This qualitative case study was conducted in an English-medium preschool in Sweden. The study combines semi-structured interviews and observations to investigate how is the preschool, its pedagogy and English language policy is situated with respect to what the Swedish preschool curriculum says about internationalization and diversity.
Five staff members from the international preschool were recruited as participants in the study. The participants were recruited in person or via email with the help of a teacher who works at the school and who is a personal acquaintance of the author. Furthermore, the school principal assisted in the recruitment effort. Prior to giving their voluntary consent to participate in the study and signing a consent form, all participants were informed about the purposes and procedures of the study, as well as of their rights as study participants, including the right to withdraw their participation from the study at any time, for any reason, without consequence.
The interviews were made with five participants4.
Johanna is the preschool owner. She is British and moved to Sweden approximately thirty years ago. She met Jessica in Sweden, firstly their relationship was as a parent-teacher, Johanna was a parent at that time. Jessica and Johanna decided to establish the preschool more than fifteen years ago.
Chloe is a preschool teacher from United States. She worked as a kindergarten teacher and first grade teacher in the United States. In 2000 she moved to Sweden, where she worked as an English language teacher for adults, including immigrants. She has been working in the English-medium preschool for eleven years.
Emma is a preschool teacher from Brazil. She worked there as a primary teacher and a math teacher from 1st to 8th grade. In addition, she taught children English as a second language in a private English language school. She moved to Sweden eighteen years ago. She has worked for more than fifteen years in the English-medium preschool.
Amy is a preschool teacher from Greece. She moved to Sweden two years ago to study in a master’s program focused on research in childhood interventions. Before moving to Sweden, she worked 1 year as an English language teacher for children from six to twelve years old. She has worked in the English-medium preschool for 9 months.
Each participant pursued their undergraduate education in their home countries.
The study was conducted in an urban, private preschool in Sweden. The preschool is an English-medium school. The teachers in the preschool as well as the families represent a large cross section of the international community. The preschool has Swedish children and children from all over the world that live in Sweden. Many families who send their children to the preschool are living in Sweden temporarily (two to four years), as one or both parents have come from abroad on temporary work contracts with different companies (e.g. Volvo), hospitals and universities.
The preschool has approx. 20 teachers/assistants and over 100 children. There are seven children’s groups organized into four departments. Each department is organized in terms of the children’s ages.
Like all preschools in Sweden, the preschool must follow the Swedish national Curriculum (Skolverket, 2010), which is a general framework or set of guidelines for guiding educational activities. Additionally, the school implements a specific Western curriculum model (hereafter Curriculum X) that advocates an active participatory learning and is research-validated. This curriculum can be seen as structured, sequenced set of prescriptions for the organization of educational activities. Curriculum X is designed to help children learn by being involved in direct experiences with people, objects, ideas and events. This curriculum draws on the constructivist theories of Piaget, Dewey, Erikson, Vygotsky and others. Content areas of the Curriculum are organized in eight main categories: Approaches to Learning (e.g. planning, problem solving) Social and Emotional Development (e.g. emotions, conflict resolution), Physical Development and Health (e.g. motor skills, healthy behavior), Language, Literacy, and Communication (e.g. vocabulary, reading), Mathematics (e.g. shapes, measuring), Creative Arts (e.g. music, pretend play), Science and Technology (e.g. predicting, observing) and Social Studies (e.g. diversity, history).
The school uses DAT (Developmental Assessment Tool)5 to assess children’s development. DAT is an early childhood assessment instrument that was designed to meet the needs of early childhood programs for developmentally and culturally appropriate assessment methods. Teachers regularly write anecdotes about children behaviors, experiences and interests. Teachers observe children and review those anecdotes two to three times a year to see on which level of the development each child is. Teachers rate them in 8 categories and 58 areas known as developmental indicators (e.g. communicating ideas, diversity). There is developmental sequence of seven levels of competency (i.e., from least to most developed), which teachers mark for the purpose to see how much did children advance from their own development.
One group and four individual, semi-structured interviews were conducted in order to collect the data about the staff interpretations of and work with the Swedish Preschool Curriculum, concerning the language, assessment, internationalization, and cultural diversity and their mission of inclusion in the Swedish society with English as a main language of engagement. Semi-structured interviews allow highest flexibility of coverage small-scale case studies, and capture the richness of the themes articulated by respondents (Drever, 1995), and participants have a fair degree of freedom in what to talk about, how much to say or how to express it (Bryman, 2008). The group interview was done, because the Jessica and Johanna preferred to be interview together. Group interviews have some advantages and complexities. Group interviews can help participants to share and exchange ideas and stimulate new thoughts which may never occur in individual interviewing. The group provide support for all the members to feel comfortable and this way otherwise shy people share their thoughts with the interviewer (Goldman, 1962). It is important that all participants in the group interview have a chance to speak and express their opinion, because it can happen that more talkative participants takes the lead and the others don’t get a chance to talk. One of the participants in the study was more talkative then the other, but both participants got a chance to express their opinion. The group interviews seem to gather all the data we want relatively shorter time compared to individual interviews (Lederman, 1990), but the process of writing transcripts takes longer, compared to individual interviews.
