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Conference Paper/Proceeding/Abstract 305 views

Dogs in Early Years Classrooms: What is the impact on children's social behaviours and communication during playful learning opportunities?

Helen Lewis Orcid Logo

International Society of Anthrozoology (ISAZ) 2020, Volume: Oxford Abstracts

Swansea University Author: Helen Lewis Orcid Logo

Abstract

This paper reports on a small scale study undertaken in Wales (UK) that explored the impact of an animal-assisted education intervention on young children's social behaviours and communication during play. The study took a pragmatic, mixed methods approach, and followed ethical guidance provide...

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Published in: International Society of Anthrozoology (ISAZ) 2020
Published: 2020
Online Access: http://www.isaz.net/isaz/conferences/
URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa55383
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Abstract: This paper reports on a small scale study undertaken in Wales (UK) that explored the impact of an animal-assisted education intervention on young children's social behaviours and communication during play. The study took a pragmatic, mixed methods approach, and followed ethical guidance provided by BERA (2018), as well as regulations regarding risk assessment and animal welfare provided a local charity, Burns By Your Side (BBYS). Four trained dogs (of varying breed, age and gender) belonging to the classroom practitioners, were used in four different primary (pre-K - 6) schools during one academic year. The dogs and owners completed a detailed training and assessment programme organised by BBYS prior to starting work in school. The dogs were treated as sentient beings and not pedagogical tools and were regularly monitored throughout the project.Six learners aged five to eight-years-old were identified in each school. They were selected because they lacked self-confidence or classroom engagement, or the expected social and communication skills of peers. Dogs were brought in to work with children during playful learning opportunities, such as role-play activity. Children were observed twice weekly using the 'Social Play Continuum' (Broadhead, 2006) which focuses on children's social and collaborative processes. One observation was completed when the dog was absent, one when the dog was present. Alongside these observations normal classroom data was collected. In addition the practitioner-researchers undertook Lesson Study cycles during the project to further explore their pedagogy when dogs were present. They maintained a blog about their experiences, and perceptions of the children’s progress, undertook professional dialogue with peers and captured feedback arising from pupil voice about the sessions.Findings indicate that the teachers perceive the presence of a dog to be a positive one, particularly in relation to children’s enjoyment in learning, oracy skills and social behaviour. The children enjoyed the sessions and observational data showed positive changes in the nature of their play, particularly in relation to episodes of highly social activity, which increased in the presence of the dog. Participants developed trusting professional relationships with one another, which allowed them to deepen exploration into their own practices, and which enabled them to consider different perspectives on these. The process enabled constructive collaboration in the development of appropriate pedagogical approaches when using animals in the classroom. These approaches were refined and improved during the course of the study.This paper makes an important overall contribution to knowledge in this area since there have been few systematic studies which have explored the possible benefits of animal assisted interventions on young children's play behaviour. The findings will be of interest to teachers, parents and the wider academic community.
College: College of Arts and Humanities