Children and teachers as Partners in Communication: Focus on Spacious and Narrow Interactional Patterns.

Bae, B.
International Journal of Early Childhood 44(1), 53-69.


The purpose of the study is to examine how relationships and communication between teachers and children create conditions for children’s right to participate, and how communication between the child and the adult contributes to everyday interactions and related processes.


The study indicates that a democratic teacher role requires respect for the children’s initiatives and experience, combined with reflection about one’s own actions and the ability to incorporate the children’s perspectives. On the basis of two contradictory interaction patterns, the author describes the different qualities of the communication between the children and teachers. These differences are described using metaphors for “inclusive interaction patterns” and for “restrictive interaction patterns”. The study shows that “inclusive patterns” open up for dialogue and create good relational conditions for children to participate in activities and voice their opinions. The author assesses that the most important characteristics of these dialogues are: the teacher’s focused attention, acceptance of mistakes, willingness to admit misunderstandings, relatively few closed-ended questions, emotional expression and a playful attitude toward the children. The study shows that this kind of dialogue makes it possible for both children and teachers to express themselves, and ensures that neither children nor teachers are locked in fixed roles. Moreover, the study also shows that the “restrictive patterns” have a tendency to lock both children and adults in fixed positions that limit the children’s participation and their ability to express their thoughts and feelings. On the basis of this, the author concludes that the “restrictive patterns” are neither conducive for children’s participation nor for a good dialogue. Finally, the author concludes that creating conditions for democratic relationships between children and teachers is a complex matter.


Data material consists of video footage of two teachers and 14 children aged between three and six in two daycare facilities in Norway over a period of almost one year. The material consists of everyday interactions between teachers and the selected children, who were recorded on video in three different situations: when eating, during circle time and during periods of free play. The children and teachers were recorded three days a month in each of the two daycare facilities.


Bae, B. (2012). Children and teachers as Partners in Communication: Focus on Spacious and Narrow Interactional Patterns. International Journal of Early Childhood 44(1), 53-69.

Financed by

The Research Council of Norway and the Norwegian Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion