Editors’ Note – Studying: An Invitation to Early Childhood Education

Our conversation with Dr. Walter Kohan emerged from a conference that he had convened alongside colleagues at Center for Philosophies and Childhoods of the Rio de Janeiro State University on the theme of study that Fikile attended. The conversations and facilitated place encounters (what Walter describes in the interview as errant exercises) in the conference struck Fikile as highly pertinent to the work of a pedagogist. For instance, we engaged in practicing and co-theorizing study as collective, relational and improvisational – in relation with human and more than human co-participants. We engaged in place encounters that provoked dialogues on the “where of study” including the mattering of place, time, space, slowness, movement and their affective resonances in collective study. The conversation with Walter included in this issue also takes up how questions of context, time and movement are inherent to study; including in holding possibilities to resist current neoliberal and neocolonial conditions of life both within and beyond institutional contexts. In this discussion, Walter provides us with thought provoking orientations for the mattering of study in working as pedagogists concerned with early childhood pedagogical orientations that imagine, enact and nurture more livable, relational worlds alongside early childhood educators.

The conversation between Dr. Kathleen Kummen and Barbara Pytka – who are both immersed in pedagogist work within the context of the education of future early childhood educators – shares resonances with Walter’s interview in that both are concerned with noticing the ways in which current neoliberal conditions impact education. The authors speak to the striations of conceptualizing educational study through a focus on measures, assessment and productivity. Kathleen and Barbara speak to this specifically in relation to pressures faced by college professors seeking to undertake in-depth pedagogical work with future early childhood educators amidst neoliberal constraints. This conversation is an important reminder that pedagogists’ work necessitates navigating the complexities and contradictions of becoming a subject within conditions marked by hyper-individualization of systemic conditions. What might become possible from carefully attending and responding to responsibility, desire, and anxious subjectivity (de Lissovoy, 2018) as onto-epistemologies that intimately shape pedagogical work with early childhood educators?

Lindsay Sparkes’, a pedagogist with the Pedagogist Network of Ontario, article in part speaks back to the preceding question within the situated context of a pedagogical inquiry on food waste. The article makes visible the work of a pedagogist in supporting educators in situated food waste curriculum-making that enacts a turn away from neoliberal individualized, human-centric responsibility and consumptive desire in waste relations (see also Pacini-Ketchabaw & MacAlpine, 2022 ). Important aspects of this interruptive immersion in waste relations include paying attention and responding collectively where children, educators, food, critters and more are all active participants. It is also interesting to notice the multiple ways in which this article intersects with Walter ’s theorizations of temporality, childhoods and study (see our conversation in this issue). For instance, Lindsay writes about pedagogical engagements with interconnected human/more-than-human temporalities that involve slowing down and attuning to children’s affective relationalities. Perhaps then this work at London Bridge Children’s Centre, as narrated by Lindsay, shares resonance with expansive understandings of study that embrace multiple inter-disciplinary, planned, emergent and speculative forms of knowing and becoming-with human and more-than-human relations.

The final article in this issue is a conversation between three pedagogists with the Pedagogist Network of Ontario, Gabrielle Warren, Danielle Wittick and Lisa Johnston on the material-discursive complexities of enacting and conceptualizing care as pedagogists in early childhood education contexts. This discussion touches on many important considerations. For instance, it underlines how discourses of professionalization can commodify care, and points to the importance of viewing care in expansive ways beyond individual acts. The expansive view of care that Gabrielle, Danielle and Lisa share includes foregrounding mutual constellatory relations, of which the more-than-human is an intrinsic part. Importantly the conversation reminds us that early childhood education is also a space at which to notice and collectively respond to organized abandonment (Gilmore, 2020) under current neoliberal, colonial and capitalist conditions. They ask, for instance, how might the work of an early childhood pedagogist engage with an orientation that resists reproducing colonial care? What might it look like to work alongside refusal as a form of care or to enact, as Christina Sharpe (2018) reminds us, care as shared risk? We see these questions, alongside all of the offerings in the issue, as generative openings for situating pedagogist work within current challenging times – times that demand both deep study and collective response.

