Power Relations in Early Childhood Education: A Case Study of Perceptions, Space, and Place
Shifting philosophical and pedagogical stances in early childhood settings have resulted in two binarized positions, where philosophy and pedagogy are frequently understood as either child-centred, or teacher-directed practice. These stances have ontological and epistemological implications for the power relations between Early Childhood Educators and young children. Drawing from multiple theoretical frameworks, including reconceptualist theory in early childhood education, children’s geographies, and the work of Michel Foucault, in this qualitative three-phase case study I explored how power relations are enacted within one preschool classroom in Southern Ontario, and how power relations are affected when viewing the environment through the lens of place and space. Using semi-structured interviews, classroom observation, and reflective journaling with a teaching team of two Early Childhood Educators, this study sought to answer the following two research questions: first, what are the ways in which power relations are enacted within one early learning environment? Second, how do educators’ perceptions of the environment as place and space contribute to the ways in which power relations are enacted? The findings from this study suggested that power was enacted within one early childhood setting in a multitude of ways. The findings are organized under four key themes: interrelational power; regulatory power; power and temporality; and power, space, and place. The findings suggest that power is a negotiated entity between children and Early Childhood Educators, and that viewing the environment as place may encourage a reconceptualization of traditionally hierarchical power dynamics between educators and young children.