Participation and social order in the playground

Theobald, Maryanne Agnes (2009) Participation and social order in the playground. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


This study investigates the everyday practices of young children acting in their social worlds within the context of the school playground. It employs an ethnographic ethnomethodological approach using conversation analysis. In the context of child participation rights advanced by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and childhood studies, the study considers children’s social worlds and their participation agendas. The participants of the study were a group of young children in a preparatory year setting in a Queensland school. These children, aged 4 to 6 years, were videorecorded as they participated in their day-to-day activities in the classroom and in the playground. Data collection took place over a period of three months, with a total of 26 hours of video data. Episodes of the video-recordings were shown to small groups of children and to the teacher to stimulate conversations about what they saw on the video. The conversations were audio-recorded. This method acknowledged the child’s standpoint and positioned children as active participants in accounting for their relationships with others. These accounts are discussed as interactionally built comments on past joint experiences and provided a starting place for analysis of the video-recorded interaction. Four data chapters are presented in this thesis. Each data chapter investigates a different topic of interaction. The topics include how children use “telling” as a tactical tool in the management of interactional trouble, how children use their “ideas” as possessables to gain ownership of a game and the interactional matters that follow, how children account for interactional matters and bid for ownership of “whose idea” for the game and finally, how a small group of girls orientated to a particular code of conduct when accounting for their actions in a pretend game of “school”. Four key themes emerged from the analysis. The first theme addresses two arenas of action operating in the social world of children, pretend and real: the “pretend”, as a player in a pretend game, and the “real”, as a classroom member. These two arenas are intertwined. Through inferences to explicit and implicit “codes of conduct”, moral obligations are invoked as children attempt to socially exclude one another, build alliances and enforce their own social positions. The second theme is the notion of shared history. This theme addresses the history that the children reconstructed, and acts as a thread that weaves through their interactions, with implications for present and future relationships. The third theme is around ownership. In a shared context, such as the playground, ownership is a highly contested issue. Children draw on resources such as rules, their ideas as possessables, and codes of behaviour as devices to construct particular social and moral orders around owners of the game. These themes have consequences for children’s participation in a social group. The fourth theme, methodological in nature, shows how the researcher was viewed as an outsider and novice and was used as a resource by the children. This theme is used to inform adult-child relationships. The study was situated within an interest in participation rights for children and perspectives of children as competent beings. Asking children to account for their participation in playground activities situates children as analysers of their own social worlds and offers adults further information for understanding how children themselves construct their social interactions. While reporting on the experiences of one group of children, this study opens up theoretical questions about children’s social orders and these influences on their everyday practices. This thesis uncovers how children both participate in, and shape, their everyday social worlds through talk and interaction. It investigates the consequences that taken-for-granted activities of “playing the game” have for their social participation in the wider culture of the classroom. Consideration of this significance may assist adults to better understand and appreciate the social worlds of young children in the school playground.

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ID Code: 29618
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Danby, Susan & Ailwood, Joanne
Keywords: child participation, social order, early years, ethnomethodology, conversation analysis, talk-in-interaction, social interaction, competence, children, playground, childhood, sociology of childhood, school, video, video-stimulated conversations, accounts, children’s perspectives, disputes, telling tales, ideas, ownership, pretend, moral order, shared history, code of conduct, play, children’s activities, early childhood education
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 12 Jan 2010 05:40
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:54

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