Social Adaptation of Children in a Mixed Age Group in Montessori Preschool Educational Institution

Social Adaptation of Children in a Mixed Age Group in Montessori Preschool Educational Institution

Santa Dreimane (University of Latvia, Riga, Latvia)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/IJSEUS.2018070104
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Abstract

The article explores the opportunities of children's social adaptation in a mixed age group in one Montessori preschool educational institution in Riga, Latvia. To find answers to the set research questions, the researcher carried out the observation of eight children, interviewed two teachers working in the preschool and surveyed the parents whose children were observed. The findings indicated several problems concerning social adaptation in the mixed age group at the Montessori preschool.
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Introduction

We are witnesses of changes occurring in today’s world: rapid social environment changes; an increase in the amount of information, opportunities for communication and forms of work organization. Society and our knowledge about it changes more abruptly than ever before. Moreover, the world for which the current educational system was designed does not exist any longer. (Fadels et al., 2017; Garleja, 2006; Moritsugu et al., 2017). In today’s rapidly changing world one of the most essential skills that should be taught to a child is adaptation. Nowadays adaptation is a topical issue not only among adults or school children; adaptation to the environment, society and life occurs as soon as a person is born. Educational system should help students to get ready for the world that changes unremittingly, and “where one has to collaborate with people from different cultures, and be skillful to evaluate different ideas, perspectives and values” (Fadels et al., 2017, p. 8). Unfortunately, not all individuals are able to adapt to abrupt changes. Thus, it is essential to develop skills to accept new conditions, meanwhile not losing one’s individuality (Garleja, 2006).

The investigation has been focused on preschool children’s socialization in a mixed age groups because it is a common practice to divide children in groups according to their age both in preschools and schools. It is done due to assumption that children of the same age have a similar level of their intellectual development. However, the society is not divided according to age groups; thus, different generations have a possibility to share their experience and enhance the process of socialisation and communication. Division in age groups is an artificially invented principle within the education system to separate children in age group periods, considering their age group peculiarities. As a result, children just starting to attend preschool have no great chance to learn from other children who have already acquired skills and activities which newcomer students should learn. In a mixed age group, children of different age can help any newcomer students during the process of adjustment and adaptation in preschool. Meanwhile, older children learn how to take care of the younger ones.

A mixed age grouping is purposefully done for various reasons in educational institutions. Firstly, it can be done for economic or demographic reasons: too small number of children in the nearest community does not allow to form separate classes; a lack of teachers at school or preschool. Secondly, it is the choice of educational institutions likely due to their chosen pedagogical approach (Lindstrom and Lindahl, 2011). Mixed age groups are mainly used in private preschools or in private comprehensive educational institutions.

Preschool education in Latvia is provided according to an agreed standard; however, private educational institutions strive to offer alternative education options for the state education programmes, implementing various pedagogical approaches known worldwide (Waldorf pedagogy, Montessori pedagogy, Froebel educational methods, the Reggio Emilia approach, etc.). In the recent period of time the popularity of Montessori pedagogy increases among the private preschool educational institutions in Latvia.

One of the principles that Montessori pedagogy applies is a mixed age grouping. There are only few studies that have explored the adaptation of preschool-aged children in mixed age groups within Montessori educational institutions in the context of Latvia. There is a study devoted to preschool-aged children and their learning of the English language using Maria Montessori’s methods (Ļubovska, 2014); Linkeviča (2012) investigated how the Montessori methods help to promote the physical development of children. Gaugere (2010) explored the adaptation of preschool-aged children in preschool, and Āboltiņa (2014) studied seven years old children and their social adaptation in Form 1 at school. Nevertheless, the mentioned studies did not discuss the impact of basic principles of Montessori pedagogy and they did not highlight also the significance of mixed age groups for the process of social adaptation. Therefore, this research is focused on social adaptation of children in a mixed age group in a Montessori preschool educational institution.

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