Early childhood educators are acutely aware of the importance of engaging children in rich and meaningful conversations about their lives (Sylva, Melhuish, Sammons, Siraj-Blatchford, & Taggart, 2004). To date, however, research investigating the style and content of these important reminiscing conversations has been siloed within psychological fields of study. This empirical study uses interdisciplinary perspectives by extending the rich body of mother–child reminiscing work from psychology to early childhood education. To do this, the study integrates contemporary early childhood understandings of pedagogy with the Sociocultural Developmental Theory of Autobiographical Memory: a post-Vygotskian theory recognising that development occurs within specific sociocultural contexts. The Sociocultural Developmental Theory of Autobiographical Memory is one of many perspectives on how sociocultural theory can explain children’s development. It offers a lens for considering how children’s personal histories and experiences interact with contextual and maturational influences (Fivush, 2011). The study was conducted in seven long day care centres in Sydney, Australia. Across two timepoints, 85 educator–child dyads (27–36 months and 48–60 months) engaged in multiple conversations about the past and future: two past novel, two past familiar, two future novel and two future familiar. Because children’s development is influenced by the opportunities and challenges provided by multiple caregivers, we also asked a subsample of mother–child dyads (n = 42) to complete the same tasks. Interdisciplinary coding protocols were used from the mother–child developmental psychology and linguistic literature, and afforded detailed understanding of each adult–child dyad’s elaborative style, temporal and mental state language (Hudson, 2002; Rudek & Haden, 2005). Next, to ensure multiple perspectives and interpretations of our data were considered, the findings were analysed utilising sociocultural developmental frames. Our findings were threefold. First, mothers were more elaborative than educators. This finding hid important differences in educators’ and mothers’ desired outcomes, thus we suggest that one challenge of conducting interdisciplinary research from multiple perspectives is that research questions should be adopted to the group in question. Second, educators with tertiary degrees were more likely than educators with diplomas to make mental state references. Third, individual differences were substantial. Given the differences in performance of individual educators, we discuss opportunities for all educators’ professional development and offer suggestions for policy-making. In particular, we propose a need for programs that teach the important factors in reminiscing and future-talk conversations, and we recommend a need for personalised educator goals for these conversations. We highlight the importance of integrating large-scale quantitative methodologies when attempting to generalise across groups and suggest that this study makes an important interdisciplinary connection between developmental psychology and early childhood.
2019 AJEC Research Symposium: Multiplicity: Exploring multiple perspectives, agendas and methodologies in early childhood research