Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates

Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.

Using theory in early childhood documentation…


Recently, I have noticed a lot of posts on early childhood pages and groups asking about theorists and documentation. The questions are normally like this- do I have to link to theorists? How do I link to theorists? And the answers are normally like this- the EYLF doesn’t say you need to; my assessor didn’t ask to see that.

And I start to think… there are many things I do in my teaching that I don’t ‘have’ to and I don’t ‘need’ to. I do these things because I choose to, because I want to. Perhaps I italicized the wrong word there. Because I choose to, because I want to. I choose and want to write about theorists in my documentation because it’s important and interesting and relevant to me and my work.

I don’t do things in my work just because I think they might appease an assessor. I know that an assessor can only make a scant appraisal of my work in the fleeting time they visit my service and so I don’t judge the quality of my teaching by their opinion. Let me say that once more because it’s important. I don’t judge the quality of my teaching by the opinion of the assessor. I don’t do things to make them happy, to guess at what they want to see, to chase that elusive ‘exceeding’ rating.

The way I care, educate and develop relationships with children is far bigger, far more important than the way the assessor rates it. The theories I use to understand the dynamics of this learning and these relationships is far more important than trying to secure an ‘exceeding’ rating.

It is important to think about what using theory in documentation can offer. This is why I use theory:

– It challenges how I think about my teaching.

– It helps me think differently about how, what and why children learn.
– It helps me talk about difficult and complex ideas to other people.

– It helps me challenge social injustices and unfairness.

– It intellectually challenges me.

I do not use theory in my documentation to look good for assessment. We should not be caring, educating, teaching and working with young children in ways that are just to get the rating we desire for our service. We should be caring, educating, teaching and working with young children in ways that are best for them, in ways that suit our contexts, in ways that intellectually stimulate and satisfy us as educators, in ways that are equitable for the children, their families, the staff and the communities surrounding us. This should be our priority and if this priority leads to an ‘exceeding’ rating, then so be it. But our main priority should not be about getting a rating that makes our service look good.

I watched a Jayne Osgood lecture on youtube just recently. She was talking about teaching theory to early childhood students and explained how she was often told to ‘keep it simple’- as if early childhood students would never possibly understand difficult ideas. She explained how patronising, how condescending this is. She talked about this as a marker of social injustice, that this links into bigger ideas of gender and class if it’s believed that (mostly) female and (mostly) working class people are just too stupid, too ignorant to understand the difficult theories that shape their work. This is the link-

There are so many theorists, theories and ideas. I don’t think there is a checklist or a dot-pointed form that will help you quickly understand these. I don’t really know of any websites that will give a quick- but thorough- overview. So here is a (long looking, but really, tiny) collection of research books and articles- who wrote them, their titles and what sort of theories or ideas they explore…. I hope it helps. I also added a list of youtube lectures/presentations because sometimes it’s hard/expensive to access research books.

Foucauldian theory (how power operates)

Doing Foucault in early childhood studies Glenda Mac Naughton


Gender and sexuality

Rethinking gender in early childhood education Glenda Mac Naughton


Delusions of Gender Cordelia Fine


Pink brain, blue brain Lise Eliot


Cinderella ate my daughter Peggy Orenstein


Sex, death and the education of children: Our passion for ignorance in the age of AIDS Jonathon Silin


Race, class, gender and sexuality: the big questions Ed. Naomi Zack


Innocence, Knowledge and the Construction of Childhood: The Contradictory Nature of Sexuality andCensorship in Children’s Contemporary Lives Kerry Robinson


Playing it straight: Uncovering gender discourses in the early childhood classroom Mindy Blaise


The transgender child: A handbook for families and professionals Stephanie Brill and Rachel Pepper


Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity Judith Butler


Gender in early childhood Ed. Nicola Yelland


Trans-friendly preschool. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Issues in Education, 3(1), 7-13. Laurel Dykstra


Feminism is for everybody: Passionate politics bell hooks


Queering early childhood studies: Challenging the discourse of developmentally appropriate practice. The Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 56(3), 304-318 Zeenat Janmohamed


General anti-bias, social justice and reconceptualisation work

Diversity and difference in early childhood education Kerry Robinson and Criss Jones Diaz


Deconstructing early childhood education: Social justice and revolution Gaile Cannella


The anti-bias approach in early childhood Ed. Elizabeth Dau


Resistance and representation: Rethinking childhood education Ed. Janice Jipson and Robert Johnson


Embracing identities in early childhood education: Diversity and possibilities Ed. Susan Grieshaber and Gaile Cannella


The trouble with play Susan Grieshaber and Felicity McArdle


Critiques and reconceptualisation of ‘quality’

Beyond quality in early childhood education and care Gunilla Dahlberg, Peter Moss, Alan Pence


Reconceptualisation of school readiness

Early childhood and compulsory education Ed. Peter Moss



Ethics and politics in early childhood education Gunilla Dahlberg and Peter Moss


Common Worlds theory, Post humanist theory

Reconfiguring the natures of childhood Affrica Taylor


Refugees, asylum seeking

One day the soldiers came: Voices of children in war Charles London

…I never saw another butterfly… Ed. Hana Volavkova


Critiques and reconceptualisation of traditional schooling

Instead of education John Holt

Dumbing us down John Taylor Gatto

Deschooling society Ivan Illich


Critical theory

Pedagogy of Freedom Paolo Friere

Pedagogy of the Oppressed Paolo Friere



The teacher’s soul and the terrors of performativity. Journal of Education Policy, 18(2), 215-228 Stephen Ball


