Professor Profiles

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Anna Kirova, PhD

Professor

Education

Elementary Education

About Me

Anna Kirova is Professor of Early Childhood Education in the Faculty of Education. Her credentials include a PhD in Early Childhood Education from the University of Sofia, Bulgaria (1987), and a PhD in Elementary Education with an early childhood specialization from the University of Alberta, Edmonton (1996). Prior to her appointment at the University of Alberta in 2000, she was a faculty member in the Department of Human Development and Child Studies at Oakland University, Michigan, USA (1996-2000).

Awards and Fellowships

2013    Alberta Teacher Association (ATA), Early Childhood Education Council, Advocate for Young Children Award, AB, Canada
2012    Lansdowne Distinguished Professor Scholarship, University of Victoria, BC, Canada
2009    Faculty of Education Graduate Teaching Award (University of Alberta)
2005    Alberta Teacher Association (ATA) Research Award, AB, Canada
2003    University of Alberta Graduate Students’ Association Academic Staff Award, Canada
1997    Michigan Association for Mediated Learning Outstanding Presentation Award, MI, USA
1996    Faculty Research Fellowship, Oakland University, MI, USA
1995-1996     Alice E. Wilson Award, Canadian Federation of University Women, Canada
1994-1996    Social Studies and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Doctoral Fellowship, Canada
1994-1996     Walter H. Johns Graduate Fellowship, University of Alberta, Canada
1993-1994    Province of Alberta Graduate Fellowship, Canada


Research

Dr. Kirova’s  appointment at the University of Alberta marked the beginning of a long-term research program that focuses on various aspects of the relationship between young immigrant children’s social competence and their social adjustment to school. To understand fully the culturally and linguistically diverse children’s experiences in school, her research examined the nature and experience of childhood that has been interrupted by immigration as well as the lived experiences of immigrant children in their day-to-day living between languages and cultures. The findings from this line of research challenged the dominant discourse of children and childhood in which children from nondominant cultural/ethnic backgrounds have often been treated as abnormal, lacking agency, competence, and knowledge. The creative relation-making processes in which children engaged as they perceived and reshaped relatedness among the scattered and conflicting events and experiences inevitably involved their families, the various communities they lived in, and society as a whole. Her research’s findings deepened our professional understanding of this process by providing insights into pedagogical policies and practices in which we need to engage in order to build a truly multicultural society. Her wide-ranging repertoire of research methods includes hermeneutic phenomenology, arts-based methodologies, and community-based participatory action research aimed at gaining insights into human phenomena by including vulnerable populations in research that is both meaningful and empowering.  Her most recent collaborative research in developing an intercultural early learning program for newcomer children in which children maintain their home language and culture while learning English has resulted in a government document providing guidance to early childhood educators in supporting young English language learners’ bilingual and bicultural identities which has potential to lead to socially just institutional reform in schools and curriculum development and implementation.

Teaching

My goal in teaching students at all levels is to create learning environments in which they can not only build on their experiences in working with young children in various capacities but also critically reflect on these experiences through the examination of the social, cultural and historical discourses that influenced their beliefs and assumptions about childhood and early childhood education. In the context of teacher preparation programs, a beginning point for acquiring this type of knowledge is a dialogue. Dialogue provides the milieu for discussion of the most critical questions in the field of early childhood education: How do we construct our notions of the young child and the role of early childhood institutions? What is our understanding of who the young child is, can be and should be? What is the role of early childhood educators, the parents the community and the society in educating and caring for children?  I believe my mission as a teacher educator is to engage pre- and in-service teachers in such a dialogue and thus to help them gain a better understanding of what it means to educate children and young people in today's complex world with its uncertainties and conflicting views, values and aims. I am confident that my own cultural background and personal experiences of living and teaching in different cultural settings help students better understand the spectrum of viewpoints about ways of raising and educating children and young people of other ethnic, gender, socioeconomic, language and cultural backgrounds.

In my teaching, I guide students’ learning to pose critical questions, to use a variety of ways to gather information that pertains to these questions, and to present their new understandings to others. I strive to provide students with opportunities to make decisions, to solve problems, to consider different points of view, and to provide alternative solutions. I guide them through different strategies of investigation by creating situations in which they have to apply knowledge, seek various ways of accessing new information, or both. I have high expectations for all my students and am willing to work hard with them to produce quality, meaningful work. I provide students with clear guidelines outlining the steps they need to take. Wishing to encourage choice and creativity, however, I do not prescribe what they should do at each step. The feedback I provide is constructive, guiding students' writing without taking away their personal goals and ideas. As a result, the students have a strong sense of ownership of their work and pride in their accomplishments.

As an instructor of Master’s and Doctoral level courses, I support students to gain confidence in their capacity to become researchers and leaders in the field. In these courses, I strive to create a forum, both face-to-face and online, for dialoging about some fundamental questions the nature of teaching and learning in the global times we live in.