Let Them Be Little: A Transcendental Phenomenological Study of the Experiences of Kindergarten Teachers during an Era of Educational Reform
School of Education
Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction (EdD)
phenomenology, kindergarten, educational reform, academic shovedown, executive function, Piaget, Vygotsky, NCLB, play, readiness, retention, academic redshirting, prefrontal cortex development, sleep, nap, fine motor skills, language development, developmentally appropriate practices, pedagogy, curriculum, academic standards, accountability, behavioral skills, social skills, policy, kindergarten teachers
Whites, Rachel Denise, "Let Them Be Little: A Transcendental Phenomenological Study of the Experiences of Kindergarten Teachers during an Era of Educational Reform" (2022). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 4083.
The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to understand the lived experiences and perceptions of kindergarten teachers who taught through an era of federally mandated, standards-based educational reforms. This study was guided by two theories as each contributes to an explanation as to how educational reform has strayed far from the central purpose for kindergartens. Piaget’s theory of cognitive development sought to explain how a child constructs a mental model of the world and postulated that there are four distinct stages of human development from birth to adulthood. Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory stated that children learn through play and the social interactions that occur when they play. Kindergarten teachers in the southeastern United States were selected as participants to gather their lived experiences with the phenomenon of teaching kindergarten during a shift from a social-emotional and play-based model to a standards-based, academically focused model. Data was collected via individual interviews, focus groups, and letter writing by participants and analyzed using the methods described by Moustakas. Five major themes were revealed: pre-shift environment and pedagogy, post-shift environment and pedagogy, academic standards, accountability, and collateral damage. These themes, in alignment with the research questions, described the experiences of kindergarten teachers during an era of sweeping educational reform. Overall, the most substantial finding from this study was that the collateral damage, or unintended negative consequences, occurred because of educational reform. These negative consequences affected educators, students, and almost every aspect of the classroom, which is contrary to the perceived intent of the legislation.