A cry to teach for social justice: linking early childhood education, participatory action research and children's literature

PhD Thesis


Hawkins, Karen. 2010. A cry to teach for social justice: linking early childhood education, participatory action research and children's literature. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.
Title

A cry to teach for social justice: linking early childhood education, participatory action research and children's literature

TypePhD Thesis
Authors
AuthorHawkins, Karen
SupervisorHenderson, Robyn
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages442
Year2010
Abstract

This study examined the use of children’s literature as a vehicle to teach for social justice. It was conducted in two preschool settings that provided noncompulsory,
prior to formal school years’ care in a town on the Queensland coast of Australia. Five early childhood educators, two groups of preschoolers (aged between
three and five years) and the researcher were involved in the participatory action research study which included a 10 week orientation phase and an 11 week action
research phase.

The study was underpinned by the recognition paradigm of social justice which argues that marginalisation and exploitation result from inequitable and inadequate recognition of difference. With this paradigm in mind, the study was framed within a participatory worldview, critical theory and socio-constructivist perspectives. Participatory action research aligns with these perspectives and was used in this study to produce knowledge and improve practice collaboratively in the
two preschool settings through the direct involvement of the early childhood educators as co-researchers.

Through cyclical, critically reflective analysis of weekly videotaped storytime sessions, the co-researchers found that the judicious use of children’s literature worked as an appropriate pedagogical strategy to teach for social justice. The study heightened preschoolers’ awareness and understandings of, and sensitivities to, social justice issues related to difference, diversity and human dignity
and it transformed their language regarding these issues from exclusivity to inclusivity.

The study concluded that teaching for social justice should begin in the early years and the use of children’s literature is an appropriate medium to do so. Such
pedagogy should help preschoolers to develop an appreciation of and respect for difference and diversity. A further conclusion of this study was that participatory
action research is a collaborative and socially just mode of inquiry that values and acts upon the knowledge, skills, expertise and voices of those involved to create
positive change.

Keywordsearly childhood education; teaching for social justice; children’s literature
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020500104. Human rights and justice issues (excl. law)
390102. Curriculum and pedagogy theory and development
390302. Early childhood education
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