Academic journal article Australian Journal of Early Childhood

What Personal/social Skills Are Important for Young Children Commencing Kindergarten? Exploring Teachers' and Parents' Insights

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Early Childhood

What Personal/social Skills Are Important for Young Children Commencing Kindergarten? Exploring Teachers' and Parents' Insights

Article excerpt

This article reports on a study that investigated the importance of children possessing personal/social skills when starting kindergarten, from teachers' and parents' perspectives. The study involved a sample of 16 kindergarten teachers and 63 parents of kindergarten children from government schools in one of the six education districts within the Tasmanian Department of Education. Data was collected through mailed questionnaires, which utilised 22 personal/social skills sourced from the Early Social Skills brochure (Department of Education, 2002a) and the Kindergarten Development Check (Department of Education, 2003). Results from the study support the importance of socially preparing children for the kindergarten environment, with emphasis being placed upon children commencing kindergarten with many of the specified personal/social skills. It was revealed that there was a lack of congruence between teachers' and parents' perceptions in respect of some items, in the areas of 'attitude to learning' and 'social communication'. This indicates that there may be inconsistent expectations between home and school which have the potential to impact negatively upon a child's personal/social development.

Introduction

We live in a society where our social systems are rapidly changing; and thus it is essential for children to develop social competence skills with the potential to enable them to live fulfilling lives, to shape their personal futures, and to make wise life choices (Department of Education, 2002b). Recent research has revealed that children's social skills are essential for school and employment success and peer acceptance (Elkinson & Elkinson, 2000; Masten & Coatworth, 1998; Rivera & Rogers-Adkinson, 1997). Research has also indicated that children who lack personal/social skills can display a variety of problems, ranging from social withdrawal, shyness and isolation, to aggression and anti-social behaviour (Herbert, 1997). Additionally, deficiencies in social skills have been shown to be an effective predictor of poor academic performance (because learning is impeded by noncompliant and uncontrolled behaviour), as well as social maladjustment and peer rejection in adolescence and adulthood (Patterson, DeBaryshe & Ramsey, 2000; Rivera & Rogers-Adkinson, 1997).

Entering school for the first time at kindergarten is a milestone in children's lives (Dockett & Perry, 2003) and various social skills have been identified as important for children to possess when starting school. The Tasmanian Department of Education (2002a) recommends that children be able to complete a number of social skills when commencing kindergarten, including: manage own belongings, toilet on own, wash and dry own hands, follow rules and routines, persevere to finish a task, cooperate with other children, take turns, express feelings and emotions, ask questions when they do not understand, try new things they are not sure about, and accept feedback from an adult on their learning or behaviour. However, what is not clear from previous research is who should undertake the responsibility for ensuring kindergarten children develop these social skills. Page, Nienhuys, Kapsalakis and Morda (2001) contend that the home and the school have been recognised as having the most influence over children's development, with Kostelnik, Stein, Whiren and Soderman (2006) explaining that the more similar the expectations, perceptions and practices are between the home and school, then the easier it is for children to adapt their behaviour accordingly. It was subsequently seen as important to investigate the notion of socially preparing children for kindergarten within a Tasmanian setting, and to acknowledge the views of both kindergarten teachers and parents in this debate. Thus, this study aimed to reveal which social skills kindergarten teachers and parents of kindergarten children perceived as important for young children to possess when commencing kindergarten, and to ascertain the similarities and differences between the teachers' and parents' perceptions on this matter. …

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