”Potensialer i ubestemmelige øyeblikk”.

Larsen, A.
Tidsskrift for Nordisk barnehageforskning, 8(4), 1-13.


The purpose of this article is to elucidate how the pedagogical staff (preschool teachers, assistant teachers and other qualified staff) at three preschools ("barnehager") address, value and show respect for the insecurity that arises in indefinable moments, but which are necessary terms for being able to make ethical assessments and choices in the pedagogical work. Indefinable moments are situations in which the pedagogical staff experience contradictory obligations and dilemmas that neither can nor have to be addressed, but which are still intertwined in the pedagogical staff's expectations and assessments, and which enable them to develop new thought patterns.



Through the two narratives, the article shows how indefinable moments create potentials for making ethical assessments and choices. These moments also raise doubts and insecurity in the pedagogical staff, which can result in contrast between the ordinary and the unique aspects of any everyday situation, but also enable development and learning.


For example, one of the narratives shows the contrast between making relationistic and situational assessments compared with more rule-based/principle-based assessments in a specific situation. A preschool teacher describes a situation in which a boy enthusiastically shows the preschool teacher how good he is at climbing up on the roof of a playhouse and back down. The preschool teacher can choose between the ethical aspect of the relational encounter – i.e. to be enthusiastic with the child – or to follow the frameworks and rules of the preschool and tell the boy that he is not allowed to climb on the roof. The situation triggers insecurity in the preschool teacher as to what is the right thing to do. Based on Derrida's perspective of indefinability, the article mentions that this situation enables, and is necessary for, ethical decisions to be made. The preschool teacher has to relate specifically to the situation, although this means that the teacher does not know what is the right or wrong thing to do. This ethical aspect of the relational encounter revolves around the unique aspect of any situation and requires each situation to be rethought.


The point of the article is that when the pedagogical staff experience such situations of indefinability in which the adult experiences a destabilisation in the relationship between the adult and the child, this allows them to discover aspects they did not see coming or had not been aware of. If the adult holds back, the child can contribute its own skills and ideas to the learning process. In this way, the child becomes an active part of its own learning and play. This opens up for an opportunity to rethink the relationship between the child and the adult, and it is possible to move away from the perception that adults are superior to children.


The empirical material of the study consists of extracts of the researcher's interviews with the pedagogical staff (preschool teachers, assistant teachers and other qualified staff) at three Norwegian preschools. All of the pedagogical staff took part in common reflection meetings. At the meetings, the staff presented written and oral narratives about situations in which in one way or another they were in a dilemma between the preschool's current practice and their own opinions. The interviews were based on narratives and experiences from everyday life at the preschool. In other words, the pedagogical staff decided what to talk about and thereby the content of the meetings. The presentation by the pedagogical staff of specific situations enabled the staff to reflect on, and rethink, the situation. The article highlights two narratives from two different people from the staff group, and discusses these narratives based on the theories of the philosopher Derrida. Derrida views indefinability and unpredictability as necessary terms for making ethical assessments and choices in pedagogical practices.


Larsen, A. (2014): ”Potensialer i ubestemmelige øyeblikk”. Tidsskrift for Nordisk barnehageforskning, 8(4), 1-13.

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