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Title: Deconstructing 'readiness' in early childhood education
Author: Evans, Katherine Louise
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2016
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In the context of early childhood education, in England and internationally, ideas and practices of ‘readiness’ have been of interest within research, policy and practice for some time. Much critical research, scholarship and activism has focused on exploring developmental aspects of this phenomenon arguing for: more ‘appropriate’ standards of ‘readiness’ against which to judge children’s learning and development; closer relationships between schools, preschools and communities that produce culturally responsive concepts of ‘readiness’; and the critical examination of the relationship between early childhood and compulsory school education. Within this body of work there is significant emphasis on developing and articulating alternative ideas and approaches that can unsettle dominant, normalizing practices of teaching and learning. Within these critical explorations of ‘readiness’ however, there is an avenue of scholarship that, seemingly, is as yet unexplored – one that addresses the concept of ‘readiness’ itself and asks how it may be possible to conceptualize ‘readiness’ in a way that is consistent with, and responsive to, complex processes of teaching and learning. This is not just a shift in practice, or in policy narratives, but is an ontological and epistemological change – a reconceptualization of ‘readiness’ that takes as its starting point a fundamental assumption of the positive and productive force of difference, in learning and in life. This thesis explores the ontological and epistemological shifts required to move away from ideas of ‘readiness’ that attach progression to a mechanistically linear movement. It develops and articulates an approach that embraces the emergent and unpredictable nature of learning, from which a concept of ‘readiness’ emerges which works with open, non-linear and emergent dimensions of education as necessary aspects of the complex systems within which we work. The thesis works with the concept of a ‘diffractive methodology’, exploring the concept of ‘readiness’ through ideas and theories drawn from complexity theory, from the immanent philosophy of Deleuze, and Deleuze and Guattari, and through onto-epistemological ideas of materiality and the entanglement of matter and meaning explored in particular by Barad. Methodologically, this study works within the space opened up by recent developments within ‘post-qualitative’ approaches to research. Working with concepts of ‘sensation’ and ‘affect’ it engages critically with often taken for granted concepts and practices such as: assumptions concerning empirical/theoretical research; ideas of ‘data collection’ and ‘data analysis’; and the production of knowledge in and through experience. Deleuzian philosophy (among other influences) is approached in this methodological context as an open system, as opposed to a totalizing structure. Concepts including ‘sensation’ and ‘affect’ are approached as potentialities, the methodological value of which is affirmed through the ways in which they have been productively put to work in the context of this study in order to produce spaces in which it is possible to think and act in ways that challenge conventional structures. What is developed in this thesis is a concept of ‘readiness’ as an ‘active-affective-ethical-relation’, as opposed to a fixed and normalizing identity. It is argued that, through this reconceptualization of ‘readiness’ as a central concept within early childhood education, other taken for granted concepts are unsettled, in particular ideas and practices of assessment. In exploring these concepts, the original ideas produced within this thesis, in relation to both early childhood education and research methodology, aim to contribute to the creation of more ethical and inclusive spaces of early childhood education and educational research.
Supervisor: Osberg, Deborah Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Early childhood education ; Readiness ; post qualitative methodology ; Affect ; Assessment