Loughborough University
Thesis-2015-Stirrup.pdf (1.33 MB)

Early Years Learning (EYL) and embodiment: a Bersteinian analysis

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posted on 2015-04-15, 10:15 authored by Julie Stirrup
This thesis is concerned with developing our understandings and knowledge of children within Early Years Learning (EYL) and the importance of movement and play in processes of social class and cultural (re)production. The ways in which parents from different social classes are involved and invest in their children s education and physical activity have been researched quite extensively. This research therefore looks at the nature of transactions and interactions within EYL settings and the influence social class and parental investment has on children s embodiment, knowledge construction and learner identities. The study pays particular attention to how social inequalities are produced and reproduced within EYL through differences in its organisation, curriculum structures, pedagogical interactions and transactions. Data were collected over a ten month period of sustained critical ethnography in three socially and culturally diverse EYL settings in central England through observations and informal conversations. The collected data were first analysed ethnographically to determine the organising categories and concepts of the setting, while second order analyses brought into to play the researcher s sociological interests in questions of equity, social reproduction and control, imposing another layer of questions on the study. A Bernsteinian theoretical lens was adopted to interrogate the transactions within EYL settings in relation to power and control, while those of others (namely habitus , physical capital and the corporeal device - pace Bourdieu, Shilling, Evans and Davies respectively) were used to embellish such understandings and bring processes of embodiment to the fore. The findings illustrate the complexity of the discourses and practices that children negotiate when re-contextualising knowledge and constructing their learner identities within EYL settings. They also reveal how children learn about their own and others bodies through the various forms of play that feature in EYL settings and that these processes are profoundly class related. At the heart of the thesis lies the claim that extant social class hierarchies and ability differences are sustained rather than eroded or lessened through the structure, organisation and transactions of EYL settings. Finally, recommendations are made as to how UK Government policy relating to EYL might begin to promote pedagogies that enhance the potential for greater social mobility in the UK.





  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


© Julie Stirrup

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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