The aim of this study is to investigate and describe how, through development work in the form of an in-service training programme, preschool teachers were able to change their approach to initiatives and active participation on the part of the children, with the emphasis on a change from a negative to an affirmative approach. The study also seeks to highlight the consequences of the described change for the active participation of the children. The focus is on what this change means, how it happens, and what the basic conditions for it are. Ultimately, the thesis is concerned with how children can be empowered to become active participants in their own everyday preschool situation.
To achieve these aims, I have analysed the development work undertaken, the purpose of which was to encourage teachers to develop their responses towards children’s initiatives and towards their active participation in preschool activities. In the light of the preschool curriculum’s emphasis on the role of preschools in democratic education, I have also sought to analyse how the initiatives which children took to become active participants were made visible and described by the teachers themselves. On this basis I have attempted to interpret what a “relational” and a “punctual” approach to children can entail.
The theoretical perspectives of the study are founded on von Wright`s (2000) reconstruction of Mead’s theory and her relational perspective and intersubjective turn.
The concept of active participation is linked to democracy and to the opportunities for children to tangibly influence their everyday lives at preschool. The concept is thus also concerned with children’s rights and the role which teachers have of creating conditions to achieve those rights.
The thesis examines the concept of a child’s perspective and focuses on children’s own perspectives as a basis for teachers’ efforts to promote their active participation.
The results of the study are based on narratives created within the framework of the development project mentioned. These narratives show that, when teachers’ attention was drawn to habitual approaches which they had earlier taken for granted, those approaches could be changed in ways which they considered favourable both for their own working situation and for the children’s opportunities to actively participate. The process of change described by the teachers reflects a transition from a punctual to a relational response to the children. This process is described as an intersubjective turn.
An approach on the part of teachers which affirms children’s initiatives, and thus promotes their active participation, calls for continuous reflection, development of knowledge and an ongoing discussion of educational issues. An affirmative response to children and a way of working with them that is based on knowledge and reflection creates possibilities, while a controlling and restrained response prevents the children from becoming active participants and assuming responsibility.
Örebro: Örebro universitet , 2006. , 109 p.