“It is not that I didn’t already know these places, but I never thought of them like this.” Methodological approaches to community research in early childhood education in Denmark
The aim of this article is to discuss how participatory methods might contribute to research concerning the development of inclusive, socially just and community-oriented pedagogical practices within the field of early childhood education, as well as contributing to shared knowledge production about relations between kindergartens and local communities. The article starts from a critique of dominant political and institutional approaches in Denmark to patterns of cooperation between kindergartens, parents, and local communities, which often in practice lead to top-down and compensatory approaches to cooperation, in which parents are expected to adapt to the agendas of the institutions. We argue that there is a need to develop alternatives to these approaches. This article explores how kindergartens might respond to the needs and views of parents and local communities, rather than the other way around. We explore this by asking what (local) communities for children and parents are and might be, and how kindergartens as significant shapers of children’s lives and experiences might create links between children’s lives inside and outside of the kindergarten. We discuss how communities, pedagogues and children might cooperate in pedagogical research processes and how such research processes affect (understandings of) children’s lives, communities, and kindergartens. Furthermore, we look at how these cooperations and insights might contribute to the development of more inclusive, community-oriented pedagogical practices. Our findings show that shared explorations of the many relations between kindergartens and communities have the potential to build more respectful and reciprocal dialogues and innovative pedagogical practices. Yet at the same time they show that this is an unfinished, imperfect endeavor that requires continuous attention to the complex and changing nature of communities, and to the closures and exclusions entailed by any community practice. Also, the findings point to an understanding of communities as performative phenomena that develop and grow through the very process of involvement and shared engagement. We argue that participatory, community-oriented pedagogical research methods should reflect these dynamics. The article describes and discusses research methods, showing how participatory research methods can deepen our understanding of the complex roles of early childhood education for children and communities, while also inspiring inclusive and community-oriented pedagogical practices.
Copyright (c) 2021 Signe Hvid Thingstrup, Karen Prins, Mikkel Boje Smidt
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