Authors: Jennifer Keys Adair and Kiyomi Sánchez-Suzuki Colegrove

Segregation by Experience: Agency, Racism and Learning in the Early Grades, is a book that takes a closer look at agency in the early childhood years. The authors, who worked on this research project, provide a description of agency as “the ability to influence and make decisions about learning” and state that agency “affects academic and social development.” Descriptions of the research methods that were used to collect the information for the study are provided in the book as well. Throughout the book the authors, help to explain the disproportionality of schooling for children of color.

After describing the agency and the research methods in the first chapter, the authors share the experiences and research that took place throughout the rest of the book. The authors spent a full school year observing and documenting the experiences and interactions of the children and the teacher in a first-grade classroom. They describe the activities, studies, and interactions between the teacher and the children, as well as, child-to-child interactions. It was very interesting to learn how the teacher supported and scaffolded the children’s learning in a variety of ways. As I read about the classroom and the classroom approach, I thought about the many experiences, teachers, children, and families have with the Project Approach. And a couple of chapters later, the authors reference two books on the Project Approach!

One week during the school year (and the research year), was designated for taping in the classroom. The researchers viewed and edited the footage down to a twenty-minute film. The researchers shared the film with the children and families from the class, other educators from the same building, and children, educators, and families from four other schools. The remaining chapters of Segregation by Experience: Agency, Racism and Learning in the Early Grades, are filled with the responses of the focus groups of students, teachers, and families. The end of the book included a chapter where the researchers talked six years later with several of the children from the class about their experiences in their first-grade classroom and as they continued their education.

Check out this interesting resource to gain more insight on helping young children develop agency and the impact that we as educators and family members can have on this important development.

Reviewed by: Jodi Knapp