ERIC Number: ED395669
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1996-Apr
The Inquiry Process in Early Childhood Education: An Exploratory Essay.
Swick, Kevin J.
Many of the precepts that characterize the conceptual and practical work of early childhood education have emerged from "inquiry" that focused on interpretive and qualitative features of the lives of teachers, children, and parents. This paper examines the continuing development of a wide range of "inquiry" approaches in early childhood education over the past decade and the emergence of new concepts, terminology, methods, and analytical tools. The paper suggests that the notions of how children learn, the understanding of family dynamics, and our conceptions of teaching are changing rapidly in response to new knowledge, challenges, and inquiry tools. The resurgence of interest in more direct and more personalized inquiry approaches is part of the larger paradigmatic shifts that demand a more comprehensive and realistic understanding of human beings. The paper examines five types of inquiry approaches: descriptive, ethnographic, case study, teacher action-research, and analytic inquiry. The advantages of the inquiry process are analyzed, and the paper points out that, in contrast to the traditional research cycle (need, problem articulation, research questions, design of study, data collection/analyses, and reported findings), interpretive inquiry is framed in a more dynamic and interactive context. Examples from the application of the inquiry process in the social sciences are evaluated. Finally, the paper discusses criteria and challenges in the use of interpretive inquiry, as well as the advantages of the method in exploring and describing reality, dealing with the personal dimension, and building theory. (AA)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Association for Childhood Education International Research Roundtable (Minneapolis, MN, April 1996).