Ethnography is a qualitative methodology worthy of consideration for application in studies within the field of early childhood education. The long-term, immersive, relational nature of ethnography enables rich, detailed descriptions of the complex interactions occurring, and ongoing engagement with children, families, and teachers provides the opportunity for co-analysis of the meanings that underlie the observed activities and interrelationships. The foremost source of data for ethnographic research is the regular writing of in-depth fieldnotes over a lengthy period of time, which may be supplemented by photographs, videos, interviews, focus group discussions, and analysis of relevant documents. Issues to be considered by those intending to conduct ethnographic research in early childhood care and education settings include: their availability to be immersed in the site that is the focus of the study, on a regular basis over a long period of time; sensitivity to power dynamics between adults and children and to cultural differences; the ethical issues pertaining to gaining and maintain young children’s informed consent; and collaborating with participants, including young children, in co-analyzing the meanings underlying the data gathered. The ethnographic researcher in an early childhood care and education setting can attend to such issues through an ongoing receptivity to the messages, including body language, of participants, along with a commitment to self-reflexivity on an ongoing basis. The nuanced, culturally located understandings that are gleaned by ethnographic researchers offer potential for such research to inform policymakers in relation to delivering conditions that will enable teachers to offer high-quality, culturally responsive early childhood care and education pedagogies and programs.
Lisa Farley and Debbie Sonu
Childhood studies is an interdisciplinary area of theory and research comprised of intersecting fields that have evolved since the inception of childhood itself. Despite the pervasiveness of psychological frameworks that predominate early studies of childhood and that continue to dominate within teacher education programs, paradigmatic shifts within childhood studies have opened critical questions about the exclusive social norms, racial privileges, and unequal life chances maintained by the idea of childhood as a biologically determined and universal stage of life. Across a range of perspectives, critical scholarship in childhood studies begins with the idea that childhood is a social and historical construction tied to colonial discourses and ongoing injustices that have material effects on children’s lives. Drawing on the fields of history, sociology, postcolonial studies, psychoanalysis, and educational theory, scholars of childhood show how childhood is inextricably bound to philosophical ideals, political forces, social constructs, and emotional conflicts. In identifying and interrogating the ways that race, class, ability, gender, and sexuality affect and limit meanings of childhood, scholars open new metaphors for rethinking social life, development, belonging, relationality, and existence as such.
Self-regulation is a complex, multifaceted concept that can be described as a higher mental process oriented toward children’s (and adults’) metacognitive, motivational, and behaviorally active participation in their own learning. It includes cognitive, behavioral, social, and emotional development. It is related to several other higher mental processes, notably executive function, and the two are sometimes confused and even conflated. They are, however, not interchangeable, and it is vital to clarify both what self-regulation is and what it is not. Failure to do so may lead to confusion at practice and policy levels, and ineffective or inappropriate practice, potentially disadvantageous to young children. Self-regulation may be significant in all aspects of development, particularly in early childhood, and efforts to enhance children’s self-regulation may be among the most effective educational interventions. Interest is reflected in developments in the field of assessment, including by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and in government policy in, inter alia, England. Play, particularly pretense, problem-solving, and talk (both private speech and dialogue) are advocated as rich, naturalistic contexts for the development, support, and meaningful assessment of young children’s self-regulation. Some specific approaches to assessment are identified, notably observation and stimulated recall, in the form of reflective dialogues, including the use of video. Decontextualized assessment is suggested as a potentially less effective approach in capturing the full depth and range of young children’s self-regulatory competence.
Lisa Johnston, Leah Shoemaker, Nicole Land, Aurelia Di Santo, and Susan Jagger
The field of early childhood education and care (ECEC) in Canada has been informed by a myriad of influences and these factors continue to shift and shape the curriculum, pedagogy, research, and practice in Canadian ECEC. Historically, following many of the theories and practices embraced by the United States, early child-care centers, day nurseries, and kindergartens were established to alleviate pressures on overcrowded schools and allow for mothers to work outside of the home. At the same time, Canadian child care took on a broader role in social welfare and later social justice, working to reduce inequities and inequality. These motivations have not been shared across all ECEC, and this is particularly evident in Indigenous early education. Here, Indigenous children and families have endured the horror of the residential school system and its legacy of colonialism, trauma, and cultural genocide. Along with these underpinning histories, Canadian ECEC has been informed by, is continuing to be shaped by, and is beginning to be guided by a number of models and movements in early learning. These include developmentalism, child-centered pedagogies, Reggio Emilia approaches, children’s rights, holistic education, the reconceptualist movement, and postdevelopmentalism, and many of these approaches are not mutually exclusive. Finally, the policies and practices at federal, provincial, and municipal levels and the unique tensions between these levels of government structure Canadian ECEC policy and practice. Provincial and Indigenous early learning frameworks are created to enhance educator understandings and application of program principles, values, and goals, and these embrace responsive relationships with children and families, reflective practice, the importance of the environment and play in learning, and respect of diversity, equity, and inclusion, to name but a few shared principles. Taken together, the complexity of ECEC in Canada is clear, with historical approaches and attitudes continuing to preserve structures that devalue children and those who work with them, while concurrently efforts continue to honor the rights and voices of all children, advocate for professionalization in the field of ECEC, and reveal and reconcile past and current truths and injustices in Indigenous children’s education and care, in order to support and heal all children, families, and communities.
Fiona Scott and Jackie Marsh
The study of digital literacies in early childhood (0–8 years) is an emergent and fast-growing area of scholarship. Young children’s communicative practices are today more complex and diverse in scope than ever before, encompassing both “traditional” reading and writing and a growing range of “new” communicative competencies across multiple digital media contexts. Scholars are increasingly interested in children’s literacy practices outside traditional print-based texts, and the theory of multimodality helps them to understand children’s communicative practices in relation to a range of modes, including those present in digital technology. At the same time, the boundaries between what constitutes “digital” and “traditional” literacies are themselves blurred. Multiple academic disciplines have contributed to our understanding of children’s digital literacy practices. Numerous definitions for digital literacy or literacies exist, and scholars have proposed a range of theoretical approaches to the topic. Bill Green’s “3D model” of literacy provides a useful starting point for understanding the different dimensions of children’s digital literacy: operational, cultural, and critical. It is acknowledged that children’s digital literacy practices are specific to particular social and cultural contexts. In particular, scholars have identified important differences between accepted literacy practices in schools and early years’ settings (“school literacies”) and children’s literacy practices in a socioculturally diverse range of home settings (“home literacies”). A growing field of research is explicitly concerned with the unique skills developed at home, as children learn to produce and interpret a range of “new” digital and multimodal texts. At the same time, numerous scholars have suggested that there is still a general lack of progress with regard to early years’ practitioners’ use of technology in the curriculum. Gaps and absences in knowledge still exist, and it will be important for scholars over the coming years to continue research into young children’s digital literacy practices, both in homes and communities and across early years’ settings.