Thinking with Waste

Lindsay Sparkes (RECE) is Pedagogist with the Pedagogist Network of Ontario at London Bridge Childcare Services.

Across the world there are stories about waste problems, calling humans to take drastic action by recycling, reusing and reducing waste. However, many of these actions don’t solve the problems, they simply create new ones. In early childhood education, we have a tendency to find quick fix solutions to these challenges that make us feel like good citizens or stewards of the earth. These include recycling with children, banning of single use plastics, engaging in repurposing activities, and so on. 

As a pedagogist implicated in this work for the past 5 years, I have been wondering how I might challenge some of these managerial approaches to the current climate crisis: What if, instead of quickly finding solutions, we rethink our response(abilities) to the growing waste crisis? With educators and children, and researchers in the Climate Action Childhood Network, I am engaged with this question. Using common worlds pedagogies (e.g., Blyth & Meiring, 2018; Iorio, Coustley, & Grayland, 2017; Lakind & Adsit-Morris, 2018; Nxumalo, 2016; Pacini-Ketchabaw & Nxumalo, 2015; Taylor, 2013, 2014, 2017; Taylor & Giugni, 2012), we are shifting our responses to human-induced ecological instability. Rather than focusing our actions on the individual, we are attending to the collective and to interrelations between humans and nonhuman others. “Common worlding” is a process of attending to the actual messy, unequal, and imperfect worlds real children inherit and co-inhabit along with other human and non-human beings (Taylor, 2013;Taylor & Pacini-Ketchabaw, 2019). Thus, in a society that places waste out of sight and out of mind, our work calls us to bring waste in sight and in mind. 

Last year, in collaboration with educators, we centered our work around food waste specifically. Peels, seeds, cores from various types of produce were brought into the classroom.  Our pedagogical intention involved paying attention to food wastes’ many processes so that we might build a different kind of (non-consumptive) relations between children and food waste. 

Food waste and rituals around caring for food waste became central to our work, calling children and educators to engage deeply with what they might not pay attention otherwise.  What used to be tossed in the garbage was then something we had to care for and care with. We paid attention, not only to how children engaged with food waste but how food waste invited children to engage with it. We paid attention to how food waste disrupted and interrupted the daily movements of the classroom. For more information, please see Storying with plastic excess: Relations with plastic in early childhood education.

Pedagogical Possibilities

My role has been to think through pedagogical practices to create food waste pedagogies with educators and children. This work doesn’t happen by chance. It must be brought into existence and kept alive every day in the early childhood centre (Nxumalo, Vintimilla & Nelson, 2018) . It requires us to make careful, pedagogical decisions that bring children more intimately into the life of food waste produced in our kitchen. 

Our common worlding waste pedagogies involve creating curricular processes with children that think of waste materials as in constant transformation and as transforming, both independently and interdependently with humans. As we create curriculum with children, we work with the dynamic movements, disorderings and transformations of waste. This means that when children work with waste materials, they attend to their movements, impermanence, relationalities, connections with other materials and so on. We also pay attention to the temporalities of food waste and how food waste is in relation with other beings and creatures. 

Studying our documentation becomes an integral part of our work together. Using video and audio recordings, photos and written notes, we pay attention carefully to the moments that hold pedagogical significance. For us, these moments are ones that have the potential for bringing children closer in relation to food waste. Returning to our documentation helps us to decide how to move towards the creation of otherwise futures, and to challenge managerial relations to waste.

The Onion 

Several pieces of food scraps are lying across the table. Leo picks up the root of an onion and places his finger inside. He then begins looking for more, placing each one on a finger. He turns to Claire and begins to laugh. “Look Claire, I put the onions on my fingers.” Claire joins him and finds more onion roots. Removing the pieces from his fingers, Leo begins to place them inside one another. “Claire, we need to match them.” Onion upon onion is stacked inside. “I’m making an onion Claire.” 

