Early childhood educators' pedagogical decision-making and practices for emotional scaffolding
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This dissertation, a qualitative case study conducted from a constructivist perspective, focuses on the construction and implementation of strategies of emotional scaffolding by two early childhood educators in a public elementary school. This study finds that emotional scaffolding is an excellent example of a tool that could help teachers reach developmentally appropriate practices for early childhood education in an age of accountability. The primary data consist of participant observations, participant interviews and key documents. The study has two primary interests. The first aims at understanding how young children’s learning experiences are enhanced when early childhood educators integrate emotions into their decision-making and practices. The second aims at enhancing the emerging picture of what emotional scaffolding means in early childhood education contexts. My analysis highlights three major themes that contribute to these participants’ decision-making for emotional scaffolding. The first is the participants’ beliefs about their self-perceived teaching identities. The second is their deep understanding of children. The third involves their assessments and reactions to their school climates. The findings focus on four areas of divergence from the literature. First is the important role that teachers’ personal beliefs about the most pedagogically important emotion play in constructing and implementing strategies for emotional scaffolding. Second, emotional scaffolding is an important part of teachers’ mediated agency in a time of increasing accountability. Third, teachers’ capacity to balance student excitement and engagement through their emotional scaffolding is the key to establishing and maintaining children’s engagement in academic activities. Fourth is that emotional scaffolding carried out in the early childhood classroom involves emotion work, not emotional labor. The study provides several implications. The first is that our perception of the emotional scaffolding process in the early childhood education context can be expanded. The second is the importance of sufficient preservice training. The third is that a principal who respects a teacher’s decision-making and practices can help a teacher provide effective emotional scaffolding. The final and perhaps most important implication is that an awareness of self is the most important element contributing to better decision-making in creating a meaningful and engaging environment for their students.