Date of Submission

16-1-2018

Abstract

This doctoral thesis is a qualitative case study of the work of six university-based infant and toddler teacher educators in Australia and Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Research literature is presented to locate the study within early childhood teacher education as a cultural phenomenon in its institutionalised form. This thesis explores issues related to status, professionalisation, and the education of teachers, who work with infants and toddlers, and reflects the growing awareness of the importance of infant and toddler curriculum in teacher education programs. Conceptually the study is positioned within Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT). This conceptual framework was chosen in order to explore the motive object of activity of the collective subject of teacher educators within early childhood teacher education. It is also acknowledged, and addressed within the thesis, that issues that are specific to the early childhood field of status and professionalisation are situated within a broader context of how relations operate between workers and employers under capital. However, in this thesis, I have used CHAT primarily as an analytic device. Each of the six participants was interviewed individually; focus conversations were also held in the two countries. Extracts from individual interviews in the other country were used as provocations in each of the focus conversations. Qualitative data analysis followed a process of iterative analysis of codes and categories. Deductive coding using CHAT concepts followed inductive analysis of further categories.

Through exploring the story of the work of infant and toddler teacher educators in Australia and Aotearoa, New Zealand it became apparent that this thesis is a continuing story of struggle, resistance and advocacy in their work (Rockel, 2013).

Findings showed that the participants in the study were involved in a series of enduring contradictions that continually frustrated the expansion of their object of activity as a collective subject, and in turn, their outcome in their activity system. Their object of activity in this activity system was to increase prominence, credibility, and acknowledgment of the needs of infant and toddler curriculum and pedagogy in early childhood teacher education, the aim being to gain their outcome, of high-quality care for infants and toddlers in extra-familial care and education in Australia and Aotearoa, New Zealand.

The findings demonstrated that the long-standing sociohistorical contradictions that the participants experienced through the early childhood field impacted on their work.

There are enduring and sedimented contradictions in the early childhood field related to an ambivalence of the presence of infants and toddlers in non-parental care and education. At the same time, as academics, they were also negotiating struggles against deprofessionalisation in teacher education. These issues eventuated post-merger of teacher education institutions from colleges of education into universities. Expectations for teacher educators changed; research outputs were required to increase without provision of any additional support.

The findings established that the participants struggled to give greater prominence to infant and toddler curriculum and pedagogy in early childhood teacher education in their work in universities in Australia and Aotearoa, New Zealand. This struggle took various forms and is evidenced by the continual silencing experienced by the participants when they engaged in advocating for greater credibility of infant and toddler curriculum and pedagogy in early childhood teacher education.

A contribution of this thesis is that it clarifies the conditions of infant and toddler curriculum and pedagogy content in early childhood teacher education in Australia and Aotearoa, New Zealand. It argues that infant and toddler curriculum and pedagogy knowledge is crucial specialist knowledge essential to early childhood teacher education programs inclusive of children from birth to five years of age, offered in universities.

A second contribution is the evidence presented to support the argument that advocacy is the way in which the participants in the study held their work together. Advocacy was a key concept within the nature of their work as infant and toddler specialists in early childhood teacher education. It is recognised that historically advocacy has been fundamental to the struggle of working against the ambivalence towards infants and toddlers in the early childhood field. Therefore, what this thesis identifies is that little has changed; advocacy continues to be the primary focus of the work of infant and toddler teacher educators as they resist the ongoing ambivalence towards infants and toddlers in the early childhood field.

School/Institute

School of Education

Document Type

Thesis

Access Rights

Open Access

Extent

279 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Faculty

Faculty of Education and Arts

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