The frequency and quality of language use by early childhood teachers with four-year-old children during a shared play activity.
Thesis DisciplineHealth Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The language input that children receive in their early years is predictive of future academic development. In New Zealand, nearly all four-year-old children spend a large portion of their time in early childhood education (ECE) settings. Research has identified a range of ways in which adult language input can be defined and measured, with respect to ascertaining its impact on children’s language development. The current study aimed to create a protocol which would allow both functional and linguistic aspects of teacher-child language interactions to be assessed. Data collection required the 10 participating ECE teachers to video-record three 10-minute interactions of themselves engaging in a shared play activity with a single child. Interactions were recorded using a small device which collected both audio and video data and did not require the presence of the researcher. Teachers were given a set of toy animals and were instructed to use these in a play activity with the participating child. No other instructions were given. These videos were then transcribed by the researcher and coded with two different coding schemes. The first, the Systematic Analysis of Language Transcripts (SALT) software was utilised to capture linguistic elements of the talk. The second, the Modified Hart and Risley Scheme (MHRS) was developed to capture the functional aspects of the talk. Findings indicated that each coding scheme captured distinct components of the interactions, suggesting that benefit can be gained from utilising both methods in order to achieve a more accurate understanding of the varying interactional complexities. Analysis revealed large variations in the linguistic and functional properties of the teacher language. Given the recent update of Te Whāriki, in which adults are encouraged to be more intentional in their practice, it is timely to note that teachers would likely benefit from targeted professional development on how best to facilitate language development. Such professional development would ensure that teachers know how to provide high quality language input for children and are able to identify children who need extra support.