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Can we let the children play?

Pat Broadhead

Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, Queen's University of Belfast, Northern Ireland, August 27th to August 30th 1998

Department of Educational Studies, University of York. YO10 5DD. Tel: 01904 433458, email:

August 1998.


When I began this phase of my research in reception settings, I was not especially optimistic about what we might do to promote the growth of sociability and co-operation in young children in mainstream settings, especially in school-based, mainstream settings. Although there are some pockets of excellence, literature reviews and personal experience suggested that it was happening almost against the odds, in the face of considerable and ever increasing constraints on teachers and so subsequently on children. The recent history of enormous change and its associated pressures on early years classrooms seemed to be prevailing against a climate that could conducively foster sociability and co-operation in the play-based investigations of young learners.

One way forward that seemed to be suggesting itself, was to assist early years teachers/educators in the monitoring and review of their provision in terms of the balance that can be achieved between teacher-directed and child-initiated activity. This is not a new idea by any means, but with the changing contexts of recent years, one that perhaps stood in need of re-visiting. This would also include looking at how the teacher gets involved in child-initiated activity when statutory requirements and public accountability prevail so pervasively and seem not to include the notion that in some contexts, a child may be able to determine what s/he needs in order to progress. To be helpful also requires a full understanding of what all of this really means within the reality of 30 children (as promised under New Labour), many of them under five, often only one adult and perhaps a cramped room and limited resources.

We know already that the active encouragement by the teacher/educator of play-based, investigative, creative, child-initiated activity is inevitably associated with the teacher's personally held view on whether or not these are deemed to be inherently worthwhile activities. Alongside this is the view the teacher/educator holds on the extent to which adult-directed activity is the only worthwhile sort. We know that adult-directed activity tends to centre around national curriculum-related learning that is predominantly pencil and paper based albeit with different amounts of hands-on, related activity associated with the paper and pencil work.

Designing tasks that require children to be investigative and creative is an intellectual and pedagogical challenge for even an experienced teacher and it is not something that tends to be actively taught these days, to any extent, in ITT courses in relation to young children and their development as learners. Because of OfSTED requirements and TTA Standards, such courses are currently predominantly concerned with English and maths, notably literacy and numeracy and with ICT and Science. It has been a little reassuring to note the recent TTA pronouncement that ITT students on 3 - 8 courses can focus on Early Years development as a substitute for a subject specialism; this could go some way towards redressing the balance. We also know that if we leave children with sufficient amounts of certain materials and sufficient time and space to exploit them, they will design and complete investigative and creative tasks themselves. It was instances of such that I sought to observe in reception settings. Books on early years learning are littered with examples of appropriate provision for the early learner. Why then is it such a challenge to let the children play?

As well as the prevailing educational climate and its more recent and profound impact on provision for the youngest learners, I think that part of the reason is also that we continue to seriously under-estimate the capabilities of young children in social and co-operative contexts. Our studies of classrooms have predominantly focussed on teacher-pupil interactions and not child-initiated activity in mainstream settings. Sociability and co-operation are skill-based activities. This would imply that they need to be practised and refined in order to be further developed. They are also complex activities. My observations show that children need to draw upon skills in the following areas (amongst others) when operating sociably and co-operatively:

Therein lies some of the complexity; yet, these are pupil actions about which very little is known in terms of their manifestation in mainstream school settings, especially primary classrooms. My observations in nursery and school settings also suggest that at the moment, children develop these skills, or not as the case may be, largely through their own efforts and in the company of more able peers, rather than in the company of adults actively seeking to promote the skills or 'scaffold' their development. Having said this I believe firmly that there is an interactive and an interventionist role for the adult, albeit appropriately framed.

Sociable and co-operative interactions provide emotional outlets and satisfaction along with intellectual challenge, hence their inherent attraction to children. Consequently children seek out the activities that create the opportunities and seek to sustain the play by developing the necessary skills. Inevitably and for a whole range of reasons, some children find it harder to develop those skills than do others; some children find it immensely difficult to operate even at a lower level of sociability but that doesn't stop them trying, neither does it stop other children from trying with them, at least for short periods. A relatively brief amount of time spent in informed observation will inform the observer as to who is proficient and who requires help. I am exploring a view that children's intuition has a role to play here. Intuition is defined as "knowledge or belief obtained neither by reason nor perception; instinctive knowledge or belief". I am increasingly interested, as a result of my more recent observations, in potential links between the intuitive capabilities of young children and intellectual development. I have returned to considerations of 'tacit knowledge' (Polyani) and 'practical consciousness' (Giddens). This is linked with the rules that govern behaviour although my preferred term would be 'mores' - the customs and conventions which embody fundamental values. 'Rules' implies total application whereas the social conventions of particular groups in particular contexts will vary and must be learned; I am not claiming discreteness here. There will be overlap across communities and cultures; the nursery or reception settings is a microcosm of the child's wider community and culture. However 'rules' remains a useful construct because all groups are governed by rules and young children, in mainstream settings are inevitably subject to an abundance of rules, many of which are specific to that particular community. I found a paper by Pleasants (1996) helpful despite his concluding assertion that:

