Wheelock College Professor David Fernie's New Book, "Educating Toddlers to Teachers"

November 13, 2012

David FernieIn his new book "Educating Toddlers to Teachers" Dr. Fernie shows how to see and influence the school and peer cultures of classrooms.

In a time of increasing state standards, district mandates, and parent expectations, measured accountability seems to rule the classroom. Wheelock College Professor David Fernie's book Educating Toddlers to Teachers: Learning to See and Influence the School and Peer Cultures of Classrooms addresses that challenge with encouraging research-based examples of how the art of teaching from observation and using children's own group interests as springboards to learning can work outside the box.

He and colleagues Samara Madrid and Rebecca Kantor edited a collection of eight studies of children's school culture and peer culture in the classroom that can help teachers tune in to children's interests and ideas which are naturally surfacing all the time and use them to stimulate learning about curriculum and classroom life.

Fernie hopes that teachers reading the book will consider an ethnographic way of looking at group life in their classrooms and discover how they can influence, not manage, what is happening there. "With so much going on in the classroom, taking an ethnographic approach by stepping back, observing what is going on, and making sense of it can help teachers build a classroom community and work with academic subjects in ways that will appeal to the children," he explains.

The studies in the book look at classroom cultures by analyzing what children and teachers say and do as they navigate through their daily time together and how the trajectory of classroom learning is democratic, in that children's own interests are included. "Sustained engagement in learning happens when children's ideas are noticed, respected, extended, and worked with by teachers," Fernie notes.

Fernie is well aware of the pressures today's teachers face, including managing classrooms and performance evaluations. "Rather than suggesting one more management tactic, this approach offers a creative way to guide the interests and energy that a given group of children is expressing toward learning related to the curriculum," he says.

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