Great expectations: Stepping into the shoes of a group of 4-year-old readers, their parents, teachers and peers.

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Margrain, V. G.
Precocious readers
Expectations of young children
Young children
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Rights holder
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Peer-reviewed status
Working Papers
Case studies of 11 4-year-old precocious readers highlighted that parents, teachers, the children's peers, and the children themselves have differing expectations of children, and of education in the early years. In this doctoral study, parents tried to balance children's social and emotional well-being with the need for their children to be challenged. Although the parents did not focus on academic factors exclusively, they were the key advocates for academic challenge and extension. The children themselves had a yearning to learn, were self-reflective and also enjoyed competition. They demonstrated literacy abilities many years in advance of their chronological age that had been acquired without having been formally taught. The children's teachers and peers, however, dissuaded competition and instead strongly encouraged the children to conform to expectations association with being 'normal', and 'acting like 4-year-olds'. The findings of this study show the impact of diverse perspectives, values and expectations on children, and how the children mediate expectations of them. Theoretical perspectives for this study include social constructivism, cognitive constructivism and the bioecological perspective. For precocious readers, no single theoretical perspective explained the children's learning. Expectations of young children in schools and early childhood settings reflect social constructivist beliefs of their teachers and peers. However, the abilities of precocious readers clearly demonstrated individual cognitive construction. In supporting their children, the parents modelled flexible approaches that could be linked to multiple perspectives. Approaches that were the most supportive for the children were those that recognised multiple influences and responded to the children's individuality.
Margrain, V. G. (2007). Great expectations: Stepping into the shoes of a group of 4-year-old readers, their parents, teachers and peers (Working Papers No. 3-07). Lower Hutt, New Zealand: The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand.