Exploring children's participation in Scottish early learning and childcare contexts through adopting a Froebelian lens
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date21/04/2024
Aksoy-Kumru, Fatma Busra
Participation is a multi-layered concept yet often conceptualised as the involvement of children in all matters affecting their lives. Enshrined as one of the human rights of children in Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), children's participation has been a key area of discussion within the childhood studies field concerning the challenges of turning participatory rhetoric into children's lived experiences across all areas of their lives and on broader issues. More specifically, exploring the lived experiences of children's participation has been subject to an ever-growing interest in the early learning and childcare field, considering the age-based and adult-centric assumptions around children's competencies to participate meaningfully in the decision-making processes. Froebelian approaches to early learning and childcare widened the discussions around children's participation through deepening understanding of children's ongoing encounters with adults taking a holistic view of childhood, learning, emotions and relationships. In a context where Froebelian approaches are being reconceptualised and on the cusp of fully and directly incorporating the UNCRC into Scottish law, this PhD research explores how children's participation is lived and negotiated by children and practitioners in Scottish early learning and childcare contexts through adopting a Froebelian lens. The study implements an ethnographic approach combining two interrelated methods of data collection: (1) online semi-structured interviews with the Froebelian practitioners from diverse nursery settings across Scotland (May 2020 – June 2020), and (2) five months of fieldwork in one Froebelian nursery context (Green Garden nursery) in Scotland which involved semi-structured interviews with the practitioners of the setting and observations of children's and practitioners' ongoing encounters and interactions (August 2020 – December 2020). The fieldwork observations were navigated through the insights gained from the interviews (conducted both before and during the fieldwork), which focused on practitioners' Froebelian perspectives on children's participation. The study illuminated that children's participation is conceptualised by practitioners under the three main themes, which are (1) listening to children's perspectives, (2) acting upon children's perspectives, and (3) active learning and development. The findings drew attention to the Froebelian vision on practitioners' conceptualisations of a unique, rights holding child whose perspectives are valued, yet also signified some ingrained beliefs about childhood playing a role in the situated realms of incorporating children's participation into the everyday decision-making processes. In this sense, the study emphasised the variations in the extent of how Froebelian approaches can be interpreted and transformed in the ongoing practice with children. Drawing on insights from Green Garden nursery, the thesis highlighted some tensions and challenges of upholding children's participation that arose in certain situations, such as sustaining children's care, maintaining children's protection, and observing and documenting children's experiences. The thesis pointed out that Froebelian approaches offer vital insights into the conceptualisations and practices of realising children's participation within the Scottish early learning and childcare contexts. However, this research calls for more attention to be paid to the nuances of Froebelian approaches, that they are not neutral tools and that they need to be accompanied by reflexive practices to certain debates and tensions to recognise children's participation as embedded in their everyday lives in an ongoing manner.