". . . practices are neither underlain by a hidden (or "virtual") structure of tacit rules, nor driven by individuals' possession of tacit "knowledge" . . ." (p251).

Alongside this, I am addressing issues relating to links between emotional equilibrium and learning. Chorpita and Barlow (1998) explore issues relating to the development of anxiety in children and the role of control in the early environment. Although they conclude that much work remains they tentatively remark that:

"Evidence from a variety of sources suggests that early experience with diminished control may foster a cognitive style characterised by an increased probability of interpreting or processing subsequent events as out of one's control . . ." (p3).

This, for me, has implications in the continued exploration of the balance between teacher direction and child-initiation and the role of the teacher in her/his involvement in child-initiated activity.

In an earlier paper, (Broadhead 1997) I mapped out the Social Play Continuum, with four stages of sociability (Appendix 1). These stages comprised observable action and interaction that was communicatory and cognitive. The stages were :

The behaviours and modes of interaction I had used to support my observations became the characterising features of the four development stages.

I have subsequently used this as a basis for observation of children in two reception settings. Despite the fact that the children were unknown to me prior to observations beginning, I was soon able to identify children who found it difficult to move onto the Social and Highly Social stages. This was particularly the case if they were children who clearly wanted to interact in such a way with peers but, because they lacked the requisite skills, tended instead, and often for reasons seemingly beyond their own control, to become a catalyst for conflict.

Co-operative play was characterised with the following behaviours:

I detail it here to make explicit some of the complexities of behaviour required to operate at this level; nevertheless, as the earlier paper illustrated, nursery aged children were capable, in certain circumstances, of operating at this level.

In my later observations in reception settings, I have sought to achieve two goals:

  1. To test out the observational schedule for its applicability in reception settings and where possible extend and refine the Continuum of Social Play in the light of new findings from older children;
  2. To further consider the intervention-role of the teacher in promoting sociability and co-operation in mainstream settings.

In the earlier paper, I had proposed that the Continuum might offer:

  • a) an observation and assessment tool - although I would want to move away from the current deficit model of pupil assessment and broaden it out to include providing information about the suitability of provision and its impact upon children's developing capabilities, and
  • b) a basis for teacher professional development in understanding some of the above mentioned complexities of sociable and co-operative encounters in a context of children's development and of the potential impact of the learning environment upon that development.
  • Taking these proposals in the context of what I said above about 'considerable constraints' and the pressures of change, I want to try and subdue my pessimism and look ahead in a positive way. Given the high quality of some of the creative and investigative play I have seen in recent months, then if children can achieve what they want in the face of such odds, maybe we as adults can take a lesson from them.

    Data gathering in two reception settings.

    The reception classes were each located in schools of similar type and catchement. The schools were of similar age and design with semi-open plan classrooms and shared areas. They served similar communities of predominantly low income families. Maybury School had a slightly higher proportion of owner occupiers that did Vanbury, but in both cases these were very much in the minority. Unemployment was high in both areas. In Maybury school, there were ?? children in reception class, of whom ?? received free meals. There was one teacher and one nursery nurse. In Vanbury there were ?? children, of whom ?? received free meals. Here there was a teacher and a nursery nurse and a support teacher for a girl with severe behavioural difficulties. In both classes, there were other children with behavioural difficulties.