We take up the idea of making an onion and ask ourselves, ‘what does it mean to make an onion?’ Offering Leo’s idea back to the children, we are not interested in simply the making of something but also in the pedagogical possibilities that exist when children think of waste as alive. Over several months the children and educators engage with the question of how to make an onion, staying with the problems that emerge. How many layers does an onion need? What are the different layers of the onion for? How do we keep the onion together? What happens when mold begins to form?  These questions revive the tensions of waste’s liveliness and particularities of the onion. Day after day, we experiment with the onion texture, size and thickness of each layer in an effort to make the biggest onion. When mold forms between the layers, one child suggests that we need to make an onion with less layers. Negotiations and collaborations take place. Perhaps mold only forms when there are many layers of onion. 

With different fabrics we experiment how children themselves might become onions. They wrap layers of onion fabric around their bodies, imagining what it feels like to be an onion.

“I don’t like eating onions, but I like being an onion”-Maria

“It feels tight to be an onion.”-Jason

“I need more layers. I need a purple layer and a yellow layer.”-Sarah

“Oh no, I’m getting moldy.”-Maria

“We need the crunchy onion skin”-Sarah

This is slow, careful work that calls us to listen and respond differently than teaching children about waste and instead, refigures children’s relationships with waste. By keeping food waste in sight and in mind, children are noticing changes – not because we are teaching them about these changes, but because we have created the conditions for them to live and notice them. Rather than seeing ourselves as separate from waste, this work brings us into relation with waste.

Living with Tensions

As food scraps live in our space, their transformations brings tensions and discomforts. Children talk about the smells and textures of the decomposing food scraps and we are confronted with various problems. We feel tension around the health and safety of working with molding food waste. Questions around contamination, exposure, and impact bubble up as we are unsure how to proceed. Do we protect children from it? Can we touch it? Is it bad for us? These become questions that also live in our encounters.

Mold and fruit flies become protagonists in our work as decomposing food provides life to others. We slow down and stay with these problems, as children share ideas of where the flies come from and how they got into our classroom. We use drawing to bring their stories to life and offer different materials that help us to think more closely with the world that is being created between the children and the other. Decomposing food invites children and educators to re-compose stories of waste. 

“The bees(fruit flies) are here! They followed the black bananas”-John

“How are they here?”-Darius

“They came in through the door straws-the space between the door”-John

“They follow the smell of the black banana”-Joe

“All the bees fly to the black banana. These are the mommy bees and these are the baby bees.”-Darius

“The leader bee leads them to our classroom.”-John

It is by keeping waste in sight and in mind that our ideas of caring FOR waste become a caring WITH waste. Shifting this narrative, children attend to the circularity and importance of food waste and rethink care as a deeply relational process. We wonder about how to move with these ideas. Do we set traps to remove the fruit flies? Is it important for the children to know they are not bees? By listening to the stories that are being created between bananas peels, the children and the bugs we begin to see familiar narratives with waste being replaced with new ones. Tensions are important components in pedagogical work. We keep waste in sight and in mind as we pay attention to its transformation processes and embrace the smells, textures and decomposition processes that give life to both other living creatures as well as our curriculum. 

Waste Management to Circularity of Waste

Although we engaged in unusual relations with food waste, we also worked through more familiar ways of rethinking waste management practices with young children. Composting and vermi-composting become important rituals in how we move through the day. Drawing on the work of Narda Nelson (with Yazbeck, Danis, Elliot, Wilson, Payjack, & Pickup, 2018), we thought about how we might reconceptualize pedagogies of care in order to care for food waste differently. As Nelson mentions, “putting them (pedagogies of care) into action, is messy, imperfect and sometimes difficult work” (p. 48). Rather than seeing ourselves as separate from, how does caring with food waste become part of our everyday relations in which, we as humans are very much entangled with the more than human world?

At the end of each week, the food scraps in the classroom are carefully gathered to bring to the outdoor compost bin – this becomes our response-ability. We take seriously this notion of caring with waste, not to create good stewards of the earth but to respond to waste’s presence. The children visit this compost bin regularly as they notice the changes and life that is taking place inside. The compost bin becomes another setting for world making. Bees, flies, spiders, mold, and other living things share this space. As the lid is lifted, bees frantically fly out and hover around the children and the compost bin. We wonder together where the bees come from and what they are doing inside.

