The proposed research will focus on investigating education of minority children younger than 5 years. The main problem under consideration is the issue that the development of some children’s language and speech skills is slow because their environment and caregiving are poor. As a result, young children may be affected, as well as their academic skills and educational path, by the poor level of language and speech skills development. Therefore, the main purpose of the proposed paper is to identify and describe factors that have the most powerful impact on young children’s educational potential. The main impetus will be on children from minority families. This objective will be achieved based on the postulates of two main theories that describe the development of young children and factors affecting it. In particular, the theory of neurological development and Jean Piaget’s Stage Theory of Cognitive Development will be selected as the theoretical framework of the proposed study. In order to achieve the main purpose, the paper will focus on answering several research questions about the relationship between the quality of caregiving and cognitive development, trends in academic performance of children from minority group families based on the quality of caregiving and environment of young kids, and children’s perception of the connection between the quality of caregiving and children’s preparedness to study. To address the research questions in a relevant and detailed manner, the combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods will be selected. Parents and teachers of 120 children belonging to a minority group and attending an elementary school will be invited to participate in the study and answer interview questions to collect qualitative data. Quantitative data will be provided by teachers with permission of parents in the form of children’s test scores and assessment results. The anonymity of parents, teachers, and children will be guaranteed.
The years before kindergarten are most important in shaping the academic foundation of a child since during this period a minor learns task-oriented skills when interacting with the family and environment (Allen & Smith, 2008). According to Evangelou, Sylva, Kyriacou, Wild, and Glenny (2009), learning in children starts at birth and takes place when they are engaged, nurtured, or challenged in quality learning environments and in relationships with caregivers and parents. Compared to other groups, children from minority groups are represented in the population at a higher percentage in the USA than their counterparts (50.4% of the nation population younger 1 year) (Evangelou et al., 2009). Importantly, the concept of minority is applied to a group of individuals singled out in society according to a particular feature, including religious, cultural, social, financial (poverty) and other aspects, such as involuntary and voluntary minorities in education (Frisby, 2013). However, when compared to children from majority groups, they are less likely to demonstrate expressive vocabulary skills and comparable mathematic and language scores on end of grade tests than their counterparts who are brought up in more favorable conditions (Allen & Duncan, 2008). It is assumed that the cause of poor academic performance of children from minority groups is low-quality caregiving and poor home environments (Mottely & Randall, 2009). Even though the late introduction of minority children to the academic system is regarded as the major cause of poor performance among this group of learners, there are other factors that affect it as well. One such factor may be anxiety caused by socialization with previously unfamiliar people, such as students from other social groups. Periods of adaptation to a new environment might vary between children, and beliefs shared by the family of the child can create negative perceptions of other groups. Another factor might be the difficulty of working in a structured educational environment, such as a school. A child might find it difficult to follow the new authority structure if their minority group has a strict, previously established structure. These and other factors may be present individually, or combined, depending on the conditions of each case.
Studies have indicated that high quality, pre-K teaching enables children from minority groups to enter kindergarten on par with their grade-level counterparts, particularly when minority children have access to preschool programs aimed at their comprehensive development from birth up to five years (Mottely & Randall, 2009). They are more likely to enhance their emotional, cognitive, social, and language development, which is needed to guarantee their further personal growth and academic successes. However, there have been debates about whether the caregivers have a direct or indirect effect on these students cognitive development (Evangelou et al., 2009). Previous studies (e.g., Eldering & Leseman, 1999; Allen & Smith, 2008; Hart & Risley, 1995) tried to examine the quality of caregiving and its possible effect on the general development of the child. There were debates about the childrens natural IQ and its impact on the final results of the study, no matter what environment was used (Evangelou et al., 2009). Additionally, different variables and aspects, such as the quality of care and the environment, obviously influence the cognitive development of a child (Keenan & Evans, 2009). In other words, in the study by Mottely and Randall (2009), there was demonstrated a positive correlation between the cognitive development of minority children and the quality of caregiving despite the environment at home.
Nonetheless, the researchers failed to put into consideration the environment because it has great significance on the attitude of children towards education. Thus, despite the significance of the emotional support they receive from parents, their cognitive development is also dependent on the quality of caregiving they get. It is crucial to differentiate between caregiving and emotional support. The first one is the provision of the assistance to a person who needs some help with daily activities and demands special attention to social and psychological factors while the second is empathy and compassion that are used to make a person feel comfortable (Keenan & Evans, 2009). Consequently, it would be challenging to determine whether children’s cognitive development is because of their natural IQ or due to the positive home environment (Evangelou et al., 2009). These points notwithstanding, Eldering and Leseman (1999) argued that the quality of the care provided to children at early stages is critical to their successful development long-term.
