Children as teachers, families as learners

Funding year: 
2 years
University of Waikato
ECE sector
Project start date: 
January 2012
Project end date: 
June 2014
Principal investigator(s): 
Margaret Carr
Research team members: 
Jeanette Clarkin-Phillips
Research partners: 
Tai Tamariki Kindergarten and the kindergarten community and Wellington Region Free Kindergarten Association

Project Description

This project is about young children as museum guides, explaining their understandings about a museum
exhibit or object to teachers, family and friends. 

Research questions

The three research questions for this research project were:
• How might children as teachers engage their families in learning at a museum?
• How do families as learners respond to children’s story-telling and explanation?
• What implications do the findings from the first two questions have for museum educators in early childhood centres and schools?

Key findings

The key findings in relations to research Questions One and Two are summarised in detail in the TLRI website. The children were:

  1. recognising, respecting, and reminding visiting families of museum protocols
  2. themselves exhibitors and gallery designers, illustrating and demonstrating messages - in various modes - to visitors (families and teachers)
  3. demonstrating an appreciation of craft from exhibitions that included artists and craftspeople; this entitled them to explain processes to others
  4. calling on prior knowledge to make meaning and enable explanations that included remembering and using analogies
  5. The key findings in relations to research Questions One and Two

A resource for teachers and families

Key outcomes for Research Question: Three are publications and a resource for teachers and families developed during the project.


  • Transcripts of children’s conversations as they co-construct resources and visit museum objects and exhibits with their peers, teachers and families.
  • Documented observations of the children at work at the museum and on related activities in the kindergarten.
  • Annotated photographs of resources and children at work.
  • Transcripts of interviews with families.
  • Transcripts of interviews with teachers.
  • Copies of resources constructed.


Transcript data from children’s conversations was analysed using Riessman’s thematic, structural, dialogic and visual analyses, building on analytical categories developed by the researchers in previous projects to capture the dual-focus nature of the conversations. Family interviews were analysed using some of the categories from the Home Learning Environment used in the EPPE study in the UK (Professor Iram Siraj-Blatchford, a Director of EPPE, is an international consultant to the project). Story-telling was analysed with reference to Reese’s temporal, causal and locative dimensions. Analysis of the role of the teacher in encouraging children’s dialogue and story-telling will develop further the analytical frame developed in the TLRI project Our Place: Being Curious at Te Papa.

Project Contact

Dr Margaret Carr
Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research
Faculty of Education
University of Waikato