    I selected the two classes because of their similarities and also because in each class the teachers made opportunities available for children to select activities from a range of possibilities. The research was focussing on children at play in self-determining task, therefore settings where this was integral to the school day were necessary. There were some constraints to this availability in each setting. In Maybury, such activities were only made available in the afternoon so observations took place then. In Vanbury, two reception classes shared two rooms with different types of activities available in each. Child self-selection was available throughout the day but with some degree of teacher influence in terms of pupil numbers and available areas. I observed the class I was tracking at work in each setting. Data from the two reception settings were to be combined. Altogether there were 15½ hours of observations undertaken on 10 separate observation occasions. The focus for observation was based on an initial scan of the classroom with observations beginning wherever children were gathered in twos or more and seemed interactive. Observations would continue until children had left the area or only one remained. Overall the following number of play bouts were observed for each category of play:

    Play category       Number of complete bouts of two or more children      
    Bricks              16                                                    
    Sand                5                                                     
    Duplo               5                                                     
    Water               3                                                     
    Shop                3                                                     
    Small world         3                                                     
    Sorting and         1                                                     
    Small world         1 (miniature figures and cars)                        

    As well as observations, I undertook a small number of interviews of children. I reasoned that if I could develop a facilitative technique, that children would have a lot to offer. These interviews convinced me that children did have much to offer. I was also aware however that I would have to develop my technique further. In many cases, it was in subsequent consideration of data that it occurred to me it would have been useful to try and find out from some children why they had acted as they did at certain times, a technique that would be difficult but perhaps not impossible to employ with four and five year olds. Suffice at this point to say that my skills in this area need refinement and I do not incorporate any of the interview data, although there were sufficient insights from the children I spoke to convince me that given the right questions in the right way, they have a lot to say that is truly illuminating.

    I also took photographs of children at what seemed to be key times in the development of their play. Each time I took a photograph I annotated the observational notes; this would enable me to reflect further on why I had deemed this to be a key moment in the play. I had anticipated that the photographs might support subsequent dissemination of the findings and perhaps form the basis of training materials. As time went on I began to think about their potential as a data source in their own right. Harper's history (1998) of visual anthropology and sociology was thought provoking. The challenge seems to lie in bringing theoretical perspectives together with visual representations. He quotes Becker (1974) who states that to make photographs 'intellectually denser', the photographer must become conscious of the theory that guides one's photography. That theory may be 'lay theory' - taken for granted assumptions about how the world is organised - or it may be:

    "deep, differentiated and sophisticated knowledge of the people and activities they investigate . . . for photographic projects concerned with exploring society it means learning to understand society better" (Becker 1974, p11 in Harper 1998, p29).

    This had resonance for me in terms of why I might be selecting particular scenes to photograph. It suggested to me that, given the many hours I had spent in observation, the texts I had read, the discussions I had engaged in, that a theoretical perspective (as opposed to a 'lay theory') was guiding my selection of moments to capture. As a first step in data analysis, I therefore decided to focus on the 17 scenes I had photographed in the two classrooms and on the observational notes accompanying those scenes. What was I seeing that I thought was significant in terms of:

  • a) developing a better understanding of the complexities of sociable and co-operative endeavour, and,
  • b) considering the implications for teacher action and interaction.
  • As I began to study the scenes and the observational notes in detail, and as I began to add some interpretative commentary I began to see that what I was in fact doing was recognising and endeavouring to learn from young children's struggles and achievements.

    For this paper, I have selected 10 of those 17 scenes to report on (P = Photograph). What I wish to do is present them with a brief description of the scene and an exploration of the decision to photograph at that time by incorporating extracts from observational notes and observer interpretation.

    P2 - 5 girls and I boy (Mark) with blocks and planks. 2 girls and Mark are seated in an enclosing construction. 3 girls are standing facing them. All are engaged with the same brief discussion, about their construction, what it is, how to use it, how to develop it. At the time of photographing, I had been observing for ten minutes. Three girls had constructed the enclosure and used play noises to act as animals in their 'house'. There had been cuddling and using play voices in role. Mark had watched and then joined and been accepted. He copied their play. The play was mainly Social but had begun to move into Highly Social as ideas for extending the play began to emerge. One girl brought some cars and gave them out. They were accepted and the role play seemed to be developing. At this point, one girl put her hands on her hips and said there were too many people playing, there should only be 4 and there were 5. Play ground to a halt as discussion ensued about 'who was in last'. I took the photograph at this point. No-one offers to leave and play continues. The cars are left and children return to play noises and cuddles.

    Interpretation: I had noted in earlier observations that the need to comply with classroom rules about how many children could play in an area, seemed to disrupt play, often leading to its deterioration to a lesser stage of development on the Social Play Continuum. This was not because a teacher intervened usually, rather because a child noted the infringement. It was interesting that the girl who drew everyone's attention to the infringement subsequently became the one who directed play when it resumed. She was not the one distributing cars, an action that seemed to be about to extend the play. I wondered if she resented someone else taking over the leadership of the play. I'd thought initially that the rules themselves were disrupting play but I began to wonder if , on occasion, some children used those rules to seek influence for themselves. Perhaps she is also testing out other children's response to the rules to see how strongly they support them. On other occasions I have seen children leave the play when 'the rules' were invoked but not so this time.

