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A Wholeness Approach to Researching Children’s Development . Mariane Hedegaard University of Copenhagen An Argumentation for Dialectic Methodology to the Study of Children in their Everyday Life. Critique of Developmental Psychology as Research Area .

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A wholeness approach to researching children s development l.jpg
A Wholeness Approach to Researching Children’s Development

Mariane Hedegaard

University of Copenhagen

An Argumentation for Dialectic Methodology

to the Study of Children in their Everyday Life


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Critique of Developmental Psychology as Research Area Development

Marx Wartofsky (1984) (philosophy) has criticised Piaget’s theory for not taking into consideration the societal conditions for child development.

  • Erica Burman (1994) (psychology) pointing out that developmental psychology has not taken societal values of development and the child’s perspective into account.

  • James, Jenks and Prout, (1998), Corsaro, (1997) (sociology) have argued that one has to consider the different conditions that different societies give for creating childhood.


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  • The aim is to formulate a methodology for studying children in their everyday life in their historical settings by using concepts that can transcend these settings

  • Inspiration come from te cultural historical tradion of Lev Vygotsky, Daniel Elkonin,

  • the phenomenological tradition of Alfred Schutz.


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Vygotsky, Elkonin, Schutz in their everyday life in their historical settings by using concepts that can transcend these settings

  • A methodology for studying children’s development in everyday settings has to use methods that are different from methods of natural science and medicine where the focus is on the description of human functioning.

  • Instead a methodological approach in line with Vygotsky, Leontiev, and Schutz theories has to focus on children’s projects, motives, intentional actions and meaning makings.


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Conditions for a dialectic research methodology in their everyday life in their historical settings by using concepts that can transcend these settings

  • The child’s perspective is important to include in a research methodology in order to be able to research how children contribute to their own developmental conditions.

  • At the same time it is also important to include perspectives that can illuminate the societal and the institutional conditions that create a child’s social situation.

  • and analysing how a child’s social situation is created in interaction between the participants in the situation through cooperation and conflict solutions.


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A model of children’s learning and development through participation in institutionalised practice


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Central concepts for a theory of children’s development anchored in everyday activities in social settings:

  • Integration of different perspectives: societal, institutional and personal

  • Developmental stages that are anchored in institutional practice

  • Developmental trajectories

  • Developmental crises

  • Norms and values of the ‘good life’


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Children’s development from a cultural-historical point of view

  • Children develop through participating in everyday activities in societal institutions, but neither society nor its institution (i.e. families, kindergarten, school, youth clubs etc.) are static but change over time in dynamic interaction between persons’ activity, institutional traditions for practice, societal discourse and material conditions. Children’s life and development is influenced by several types of institutional practice in a child’s actual social situation.



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Schutz of view

  • Schutz have formulated the difference between everyday activity and the scientific activity as a difference in rationality and logic.

  • Everyday activity never can be completely rational because human activity in everyday practice takes place within a frame of the acting person’s construction of sense making as typifications of motives, goals, means, activities and persons that are involved in the activity.

  • These typifications are always made in relation to an indefinite horizon.


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The researcher’s position and perspective in his research in collecting knowledge protocols

  • For the natural scientist there is a structure of relevance in his research material in relation to his research goal.

  • For the social scientist there is two structures of relevance, one for the people that he research and one in relation to his own research goal


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Reliability in collecting knowledge protocols

  • In a dialectic research one has to conceptualise the projects of the researcher as different from the persons being researched in their everyday activities though the researcher participate even though s/he participate directly as a partner in this activity.


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Interpretation in collecting knowledge protocols

  • Scientific thinking presupposes an image of the undeveloped homogeneous wholeness which reflects the problem areas.

  • Therefore, the scientific process has at least two main phases:

    • the first pertains to the undivided image of the problem area

    • the second constitutes the analysis of the relations of the specific objects in the wholeness of the problem area.


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Research into children’s everyday life activities in collecting knowledge protocols

  • Roger Barker: ”One boy’s day”

    • Barker focus on the different activities that together create the everyday life of one boy .

  • Susan Grieshaber “Rethinking parent and child conflict”. .

    Grieshabe focus on the power aspect in child parent relations:

    discourse regimes of truth and

    regimes of practice in particular families


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Research project: in collecting knowledge protocolschildren’s everyday life across institutional settings

  • Observing and interviewing children in home school and afterschool activites.

