Power, Space, and Place in Early Childhood Education
This paper addresses early childhood educators’ perceptions on how power relations are shaped by interactions between themselves, children, and the material environment. In a qualitative three-phase case study I explored educators’ perceptions on how power relations are enacted within one preschool classroom in Southern Ontario, and how power relations are affected when educators conceptualize the environment through the perspective of space and place. Drawing on reconceptualist theory in early childhood education, children’s spatialities, and Michel Foucault’s work on power in society, I suggest that power circulates between bodies and spatialities, in the complex interactions between individuals and the physical spaces they encounter. The findings suggest that while early childhood educators may understand intuitively the demarcation between space and place, external constraints – real or perceived – are barriers to change. I argue that shifting philosophical and pedagogical stances in early childhood education have resulted in two binarized positions, where philosophy and pedagogy are frequently understood as either child-centred, or teacher-directed orientations and that troubling the binary by thinking with place can help refigure power relations between educators and young children. The conceptual distinction between thinking of early childhood classrooms as space or place is significant and I argue that viewing the environment as place is one possible way educators can reconceptualize traditionally hierarchical and binarized power dynamics between themselves and young children.
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