Date of Award

5-2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Child and Family Studies

Major Professor

Mary Jane Moran

Committee Members

Samara D. Akpovo, Robyn A. Brookshire, Hillary N. Fouts, John G. Orme

Abstract

There is value in studying young children’s cooperative problem solving (CPS) during play in different cultures since children in our society will continue to face problems that are not unique to a particular culture, but also relevant to people from other countries. Cognitive development theory and sociocultural theory contend that play contexts can support children in the construction of their knowledge through explorations with different play materials and engagement in social interactions with peers during CPS experiences. However, there is a lack of research studying children’s CPS during play in their everyday preschool classrooms, and particularly, cross-culturally. Therefore, this dissertation, that includes three manuscripts, was designed to investigate (a) preschool children’s different patterns of engagement in play and CPS in Chinese and US preschool classrooms and (b) their teachers’ beliefs about their roles and pedagogical decisions for supporting children’s CPS in particular settings in these two cultures. In the first manuscript, a systematic literature review was conducted framed by PRISR, and it was found that there is a lack of cross-cultural studies that have investigated (a) preschool children’s CPS during play in their everyday classroom contexts and (b) teachers’ roles in children’s development of CPS. These research gaps were addressed in the second and third manuscripts by conducting (a) a 10-month, ethnographic informed observational study in a Chinese kindergarten and a US preschool center that included (b) semi-structured, teacher interviews with the integration of the visual stimulated recall approach. The data and findings are presented, based on over 960 minutes of (a) 16, four- and five-year-old children’s video recordings, (b) six classroom teachers’ interview transcriptions from two early care and education centers, and (c) the researcher’s field notes and journal entries. Findings support that there were cultural and gender differences in children’s engagement in their types of play (constructive play, fantasy play, and rough-and-tumble play) and CPS (debating and mentoring). Further, teachers in both cultures showed similarities and differences, within and across the cultural contexts, in their beliefs and pedagogy regarding their image of the child, their role as teachers, and their arrangements of classroom environments.

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