Medvirkning og handlingskraft i småbarnspedagogiske praksiser: Horisontalt fremhandlet innflytelse.

Sandvik, N.
Norges teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitet, Trondheim.


The purpose of this study is to examine how participation by daycare-centre children (barnehage) can be seen as a negotiation between the influence of different agents. The study not only views agents as children and early childhood educators, but it also views objects, nature, time, space and discourses as agents which can act. By taking this perspective, the study aims to change the understanding of children's participation in kindergarten both empirically and theoretically.


The first sub-study focusses on the pedagogy of listening and interest in child perspectives which interact with a child's right to participate. The study focusses on the idea that adults should listen to the child, and that listening can create room for child participation, so that the children's comments are not merely comments on the pedagogical practice and events, but they also help constitute the subsequent pedagogical practice.

The second sub-study deals with the methodological questions of the research project. The study illustrates how the research philosophical space (i.e. the course of the analytical process) has theoretical limitations so it is necessary to introduce a new type of theory to develop the research.

The third sub-study describes how situations and material instruments can constitute effective types of influence. The study focusses on children's play with, and around, a tricycle. Two boys use the tricycle to stand on, while it is being pulled, and a third boy wants to join in, but he if he does the tricycle cannot move. At the same time, the early childhood educators want all three boys to play with the tricycle together. The tricycle is therefore assigned different potentials, depending on who is watching, and it also encourages different types of participation, again depending on the observer. Thus, the materials (here the tricycle) become performative agents, which, in themselves, therefore exert influence on the negotiation of participation at the daycare centre. The sub-study concludes that the influence, which is based on fairness (fairness logic - e.g. that the early childhood educators want all children to take part in the game), does not quite interact with the desire that drives a given play situation. Moreover, the children's influences take effect in unforeseen ways which can inhibit the early childhood educators' control of the situation.

The final sub-study challenges the notion that being in control is an easy way for early childhood educators to engage in pedagogical processes. The situations in which the early childhood educators find themselves losing control create insecurity and doubt in the early childhood educators, but these situations also mobilise the power to regain influence.

Overall the study emphasises the strength in the influence of children, which is sometimes strong enough to destabilise the influence of adults. This is in sharp contrast to how discourses in much of the existing research literature emphasise the child's vulnerability.  Results of the study indicate a shift from viewing participation as a vertical allocation of benefits and privileges from adult to child to a more horizontal understanding which opens up for a focus on different negotiation possibilities, in which participation is negotiated through the influence of different agents. Thus the study concludes that children's participation at daycare centres is not only enabled by the pedagogical practices of the early childhood educators. Participation is also something which is enabled by the children through their own practices (e.g. around play) at the daycare centre, and something which is invited by different materials (e.g. the tricycle).


The study consists of four sub-studies which investigate different influences. It is based on a post-structuralist research approach, in which the researcher does not view structure or concepts as permanent and static aspects, but rather as changeable aspects in flux. Thus the study focusses on the construction and deconstruction of concepts.

The empirical data material consists of two oral narratives by two students on the bachelor degree programme in social education in Norway, observations of children and staff in two Swedish daycare centres with children under the age of 3, focus group interviews with three kindergarten early childhood educators and nine focus group interviews with three student early childhood educators and one qualified early childhood educator. The data were collected over a period of six months.

On the basis of the empirical data, the researcher constructs six empirical examples to illustrate the post-structuralist perspective of the philosophers Deleuze and Guattaris and - in interplay with paintings by the artist Lars Elling - challenges and develops our understanding of children's participation in daycare centres.


Sandvik, N. (2013). Medvirkning og handlingskraft i småbarnspedagogiske praksiser: Horisontalt fremhandlet innflytelse. Norges teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitet, Trondheim.

Financed by

Not disclosed