The aim of this thesis is to examine and compare didactic work performed by assistants and kindergarten teachers who are directly involved with the children in kindergarten. Even though kindergarten has over the last few years become a central pillar in a typical Norwegian childhood, the didactic work about it has rarely been touched upon by researchers. Didactics is a concept that originated in the school system, and this thesis will therefore give a theoretical background on how didactic work can be understood in relation to different pedagogical and didactic movements, its historicity in relation to kindergarten, and current and previous discourses about kindergarten pedagogy. The project examines the didactic work in two kindergartens in several different ways through empirical means, by using qualitative interviews and observations of five assistants and three kindergarten teachers. Firstly, by examining the planning, implementation and assessment of two types of activities led by adults, and secondly, by employing both assistants and kindergarten teachers as informants. The fact that two out of three employees in Norwegian kindergartens are assistants who do not require any kind of formal pedagogical education has been criticized by both the OECD and UNICEF. It might therefore be expected that extensive research was implemented on the work performed by assistants, but this does not appear to be the case.
The analyses of the empirical data are done on the basis of didactic categories belonging to the didactic relation model (Bjørndal & Lieberg, 1975) and show that kindergarten teachers perform significant didactic work consisting of planning and assessment that the assistants rarely participate in. When it comes to working directly with children, however, the analyses show a great deal of similarity between the two groups. These important findings are discussed in the thesis in light of the kindergarten as a hierarchic system, as a room for didactic action and as an arena for mediating knowledge and preparing children for school. The project shows that there is a need for continued research about the connection between the work force’s competence and the kindergarten as an educational institution.
This thesis was completed at Volda University College in connection to The Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Oslo. It is also a part of the MAFAL-study, which was financed by the Norwegian Research Council.