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Acts of Pedagogical Resistance: Marking out an Ethical Boundary Against Human Technologies

Research output: Working paper

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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2020


In response to the Call for Papers, this article highlights an action research project that sparked transformation and change regarding how early years practitioners documented children’s learning. The dominant discourse of standardisation and narrowing of early childhood education, encapsulated in the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development’s ‘International Early Learning Study’ (OECD, 2017-2020), has resulted in the ‘shaping’ and testing of young children around the globe (Rose, 1999). The OECD have become very interested in early childhood education and are a ‘very influential player today’ (Moss, 2018). Consequently, the testing of young children has been instigated by governments to ensure children gain the accepted knowledge, skills and dispositions required to be a successful learner (Scottish Government, 2004). Situated within this context of testing and standardisation, this article will share knowledge gained from a small action-research project that took place in one Scottish early years setting. The study was stimulated by the early years practitioners of the setting, who strongly opposed the ‘reductionist’ formal tick-box assessments produced by their local authority. These types of didactic formal assessments suggest that pedagogy is underpinned by a desire to tame, predict, prepare, supervise and evaluate learning (Moss, 2013). The practitioners in the study contested that ‘tick-box’ assessments diminished children’s identities down to a list of judgments about their academic abilities, or lack thereof. The introduction of the ‘tick-box’ assessments presented a dilemma for the practitioners, e.g., the different views of the government and practitioners of what knowledge is worth knowing and what individuals and groups are able to learn. Many of the practitioners positioned themselves and their work as being consciously different from what was going on in the wider sector. The setting introduced a new method to capture children’s learning, which they named the ‘Lived Story’ approach. The ‘Lived Story’ was adapted from the canonical work of Margaret Carr’s ‘Learning Stories’ (Carr, 2001). In this paper, we argue that the ‘Lived Story’ approach provided a method of seeing the complexities of children’s experiences, and brought children’s entangled ‘more than human relationships’ into view; and by so doing practitioners created a space for children’s participatory sense making – the knowledge constructed from encounters between agents in the world (Haraway, 1988; Jaegher & Paulo, 2007). By using ‘Lived Stories’ we lessen the ‘surety’ of the language we use. As practitioners write Lived Stories and assess children’s progress they are freed to use language such as ‘wondering, puzzling, thinking, exploring’ as ideas on a continuum; a journey that spans a life time. This article presents Lived Stories as a form of narrative assessments which are designed to track children’s progress whilst respecting the complexity of their learning.

    Research areas

  • Early childhood, testing, pedagogical resistance, documentation, lived stories.

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