Embodying Bernstein: early years learning (EYL), social class and the corporeal device

2016-02-04T10:09:09Z (GMT) by Julie Stirrup John Evans
Drawing on data from an ethnographic study of three Early Years learning (EYL) settings in central England, the paper explores how ‘knowledge of the body’ is produced, transmitted and received through various forms of play within EYL and how this is related to educational, social class and cultural inequalities. Specifically, it explores how identities are constructed via intersections of the pedagogic and corporeal devices (PD~CD) and how these intersections give shape to pedagogy when mediated through practitioners’ interpretations of children’s families and the knowledge they bring to the setting. Following Bernstein we illustrate how social interactions and transactions that characterise teaching/learning contexts at the micro level of EYL classrooms are expressions of power (classification) and control (framing) relations between subjects, discourses and spaces. Bernstein provides a conceptual framework for not only articulating transactions that define the nature of body pedagogies, in Early Years learning (EYL) settings, but also of describing and analysing them in ways which connect micro and macro social processes, while foregrounding issues of power and control. The pedagogic device (PD) provides the primary structures which underpin school pedagogies and convert knowledge into classroom talk. However, whilst it offers a way to explore the relationships between recontextualised knowledge, organisations, identity and pedagogy, it perhaps underestimates the role of embodiment in the process. Arguing that discourses are mediated for individuals through their material bodies, we invoke the notion of a corporeal device (CD) (Evans et al (2008, 2012) to focus on the body, not just as a relay of messages (other than itself), but rather as a voice ‘of itself’. The CD draws attention to how biology, culture and class intersect to create “an internal grammar or syntax” which regulates but cannot control, embodied action and consciousness. The analyses will prompt discussion as to how intersections of the ‘pedagogic’ and ‘corporeal’ device shape the corporeal realities of young children and their developing sense of self in relation to social class and culture.