Drawing from and Expanding their Toolboxes: Preschool Teachers’ Traditional Strategies, Unconventional Opportunities, and Novel Challenges in Scaffolding Young Children’s Social and Emotional Learning During Remote Instruction Amidst COVID-19

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Building on aspects of Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory centering around social interaction and adult scaffolding as essential to children’s learning, this study investigated the most prominently used strategies by eight teachers to scaffold social and emotional learning (SEL) in preschool children (ages 3–4) in the context of remote instruction during the 2021–2022 school year amidst COVID-19. These teachers (seven females and one male) came from two urban preschools funded by their local Board of Education in the state of New Jersey in the United States. These teachers (ages 28–44 years, M = 32 years) varied in teaching experience from five to 29 years (M = 13 years). Each teacher was interviewed for an average of 40 min virtually via Zoom. The interviews were digitally recorded and then transcribed for analysis. A thematic analysis of the data revealed that the three most salient strategies the teachers implemented to virtually scaffold the children’s SEL were: (1) involving book reading and discussion, (2) utilizing visuals, and (3) engaging in targeted conversations. In addition to adapting these three traditional strategies applied during in-person instruction to remote instruction, the teachers creatively and appropriately leveraged online resources to further scaffold and enhance children’s SEL in the unconventional virtual environment, thereby expanding their toolboxes. Despite their intentional efforts, these teachers found that there were unconventional opportunities and novel challenges in scaffolding children’s SEL during remote instruction not traditionally found during in-person instruction. Collectively, the findings of this study suggest that in-person instruction, due to its social nature, is still the most optimal condition for promoting children’s SEL.

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Early Childhood Education Journal

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