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.
The field of transnational childhood and education emerges under intensifying mobilities. These global conditions disrupt universalist educational treatments of childhood as a fixed developmental stage of human being. Transnationality shows childhood to be a psychosocially constructed experience that takes myriad form across diverse cultural, historical, educational, and political contexts. The lives of actual children are caught in colonial and national constructions of childhood and subject to its discourses, politics, and normative enactments through public schooling. The emerging field of transnational childhood and education represents a potentially critical intervention in colonial and national enactments of childhood worldwide. Despite interdisciplinary efforts to reconceptualize childhood, Western educational institutions continue to hold to and reproduce hegemonic and colonial understandings of childhood as monocultural, heteronormative, familial, innocent, and protected. Mass global flows of people, culture, and ideas compel policy-makers and educational experts worldwide to consider transnational childhood as the dominant situation of children in and across multicultural nations. The fluidity of malleable childhood experience is poised to generate new educational arrangements and innovations. Transnational lives of children de-stable normative categorizations and fixed situations placed upon children in and through the mechanisms of early childhood education and national schooling. Researchers of transnational childhood and education engage a range of educational experiences and arrangements of children moving within, across, and outside of formal and national schooling institutions. Increasingly children and families are caught in experiences produced by global, geo-political conditions including: war, forcible migration, detainment on borders, internal colonization, and environmental catastrophe. To respond to the times, families and communities seek out and/or are forced to provide opportunities and alternatives for children outside of school. Increasingly children use emergent digital and other forms of remote and inventive means of education. As research in this area is new, transdisciplinary, and ground-breaking, the study of transnational childhoods and education has the potential to radically innovate and deepen the meanings and possibilities of both childhood and education in a rapidly globalizing, uncertain, and changing world.
Radhika Viruru and Julia C. Persky
Although there have been attempts to relate postcolonial theory to teacher education, those attempts have been somewhat limited. Analyses of the corpus of research on teacher education reveal a focus on defining how to become a teacher, how to judge whether what teachers are doing is effective, how to ensure that theories of learning guide what teachers do, and how to ensure that the teaching profession becomes more diverse and more like the population of children they teach. Although these areas are certainly important, what is striking are the losses they conceal and the absences that are revealed. Postcolonial theory has offered powerful commentaries on how most of the world has yet to engage with its colonial past and with endemic issues such as racism. Issues such as how the production of knowledge has been carefully restricted and defined to privilege Western ideologies, the creation of binaries that have systematically marginalized groups of people, the marriage of racist and colonial ideologies, and the creation of institutional structures such as schools that have imposed flawed knowledges on children have yet to be widely acknowledged in teacher education research.
Richard E. Tremblay
Most studies conducted on the development of antisocial behavior focused on school children and attempted to understand how children learn to steal and aggress others. Results from longitudinal studies that were initiated in early childhood show that children do not learn to bully, physically aggress, and rob from their environment. These longitudinal studies show that antisocial behaviors are most frequent during early childhood and that children learn from their environment not to bully, not to aggress, and not to rob. In other words, young children are socialized by their environment. Those who do not learn well enough to control these natural tendencies are rejected very early in their development by their environment, unless they are living in an antisocial environment. The further advance of this research area will require that the next generation of researchers integrate theories and methods from the biological, psychological, and social sciences because the development of antisocial behavior involves complex interactions between biological, psychological and sociological causal factors. The lack of an integrated bio-psycho-social perspectives has been a major weakness of research in criminology up to now. Future research needs to concentrate on two central questions: (a) Why a minority of young children fail to learn to inhibit antisocial behaviors, and (b) how we can help these children learn alternatives to antisocial behavior. Valid and effective answers to these questions will come from randomized control trials which target at risk families with intensive and long term preventive interventions during early childhood, preferably at the start of a girl’s first pregnancy, with follow ups until the at risk children have become adults and are having their own children.