CHILDREN'S ENVIRONMENT IN EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION: Pedagogical work with children's environment and perspectives

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Abstract

Research topic/aimDanish Legislation prescribes that children's environment in ECE is evaluated and enhanced as an integrated part of curriculum work with reference to children's perspectives on their day care setting. During the last 10 years, ECE pedagogues have endeavored to include children in obligatory evaluations of physical, psychological and aesthetic environmental dimensions of learning and education. The present study aims to elucidate how professionals and children co-operate in order to develop 'best child environments' and further study the impact of children's perspectives on pedagogy and children's processes of 'bildung'.Theoretical frameworkChildren's environment is conceptualized with reference to Muchow's theory and environmental study: 'The Life Span of the Urban Child' (1935/78). The key idea in her research was to study the space a child lives, defined as children's space by means of children's perspectives and life praxis. She obtained access to children in their environment and combined observation with cartographies and essays produced by children, anticipating the actor-oriented aspects of socialization processes. We refer to the new paradigm for childhood sociology that considers children as active participants and worthy of social study in their own right (James, Jenks & Prout, 1998), but also call upon the fact that Danish ECE pedagogy has evolved from theory and methods dated more than 100 years back, e.g. inspired by Montessori (1917), to whom one of the most vital teaching tools were close observation in order to see a child and recognize it's intentions and support natural unfolding.Methodology/research designThe study is inspired by phenomenology and reflective life world research, defined as "an empirical research approach that allows the phenomenon to guide the research by an open and bridled attitude" (Dahlberg et al. 2008). An ethnographic field study was carried out in two different ECE institutions. Four researchers did participant observations and focus group interviews with professionals and children. Our approach is narrative, which we understand both as a phenomenon and a method (Clandinin 2013). We engage in dialogues with children and pedagogues regarding their stories of children's environment and our informers are invited to participate also in the process of analysis. Expected conclusions/findingsPreliminary findings points to a divided attention to children's environment as either a number of pedagogical tools and demands of documentation that origin in the society outside the pedagogical institution or an ancient and integrated awareness in the pedagogical culture with roots back to the last century when the first 'kindergartens' were established in Denmark inspired by Montessori and Froebel pedagogical ideas.Danish ECE pedagogues practice with reference to a double concept of 'bildung'. They navigate towards personal development of the individual child as well as neoliberal management mechanisms with focus on objectives and competencies.Danish pedagogues mention space and material conditions, psychological dimensions and to a less extent aesthetical dimensions such as play and artwork when they are asked to describe the best child environmental practice.Relevance for Nordic educational researchThe study offers practical knowledge regarding children as active participants in a Nordic ECE culture with educated staff and a yearlong tradition for inclusion of children's perspectives.
Original languageDanish
Publication date24 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 24 Mar 2017

Keywords

  • children and youth

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