“There’s too many bees.”-Cameron

“The bees live in the compost because it’s dirty.”-Emmanuel

“I think the peels are their home.” – Cindy

“The bees are checking on the food scraps”-Alex

We notice their quick movements around the compost bin. 

 “They do a zig zag everyday”-Alex

As a way to pay attention to bees and their relation to the compost bin, we engage in these ideas of zig zagging with children over several months, enacting zig zag stories as a way to bring visibility to the constant movement between the children, bees and food scraps and the relational process of collective life. The compost bin doesn’t become a way to manage waste but becomes an alternative way of being with waste.

Overall, this work calls us to think and live differently with ideas of waste and waste management with young children. It asks us to stay with the tensions of waste so that we may create a different narrative with children. Rather than seeing waste as a problem to solve, we create curricular processes with children so that children get closer to the constant transformation of waste materials. We think about processes that open up possibilities for other kinds of relations for children in which we don’t know what will emerge. It is by moving with our pedagogical intention that we are able to respond to moments of significance and create this common world together.  


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Iorio, J. M., Coustley, A., & Grayland, C. (2017). Practicing pedagogical documentation: Teachers making more-than-human relationships and sense of place visible. In N. Yelland & D. Frantz Bentley (Eds.), Found in translation (pp. 148–170). Routledge.

Lakind, A., & Adsit-Morris, C. (2018). Future child: Pedagogy and the post-Anthropocene. Journal of Childhood Studies, 43(1), 30–43.

Nxumalo, F. (2016). Storying practices of witnessing: Refiguring quality in everyday pedagogical encounters. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 17(1), 39–53. doi: 10.1177/1463949115627898

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Pacini-Ketchabaw, V., & MacAlpine, K. A. (2022). Queer synthetic curriculum for the Chthulucene: Common worlding waste pedagogies. Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience, 8(1).

Pacini-Ketchabaw, V & MacAlpine, K.A. (2022) Storying with plastic excess: relations with plastic in early childhood education. Pedagogy, Culture & Society. doi: 10.1080/14681366.2022.2156582

Pacini-Ketchabaw, V., & Nxumalo, F. (2015). Unruly raccoons and troubled educators: Nature/culture divides in a childcare centre. Environmental Humanities, 7, 151–168.

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Taylor, A. (2017). Beyond stewardship: Common world pedagogies for the Anthropocene. Environmental Education Research, 23(10), 1448– 1461.

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Vintimilla C.D., Nxumalo, F., & Nelson, N. (2018). Pedagogical gatherings in early childhood education: Mapping interferences in emergent curriculum. Curriculum Inquiry, 48(4), 433-453.

Thinking with Study in Early Childhood

Dr. Walter Kohan is a Professor at Rio de Janeiro State University.

In this conversation, Dr. Walter Kohan speaks with Dr. Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw and Dr. Fikile Nxumalo on the potentialities as well as the challenges of closely attuning to study as a practice and a concept within and beyond its institutional formations. 

What Would be Possible if Education Subtracts Itself from Developmentalism

What would be possible if education subtracts itself from developmentalism? What might happen if we put into question early childhood education’s reliance on child development as a “taken-for-granted” way to understand, enact and create early childhood spaces?

In the spirit of these questions, we are interested in highlighting some of the legacies of child development and interrogating the concept of developmentalism.  We do so as an invitation for pedagogists to continue unsettling the domination of such discourse in early childhood education and the ways developmental knowledges are implicated in maintaining the status quo. By focusing on developmentalism, we highlight the socio-political-ethical intentions that child development activates through early childhood education. Although child development has become ‘taken-for-granted’ knowledge within early childhood education, many researchers and educators have been thinking otherwise (Pacini-Ketchabaw et al., 2016; Pacini-Ketchabaw et al., 2015). In this article, we reiterate the work of reconceptualist early childhood scholars and put into question a naturalized or non-political understanding of childhood, children, and education (to read more about developmentalism, please see Burman, 2018; Cannella, 1997; Lubeck, 1994; and MacNaughton, 2005).

