Challenging or creative? Impatient or curious? Disposition discourse in the early years

RAWDING, Sarah (2018). Challenging or creative? Impatient or curious? Disposition discourse in the early years. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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Two-year olds are inherently curious about the world around them and in the absence of prior knowledge are creative in the ways they respond to new experiences. Dispositions such as creativity and curiosity can influence motivations for learning and development which in our rapidly changing society are invaluable for lifelong learning and workplace success. Although the subject of learning dispositions has gained research interest more recently, the significance of curiosity and creativity as key dispositions to very early learning and development has not been explored in relation to practice for this age range, despite the rapid growth and development taking place at this time and the obvious value of embedding positive early learning habits. It is here that this research makes a unique contribution. An interpretivist approach was taken for this research in order to generate an in-depth insider perspective. Semi-structured interviews were used to gain an insight into early years practitioner knowledge and understanding of curiosity and creativity as dispositions, to explore the ways in which they support the learning and development of two-year olds and to investigate their perspectives on the role and function of early childhood education and care. Thematic analysis was used to identify discourses that influence and frame the focus of early years practice. Initial analysis indicated a lack of awareness of dispositions and revealed strong themes around preparing young children for school in terms of academic skills and positive behaviours. To investigate influences on practice further, practitioner observations of children were analysed, and this documentary analysis was extended to include the Statutory and non-statutory practitioner guidance which both frames and influences early years practice in England. This research revealed discourses with a focus on becoming which reflects the ways that children’s learning and development is currently portrayed within the early years. Behaviours associated with dispositions such as curiosity and creativity tend to be discouraged and inhibited resulting in these necessary dispositions for lifelong learning being weakened rather than strengthened. This practice reflects the values and beliefs which frame the wider outcomes orientated education system in England. Through extending the discourses available to practitioners we can support them to develop agency through reflective practice which would in turn offer possibilities for children’s learning and development to be interpreted in more diverse ways. This would enable practitioners to adjust the focus of their practice to support the valuable process of learning and to promote dispositions which will ultimately enable children to reach their potential and become lifelong learners. This research offers a unique contribution to knowledge in the exploration of disposition discourse and practice and focuses on the little examined field of dispositions in relation to very young children and the practitioners who work with them. Models of practice have been developed to identify the ways in which practice may be enhanced providing a useful framework to support practitioners to reflect on practice.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Dunn, Karen
Additional Information: Director of studies: Karen Dunn
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2019 10:13
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2021 13:37

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