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Project title: Enacting Froebelian principles in practice

Aims and objectives of the proposed research

The key aim of this project is to explore the possibilities to protect and extend Froebelian principles in practice. The principal research question is:

What are the opportunities for protecting and extending Froebelian principles in practice through policy interventions?

In addressing the key aim, the following research sub-questions will be answered:

  1. How does localism impact on enactment of Froebelian principles?
  2. How has practitioner’ early years education and training informed their understanding and enactment of learning through play?
  3. What form of policy intervention in early years practitioners’ education and/ or training could protect and extend Froebelian principles in practice?

The idea for this research emerged from the data findings from my previous project funded by the Froebel Trust (October 2013 – February 2015), which explored, through life history interviews, the family backgrounds and educational experiences of a small cohort of students who attended Froebel College in the 1950s and 1960s. The project investigated how the participants’ formative experiences impacted on their pedagogical beliefs and professional practice. I used life history interview data to argue for the importance of child centred learning and started to consider how their narratives and experiences provided a basis to argue for the need to protect and extend Froebelian principles through policy interventions. Analysis of the interview data has highlighted the centrality of the participants’ family background and educational experiences on their engagement with, and subsequent enactment of, Froebelian philosophy. The data also shed light on the significant impact of a Froebelian identity on participants’ professionalism. The proposed study will seek to identify and recommend policy interventions to protect and extend Froebelian practice through policy interventions, with a particular emphasis on the education and training received by a sample of approximately 36 early years educators. To address the key aim, I will explore the possibilities/spaces available to enact Froebelian principles in practice in contemporary early years contexts. In doing this, the project data will provide qualitative insights into the contemporary enactment of Froebelian philosophy in early year’s education, the role of theory in practice, practitioner views on learning through play and their perceptions of their professional status. The study is premised on research that argues young children learn most effectively when learning through play (Curtis and Carter, 2003: Urban, 2008: Tovey, 2013). Thus, the project investigates the possibilities for early years educators to provide opportunities for children to follow Froebel’s philosophy of learning through play, whilst following the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) policy agenda.