Our first focus of concern is with how child development assumes and prescribes ideas of who a human is – and, in these edicts, it stabilizes the normative contours of who a child can be – giving to education the coordinates of the ‘proper’ childhood and the ‘proper’ child. In child development, human growth is made proper within culturally and historically contested coordinates. Put differently, developmentalism asserts both who the child should be and sets a measure for the particular normative developmental trajectories that this child’s development must follow. A belief in the principles of developmentalism also creates a predetermined formula of universal quality pedagogical practices that are necessary to ensure optimal development. These tenets of development are enshrined with such high levels of validity and reliability that, as educators, we are often shocked and dismayed when children who are provided with best pedagogical practice experience failure (Walkerdine, 1998). Equally disheartening is how we might use developmental theory to conceptualize the “good” early childhood educator. Langford’s (2007) work demonstrates that for many in the early childhood field, professional competency is represented by an educator whose practice reflects developmental theory. Under this idea, only practice that is based in developmental theory is recognizable and acceptable – leaving very little space for reimagining what might be possible for an early childhood educator.

Entangled closely within the desire to guide children’s development along a universalized and normalizing trajectory is the concomitant work of course-correcting and remediating. Children who do not conform to Euro-Western developmental norms are therefore readily positioned as in need of intervention or support. Functioning to bound children’s lives to unfold only in accordance with a highly political and neutral norm, developmentalism also works to control and erase non Euro-Western experiences of childhood. This maintains the production of proper humanist subjects; children who have the skills and dispositions to be ‘good’ citizens by perpetuating structural projects of humanism, neoliberalism, and ongoing settler colonialism. Indeed, it is these processes of investing in the creation of particular kinds of subjects and subjectivities that, we think, pedagogists need to think with and unsettle.

There are many reasons why a pedagogist would need to unsettle the possibilities for subjectivities, relations, and life avowed by developmentalism. We consider that this is a necessary effort because, as we have been pointing out, developmentalism erases and eradicates other possibilities for life. In other words, it marks ways of living and conceiving childhood that do not ascribe to particular colonial universals as abnormal, undesirable, or expendable. This is the material violence of developmentalism. As a universal paradigm for understanding childhood, developmentalism enacts an ontological violence by restricting the intellectual, embodied, and experiential resources with which we might engage children. Thus, embedded within structural narratives of normativity and the desire to support children to align with inherited notions of success, academic achievement and productive adulthood, developmentalism becomes the only dominant framework that educators are taught to engage with children – making this the intellectual coercion of developmentalism.

What becomes of early childhood pedagogy beyond developmentalism?

As we have been pointing out, in the fixity of its developing methods and assumptions, child development gives education a ‘banister’ to hold on to (see Arendt, 1981)—one that furthermore ‘works too well’ for education to pursue her evidentiary quest for legitimacy as a social science. The dependency on this banister is so self-evident that it often can seem impossible—even itself aberrant, deviant or heretic—to think otherwise, or to imagine a child and a childhood that are not defined through pre-understandings of developmental stages and corollary behavioural norms. This impossibility is at the heart of education as a colonial project, as an eclipse of diverse possibility as and within childhood by a regnant ethos.

This is the reason why, for us, child development has little to offer to pedagogy. Unlike child development, pedagogy hides away from practices of application or logics of human management. Pedagogy is concerned with radical interpretative and contextual forms of thought and practice (to read more, please see “What is Pedagogy” by Cristina D. Vintimilla). It is a wordly encounter, never functional authority. It is always, therefore, rethinking what renders the world inert—and especially how children and childhood participate in this rendering. Pedagogy, we want to propose, asks questions that work in the name of living well together: how do we create more liveable worlds for all? How do we de-center human mastery and the idea that humans are unitary, independent subjects and instead orient ourselves toward ethical and political responses to complex, messy, more-than-human worlds?

