“A platform to leap off and jump off”: Contextualist pedagogy in a UK primary school

Alison Torn, Caroline Tobbell, Marie Potter

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    Background: Early childhood education is reflected in two dominant models; a maturationalist model based upon a child-centred philosophy and an academic model based upon a pre-determined curriculum. This paper focuses on a third model emerging from a social pedagogy little used in the UK. This contextualist model is based upon a progressive ideology, where knowledge is co-constructed within a community of learning, and draws on Vygotsky’s concept of obuchenie, which refers to the dialectical relationship between teaching and learning. Reporting on a qualitative study conducted in a Reggio Emilia inspired infant school, the paper examines this contextualist style of learning by exploring how different stakeholders experience the teaching/learning relationship in a non-traditional educational setting. Method: 10 semi-structured interviews were conducted with parents and teachers, and 6 unstructured interviews were conducted with children across three educational year groups (reception, years 1 & 2) within 1 primary school. Interview data was transcribed and analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Findings: Analysis of parents’ and teachers’ interviews revealed polarised themes of ‘education as liberation’ and ‘education as constraint’, with the concept of ‘freedom’ central to children’s cognitive, emotional and social development. This dichotomy between liberation and constraint was mediated by a third theme elicited from teachers’ interviews; ‘negotiating agendas’. Analysis of teachers’ and children’s interviews revealed common themes around ‘child as citizen’ and ‘communities of learning’. Discussion: Findings lend support to the co-construction of learning through an emergent curriculum, involving all participants engaging in learning collaborations, thus liberating teachers and children from role constraints.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusUnpublished - 9 Sept 2015
    EventBPS Developmental Section and Social Section Annual Conference 2015 - Palace Hotel, Manchester, United Kingdom
    Duration: 9 Sept 201511 Sept 2015

    Academic conference

    Academic conferenceBPS Developmental Section and Social Section Annual Conference 2015
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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