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A. Wiegerova, P. Gavora

Tomas Bata University, Faculty of Humanities (CZECH REPUBLIC)
The notion of how the child learns and what are the characteristics of child´s learning have important consequences for future pre-school teachers’ educational practices as well as their relationship to children. Learning is a strong concept that may have a number of perspectives, so it is worth investigating how future pre-school teachers conceptualise it. These conceptions can be further elaborated in the course of the students’ university programme or, if inappropriate, efforts must be made to modify them.

The purpose of this study was to shed some light on how a group of pre-school student teachers conceptualise child´s learning and how this concept relates to their view of pre-school practices. The data were gathered by in-depth interviews with 35 students who were enrolled in the first semester of their bachelor´s programme. Before the time of the interview, the students have completed introductory courses in Pedagogy, Psychology and Child Biology and had 16 hours of observations of experienced pre-school teachers. The interviews were conducted individually and were audio-recorded. The transcripts were open-coded, then the categories were grouped to constitute concepts, which in turn were elaborated to create higher level categories. These categories are described in the following summary.

Participants acknowledge that there is the outer world in which the child lives. To live in this world the child needs existential understanding. Learning is therefore acquisition of knowledge and skills, or better, elimination of unknowingless. The fundamental way of the pre-school learning is observation and imitation, less frequently it is trial and error. Adults, especially parents are ample models for observational learning. Learning is enduring and continuous in the course of the life, at any time and place. However, early learning is essential for the child´s life. Play is an important frame for the child´s learning and thus the pre-school teacher, in fact, the teacher “wraps up” the learning to the form of play. The test whether something has been learned (or the learning product) is the repetitive employment of the learned product. However, the product must be “natural”, it must reflect the child´s needs. When looking at these conceptualisations through the theory of child´s agency, it is the child who decides what she will like to observe and imitate and, on the other hand, what she neglects. Thus the child is considered an active agent of her learning. However, there was no indication in the participants´ conceptualisations that the adults, including pre-school teachers, are responsive to child´s own agenda. The pre-school period of the child learning is contrasted with primary school learning, in which the child is imparted “information” and learning becomes conscious and is thus “more powerful”. In sum, the conceptualisations that have been disclosed in this study by participants are valuable source of knowledge for university instructors who prepare the young generation of future preschool teachers.