  • Children takes fotos so they become active and tell about what is important for them


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children’s everyday life across institutional settings in collecting knowledge protocols

  • The study seeks to capture everyday family practices in the home and community

  • Aim: To research how institutional activity in school and day-care influences children’s everyday activities at home in cooperation with parents and siblings with a focus on children’s everyday learning in families.


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Participants in collecting knowledge protocols

  • Eight focus families with children in preschool and early school age (4-12 years)

  • Denmark (4 families)

  • Australia (4 families)


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Data gathering in DK in collecting knowledge protocols

  • three periods – in the period November2006; to November 2007,

  • each period: 9-10 visits of approximately 3-4 hours

  • around 30 visits for each family and their connected institutions.


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The Fredriksberg family in collecting knowledge protocols:

  • Father (40 years)

  • Mother (40 years)

  • Louise (10 years) who is in fourth grade,

  • Line (8) in second grade

  • Esben (6) in grade zero and

  • Sara (4) is in kindergarten


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Analyse themes in the project in collecting knowledge protocols

  • The setting

  • The routines of the week

  • Pedagogy in the family

  • General activities


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Activities in collecting knowledge protocols

  • In these activities it is important to look for interactions problems and conflicts in the

  • Relation to mother and father

  • Relation to siblings at home and in the institutions outside home

  • Relation to friend at home and in school and afterschool

  • The child’s perspective:

  • What activities dominate and engage the child

  • The child’s engagements across activities

  • Transfers of engagements and knowledge and skills from home to school and vice versa from school to home


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The Fredriksberg Family’s activities in collecting knowledge protocols

  • Breakfast

  • Walking to school

  • Class activities in school

  • School breaks (Frikvarter)

  • Afterschool day care

  • Walking home

  • Homework

  • Play

  • Watching TV

  • Playing computer

  • Dinner

  • Going to bed


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2nd visit to the family in collecting knowledge protocols

  • Wednesday afternoon, 4.15

  • The homework activity

  • Mother and the four children are all gather around the table. Esben sits on her mother’s lab until she leaves the table to make sandwiches.

  • When mother leaves Esben’s initiate several provocations

  • He Play with his mother’s purse. Esben tries to provoke the obs. Kasper by picking into his mother’s purse and taking money out. The same thing that Tais did to him minutes ago, and that he objected to. The mother comes in and says he must not take her money.

  • Later he is allowed to sit on her lab and takes things out of her purse

  • Later he Talks very loud.Nobody reacts, so he comments it himself

  • Put his legs on the table but takes them down when asked by his mother


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6th visit to the Family in collecting knowledge protocols

  • Around the tea table doing homework

  • Mother asks Esben about homework (K 13) he is going to write mirror figures. Line first corrects her mother about Esben is not doing homework, (M 22).

  • Mother helps Esben then Line takes the role of helping him (the mothers role) (M 32). Mother makes Esben exercise some letters (K 27- 28, 32, 33). This goes on interfering with Louise’s and Line's homework. (M 45)Esben is now sitting on mother’s lab. At the same time she have to help Louise with her exercise of difficult words (58)


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Fokus Esben (6 year) in collecting knowledge protocols

  • Conflict with mother

  • Esben does not want to go a find his crayon in his school back and want mother to do this. The have a discussion about who have to make order in Esben’s school back (M 29-30)

  • Conflict because mother helps the other children. (K 23, M 50, K 32), Esben do not think mother pays enough attention to his letter exercises (M 50), mother concentrate on him for a while ( M 54,) but is disturbed by

  • At the same time she have to help Louise with her exercise of difficult words (58)

  • Father is coming home and all three children doing homework says they cannot concentrate (M 60)


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  • both the child’s and the researchers role and interaction as participation in the same everyday setting

  • the social situation and the child’s relation to other person’s

  • This includes the activities the child participates in and his relation to other persons and the demands and oppositions he meet in his activities

  • This also leaves us with a question of how to interpret the child’s intentions/engagements and projects


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Conditions for a dialectic research methodology as participation in the same everyday setting

  • The child’s perspective is important to include in a research methodology in order to be able to research how children contribute to their own developmental conditions.

  • At the same time it is also important to include perspectives that can illuminate the societal and the institutional conditions that create a child’s social situation.

  • and analysing how a child’s social situation is created in interaction between the participants in the situation through cooperation and conflict solutions.


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Methodological considerations as participation in the same everyday setting

  • A person’s projects are the entrance to a conception of wholeness of a person’s psychic development, where the societal condition for the institutional practice in which the child participate is included.

  • It is through the coordination of perspectives of the different projects in a person’s social situation and their variations that one can get a view into the dynamic of a person activity in his/her everyday life.


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