Performing pedagogical professionalism: Day care pedagogues’ professional strategies within new learning régimes

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In the Nordic countries, early childhood education and care policies (ECEC) have been developed within the context of the welfare state and are often referred to as the Nordic Model. However, due to a transnational agenda of lifelong learning, the day care area is increasingly adapting to common European standards to insure quality and learning outcome - covering institutions from day care to universities (Krejsler 2012). Throughout the OECD and the EU this agenda now views learning as an answer to social challenges in terms of quality, growth and competition, and it frames how good practice in day cares may be thought, articulated and negotiated. Thus the day care policy of the Nordic countries was attached to education policy in various tempi through the 1990’ies and 00’s, while national curricula was implemented and revised. During 2016-2017 initiatives are taken for new national curricula both in Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

The pedagogue is embedded in the political reforms concerning the day care area and is seen as crucial in implementing the political aims (Karila 2012; Kristensen, 2014; Larsen, 2013). In Denmark this has led to simultaneous reforms on the day care area and the education of pedagogues, both in 2004-2006 and again in 2012-2014. The need for the pedagogue’s and other welfare professional’s “adaptation to market” may be observed across the players of the lifelong learning strategy. Both national and international studies tends to characterize the political learning agenda as homogenous like e.g. neoliberalism or New Public Management (ex. Krejsler, 2012; Moss, 2012; Seland, 2009), thus missing out the complexity of the agenda plus the fact that there may be several and potentially diverging reasonings at stake (Schmidt, 2017, 2018). In the light of Danish educational policy I seek to identify the dominant rationalities on the area of day care concerning good pedagogical practice. At the same time I wish to contribute with new perspectives on the given options for day care pedagogues to interprete themselves within the diverging reasonings of the learning agenda, using empirical examples from a given day care practice.

The paper seeks to answer the following question: How can day care pedagogues (per)form pedagogical professionalism, stretched between their own professional, ethical and pedagogical ideals and an educational learning agenda which defines what counts as good pedagogy in day cares?

The empirical study is a large body of national and transnational policy documents, which makes it possible to point out conflicting reasoning in the education policy of day care area. It also consists of transcribed recorded interviews with pedagogues from a day care institution, all based on an empirical fieldwork in a Danish municipality among leaders and pedagogues in an adjoining organizational chain of management and in a day care institution at the end of the chain (2013-2015).


The paper is inspired by various methodical disciplines like policy analysis (Wright et. al., 2013; diagnostic mapping (Kristensen & Hansen, 2014) and narratological analysis (Czarniawska 2010), all contributing with different analytic views on the empirical policy material and on the interview material.

My choice of methods is based on a meta-theoretical position beyond both Taylor and Foucault (Weir, 2009), in which pedagogical professionalism may be seen as both self-interpretation and subjectification. According to Taylor's notion of authenticity the pedagogue has a strong sense of his/her own individuality and is ethically bound to discover his/her own original way of being and recognize it as a true expression of who he/she is. In contrast Foucault argues that authenticity is a particular modern and western cultural illusion, and that modern identity can be understood only through the social categories and frameworks created by disciplining and normalizing technologies in the régimes of knowledge which the pedagogue is part of. Whereas the Taylor’ish focus on self-interpretation works as an underlying solidarity obligation and standard, Foucault serves as an important reminder not to tend to blind solidarity. The theoretical discrepancy should subject the analyses to critical suspiciousness, thereby showing how the pedagogues are subjectified while opening new spaces of self-interpretation.

The paper proceeds in three steps: At first two holistic approaches in understanding which competences the professional pedagogue must develop to face the challenges in the knowledge society are introduced: The four-part learning-concept of UNESCO (International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century & UNESCO, 1996) and the Danish market-orientated concept of competence (Kompetencerådet 1998). Inspired by these two concepts I will then create an analysis tool as a way of showing how the day care area is stretched out between a market-orientated and a democratic position. The map serves to demonstrate how these holistic approaches may be conflicting, thus placing the pedagogue in a field of tension. Then the map is used to identify how these conflicting ways of reasoning still influence education policy - like the Danish example shows. Finally the field of tension is tested by means of the empirical data from the pedagogues in order to investigate how pedagogues seem to bridge the gap while performing pedagogical professionalism.

Expected outcomes

The paper’s ambition is to contribute with knowledge of the dominant truisms and naturalized discourses concerning children and pedagogical practice that exist in day care, and examine how these conceptions may be conflicting while they work as conditioning options for the pedagogues in defining their professionalism. Using Danish education policy as an example I will demonstrate how the Nordic Model is challenged by transnational structures, at the same time coexisting with the more traditional Nordic understanding of children and pedagogy. This is particularly interesting in the light of the fact that right now the Nordic countries are preparing and implementing new curriculas which may be pulling in different directions.


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The paper is based on the PhD thesis “Original Pedagogues” (Schmidt 2017)

Author Information

Christina Haandbæk Schmidt (Presenting)University College Lillebælt, Denmark

Publikationsdatosep. 2018
StatusUdgivet - sep. 2018
BegivenhedECER 2018: Inclusion and Exclusion, Resources for Educational Research? - Free University Bolzano, Bolzano, Italien
Varighed: 4 sep. 20187 sep. 2018


KonferenceECER 2018
LokationFree University Bolzano


  • Læring, pædagogik og undervisning