Taking interest in studying the role of men in early childhood education, the team from Dresden (Evangelische Hochschule - Protestant University of Applied Sciences for Social Work, Education and Nursing) started a study named by Tandem where pairs of ECE-workers were observed playing with children between 4 and 5 years old. Based on an everyday-like quasi-experimental situation with multiple materials, the behavior of male and female ECE workers (preschool teachers) as well as children was observed and compared. Each pair of (male- female or female-female) ECE workers played with the same child for 20 minutes. The child was invited to play with each ECE worker, one each time. A simple instruction was offered: the child and the adult should use some of those materials and produce something together. The aim of this project was to compare children products, involvement/participation and materials choices with male and female adults. Furthermore, male and female ECE workers interactional behavior was compared. The German research is based on a sample of 41 female and 41 male ECE workers, who in each case work together as tandems in a kindergarten class, as well as a control group of 12 woman/woman tandems.
Present Portuguese Study
In the Portuguese research, four samples were collected:
i) 20 dyads child-female educator (i.e., preschool teachers with college training): 10 dyads with girls plus 10 dyads with boys,
ii) 20 dyads child-male educator (i.e., preschool teachers with college training): 10 dyads with girls plus 10 dyads with boys,
iii) 40 dyads with parents: 10 dyads mother-girl, 10 dyads mother-boy, 10 dyads father-girl, and 10 dyads father-boy.
Thus, the Portuguese team (from Escola Superior de Educação do Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa) adds the study of parents and child interaction to the original research. With this novelty, we aim to compare children products, involvement/participation, materials choices, affective relationships and communication with male and female educators but also with mothers and fathers. In Portugal, educators have a college degree and a pedagogical training lasting for 4 years. Thus, one expect that this training and pedagogical experience guided educators behavior. In turn, parents are attachment figures and can be peers in play. We hope to describe all these differences and similarities between parents and educators, according to adults’ gender, children gender, children age and educational/family factors. Additionally, most literature indicates that fathers devote more time in physical/motor play whereas mothers use more verbal and affective play (for a revision Faria, Lopes dos Santos & Fuertes, 2015), in this experimental situation we can observe mothers and fathers forms of verbal communication, interactive/affective behavior, and contributes for child learning and
Currently, we are describing adult-child communication in terms of: requests, positive reinforces, negative reinforces, instructions, questions, teaching behavior, etc. Moreover, it is our aim to describe adult-child affective relationships with a Portuguese Scale (Fuertes, F., Canelhas, D., Costa, A., Faria, A., Ribeiro, Serradas, C., Soares, H., Sousa, T., & Lopes dos Santos, P., 2015).
The German findings indicate no significant differences between the behavior of men and women ECE-workers. Most differences were found with respect to the selection of materials by the ECE-workers, and in the transformation of the themes of the boys and girls into a product. ECE-workers of both genders tend to behave differently towards boys and girls and tendency is more pronounced with the women. By performing this study in Portugal, we expect to compare results in the Portuguese and German cultures, exploring differences in educational setting and pedagogical approaches, and possibly comparing two very distinct professional realities.
Keywords: Early childhood education; Educators and Parents; Gender; Play, communication and interactive behavior; ECE Training; Cross-cultural study