    P6 3 boys playing with Duplo, each one engaged in own construction but all in very close proximity. Play has been ongoing for 13 minutes. Prior to taking the photo, the play had moved between Parallel and Social play. There had been several instances of children commenting on their own action but without response and some non-task related discussion (both characteristics of Social Play), also play noises and singing. One boy had tried to develop a conversation with me. One boy (Luke) had then asked another (John) 'shall we make a car wash?' John had replied 'Yes' and followed this with 'Let's make a garage'. They had moved quickly into Social play, setting themselves some design tasks. Within this, there had been some taking of bricks from one another but seemingly companionable. Luke had remarked to John as he took bricks from 'his' pile 'I'm your mate aren't I, I'm your mate'. From what may have been an altercation, a discussion about friends ensued with each of them continuing with their building. Luke, (who had had bricks taken) then asks John for his design; John passes it over and they moved closer. I thought this was going to lead into Highly Social play and took the photograph at this point. But John then took his design back and they returned to Parallel play and Social play for about 5 minutes. This consisted of play noises, commenting on action and looking, smiles, demonstrating and looking, smiling and eye contact. Luke then breaks up his design, John says 'Let's start together'. Here again it seems may be the beginning of some Highly Social play. As I pick up the camera again, another boy pushes past and accidentally kicks and breaks John's design. He complains to him and begins to rebuild it, all thoughts of 'starting together' seemingly forgotten. Shortly after this, Luke leans across and breaks John's design. John continues to build and then leaves the area. He returns very soon after and hits the boy who first broke his design when he pushed past, he then demolishes what is left of what was John's design. John begins to cry and comes to me. I settle him back to building. Then Luke comes across and says he's sorry to John. They talk about what they are building. Luke helps John with his design.

    Interpretation: My notes at this point remark 'it's interesting how the low key fracas ebbs and flows'. This 'low key fracas' seems integral to relationship building as the two boys explore and develop their friendship alongside practising their social skills. I wondered if the ebb and flow was essential to allow skilful interaction to begin to flourish, as though they needed the space, time and non-adult interference to allow them to keep returning to a position of equilibrium between their altercations and so to perhaps better understand what helps friendship to develop.

    P7. Taken towards the end of the above activity when these same children have been engaged with the Duplo for about half an hour. P7 shows re-absorption and close proximity of 3 players each of whom has had a thump at or broken the design of another, yet they remain in close proximity. The observational notes state "are all talking about what they are doing. Eye contact. Most intensive co-operation seen so far from these boys. Teacher comes across and says it's time to tidy up. They continue to build whilst the teacher addresses the class".

    Interpretation: again this seems to reiterate the point made above about friendship building and skill building. It isn't possible to say whether it is the activity or the company they are seeking but it seems that satisfaction is being gained from the inter-play of each. It's as if after several minutes of familiarity and practise, they are just beginning to weave together their problem-solving activities with some social interaction; after all, each of these requires their own, particular set of skills; are they becoming, at some level, more aware of this?

    P9. Whilst I have been observing the Duplo, a group of children have been co-operating and constructing this design. The classteacher remarks upon it as 'unusually good'. It is a large design, utilising a lot of floor space, of paths and bridges with plastic figures standing on the bricks that have been used. The picture shows five girls and one boy seemingly absorbed although the boy has arrived at the design as I arrived, attracted perhaps by the comments from the teaching assistant who went to fetch a camera to record the construction. He sits down as I take the photo and begins to remove the figures. One girl goes to the boy and complains that he is 'spoiling it'. The teacher arrives and explains that the girls have spent a lot of time building this. The girl who has complained leaves the area. The boy bangs bricks. One girl tells him to be quiet. She says to me that she wants to build a path; I ask can her path go to his bridge (he has announced he is building one although no-one has responded to him). She begins to build this. P10. Co-operative play is brief but intense - the girl has fetched a car and is playing alongside the boy; they are talking about what they are doing. He knocks away the figures 'I've got a good idea'. Repeats. Runs his car along the paths. Girl tries to give a new idea to stop this. He knocks more figures down. I suggest he stands them at the side of the road. He does this with one or two then begins to push them over again. Two girls decide to sit next to me and watch. He removes all figures. Girls leave and complain to teacher. She returns and tells him he must leave, he refuses then goes. Returns and says to girl 'why don't we make it again?'. She replies 'No, you have to go'. He kicks design and leaves. She begins standing up the figures.