While for developmental psychology the aim of early childhood education is to authoritatively “know”, “predict” and “assess” children to guide them toward maturation and proper humanity, pedagogy is interested in the making of alternative and more-just worlds.  Making early childhood education a pedagogical project requires that educators orient themselves toward entanglements and relational connections, and notice the complex human and more-than-human political contours of educational encounters. Thus, we suggest that we become interested in opening up and nourishing particular processes; especially processes concerned with ethically and politically-tense struggles so that we can nourish subjectivities and relations that respond to the complexities of our times.

This proposition entails pedagogical processes that are committed to creating and sustaining conditions where childhood is a voidless subjective process marked by alterity (Vintimilla, 2012). In other words, our proposition seeks opportunities for new subjectivities, new ways of being human (or unbecoming human perhaps), and heterogeneity, (or the proliferation of diversity, of a commonality, or community, in difference). Let’s remember: it is pedagogy that creates the conditions for the legitimation of multiple ways of being, for multiple childhoods. It is pedagogy that is interested in opening up curricular processes that have no predefined ideas of who or what a child is. It is pedagogy that is open to the possibility of alternative narratives and not about the repetition of predefined normative vectors. It is pedagogy that is concerned with the creation of collective spaces, of common and uncommon worlds. Child development is resolutely never interested in these processes. What would be possible if education subtracts itself from developmentalism? Pedagogy would be a possibility. Creating spaces for dwelling that are ethical and creative would be possible. Creating a collective life that keeps the question of the commons open would be possible. In pedagogy, as Machado said, “the path is made by walking.” So, unlike developmentalism’s competent pieties, the state of affairs that pedagogy assumes is so broad as to give the lie to breadth itself…and, in this, is instead breath itself. We breathe as we walk. And we do it together.

This essay is reprinted with author permission. This essay was originally posted on the Ontario Provincial Centre for Excellence website and is now available on https://www.earlychildhoodcollaboratory.net/resources


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Cannella, G. (1997). Deconstructing early childhood education: Social justice and revolution. Peter Lang.

Langford, R. (2007). Who is a good early childhood educator? A critical study of differences within a universal professional identity in early childhood education preparation programs. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education28(4), 333-352.

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When sharing this piece, please include the following citation: 
Delgado, C.V., Land, N., Kummen, K., Pacini-Ketchabaw, V., & Khattar, R. (December 2020). What would be possible if education subtracts itself from developmentalism. Pedagogist Network of Ontario Magazine, 1(1). Retrieved from https://pedagogistnetworkontario.com/what-would-be-possible-if-education-subtracts-itself-from-developmentalism/

What is Pedagogy?

In this essay Cristina Delgado Vintimilla shares with us what pedagogy is. Acknowledging her thoughts as never independent from who is thinking them—her history, intellectual commitments, and relation with this concept.

I am often asked this question, and often my first impulse is to want to hide from it. I think this is because I am aware of the very complex layers of meaning and the historicity that one will need to engage with and take up, particularly if one considers that this question is being asked within the Canadian context—and, even more specifically, within that of early childhood education.

In my hesitation, I also wonder if we as educators are willing to engage with such layering of meaning and historicity. After all, the question is not “How might we begin to think of pedagogy?” What is pedagogy? risks evoking a requisition for a definition, and therefore a foreclosure of pedagogical thought from the start. Herein is the bind of the question “What is pedagogy?” Perhaps sharing its contextual difficulties, its inherent foreclosures, is the best place to start. As, when learning to speak another language, we are invited first to say that we cannot speak it.

I will never forget the conflicted and puzzled responses I received many years ago when I presented to early childhood educators and colleagues the idea that early childhood is a pedagogical context. This idea was not well received. It was seen as a sort of threat to the notion of care. It sounded too directive, too “educational.” However, since then, the concept of pedagogy has proliferated in early childhood contexts. In whispers of possibility, it has started to engage imaginations. It is even present in new policy documents. I find myself noticing that the words pedagogy and pedagogies are repeatedly used now in the context of early childhood education in almost interchangeable ways, as if they are one thing, an obscure, sophisticated supplement of some sort, rather than an indeterminate field of responsive, generative, and collaborative practices of interpretation, ethical critique, and invention. We seem to want to encompass pedagogy within our existing thinking about education and care, rather than to see how we are already encompassed by this thinking, determined by it, enclosed and limited within its assumptions so as to be better able to respond and to invent knowledge, subjectivities, and communal forms of life, in and as education.

