Barbara Tizard and Martin Hughes
This chapter discusses a project we carried out with our colleagues Gill Pinkerton and Helen Carmichael in which we studied a group of 30 four-year-old girls at home and at nursery school. The study focussed in particular on the conversations which took place between the girls and their mothers at home, and between the girls and their nursery teachers at school. Our findings were originally published in a series of articles in the late 1970s and early 1980s (Hughes et al., 1979; Tizard et al., 1980, 1983a, 1983b), and in a book entitled Young Children Learning (Tizard and Hughes, 1984). In this chapter we look back on how the project was conceived, carried out, analysed and written up; in addition, we discuss how the findings have been received by teachers and by other academics.
Although our findings did not start to appear until the early 1980s, the project was conceived some years earlier, during the mid-1970s. Inevitably, the issues which we chose to address reflected some of the main theoretical and educational concerns of that period. Three of these concerns were particularly salient for us—namely, the value and content of pre-school education, the relationship between language and social class, and the role of context in children’s language and thinking.
The intense interest in preschool education which characterized the 1970s was no doubt inspired in part by the massive American Headstart programme instigated in 1964 by President Lyndon