    Interpretation: It was interesting to note that my suggestion was followed by some intense and, albeit brief, co-operative interaction. I don't think that the boy's main intention was to destroy what they had made, rather to become involved in the play in a way in which he could relate to the action. Whilst he could relate to the bricks and the design, I think he saw the figures as redundant. He seemed to see them as figures on the road, in the way of the cars. His request 'why don't we make it again' suggests a strong desire to remain involved plus an awareness that his action in destroying the design is unacceptable. I wish I'd asked him why he had wanted to remove the figures.

    P11. At the time of taking this photo, the play with the bricks has been ongoing, with the same group of children for 35 minutes. The boy in the white top has been involved in parallel play throughout this time, designing and re-designing and watching the interaction of the others. At this point, he is offering an object to the boy in the 'den', his first initiated interaction. The boy returns another brick through a hole. They make eye contact. The boy in white passes a plank. Other objects are passed to and fro with eye contact and smiles. The boy in the den comes out and the boy in white laughs, the other boy smiles. The boy in white puts a brick in the design, the other boy smiles. The teacher then calls the boy in white over to do some work with her.

    Interpretation: The boy in white watched for a long time before electing to participate; he speaks little English. He seemed to choose his moment and with some success. Offering and accepting objects, smiles and eye contacts formed the substance of their encounter, undemanding but effective. The boy in white seems to have learned that offering objects is an accepted form of initiation yet also that it needs to be timely - is this tacit knowledge? He passed objects through a hole in the design - did he somehow recognise that the novelty effect of this would be more likely to promote success?

    P12/13. RJ (Red Jumper) has been involved in parallel play with the bricks for seven/eight minutes. The teacher had directed him to a less crowded part of the carpet. He did not begin to build but talked to others and watched/looked at designs ongoing. The teacher had spent some time encouraging him to describe what he was going to build, he had tried to resist, pull away but she had persisted then left him alone. Another boy had then called RJ over to look at his design, he had complied. The exchanged play noises and smiles. RJ then began to copy the design with his friend directing from a distance (P12); this seemed a key moment for him of purposeful activity within a Highly Social context. The direction and building continue for several minutes and RJ calls teacher over to look (P13). They discuss why his 'wheels' keep falling off; teacher suggests an experiment. Others come to watch RJ concludes 'they're not stuck on'. RJ and teacher find books with bikes in and discuss design, discussion continues for some minutes. Teacher goes and RJ discusses design with boy who helped him initiate task (P14). Overall, the activity lasts for 35 minutes. At tidy up time RJ refuses to co-operate with explicit direction from the teacher, his demeanour is sullen, he moves across the room and watches her as if waiting for attention and a response.

    Interpretation: This 35 minutes of focussed activity was followed next day by 45 minutes of absorption in model making, related to the bike theme and encouraged/supported by the teacher. She describes him as an intelligent boy with difficulties concentrating. We saw above how he spent time watching, observing either unable or unwilling to start building yet immediately able to respond, with interest to the idea generated by his friend - a specific (and attractive/ recognisable) design suggestion. There were 10 minutes of intensive problem solving, with a peer, alone and with the teacher. My comments stated "his anti-social, uncooperative behaviour at tidy up time seem to wipe out any possible gains, but does it?. I get the feeling that in a context with less choice he would probably be more of a problem - or would he? Would a more teacher-directive context calm him?". At whole class time, following the tidying, the teacher invited him to talk to the class about his design (P15) and what he's learned. He seemed to enjoy this. Why did the other boy call him over to look at his design, this was what sparked off RJ and was clearly highly successful in giving him direction. The other boy continued to support the activity with directions and then watched for much of the time when the teacher talked with RJ about his design. He seemed almost altruistic in his actions. Does he understand what RJ needs - a very sophisticated notion but possible at an intuitive/tacit level perhaps, even for a five year old. Why not?

    P16. This seemed a key picture because at the point of taking, the boy had just begun to play 'in role' as the shopkeeper. I had been observing the two for seven/eight minutes. The girl was directing and sustaining the play, being 'the shopper' and incorporating several role play activities relevant to shop play. The boy made play noises and smiled and responded to instructions given by the girl. Their play was Social. At this point, he changed his use of voice to indicate the taking of a dramatic role; the girl had been 'in role' throughout the interaction and I wondered if this would then move the encounter into a Highly Social one with dramatic intent.