In this small contribution, I would like to outline some thoughts about what pedagogy is. Of course, these thoughts are never independent from who is thinking them—my history, intellectual commitments, and relation with this concept. In this, I want to start by attempting to rescue the concept from its unfortunate and quite common understanding, particularly in the contexts in which I work, where pedagogy is seen as that which gives us direction in how to manage and instruct children to be able to achieve predetermined educational ends. In my view, pedagogy could not be farther from this idea.

Pedagogy is that which thinks, studies, and orients education: its purposes, its protagonists, its histories, its relations and processes.

Pedagogy is that which thinks, studies, and orients education: its purposes, its protagonists, its histories, its relations and processes. Pedagogical thought lives within the tension between theory and practice, between what happens and the reflection on what happened. I find that one of the key pedagogical struggles is how not to identify pedagogical thought with only theory or practice. Pedagogy attends to and locates this tension in situated and contextual ways (in the everyday). Pedagogy is not interested in universalisms or objectivist views of knowledge creation.

Considering this, we can say that pedagogy is a body of knowledge (in Europe it is considered a social science). It is active knowledge, one that seeks new bases on which to think in diverse and unfolding conditions. This body of knowledge has a long history. Its cradle is Ancient Greece. Its birth was intimately related to philosophy, with whom it keeps a close relation, and over the centuries it has tried to find its identity by letting go of the reliance on disciplines considered more legitimate in education, such as scientific management, and then psychology. 

Pedagogy, as a body of knowledge, thinks educational practice; it is reinvigorated by this practice and transforms educational practice. This is why a pedagogist is someone who not only tries to unsettle practice but also tries to find (and sometimes even liberate) the creative force of practice.

Pedagogy is always interrogating (and responding to) the conditions of our time and its status quo. It does this at the same time it poses the question “What kind of human might we need to consider to respond to the conditions of our times?” Pedagogy asks this question because pedagogy is not only interested in teaching and learning. It is also interested in what conditions are enabled through particular educational processes and curriculum making. What idea of the human do they enable? What subject formations are legitimized and delegitimized? What relational logics do they enact? In other words, in a very basic understanding, pedagogy is interested in the creation of an experience. The question then is “What kinds of experiences are being created in educational contexts? What is their value, their unseen beauty, their vanishing, their withholding and bursting forth?” As history tells us, these experiences can be emancipating or subjugating, deterministic or eventful. They can support logics of dominion or try to keep the question of the collective open.

Therefore, pedagogy is not only interested in describing the conditions of a particular time context. As Silvana Calaprice (2016) writes, “pedagogy must also activate new provocations for the education of our times” (p. 34). This means not only analyzing the status quo and its relation to education, but also activating possible orientations that will provoke educational processes to invent a living curriculum that experiments with alternative propositions and intentions. I am thinking here about propositions and intentions that would allow for experimentation with different subjective processes and alternative futures. This is why contemporary pedagogy must ask education to find new responsibilities. (This is a topic to be taken up on another occasion.) Considering this, it is not enough to ask “What is pedagogy?” Perhaps we must ask instead “What are early childhood pedagogies for a postcolonial, settler, consumer-driven, and carbon-dependent society?”

If pedagogy has a language, its language is interdisciplinary. This is because pedagogical thought is porous and willing to be contaminated by diffractive conversations with other disciplines. These conversations help pedagogy to enrich its views and engage the familiar from diverse perspectives. Personally, I could not think education without the arts.

In the Canadian early childhood context, pedagogy is what—among many other invitations—would invite us to consider that it is not enough to continue “window shopping” for the newest educational approach. Much more is at stake, and much more is possible. The invitation instead would be to become ever more attuned to the situated complexities in which one lives, and to therefore become more educationally inventive. This is why pedagogical thought lives at the heart of the relevant invitations that the reconceptualist movement in curriculum theory has invited us to consider over the rocky years of its ensuing neoliberal reaction.