An interview guide was developed prior to the interviews as a means of orienting to topics and posing questions relevant for addressing the study aims. The preschool staff was interviewed once, in person or via Skype/phone. The interviews were conducted in English, audio recorded and transcribed. Interview with the principal Jessica and the owner Johanna lasted for 1:25h and it was conducted in person. Interviews with Emma and Amy were conducted via Skype, each interview was long approx. 50 minutes. The interview with Chloe was done through the phone call and it was 55 minutes long. Skype/phone interviews are cost-effective, alternative to in-person interviews (Sedgwick & Spiers 2009), they can be done on distance and save time and troubles of traveling to interviewees. Skype has a few advantages compared to phone interviews. Through the video, the interviewer and the interviewee can see each other and therefore the contact is of a more personal manner than by phone (Weinmann et al., 2012). Chloe’s interview was done by phone, because of her request. All the Skype/phone interviews went without any major interruptions because of the signal or the internet connection.
Three paragraphs from the Swedish curriculum were provided to the interviewees as prompts to prepare them for a discussion about culture, diversity and language (see Appendix A).
In addition, Amy’s class was observed for two days. She gave the permission to observe her class. The class had 13 children of the age of three. The consent forms were distributed to the parents by the teacher. Observations of daily activities in one group (greeting time, lunch, group activities, rest time…) were conducted. One observation was conducted prior to the participant interviews. The purpose of the unstructured observation was to gain a general sense of the day-to-day activities of the preschool, and thus characterize the setting with respect to question of issues of language, culture and assessment, relevant to my research aims and questions.
The remaining observation was conducted after preliminary review of the interview transcripts. With the information gained from these reviews, the second observation was conducted to triangulate with the interview findings. The initial review of the transcript was used as an interpretive lens for the second round of observations.
A thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) was used to analyze the texts. Through thematic analysis patterns were identified concerning the ways that the preschool interprets Curriculum when it comes to question of cultural diversity, language policy and assessment. Four transcripts and two field notes were analyzed. When gathered all the text, the coding and searching for meanings that are relevant to the research questions were done. According to Saldaña (2013), a code is a word, phrase or sentence that represent aspect(s) of a data or capture the essence of features of data. After the coding process, the codes were organized into sub-categories. The next step was to find the categories in which we can place sub-categories, and get even bigger unit. Our interpretation of data, organizing and connecting codes, sub-categorizes and categorizes to get the bigger picture was important.
Small number of participants and data will create a limitation in transferability of the results since more categories or sub-categories might have appeared if there had been more conducted interviews. The results of the research shouldn’t be generalized, because of the specific context and the limited sample size.
Any information gathered from the participants was anonymized to ensure that they cannot be identified. Additionally, all information gathered was stored securely to prevent loss or theft and the interview transcripts/audio recordings were deleted upon completion of the study. All persons, organizations and institutions involved in the study remain anonymous in all respects.
All the participants gave their voluntary consent to participate in the study, including reading and signing the consent forms (see Appendix B). All participants agreed to be interviewed, and one participant agreed to let her class to be observed.
The parents of the children signed the consent forms (see Appendix B) before the observations started. Children whose parents didn’t agree to participate in the study, were removed from the classroom.
The name of the approach and the name of the assessment tool that the school is using were changed, in order to ensure that the school could not be identified given the specific profile and limited numbers of English-medium preschools in Sweden. For the same reason some references were not added and some words in the interview extracts were changed to protect identity of the participants and the school.
At the request from the school leaders, the principal and the owner, their answers from the interview are not quoted in this thesis.
The study included only a small number of participants due to the time limit we had. Because of the small sample and the unique preschool profile, the results cannot be generalized. Due to limited time of the participants, some interviews were limited in length and thus some topics were not covered in depth. The participants were not asked about their intercultural and multicultural education they received prior working in the English-medium preschool.
2.1 International Education in a globalized world
2.2 Language profile preschools in Sweden
2.3 The Swedish preschool curriculum
2.4. Ecological systems theory
2 Aim and research questions
3.2 Field site
3.3 Documentation Methods
3.4 Analysis Methods
3.5 Ethical Considerations
4 Findings and Discussion
4.1 Tools and practices used to negotiate Dilemmas of the Swedish curriculum
4.1.1 Curriculum X:
4.1.2 DAT Assessment tool
4.2 The politics and practicalities of being an English-medium school
4.2.1 Contradictions in maintaining an English-language atmosphere
4.2.2 Tensions concerning Teacher competencies
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