    Interpretation: it seemed as if he had finally become aware of how to make a dramatic response, through his use of voice as well as related actions, and of its importance to the play. This use of voice in role play was a new dimension as compared to the play of nursery children. It seemed some older children understood the significance of being in role rather than of playing imaginatively - they would take the role without announcing 'I am going to be the shopper', merely sliding into it. The girl in this interaction was a capable interactor in all observed social settings, often directing and sustaining play as she was doing here. She seemed content to interact with a less sophisticated 'player' although later in the interaction she interestingly mixed reality with drama when she said 'Do your work or I won't play - I mean it'. The threat seemed reasonably framed and the boy seemed to understand the implications and responded by 'doing his work'. It seemed he had moved into dramatic role with his use of voice at the time of taking the photo but he hadn't yet the same degree of skill as the girl had at understanding how to stay in role, or perhaps he hadn't the same degree of concentration; being in role requires an intellectual effort of deciding what to say and of how to develop the role. But here was a beginning for him. Was it intuition that prompted her to 'threaten him'? After all, she hadn't done so earlier when for many minutes he had shown no indication of being in role at all. Perhaps, having seen that he could do it, she was prepared to indicate that she wouldn't continue to accept any less, she pushed him via her expectation and he complied, sufficiently to satisfy her and to sustain play for several more minutes.

    P17. Ishmael has English as a second language. Earlier in the session I had watched him unsuccessfully endeavour to interact with two boys in the brick play. He had intermittently observed the girls at play (designing a flying machine) but had not interacted. He seemed especially interested in them. They were fetching writing materials and scissors to design the dashboard on their flying machine. He watched their comings and goings intently and also played alongside, edging closer. Just prior to taking this photo, he had offered a plank to one girl. It was accepted and she directed him to fetch more bricks; he complied and then sat with the girls in the plane. Mission accomplished it seemed - the teacher then called him to come and work with her.

    Interpretation: The girls had not seemed to take much notice of him as he had watched; their acceptance of his offer seemed matter of fact but it was interesting that this initial offer was extended by a direction to get more bricks and a tacit acceptance that he should join the play. There was no formal invitation to join, it was as if all players simultaneously deemed it a natural development - intuition again?

    Some tentative conclusions

    The data analysis is ongoing. The use of images depicting potential 'key moments' seems fruitful and worth pursuing but needs a more carefully constructed theoretical framework within which to work.. The interface between framework and data needs continuing attention. Put simply, the model I'm working with currently, in attempting to synthesise framework and data is as follows.

    At about four to five years of age, a transitional phase may be beginning. At this time, potentially, the child is developing a better understanding of what is needed to sustain sociable and perhaps co-operative intent in a problem solving and intellectually challenging context (but inevitably, only if the opportunities to do so are available to her/him.) The child is learning to work with and respond to greater subtleties of behaviour in similarly-engaged peers. Piaget termed the period of 4 to 7 years as one of Intuitive Thought. His subsequent defining of this term has been considerable criticised as severely limiting in terms of his description of children's capabilities. I support those criticisms yet feel that this emergence of intuition is something to be addressed. The challenge is to try and ascertain the part that knowledge and perception might play in this proposed transitional phase. It may be that children are operating both in intuitive mode and in tacit knowledge mode - they don't have to be mutually exclusive. Neither does conscious action need to be excluded. Perhaps this transition marks the beginnings of the capacity to combine all three states of being - intuitive action; tacit knowledge and conscious action; the child learning to deal with multiple inputs and multiple outputs and the subtlety of relationships between the inputs and outputs. If we can better understand what is happening, in developmental terms, we might be more successful in influencing teacher/educator training and development, and in shaping personal views on the inherent worthwhileness of child-initiated activity in mainstream settings. The work continues . . .


    Broadhead, P. (1997) 'Promoting Sociability and Co-operation in Nursery Settings' in British Educational Research Journal, 23, 4, pp 513-533.

    Chorpita B.F. and Barlow, D.H. (1998) 'The Development of Anxiety: The Role of Control in the Early Environment' in Psychological Bulletin 124, 1 pp 3-21.

    Harper, D. (1998) 'An Argument for Visual Sociology', in J. Prosser (Ed) Image-based Research. London: Falmer Press.

    Pleasants, N. (1996) 'Nothing is Concealed: De-centring Tacit Knowledge and Rules from Social Theory' in Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 26, 3, pp233-255.



    This document was added to the Education-line database 14 September 1998