Statement of the Problem
It is essential to stress that the quality of caregiving and the environment in which a child is evolving are of critical importance during the first three years of life, and they have a direct impact on the child’s development during the next two years as well. In addition, these two aspects influence pre-schooling (Frisby, 2013). The problem to be studied is the issue that some children are slow in developing their language and speech skills due to poor caregiving and environment, which can systematically affect their academic skills and literacy levels throughout their educational path (Hammer et al., 2015). Importantly, if this problem is not researched, it might result in the widening gap between minority children and their grade-level counterparts, which can hinder their successful development in the future and negatively affect their performance in education and in society as well.
The purpose of this mixed methods descriptive study is to examine the factors that can have an effect on educational potential of children from minority families. The study will be conducted through a variety of steps starting with a literature review on the topic. Then, the researcher will collect quantitative data regarding children’s assessment results and test scores from teachers to analyze them with the help of statistical tools. At the next stage, the researcher will conduct interviews with teachers and parents of children belonging to a minority group in order to gather qualitative data. The study will conclude with an examination of possible implications of the research, recommendations for practice and future research, as well as the concluding statement. The target population will include parents and teachers of 120 selected minority children, whose parents and educators voluntarily agreed to participate in the study. The research site for the project will be an elementary school. ID numbers and pseudonyms will be used to protect participants’ anonymity and address confidentiality requirements. Findings presented as graphs and statistics will be utilized by the researcher to conclude regarding the possible relationship between caregiving or environments and cognitive development of children who belong to a minority group. The data will be analyzed in comparison to average statistics.
Theoretical/Conceptual Framework Overview
The theoretical framework of the current research reviews several interrelated domains. The study relies on the concept of neurological development of a person, which occurs due to child’s learning at the earliest stage of development. This domain encompasses an idea that children should receive certain forms of stimulation to be able to adopt different learning patterns and if they are not exposed to this induction, they are unlikely to exhibit some forms of learning crucial for their further academic pathway. In that matter, this domain correlates with cognitive theories that dwell upon mental capabilities of children (McBride & Cutting, 2015). Notably, these theories also relate learning patterns exhibited in children with the care that they should receive.
The primary theory that will be utilized during this research project is Jean Piaget’s Stage Theory of Cognitive Development. It is one of the fundamental theories in the field of modern cognitive development research (Keenan & Evans, 2009). The theory was proposed by Piaget (1952) after careful observation of his children during their formative years. The theorist divides the period of cognitive development into four stages. The first is the sensorimotor stage (ages zero to two), during which an infant learns to understand his or her environment through interactions and learns through assimilation or accommodation. The second is the preoperational stage (ages two to four) when a child starts using simple classifications. The concrete operations stage (ages seven to eleven) is the third one. Accommodation increases while abstract thinking, conceptualization, and logical structures begin to form (Keenan & Evans, 2009). Finally, the formal operations stage (ages 11 to 15) leads to forming cognition (Piaget, 1952). For this research project, the second and third stages are most significant as they include some of the most important milestones of early development and education.
Moreover, Piaget’s theory supports the assumptions about cognitive skills and places particular emphasis on the importance of the first five years of life. Some other theories also review the potential of social background, environment, and communication in forming child’s learning capabilities (Frisby, 2013). Thus, the theoretical framework builds around the developmental milestones, which serve as a starting point of the problem statement. In addition, it helps to specify the focus of the study issue and form the vision to which it will be directed.
Nature of the Study
It should be noted that the study aims to gather both qualitative and quantitative evidence. Therefore, the study will be conducted using mixed methods research. The researcher will be able to employ the strengths of each approach due to the mutual enrichment of cognitive abilities and interpretations. The strengths of the qualitative approach include the ability to gain a personal first-hand perspective on the topic of research (Choy, 2014). By conducting interviews with teachers and parents of minority children, the researcher plans to provide a deeper perspective on this issue.
On the other hand, quantitative research is most useful in gathering measurable and quantifiable information, such as statistics, results, and calculations (Baskas, 2011). This type of research will be applied to analyze such data on students’ performance collected during the period of research as assessment results and test scores that will be provided by teachers with permission of parents. Another function of a quantitative part of the study lies in the ability to combine and compare one type of data with another. By examining statistical data within the context provided by the qualitative data, a clearer picture of the issue could be achieved (Mukherji & Albon, 2014). Thus, mixed methods make it possible to answer a broader range of research questions for providing a substantive generalization of evidence.
