Cultural knowledge and social competence within a preschool peer culture group
In this ethnographic analysis, social competence and incompetence in an early childhood classroom is examined from a sociocultural perspective. Educational researchers with a sociocultural perspective hold that classrooms can be viewed as cultures where life is patterned, constructed over time by its members interacting with, and reacting to, each other. The study was conducted as part of a larger ethnography that has produced a series of mutually informing analyses that, in tum, have allowed the researchers to move back and forth between a broad understanding of everyday life and more focussed topics such as social competence. Thus, social success in this analysis is not examined as something separate from the flow of everyday life; rather, it is viewed as part of the social history of the group, and as practiced "in the ways" of the group. Specifically, the analysis focusses on a salient peer group in the classroom and traces the participation of three children, each of whom had differing success and involvement with this group. The experiences of these individuals is understood in juxtaposition with an understanding of the complex and locally constructed cultural knowledge held by the group of peer players. Thus, the analysis makes visible the challenge for each individual child to contribute to, understand, and access this knowledge. A multifaceted and integrated view of young children's social competence is offered, one that signals a shift from viewing social competence as a static set of abilities, bounded by particular contexts, to a more complex, fluid, and dynamic interpretation. Last, results are discussed in terms of corroborative themes and points of departure with the extant perspectives on social competence represented by sociometric and social interactional research approaches.
Kantor, R., Elgas, P., & Fernie, D. (1993). Cultural knowledge and social competence within a preschool peer culture group. Early Childhood Research Quarterly. 8(2), 125-147.