The focus of my master's thesis work is the activities undertaken by early-childhood education professionals; early-childhood education teachers and early-childhood education assistants in relation to including children in selecting the activities connected to meal times and rest time in special needs pre-school classes with a specialist programme for pre-school children.
The theoretical part of the thesis covers the implementation of the principle of active participation in the Curriculum of specialist early-childhood education programmes. The same principle was also searched in the articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which indirectly point at children having the option to choose, decide and participate. Based on the literature review the thesis presents different views of early-childhood education professionals in terms of including pre-school children in activites related to meal times and rest time, and looked for factors that influence children's participation.
The thesis also mentions the quality of work in kindergartens, which is the result of several factors including children's participation. I focused on the significance of work self-evaluation by early-childhood education professionals, which served as a manner of collecting data in the second, empirical part of the master's thesis work.
A control list was drawn for research purposes in order to record the presence or absence of certain actions during the time of research as conducted by the early-childhood education professionals during routine activities in a group of children. The research sample included 15 Slovene special needs pre-school classes, hence 15 pre-school teachers and 15 pre-school teacher assistants. The results were then statistically processed, presented in a table and described. It has been found that there were no significant differences between the actions of the pre-school teachers and pre-school teacher assistants. Similarly, no statistically significant differences were found between the results gathered during observations and self-reported accounts of the early-childhood education professionals. The differences that occurred were interpreted on the basis of percentage values and individual situations that were recorded during observations. The results have shown that according to the opinions obtained with a questionnaire, the children's participation is higher than it was possible to speculate during observations.
Early-childhood education professionals emphasised some changes that they thought were needed to improve the participation of children in meal times and rest time activities. Mostly, presence of both professionals at meal times and calming-down time as being significant was mentioned, as well as some requirements of material nature that they missed in their work. One of the obstacles inhibiting better participation of children is also poor understanding of the needs of the children included in the specialist early-childhood programme of other professionals, the management and technical staff at educational institutions that offer this programme. The suggestions for improvements were collected as recommendations to improve active participation of children in special needs pre-school classes. Finally, these recommendations were sent to all the participating education institutions.