”Preschool teachers' approaches to science: a comparison of a Chinese and a Norwegian kindergarten”.

Hammer, A.
He, M.
European Early Childhood Education Research Journal. Publiceret online: 30. oktober 2014.


The purpose of this study is to study is to examine how Norwegian and Chinese preschool teachers approach learning activities regarding natural science subjects, as well as how their approaches are influenced by cultural values and traditions.


Most of the activities in the Norwegian preschool were outdoor activities. The activities consisted of finding worms and mussels for example, and examining frogs as well as what floats and what sinks. The majority of the activities were short, but there were also projects that lasted several weeks. Some activities were planned and structured, while others happened spontaneously sparked by the children’s curiosity and interest. In several cases, the activities were introduced by the teacher reading aloud from a book about a given subject, and subsequently the children were encouraged to explore the phenomena in nature. The video footage showed very few interactions between the children and the teachers. The footage is a contrast to the interviews where the teachers emphasise the importance of the child-adult interaction. The teachers disagree to what extent they should initiate a conversation about a particular natural phenomenon.


The teachers from the Chinese preschool often prepared different material for indoor, explorative activities. There were two types of activities: 1) the children were divided into groups and different learning stations were created; the children could alternate between these stations. The activities were experiments lead by the teachers. 2) Group learning activities introduced by the teacher. Once an experiment was completed, the teachers asked the children questions about the experiment. All activities were carefully planned and structured, and all the adult-child interactions were initiated by the adults.


The aim of both the Norwegian and the Chinese preschool teachers with regard to the natural science learning activities was to awaken the children’s interest in natural science and to let the children be more investigative in their learning. There are different understandings of the term investigative; in the Chinese preschool it is understood as a method through which the children gain budding research skills, i.e. to train their ability to experiment, get ideas and report their findings. The term was interpreted by the Norwegian preschool teachers as the children’s opportunity to experience and gain knowledge from nature. A result of this difference in understanding is that the Chinese teachers work with fixed and well-defined learning objectives, whereas the objectives are more vaguely defined in the Norwegian preschool.


The study’s empirical material is not clearly included in the examination of how practice is influenced by cultural values.


The study is a comparative ethnographic study where preschool teachers from a preschool in Shanghai and a preschool in Norway have recorded video footage of learning activities focusing on natural science subjects. The recordings are supplemented with the researchers’ own video footage. The combined recordings are the base for a semi-structured focus group interview with the preschool teachers.


The informants from the Norwegian preschool consist of six teachers aged 25-40, of whom five were women. The informants from the Chinese preschool consist of four female teachers aged 25-40. The children in the Norwegian preschool are aged 1-6, while the children in the Chinese preschool are aged 3-6.


Hammer, A. & He, M. (2014). ”Preschool teachers' approaches to science: a comparison of a Chinese and a Norwegian kindergarten”. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal. Publiceret online: 30. oktober 2014.

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