Preschool’s new suit: care in terms of learning and knowledge.

Löfdahl, A.
Folke-Fichtelius, M.
Early Years 35(3), 260–272.


The purpose of this study is to examine how the notion of care is implicitly expressed in work on documentation at Swedish preschools. The following research questions were addressed: How do teachers enact pedagogy in relation to documentation work; how do they handle visibility requirements; and which aspects of the teaching profession are exposed, and which are silenced.



The results show that the notion of care was primarily articulated in four different ways in the preschool teachers’ documentation work. Firstly (1) teachers talk about care as a core activity which is felt to be stressful and sometimes physically demanding. For example, one teacher says that parents are often very concerned with care in the sense of food, sleep, going to the toilet etc., and this puts pressure on teachers when documenting care at the preschool. Another preschool teacher talks about care as simply childminding in situations when a teacher has to look after more children than the children in the teacher’s own playroom group. Secondly (2), care is articulated as a stable and positive approach, for instance a close relationship with the children. In this understanding, the notion of care is considered as a matter of course which is taken for granted and forms a natural part of daily work. Therefore, in relation to documentation of tasks, care may be invisible. Thirdly (3), the teachers talk about care as something which is not planned and which has no specific purpose. In relation to documentation, a manager states that documentation primarily concerns planned activities, and that the notion of care is therefore absent from the documentation work. Finally (4), care is articulated as a learning activity, e.g. teaching children to put on their own clothes while taking into account the child’s development and how much time the child needs.

Furthermore, the study shows that when care is felt to be physically and mentally stressful, the preschool teachers use two different strategies to handle the stress. The authors refer to these strategies as the escape strategy and the transformation strategy. Examples of the escape strategy are when teachers withdraw from situations which are physically demanding, and when they talk about care using other concepts, such as 'childminding'. The transformation strategy is applied when the teachers talk about trivial daily tasks as learning and knowledge processes.

Based on the results, the authors conclude that the way preschool teachers and managers address care is primarily related to planned and targeted activities, and that preschool teachers and managers talk about care, but find it difficult to express the care aspect in words. This also implies that care is an elusive concept in documentation work, and that it is difficult to document the significance of care in daily work.


Data was collected at preschools in two Swedish municipalities in 2013. The empirical material of the study is based on observations of staff meetings and interviews with preschool teachers and preschool managers. A total of nine preschool managers and two preschool teachers were interviewed, and in addition to this, the researchers participated in meetings and discussions with 14 preschool teachers and two managers. All participants were women. Notes and sound recordings were then transcribed and rewritten before the material was used in a thematic content analysis.


Löfdahl, A. & Folke-Fichtelius, M. (2015). Preschool’s new suit: care in terms of learning and knowledge. Early Years 35(3), 260–272.

Financed by

The Swedish Research Council