Parent conceptions of their role in early childhood education and care : a phenomenographic study from Queensland, Australia
Irvine, Susan (2005) Parent conceptions of their role in early childhood education and care : a phenomenographic study from Queensland, Australia. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.
Over past decades, the face of Australian early childhood education and care (ECEC)has changed substantially. It has been shaped by two dominant policy discourses: the discourse of market theory, and, more recently, the discourse of parent and community participation. The intertwining of these two seemingly opposing
discourses has led to the positioning of parents both as consumers of ECEC and as participants in ECEC. Each of these perspectives promotes a particular way of fulfilling the role of parent in ECEC. Reflecting general marketing principles, the primary role of parent as consumer is seen as selecting the right service for their child and family. In contrast, while arguably more ambiguous in meaning, the role of
parent as participant promotes a partnership approach, and, increasingly, parental
involvement in decision making at both service and public policy levels. Each of
these roles has been constructed for parents by governments and policymakers, with
little reference to the views and experiences of parents using ECEC.
Seeking to address this gap in the ECEC knowledge base, the present study investigated the qualitatively different ways in which parents constitute their role in Australian ECEC. The study focused on two related aspects of the role of parents: (1) the role of parents in using ECEC services; and (2) the role of parents in shaping ECEC public policy. To describe these roles, as viewed and experienced by parents, and to reveal possible variation therein, the study engaged a phenomenographic
research approach (Bowden & Walsh, 2000; Marton & Booth, 1997).
Twenty-six parents participated in the study. Data were gathered through semistructured
interviews with individual parents and subjected to a rigorous process of phenomenographic analysis. The study results are presented in two parts. With respect to the role of parents using ECEC, the study led to the construction of five
categories of description, denoting five distinctly different ways of seeing and
experiencing this role. The role of parents was seen as: (1) selecting and using the
best service for their child (the service user conception); (2) knowing what's happening for their child in the service (the informed user conception); (3) paying for a service, and, thereby, enacting certain consumer rights (the consumer conception); (4) supporting their selected service and having some say in what happens for their child at the service (the partnership conception); and (5) working as a member of the service community for the benefit of all concerned, which includes participating in
decision making (the member of a service community conception). Taking a broader
perspective, the study again revealed variation in how parents constituted their role in
shaping ECEC policy, leading to the construction of four categories of description.
The role of parents was seen as: (1) no role in shaping ECEC public policy (the no
role conception); (2) being informed about policy that affects their child and family,
raising any concerns and/or seeking a change to current or proposed policy (the
raising concerns conception); (3) having some say in policy matters that affect their
child and family (the having some say conception); and (4) participating in policy
decision making, particularly where this is likely to affect their child and family (the
participating in policy decision making conception).
The study highlights variation in how these roles are constituted by parents, inclusive
of the basic concepts of parent as consumer and parent as participant. In addition, the
study offers an insider perspective on these two "dominant common-sense understandings" (Vincent & Martin, 2000, p. 2) of the role of parents, prompting questions about their future in ECEC policy. As an example of "developmental
phenomenography" (Bowden, 2000b, p. 3), the study also identifies factors perceived
by parents as influencing their participation at various levels, and discusses implications for both policy and practice. Finally, the study extends the general phenomenographic area of interest, from education to public policy research. Within this area, phenomenography is seen to offer a useful and pragmatic research tool, facilitating the identification and consideration of different constituent views and
experiences, and, thereby, signifying more possible options for action.
Impact and interest:
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|Item Type:||QUT Thesis (PhD)|
|Supervisor:||Farrell, Margaret & Tayler, Collette|
|Keywords:||Early childhood education and care (ECEC), parents, participation, policy, Australia, phenomenography, variation, conceptions, categories of description, outcome space|
|Divisions:||Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
|Department:||Faculty of Education|
|Institution:||Queensland University of Technology|
|Deposited On:||03 Dec 2008 03:57|
|Last Modified:||28 Oct 2011 19:44|
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