timely that we question these grouping arrangements in order to best understand the issues and complexities associated with each of these approaches. This study was designed as a qualitative investigation of teacher beliefs surrounding same-age and multi-age grouping arrangements in early childhood education within the bicultural context of Aotearoa / New Zealand. The aims of this study were to address teacher beliefs about the otives and values that underlie these grouping arrangements, to identify the advantages and disadvantages unique to each of these settings and the ways in which these two settings can be improved. To meet these aims, 23 early childhood teachers within Auckland participated in one of four focus groups from which data was collected and thematically analysed. This thesis provides support for previous Aotearoa / New Zealand research into same-age and multi-age groupings and recognises that both settings offer children unique and differing learning experiences. Through a critical analysis of the data collected from the focus groups four key themes emerged – ‘The organisational perspective’, which is concerned with the underlying motives behind the on-going existence of same-age and multi-age groupings, ‘The teachers’ perspective’, that identifies the teachers’ beliefs in regards to the advantages and disadvantages of same-age and multi-age settings, ‘The cultural perspective’ that questions the relevancy of these grouping arrangements within the Aotearoa / New Zealand context and finally, ‘Improvements’ in which the teachers make recommendations for the improvement of practice in both grouping arrangements. These themes are used to categorise data and assign meaning to the findings. This study acknowledges that further research is needed to understand the cultural nature of same-age and multi-age settings and suggests that the inclusion of a wider group of key stakeholders would provide more generalizable findings.
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