Exploring Love as a Professional Practice in Early Childhood Education: A Critical Hermeneutic Study
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This study addresses love as a professional practice in early childhood education. The practice of love is largely unspoken and takes place within a profession associated with the traditional work of women. The professional practice of love in early childhood education involves a tension between the feminist plight for equality and freedom from preconceived notions of a woman’s ‘natural’ role as caretaker, and the ever present needs of children to be loved and cared for within the predominantly female driven field of early childhood education. The study is informed by a critical hermeneutic perspective and addresses love in the context of early childhood education from three perspectives: the conceptual perspective, the socio-historic perspective and the individual meaning perspective. These perspectives are explored in light of historical and current concepts of love, Foucault’s genealogical insights and additional key literature from the field of study. In response to the conceptual perspective, three common meanings of love in the context of early childhood education were identified: unifying, empathizing and active. Additionally, multiple dimensions of love were identified: the ethical dimension, the practical dimension and the physical dimension. In response to the socio-historic perspective, I found that discourses of love from the kindergarten movement have been obscured by the authority of scientific rationalism and, in Norway, the political goal of gender equality. In response to the individual meaning perspective, I found that discourses of love from the kindergarten movement have been obscured by the authority of scientific rationalism and, in Norway, the political goal of gender equality. In response to the individual meaning perspective, I found that kindergarten teacher’s individual experiences of love involved: the kindergarten teacher’s use of her body as a pedagogic tool, the practice of child guided pedagogy, and the perceived opposition of pedagogy and love. Shared joy between kindergarten teacher and child was also found to be a key experience. When the three perspectives were considered in light of each other, it was found that scientific discourses of pedagogy that have gained authority since the kindergarten movement could explain a perceived opposition between love and pedagogy today. It was also found that love, as described in this thesis, was found to be implicit in pedagogic practices mandated in the Framework Plan for the Tasks and Content for Kindergartens (Ministry of Education and Research, 2011), which kindergarten teachers adhere to. Implications regarding the further development of the professional practice of love are discussed.
European Masters in Early Childhood Education and Care (EMEC)