Experiences and Professional Strategies of Pedagogues, in Light of New Ambitions of Quality Control and Monitorial Demands

Christian Aabro, Anna Opstrup Larsen

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Emphasizing care and development based on everyday-life and democracy, has long been admired and looked upon as
something to work towards in early childhood education research, development and policies. Whereas Danish kindergartens
and pedagogues have a history of being predominantly self-managed, leaving curriculum and quality discussions to local
communities and professional autonomy and judgment, the tradition is challenged these years, as the early childhood area
is becoming increasingly monitored, standardized and marketized as a result of new and evolving relations of political and
economic interests. The pedagogues are facing new demands regarding basing their practice on centrally defined tools,
models, manuals, and programs, legitimized in evidence based research. The focus of the professional pedagogical field
seems to shift towards conceptual definitions of “what works”, rather than a contextually situated professional judgement,
providing critical accounts on the many and complex questions concerning education and pedagogy. Thus, this project
examines the influence of the increasing monitoring, standardization and marketization of the professional pedagogical field
and public Danish daycare institutions on the pedagogues, their conceptualization of their own professionalism, their daily
work and their concrete strategies regarding administering the ethical balance between external standards and goals on the
on hand, and local professional traditions, values and ambitions, and immediate needs and interests of children, on the
other. The research takes its departure in the Michael Lipsky-informed idea of the professional pedagogue as street level
bureaucrat and policy maker and thus, puts the pedagogue in a powerful and influential position in doing and transforming
the externally imposed conceptualizations of the daycare work.
”When there are uncertainties over what will or will not work, there is greater room for admitting and tolerating a variety of
approaches and objectives. In such a situation there is often a hunger for discovering successful techniques and an apparent
willingness to modify objectives to suit the techniques. The speed with which new ideas in education come and go primarily
suggest a search for successful techniques, but also indicates indecisiveness in objectives attributable as much to goal
ambiguity as to flexibility.” (Lipsky 2010, p. 41)
When the Lipsky perspective is chosen, it is because this particular framework allows us to view the street level bureaucrats
(i.e. the pedagogues) in ways that encompasses the human dilemmas and alienations which the employees face, in the
implementation of public policy. One of his most important contributions is his description of coping mechanisms, which,
according to Lipsky (2010) occurs in three ways: First of all, the street-level bureaucrats develop new patterns of practice
(routines and stereotypes), to limit the demand of their time and other resources. Secondly, they modify their understanding
of their job, to minimize the distance between goals and resources. Thirdly, they modify their understanding of the service
user(s), to make the inevitable distance between goals and achievements more edible. (Halliday et.al. 2009)
The main purpose of the research project is to understand how the pedagogues react to this new boom in externally
exposed techniques, concepts and registration/documentation demands. Can new professional strategies of the
pedagogues be identified, in light of the demand for increasing systematic approaches, centrally defined goals and the
mandatory use of centrally decided pedagogical methods, programs and concepts? What is the impact on professional ethos
and autonomy? Does this conditional change in professional performance result in a similar change in pedagogical
Publikationsdato22 aug. 2017
StatusUdgivet - 22 aug. 2017
BegivenhedECER 2017: Reforming Education and the Imperative of Constant Change: Ambivalent roles of policy and educational research - København, Danmark
Varighed: 22 aug. 201725 aug. 2017


KonferenceECER 2017