I will leave you with a last consideration. For me, pedagogical thought is always creative and generative, with as many questions as answers. Pedagogy is particularly interested in creating a collective space. It is called to create something that goes beyond centering the work in the development of an individual I. Pedagogy, for me, is interested in the creation of a life—not as a model or an ideal, but as an everyday practice that puts thought into action, that is interested not in prescribing a life but in working at a life, becoming studious of it, being interested in its different forms and formations in what it does and what it invites and in how we become of it. A life that is life-making.

Pedagogy, then, is a decision—to ask its own questions, which are mostly as yet unknown.

This essay is reprinted with author permission.  It was originally posted on the Ontario Provincial Centre of Excellence website. It is now available on https://www.earlychildhoodcollaboratory.net/resources

When sharing this piece, please include the following citation: 
Delgado, C.V.(December 2020). What is pedagogy. Pedagogist Network of Ontario Magazine, 1(1). Retrieved from https://pedagogistnetworkontario.com/what-is-pedagogy/

Becoming a Pedagogist and Co-creating Pedagogical Processes

This online conversation was an introduction to what a pedagogist does, and invited pedagogists and educators from British Columbia who engage in this pedagogical practice to speak on their experiences. Over two hours they engaged with many questions and ideas, including:

  • The process of becoming a pedagogist, and its tensions, difficulties, beauty;
  • How the process of becoming a pedagogist is an act of co-creating a pedagogical experience (with the situated place you work within – relating to educators, more-than-human others, politics, place, ethics, children, families, precarities);
  • The need to reconfigure and co-invent pedagogical processes so vibrant curriculum making becomes possible;
  • The need to subtract taken-for-granted practices, ideas, and habits from thinking to open up toward re-invigorated practices;
  • Pedagogical commitments and what they do, and the hard work of activating these commitments and standing for something

This panel conversation, moderated by Dr. Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw (Faculty of University of Western Ontario), featured:

  • Dr. Bo Sun Kim (Faculty at Capilano University and Pedagogist with Simon Fraser University Childcare Society)
  • Narda Nelson (Pedagogist with University of Victoria Childcare Services)
  • Dongryun Kim (Educator with Simon Fraser University Childcare Society)
  • Sherri-Lynn Yazbeck (Educator with University of Victoria Childcare Services).

In this following clip, Dr. Bo Sun Kim and Narda Nelson speak about the radical dialogue needed to live in question and enact collective pedagogical commitments to keep possibilities open.

A Dialogue with a Pedagogista

In this exposure Dr. Cristina Delgado-Vintimilla and Dr. Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw enaged in Thinking (and Rethinking) Pedagogy through dialogues with a Pedagogista on October 28, 2017 at the Ontario Reggio Association.

They discussed the history and personal story behind becoming a pedagogista. Followed by a discussion of the ethics, histories, and legacies of early childhood education and the possibilities for co-creating ethically responsive pedagogies. They highlighted the significance of collaboratively engaging with ethically responsive pedagogy in early childhood education.

They deliberated on pedagogical disruptions that foster collaboration between educators, children, and families. Furthermore, they considered inviting vulnerabilities as a possible starting point for sharing stories of legacies with children and others.

Cristina and Veronica then called attention to remaining mindful and conscious that pedagogy is non-innocent. In other words, pedagogy embodies a specific kind of intention that is both personal and political in early childhood education.

They closed with a discussion on expanding horizons of possibility in early childhood education, and offering the metaphor of bundling in the work of a pedagogista.

“I wonder if you can start by walking us through how you became a pedagogista…”

“I constantly ask myself: What kind of experiences are we generating?”

“What does collaboration look like?” 

“Where do we start our stories of legacies with children? With others?” 

“If this is a space that is not innocent, and if this is a pedagogical gathering, then it’s a space for something more than me or the child.”

“We are creating a life together.”

“We can enter a space of debate when we understand that it is not about me or you but it is about this thing that we are trying to create.”

“If that is what is going to frame our horizon, it’s a very, very narrow horizon.”

“I am bundled with all of these stories and history that I carry with me – beyond the pedagogista – that just walks with me.”