‘I feel absolutely incompetent’: Professionalism, policy and early childhood teachers. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 13(3), 175-186. Alice Bradbury


Deconstructing professionalism in early childhood education: Resisting the regulatory gaze. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 7(1), 5-14 Jayne Osgood


Dealing with uncertainty: Challenges and possibilities for the early

childhood profession. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 16(2), 135-152 Matthias Urban


Postcolonial theory, Critical whiteness theory

‘Race’ and early childhood education: An international approach to identity, politics, and pedagogy Ed. Glenda Mac Naughton and Karina Davis


The promise and paradox of cultural competence. HEC Forum, 24, 279-291. Rebecca Hester


White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. Independent School, 31-36. Peggy McIntosh


Revealing whiteness: The Unconscious habits of racial privilege Shannon Sullivan


The location of culture Homi Bhabha


Anarchist theory

Anarchist pedagogies: Collective actions, theories, and critical reflections on education Ed. Robert Haworth


The politics of postanarchism Saul Newman


Anarchism and education: A philosophical perspective Judith Suissa


Poverty and inequality

Unequal childhoods: children’s lives in developing countries Helen Penn


Youtube clips

Whose activism is it anyway? Miriam Guigni


Inaugural Lecture Jayne Osgood


Learning as a relational field of potentiality Gunilla Dahlberg



(My youtube list is much shorter! Any good suggestions to add…?)


© Awilda Longstocking, 2014

Anarchy & the EYLF Pirates.

Refuse, Resist, Rebuild



6 comments on “Using theory in early childhood documentation…

  1. Karen menichelli
    May 9, 2014

    A refreshing perspective, I graduated from IECD many moons ago, Glenda McNaughton and many other respected educators were my lecturers. I read to consolidate my understandings of learning. I use my understandings to enrich my programming and my enjoyment of my profession. I stand by the NQS regardless of its shortcomings because as a profession we must make ourselves responsible for making it strong. Exceeding will come naturally by those that can articulate what they believe. Exceeding is a rating you give yourself by being excited by the smiles of children, families and communities.

  2. Cindy
    May 10, 2014

    Thank you.

  3. Carly
    May 17, 2014

    Lots of good stuff here, some I’ve read, some I’ve got on my pile, ready to read and some I’ll put onto the list.

    I also like Erica Burman, who is a reconceptualist. I’m attempting in my spare time to read Lenz-Taguchi at the moment, I saw her speak a few years ago and she was inspiring. I’ve found Foucault’s concepts of power has utterly changed the way I think about teaching, but also more broadly the way I think about society. Another book that had quite an impact on me is ‘other people’s children’ by Lisa Delpitt, which is about inequality. I’ve also been heavily influenced by feminist work. Mindy Blaise was my supervisor for my minor thesis and I feel so fortunate to have been able to work with such an amazing academic.

    These theorists and their work keep me inspired. I think I would have left the field utterly bored if I hadn’t discovered the reconceptualists, post structuralists and feminists.

    • I don’t think I have read anything of Erica Burman’s, but I think I might want to. I really enjoyed Mindy’s ‘Playing it Straight’ book and feel a bit envious of her being your supervisor.

      I agree so wholeheartedly with your comment about reconceptualists, poststructuralists and feminists. Their work and thinking has completely changed how I think about teaching, but like you say, also the wider society. It definitely made me realise that there is a very intellectual element to working with young children that developmental theory never made me think about. Thinking about Foucauldian ideas of how power operates never becomes boring or stagnant when you are working with groups of people!


  4. Schmalfie C
    January 14, 2016

    I have actually experienced the opposite in Early Childhood. I have literally been asked more than once by mentors, supervisors and colleagues “So who are you?”. My confused reaction has been met with responses such as “Are you Vygotsky? Piaget? The last teacher said she was Kath Walker but she wasn’t Kath Walker.” I feel constantly pressured to define myself based on somebody else’s theory and feel like a fool when I can’t put a name to my practice.

  5. Clare McHugh
    January 18, 2016

    Many thanks for such a thought-provoking blog and list of resources that in turn sparked other contributions and thoughtful comments.

    While your topic was posted in 2014 (Early Childhood Australia (ECA) recently re-posted it via facebook) and addresses theories and the educator’s purpose in documenting, it’s still timely and there’s a lot in it about what shapes the world for children.

    ECA has been working on ‘respectful relationships’ and how attitudes and behaviours, formed in the earliest years, have lifelong impacts. ‘Start Early. Respectful relationships for life’ is just a start in what are complex and wide-ranging matters and the role educators can play when children’s attitudes are forming. Initially it is three modules developed as part of the NSW government strategy for long-term violence prevention. You are right that dot point and checklist approaches are limited. Understanding flows from deeper engagement and we should not underestimate capacity. Yet with busy personal and professional lives, educators and parents do have to start somewhere (in order to ‘go somewhere’ with the ideas) even if that is initially more accessible material. The resources listed and others’ contributions are very helpful. Start Early launches in late March 2016.

    Thanks again. Still a timely message in 2016.

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