Given the problematic field and the purpose of the study, it is possible to specify several research questions that will allow determining whether quality of caregiving and the environment can affect school performance of minority children. The following research questions will be used in this study:
- RQ1. What is the relationship between cognitive development and the quality of caregiving children receive between 0-5 years?
- RQ2. What is the observable academic performance trend based on the early childhood standards for children from minority groups that had quality caregivers and environments at an early age?
- RQ3. What views and beliefs do teachers and parents of minority children have regarding the quality of caregiving and its effect on infants’ readiness and preparedness to study based on the standards for pre-school teaching and learning?
- H10. There is no relationship between cognitive development and the quality of caregiving children receive between 0-5 years.
- H1a. There is a relationship between cognitive development and the quality of caregiving children receive between 0-5 years.
- H20. There is no observable academic performance trend based on the early childhood standards for children from minority groups that had quality caregivers and environments at an early age.
- H2a. There is a significant observable academic performance trend based on the early childhood standards for children from minority groups that had quality caregivers and environments at an early age.
Significance of the Study
The contemporary setting and forms of interaction between people require from a person not only the presence of general education but also the revelation of individual abilities. However, human development can be hindered without proper education, which can be achieved if a person has acquired language and speech skills in early childhood and then gradually mastered them (Trawick-Smith, 2013). The success in acquiring such skills depends on the quality of care received in early childhood and the environment around children. The person’s background also influences his or her educational capacity. In that matter, minority children may experience certain difficulties throughout the entire educational process, if the quality of caregiving was insufficient (Conkbayir & Pascal, 2014). Therefore, the research may promote the understanding of the significance of caregiving and its influence on the child’s academic success. The researcher will also gather the evidence to find whether the statement that minority children are more prepared for schooling and achieve better study results if the environment and caregiving are adequate is correct. However, more importantly, the research may be able to provide insights into the ways of improving the current situation for children belonging to this population group.
Definition of Key Terms
Academic performance. Academic performance is the student’s compliance with the minimum educational requirements determined by the system and the degree of his or her success in achieving learning outcomes.
Child care. Child care is a set of measures aimed at organizing, providing, and supporting the well-being, activities, and communication of children in accordance with their age and needs.
Cognitive skills. Cognitive skills can be described as knowledge, thinking ability, the ability to learn, preserve the knowledge, and share it with other people. A child gradually takes possession of this kind of skills starting from birth to preschool age, and cognitive skills determine child’s capabilities in the main types of speech, as well as logical and abstract thinking.
Developmental milestone. Developmental milestone is a skill or conduct that a child can exhibit in a particular age range. Each milestone can have a different normal diapason in which a skill could be acquired.
Early childhood. Early childhood encompasses the age from one to three years, which then influences the development of the child in the period from four to five years.
Environment. Environment is a complex of all conditions surrounding a person (including physical, biological, psychological, socio-cultural, financial, and other factors).
The purpose of this study is to investigate the correlation between the quality of caregiving and cognitive development of children as well as between childcare and preparedness of minority children to study. Furthermore, the researcher also hopes to receive answers to the question about teachers’ and parents’ visions of the presence of a relationship between caregiving and developing academic skills for minority children in order to have a full picture of the problem. The theoretical construct of the study will serve as a platform for carrying out a comprehensive research on the issue. Mixed research methods will allow gathering in-depth data while supporting them with a statistical association. One potential outcome of the study may be the practical advice, which could assist in improving the current situation in early childhood development and education.
According to Sutterby (2012), neurological development is due to learning that occurs from birth throughout the earliest years of a child’s life. Consequently, scientists believe that the brain of children require different types of simulation for them to develop properly. Therefore, with no stimulation, some forms of learning will not take place when children eventually start school. Consequently, if appropriate stimulation is developed it is possible to develop neural pathways that would enhance child’s intellectual, social, and emotional abilities. It can be argued that the more the mentioned neural connections are stimulated during the early childhood, the easier they are able to learn. Therefore, it is important that all the people who have contact with children including grandparents, caregivers, and parents offer a lot of talking, singing, touching and loving to assist them develop their potentials fully.
