Date
15/06/2018
Grant holder
Dr Kate Hoskins, Brunel University London and Dr Sue Smedley, University of Roehampton
Project status
Completed

This project investigated the possibilities for early years educators to provide opportunities for children to follow Froebel’s philosophy of learning through play, whilst following the Early Years Foundation Stage policy agenda.

Project summary

The key aim of this project was to explore the possibilities to protect and extend Froebelian principles in practice. The principal research question is:

  1. What are the opportunities for protecting and extending Froebelian principles in practice through policy interventions?
    In addressing the key aim, the following research sub-questions have been answered:
  2. How does localism impact on enactment of Froebelian principles?
  3. How has practitioner’ early years education and training informed their understanding and enactment of learning through play?
  4. What form of policy intervention in early years practitioners’ education and/ or training could protect and extend Froebelian principles in practice?

To address the key aim, I explored the possibilities available to enact Froebelian principles in early years practice. In doing this, the project data provides qualitative insights into the contemporary enactment of Froebelian philosophy in early year’s education, the role of theory in practice, practitioner views on learning through play and their perceptions of their professional status.

The study was premised on research that argues young children learn most effectively when learning through play (Curtis and Carter, 2003: Urban, 2008: Tovey, 2013). Thus, the project investigated the possibilities for early years educators to provide opportunities for children to follow Froebel’s philosophy of learning through play, whilst following the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) policy agenda.

Next steps

The next steps for the project dissemination are to further explore and conceptualize the notion of ‘developmental professionalism’. In our publications from this project (listed below) we argue that a lot of the practice discussed in our interviews is Froebelian, even if not overtly identified as such. Thus, we argue that an alternative way forward would be through the idea of developmental professionalism.

Developmental professionalism is about taking a different, inclusive approach to professionalising the workforce that is more in the control of the practitioners and requires them to take a holistic approach to what it means to be an early years practitioner. Such an approach could enable those practitioners who are not currently compliant according to narrow governmental conceptions of what makes a successful early years practitioner within the sector to find a theoretical voice and philosophy to further underpin their practice and enable compliance with the English government’s policy agenda.

Key findings

The findings in relation to each research question are as follows:

1. How does localism impact on enactment of Froebelian principles?

  • Localism influenced access to higher education in rural, urban and suburban locations
  • The local area shaped the sorts of opportunities available for higher education with far more choice for participants in urban locations
  • Prohibitive travel time and expense to access higher education for those in rural areas

2. How has practitioner’ early years education and training informed their understanding and enactment of learning through play?

  • Play was described by practitioners as an essential part of children’s cognitive, social and emotional development
  • Practitioners think about professionalism is terms of relationships with children
  • Qualification-based divisions in early years teams
  • Capable but unqualified practitioners could be undermined

3. What form of policy intervention in early years practitioners’ education and/ or training could protect and extend Froebelian principles in practice?

  • Explicit reference should be made to the work of Froebel in BA and Level 2 & 3 qualifications, particularly ideas around learning through play.
  • Tensions between graduates and non-graduates could be eased by a policy to provide ‘developmental professionalism’ – education aimed at developing professionals from where they are in their practice.

The key findings that address the research aim are as follows:

  • Play was described by practitioners as an essential part of children’s cognitive, social and emotional development
  • Froebelian ideas were implicit in the practitioner’s pedagogical practice. Explicit knowledge of Froebel was limited

From these findings, we have developed the following government policy recommendations:

  • To strengthen the link between theory and practice by providing rigorous accessible training for all practitioners regardless of their local context.
  • Such training could take the form of ‘developmental professionalism’.

Publications

Hoskins, K. and Smedley, S. (accepted) Protecting and extending Froebelian principles in practice: exploring the importance of learning through play in Journal of Early Childhood Research

Smedley, S. and Hoskins, K (under peer review) Finding a place for Froebel’s theories: early years practitioners’ understanding and enactment of learning through play in Early Childhood Development