Theory and practice: Entangled Bodies

Year: 2012

Author: Sumsion, Jennifer, Jones, Elizabeth

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


The necessity to entangle theory with practice and practice with theory is a particular imperative within the context of early years education. It is not that there is an absence of theory. Rather, it is because certain theories, especially those underpinned by developmental psychology have so dominated the field that they simultaneously produce normative notions of 'the child' whilst blocking our capacity to think differently. However, to 'think differently' about education in general but especially early years education is particularly challenging within neoliberal times where the child is seen as the purveyor of economic prosperity and social stability. In the UK past and current (re)forms in early years education have and continue to be perceived as instrumental in raising standards and (measurable) student achievement. Similar perceptions are commonplace in Australia, especially in relation to escalating regimes of testing in the early years of school. This particular discourse spawns a narrow, skills based view of curriculum content (and hence learning) as well as forms of busyness that squeezes out critical and essential discussions and privileges instead a disposition to ask narrow, technical questions of the 'what works' variety. Nevertheless, in Australia, critical analyses of the recently introduced first national curriculum for the prior to school early childhood sector, the Early Years Learning Framework appear to point to an emergent and cautious optimism about its potentially transgressive possibilities. If, as Deleuze and Foucault suggest the task of 'thinking differently' involves using theory as a 'box of tools' so as to 'combat' habitual and sedimented practices, we ask: 'which theories can be put to work within the context of early years education as counter responses?' 'In what way can practitioners 'tool-up' so as to combat official orthodoxies that are predicated on normative notions of both the child and her learning? Working within the twin locations of Australia and England the two authors will illustrate some of the possibilities and repercussions - particularly the benefits - when theory is entangled with practice and practice in entangled with theory.