Investigating child participation in the everyday talk of teacher and children in a preparatory year
Theobald, Maryanne Agnes & Kultti, Anne (2012) Investigating child participation in the everyday talk of teacher and children in a preparatory year. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 13(3), pp. 210-225.
In early years research, policy and education, a democratic perspective that positions children as participants and citizens is increasingly emphasized. These ideas take seriously listening to children’s opinions and respecting children’s influence over their everyday affairs. While much political and social investment has been paid to the inclusion of participatory approaches little has been reported on the practical achievement of such an approach in the day to day of early childhood education within school settings. This paper investigates talk and interaction in the everyday activities of a teacher and children in an Australian preparatory class (for children age 4-6 years) to see how ideas of child participation are experienced. We use an interactional analytic approach to demonstrate how participatory methods are employed in practical ways to manage routine interactions. Analysis shows that whilst the teacher seeks the children’s opinion and involves them in decision-making, child participation is at times constrained by the context and institutional categories of “teacher” and “student” that are jointly produced in their talk. The paper highlights tensions that arise for teachers as they balance a pedagogical intent of “teaching” and the associated institutional expectations, with efforts to engage children in decision-making. Recommendations include adopting a variety of conversational styles when engaging with children; consideration of temporal concerns and the need to acknowledge the culture of the school.
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