According to Keenan & Evans (2009), cognitive theories have been utilized to understand the mental capacities of children, and the contribution of the same in understanding the kind of care that caregivers should give. The theories would offer great insight into the kind of development milestone that are consistent with the cognitive development of children at ages 0-5 years. Sutterby (2012) adds that children undergo different cognitive skills during the first five years according to Piaget’s theory. However, the first two years would be mainly on the sensor motor skills of the child. The child later enters the preoperational stage whereby all objects are symbolic. In other terms, it can be argued that the various development milestones that a child attains during 0-5 years and in particular the logic mind is what contribute to the academic performance of the child.
Citing Schoon, Parsons, Rush, and Law (2010), despite the strong influence of social class that determine the home environment and the quality of care giving, early language contributes to the variation in the performance of children when they finally join school. Consequently, communication is also a major predictor of performance of minority of children. So what the caregiver provides in terms of interaction and activities with the child in the first years is crucial for the child’s performance at 5 years. Influential factors in the communication environment of the child include trips to the library, early ownership of reading material, and the caregiver teaching a range of activities (Sutterby, 2012). Therefore, according to the researcher, children who had more books and were introduced to the library at the age of 2 years had higher scores on the school assessment while joining school. Mottely & Randall (2009) argue that it is evident that minority children have difficulties in learning other languages such as English because of their social backgrounds. For this reason, the study seeks to develop a model that is closely linked to the children’s communication environment. More specifically, the study is more interested in investigating what parents do to promote effective communication in children and how the same influences their schooling.
Research Methodology and Design
With the objective of determining the effects of care giving on the education of the minority children, the study will use both the quantitative and qualitative research methods. There are various reasons for choosing this research method. First, researchers have identified the method as the best alternative to quantitative and qualitative research methods. Consequently, the method would provide a good insight into different topics of study. Additionally, the qualitative and quantitative research methods can make the researcher to miss important information. On the other hand, the mixed method would enable the researcher to obtain the necessary information, generate more data, and enhance the body of knowledge. The method would enable the researcher to bring elaborative insight in not only the research problem but also question. Past studies have proven that use of mixed research methods demands that the research have preliminary knowledge about quantitative and qualitative designs (Choy, 2014).
In order to identify whether the caregivers affect the education of minority children, the researcher will have to obtain viewpoints of different people based on the experience with the identified factor and determine whether there is a relationship between them and the minority children education outcomes (Eldering & Leseman, 1999).
Additionally, to ensure reliability and validity of the tests, all the methods would be applicable because certain information might require the use of particular methods. Hence, the use of both quantitative and qualitative research methods is recommendable for the study. Therefore, the use of the mentioned two methods would enhance the study because the two methods can be used interchangeably. The method would ensure that the researcher compensates for the shortcomings of the quantitative and qualitative research (Baskas, 2011). Therefore, the mixed method is considered the most effective research design for this study.
Prior to establishing the procedure for conducting investigation, the researcher would first determine whether the design is viable on the basis of underlying variables in addition to justifying the use of mixed research method. It will also plan the procedures for collecting data, participate in the data collection and conduct data analysis, and finally generate the outcomes of the study. For this particular study, the researcher would provide elaborate discussion and deep analysis from the two methods and integrate them into the mixed method research design (Baskas, 2011).
The choice of this research design is based on its advantages compared to other methods. Through the method, the researcher would find it possible to use photos or words to add value or explain certain meanings to the obtained statistical figures. Consequently, through the method, the research would handle all the research questions effectively and meet the objectives of the study. Through cross validation process, the researcher would not only test the validity but also add insight that might be left out if one method is used (Caruth, 2013).
As already mentioned in the previous sections, the researcher might decide to use qualitative, quantitative or mixed method research design. The main objective is to ensure that it provides all the necessary data and information to be used in not only testing the hypothesis but also providing explanations to the made observations. Nonetheless, the explanations given on the use of quantitative and qualitative designs show some limitations that make them not recommendable for this study. For instance, studies have proven that findings obtained from qualitative methods might only be unique to a given sample that is present in the study. Consequently, researchers who use qualitative designs in their works complain of the inability to generate statistical predictions because the method does not lead to cause-and-effect relationship. Furthermore, the researcher might find it challenging to test the theories and hypothesis in cases where large samples have been used, particularly if the qualitative design is employed. Furthermore, the qualitative design has proven to be less credible and some commissioners, programmers and administrators avoid it in the policy formulation and implementation. It is also believed that the results obtained can be easily influenced by the personal opinions of the researcher (Caruth, 2013).
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