The case illustrates a fire safety class held in a preschool. A student teacher, Angela Hodan, conducts a number of activities to teach children the basics of emergency cases information. Miss Angela is supervised by her senior colleague, Mrs. Grace Palmer, who has 20-years’ experience as a headteacher. The class program consists of several kinds of activities:
- Children are supposed to recite basic safety information (their names, addresses, phone numbers, etc.) using giant flashcards which can be colored and decorated;
- Children listen to a rhyming fairy tale about fire safety rules;
- Firefighters visit the preschool to explain the rules for fire emergencies and demonstrate safety tips. Children are also asked questions and are interacted with.
- Children are further asked to replicate the information they had learned during the day.
In the end, it turned out that children mostly remembered the entertaining parts of the lessons. They dropped on the floor and happily rolled to demonstrate the firefighters’ safety tips. When answering some more practical questions, such as giving their address, children seemed much less confident. In general, the problem is that children failed to memorize useful safety information while actively reproducing the interactive creative parts of the learning process. The primary participants of the case were children, Miss Angela, and firefighters – all of them were involved in educational activities. The described events took place in the preschool, which represents a familiar, safe environment for students. The activities were broken down into two days, the first one being dedicated to playing with flashcards, and the second – to interaction with firefighters and listening to the book. Overall, some learning practices appeared to be more effective than others.
Applying theoretical concepts
There are some theoretical implications applicable to this case aimed to improve the learning process efficiency. According to Durwin and Reese-Weber (2017), biological maturation dramatically influences the choice of instruments exploited in knowledge inoculation. Therefore, it is critical to consider the preschoolers’ peculiarities in memorizing new concepts. By biological maturation, one understands a biologically determined state conducive to the acquisition of specific knowledge. This state is based on the current cognitive functioning level. This theoretical framework, in principle, can be compared with building a house from bricks. Thus, a child cannot jump one floor higher and suddenly start thinking analytically if they have not already established an understanding of concepts and developed flexible thinking.
In the case being discussed, the preschoolers were partly provided with knowledge corresponding to their biological maturation level. For example, a rhyming fairy tale was effectively used to appeal to imaginative thinking. As a result, the firefighters received the correct answers to their questions that concerned concepts mentioned in the book (“You don’t hide in your bed. The dragon in our story hided under a rug when he started a ﬁre. That was bad.”). However, the fact that only two days were allocated and the presentation of most of the vital information on fire safety orally, without repetition, did not find a response among preschoolers. Thus, the participants in the case tried to give out a large amount of information in a short time, which is why the children remembered only a small part, which was disassembled.
Another gap observed in the case is a lack of social experiences. The social experience is characterized by the interaction between children and the exchange of information. Durwin and Reese-Weber (2017) underline the importance of this kind of cooperation between peers rather than between adults and children. This practice would help adapt the newly acquired knowledge to the current cognitive status and assimilate new experiences through, for example, game simulations. Hence, social experiences provoke the process of equilibration, maintaining mental balance, instead of overflowing preschoolers with a burden of abstract information.
In the case of fire safety lessons, the interactions were mainly held between children and senior mentors (the teacher and firefighters). Children were not thus given an opportunity to practice on real examples what they had previously learned. However, the play initiated by the children themselves after the lesson expressed the need for practical digestion of new information. Nonetheless, most likely, the main motive of preschoolers was the desire to imitate impressive firefighters. This desire could be used in the learning process, assimilating each individual concept through the simulation of an actual potential emergency by incorporating social experiences.
Finally, since children are expected to form new cognitive structures, the concept of cognitive accommodation can come into play. Accommodation entails the repetition of certain ideas being acquired until the knowledge is assimilated to the extent that it is deposited on the subcortex of the brain like a mathematical formula. Such a mechanism is ideal for memorizing concepts that do not require critical thinking, which preschoolers do not possess. Hence, through accommodation, children can form cognitive representations of the real world.
The case describes some elements of accommodation exploited during fire safety lessons. For example, firefighters appeal to newly acquired information when they ask specific questions about safety rules. Furthermore, children are repeatedly asked to recall the emergency number and successfully demonstrate the successful completion of the request. However, the tips on how to act in case of fire taught to preschoolers turn out to be not that efficiently internalized. Overall, the practical knowledge gained clearly needs to be repeated until children do not accommodate it.
Solutions and Recommendations
In general, in this case, lots of learning practices such as rhyming fairy tales, interaction with actual firefighters, creative approach to memorizing emergency numbers were implemented successfully. The identified problem statement and the discussed gaps serve only as guidance to further improve the effectiveness of following fire safety classes. To overcome the problem of insufficient practical knowledge acquisition, several solutions are further proposed based on the theoretical concepts examined above.
First of all, it is crucial to consider the biological maturation of preschoolers. The approach thus has to be step-by-step, evolving from basic information regarding emergency cases not going far to challenging concepts and not overflooding children with too much information at once. For example, fairy tales and the firefighters’ visit could be separated into different days or periods to allow youngsters to digest what they had learned so far and consolidate newly acquired knowledge. In principle, the further recommendation points also incorporate the biological maturation concept.
Thus, a more entertaining way of interaction with firefighters could be adopted to stimulate cognitive accommodation. Repeated actions and activities focus on the same piece of information that can be introduced in the learning process. This could be done through pausing between the lessons’ segments and checking the current understanding of an issue. Moreover, social experiences expressed in active interactions between children could enhance the assimilation of the concepts and make education more entertaining. Hence, simulations, role-playing games are recommended to be incorporated in the following classes.
Durwin, C. C., & Reese-Weber, M. J. (2017). EdPsych Modules (3rd ed.). SAGE Publications, Inc.