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Movement and experimentation in young children's learning: Deleuze and Guattari in early childhood education
Umeå University, Faculty of Teacher Education, Department of Child and Youth education, Special Education and Counselling.
2008 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This study departs from experiences made in a setting where preschool children, teachers, teacher students, teacher educators and researchers in the Stockholm area in Sweden have been collectively experimenting with subjectivity and learning since the beginning of the 1990’s. However, during later years, questions were raised in the context of cooperative work about the changes that have been achieved so far, possibly becoming new and somewhat rigid ‘mappings’ of young children and learning. What has become the latest challenge to practice and research is finding ways of regaining movement and experimentation in subjectivity and learning. The present study sets out to contribute to these recent efforts by having as its purpose to construct the problem of how to work with movement and experimentation in subjectivity and learning in the field of early childhood education practice and research.

Through weaving together later years efforts in practice, with theoretical resources found in the French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, three decisive points are identified in order to work theoretically and practically with movement and experimentation.

The first decisive point states that the focus needs to be on process rather than position, as positioning of any kind implies detracting movement from the picture. The concepts ’micro-politics’ and ‘segmentarity’ are used, presenting movement as flows of belief and desire and as that which precedes positions, constituting the starting point of all change in subjectivity and learning. This is connected to how researchers and teachers try to latch on to children’s desires rather than trying to predict, supervise, control and evaluate them according to preset standards. It is argued that in relation to contemporary society, where governing takes place through appealing to these flows of desire, pedagogical and academic institutions need to engage in their own desiring production in order to avoid being inevitably one step behind.

The second decisive point states that one needs to admit science’s inventiveness and productiveness, rather than being confined to its critical agenda, as the latter implies that production processes of subjectivity and learning are treated as taking place separately from the undertaking of research, which can only register them, and thereby also immobilize them as effects and not as ongoing and continuously changing processes. It is demonstrated how switching to methods that recognize and account for their own productiveness and inventiveness can account for movement and experimentation. One such method is tried out through using the concept ‘transcendental empiricism’ to account for the collective, intense and unpredictable experimentation that takes place in between researchers and teachers in the above described setting. Another method is tried out through treating the empirical material in the study - pedagogical documentations of learning processes - as ‘events’. Through insisting upon a continuous production of sense in events it is demonstrated how children’s own sense production can be accessed and how this permits to keep the events in which they take part open ended and in movement.

The third decisive point concerns the dualism individual/society and states that this must no longer be treated as a cause-effect relationship, as this immobilizes subjectivity and learning and hinders experimentation, but rather one must find another logic for how to treat what takes place in between constructed and imagined entities such as individuals and societies. In an analysis of a project in a class of two years olds, the concept ‘assemblages of desire’ is used so as to describe how subjectivity and learning take on the features of ‘a relational field’, where children through their collective desires produce new realities in the classroom.

It is argued that the formalized school and research system could benefit from adding to attempts to predict, supervise, control and evaluate young children’s learning, some of the experiences that become visible in the encounter in between Deleuze’s and Guattari’s philosophy and the practices present in this study. When working theoretically and practically with movement and experimentation it is possible to access very young children’s learning in ways that might force a rethinking of the educational system.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Barn- och ungdomspedagogik, specialpedagogik och vägledning , 2008.
Doktorsavhandlingar inom den Nationella Forskarskolan i Pedagogiskt Arbete, ISSN 1653-6894 ; 15Doktorsavhandlingar i pedagogiskt arbete, ISSN 1650-8858 ; 25
Keyword [en]
preschool, subjectivity, learning, movement, experimentation, micropolitics and segmentarity, transcendental empiricism, event, assemblages of desire
National Category
Pedagogical Work
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-1861ISBN: 978-91-7264-655-1OAI: diva2:142222
Public defence
2008-10-18, Lärarhögskolan Hus D, Rålambsvägen 26D, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2008-09-26 Created: 2008-09-26 Last updated: 2010-01-28Bibliographically approved

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