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Queering Child Development (Essay Sample)


THIS SAMPLE WAS ABOUT Using a real-life case studY TOlanalyse the issues that arise when dominant views of development are established in knowledge and practice. By critically discussing how an alternative perspective can challenge dominant views of development, I analyseD the need for ethical practice when supporting children’s development.


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Queering Child Development Case Study
Early childhood educators critique dominant discourses of early childhood education by arguing that they reinforce power relations rather than address children's unique needs. This case study aims to identify, analyse, and challenge a dominant view of development and link it to ethical practice in early childhood education based on the Gov.UK Ofsted (2017) case study, Bold Beginnings. The report reviews the performance of Reception Year and the extent to which the school curriculum prepares children aged between four and five for the rest of their education. The first section of the paper will define the concepts of 'discourse' and 'dominant discourse' and critically discuss developmentalism as a dominant discourse and its application in child development with specific reference to the Gov.UK Ofsted (2017) case study.
The second section of the paper challenges developmentalism as a dominant discourse in early child education by identifying post-colonialism as an alternative discourse. The postcolonial theory will be explored to identify some dominant discourse ideas that will be used to form arguments against using dominant discourses to inform early childhood practice. Notably, examples from the Bold Beginnings report will be used to back up arguments against developmentalism as a dominant discourse.
The third section will define and differentiate ethical and technical practice and reflect on the challenges involved in practicing any view of development. By using the Bold Beginnings report, this section demonstrates the importance of ethical practice in meeting the unique needs of children during the Reception Year.
Section 1: Developmentalism as a Dominant Discourse
The word 'discourse' refers to spoken or written communication that starts a lengthy discussion or debate. Smeyers and Depaepe (2016) explain that discourse is an awareness of social influences on language use. The context and part of the society in which a particular language is practiced define a discourse. Macnaughton (2005) also describes discourse as something that groups together ideas on a specific issue. Therefore, a discourse is an individual view influenced by the environment in the social world. Moss (2019) further notes that dominant discourse is established when most people perceive the truth of an idea, communicate and act on it, leading to the unpopularity and unfamiliarity of other narratives. Notably, a discourse becomes dominant when taken up by powers such as influential societal institutions with the most significant influence and control over the wider population. However, Moss (2019) notes that a discourse could also have harmful consequences to child development due to socialisation that promotes dominant discourses. An example of dominant discourse is that teachers should adhere to the established curriculum to influence children's school readiness and progress successfully.
Developmentalism is a dominant discourse in education that defines educational practice. According to Neaum (2019), developmentalism refers to what is expected from children according to stages of development and age. This approach is both beneficial and challenging in education practice since it creates tensions that children should meet particular learning goals by the end of nursery and reception. Schools use sequences and patterns to assess and measure a child's developmental milestone. This discourse is beneficial because it allows professionals working with children to understand their needs and abilities and identify their concerns about progress. However, developmentalism is a dominant discourse in education that supports the notion of the universalism of children's development (Burman 2016).
For this reason, professionals that work with children are likely to marginalise or allocate different treatment to children that do not fit the 'normal development' category. Additionally, this discourse fails to consider social-cultural factors that influence a child's developmental milestones (Smeyers and Depaepe 2016). Thus, discourse can change if alternative views are developed, and the truth is established.
Developmentalism has become a truth in education practice because the discourse has been reinforced through theories and practice. Smeyers and Depaepe (2016) note influential psychologists, such as Piaget, Erikson, and Freud, have significantly affected children's perception and the design of school programmes and curricula for young children. Notably, other influential researchers like Froebel, Pestalozzi, and Rousseau were instrumental in influencing education practice according to human development through their conceptual frameworks (Neaum 2019). Case in point, Froebel founded Kindergarten in 1840 and conceptualized early childhood and later childhood that are distinguished by a child's developmental milestones (Smeyers and Depaepe 2016). Besides theories and conceptual frameworks, developmentalism became a dominant discourse by implementing educational policies, curricula, and programmes that govern education practice. The EYFS is an example of a statutory declaration that mandates all school institutions to ensure that children meet the set developmental milestones (Gov.UK Ofsted 2017). These practices are often guided by theoretical knowledge and perspectives such as positivism and paradigms. However, Gupta (2015) emphasizes the importance of considering alternatives to developmentalism discourse to overcome the notions of the universalism of developmental stage and maturation. For instance, cultural psychologists counter the universalism notion of development by arguing that culture defines the context within and into which a child develops, meaning that their developmental pathway is not fixed (Lee and Vagle 2010). Thus, it is essential for dominant discourses to encourage flexibility and openness to education practice.
The Gov.UK Ofsted (2017) report demonstrates why adopting a dominant discourse can be problematic. For instance, most teachers from successful schools reported that school readiness entails observation, which is not always the best way to assess a child's development and learning progress, as the EYFSP stipulates. They noted that the best assessments were taken when they were teaching because they could gather information about a child's knowledge of numeracy and literacy abilities. Therefore, they combined observation with other assessment methods such as standardised tests, screening, and informal teacher assessment. This school readiness discourse contradicts the dominant discourse of observation adopted by EYFSP, positing that observation is the most effective way of gathering information about a child's development and learning status (Gov.UK Ofsted 2017). Therefore, these teachers understand they cannot make an accurate conclusion about a child's development by only using observation as an assessment tool.
Section 2: Challenging the Dominant View
Debate on alternative discourse has increased in the recent past after realising that childhood developmentalism still relies on outdated developmental theories with a universalism perspective. On the contrary, postcolonial research critiques universalism assumptions and emphasises no single path to childhood development (Wolff 2017). The postcolonial theory examines the impact and the continuing legacy of the European conquest. The theory attributes dominant discourses to the European's superiority over other cultures (Viruru 2005). The European dominion over no-Europeans gave them the power to establish how knowledge, information, beliefs, and values are structured to develop dominating meanings that could be applied to school practice (Wolff 2017). Therefore, the postcolonial perspective is an alternative discourse that challenges the unquestioned Eurocentric discourses on child development. For instance, post-colonialists provide alternative ways that children should grow, develop, and learn to the dominant child development discourses. However, Gupta (2015) explains that the adoption of postcolonial discourses is very slow since the dominant ones are deeply embedded into the societal institutions. Case in point, postcolonial discourses have not been widely accepted in education since these studies threaten dominant truths established many years ago by the colonialists, including scholars and educators.
Notably, post-colonialism is used to demonstrate the effect of dominant discourses on child development. According to Viruru (2015), post-colonialism ideas inspire a more positive approach, for example, the ''unstable and contingent result of a situated encounter'' (p5) this offers us a view of childhood as something that has to be thought about in the social and cultural contexts. For example, researchers and educators have always used dominant learning theories to explore language development. However, post-colonialists have established the influence of sociocultural factors in individual differences in language development (Wolff 2017). Gupta (2015) further notes that the 'postcolonial framework' allows practitioners to examine the interplay between dominant discourse and child development, allowing them to have a better understanding. This alternative discourse encourages scholars and educators to look beyond the Eurocentric notions of child development to effectively identify and address children's developmental needs. Therefore, post-colonialism suggests a change in perspective. The dominant discourses that colonization developed are applied in practice through othering, c...

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