University essay from Göteborgs universitet/Institutionen för pedagogik och specialpedagogik

Abstract: Aim: This study aims to get an in-depth understanding of the characteristics of the garden and garden-based learning in an educational environment of a Swedish preschool that is inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach and has a permaculture garden. Theory: Social constructivism has been adopted as the theoretical framework for this study to gain an understanding of learning processes in the environment of a preschool. The theoretical perspective supported the interpretation and discussion of the research findings. Method: This study is a qualitative case study that is informed by the constructivist research paradigm. The case study is designed as a single-case study with the rationale of an unusual case (Yin, 2018). Observations, interviews, photography, and research diary were applied as data collection methods. 11 pedagogues were interviewed through semi-structured interviews. The findings from observations, photography, and research diary have been analysed simultaneously to the research process, which was essential for formulating the interview questions. The interviews have been transcribed and in the first instance they have been analysed inductively, from the ground up. Afterwards, the transcripts have been coded with NVivo, a data analysis programme, which lead to 83 codes that were merged into seven themes. Results: The research findings indicate that the preschool garden becomes a meeting place, a changeable environment, a place of well-being, and a living-learning environment. Further, the findings suggest that teaching and learning in the garden and with its materials become a co-construction between children and pedagogues. Also, learning becomes experiential learning with all senses and an active and contextual driven process for both, the children, and pedagogues. Teaching becomes guiding and co-construction instead of instruction. Garden-based learning in the environment of a preschool requires curiosity, knowledge, a will to try and learn, and responsiveness towards the garden and the children from the pedagogues. Challenges of garden-based learning emerging in the study are the coordination between the work with and the needs of the children and the garden, and the utilization of the garden as an additional learning environment.

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