Original Research-Special Collection: Teaching and learning: mathematics, science, design, technology in the Early Years

The development of scientific reasoning of preschool children: Micro-analysis of mind–material–body integration

Retha van Niekerk
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 9, No 1 | a574 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v9i1.574 | © 2019 Retha van Niekerk | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 August 2017 | Published: 27 August 2019

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Retha van Niekerk, Department of Education, North-West University, South Africa

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Background: This article argues that the emergence of scientific reasoning in the preschool
years could be augmented by caregivers and preschool teachers through nurturing ‘Habits of
Mind’ (HOM) and ‘Habits of Body’ (HOB) of young children. This type of mind–material–
body integration is proposed from an epistemological position that comprises a Hybrid
(morphinuum) of theories about early learning and human development.

Aim: The aim of this article is to present an exemplar of the capacity of one preschooler to
show emergence and integration of two HOM, namely conjecturing and reasoning with
invariance, in tandem with the Habit of Body (HOB), namely hand-eye coordination that can
lay the foundation for scientific reasoning in the early years.

Setting: The study referred to in this article is an exemplar (case study) taken from a larger,
18-month educational design research intervention, the ‘Little African Scientists Project’. That
study investigated the emergent scientific HOM and HOB through a multimodal material
approach to pedagogy at preschool level (Grade RR to R).

Methods: A three-layered digital video analysis was utilised to interpret the data pertaining to
a specific interaction of one child, who was manipulating magnets during one of the many
free-play activities that formed part of the larger project.

Results: Several specific HOM and HOB were evident in the one child who was engaged in an
activity in which he was moving magnets. Two HOM that emerged were those of making and
testing conjectures and reasoning with invariance, while the HOB that emerged was a close
alignment of hand movement and eye coordination.

Conclusion: This type of close observation and micro-analysis could be utilised for studies of
more children in similar settings.


Emergence; conjecturing; habits of mind (HOM); habits of body (HOB); image; invariant; magnets; materiality; morphing; perception; preschooler; sensory system; scientific reasoning; theory; visualisation


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