Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.
After some facebook discussion about whether rating and assessment is/should be/can be objective, I had some thoughts festering around in my mind, demanding articulation at 2am (why can’t inspiration strike at a more appropriate time?!). So here goes.
The short answer is ‘no’- in my opinion, anyway. Let me explain the longer answer:
The quality standards that services are rated against were formulated and written based on what research is available that suggests what ‘quality’ can look like. But how does such research even enter the sphere where it could be considered?
First you need to find someone to fund your research: what are the politics, priorities, values, ideas, aspirations and their image of the child (in short- subjectivities of ‘quality’) of the funding groups you might apply to? If they think your idea is inappropriate, irrelevant or too different, you might not even get past this first step.
But if you do, you need your research idea to clear ethics. What are the politics, priorities, values, ideas, aspirations and their image of the child (in short- subjectivities of ‘quality’) of the ethics board? Ethics boards are normally quite conservative in their subjectivities, which again, if your idea is considered too radical, too inappropriate, too different, you might not get past this second step.
So, now you are looking for participants in your research- what are the politics, priorities, values, ideas, aspirations and their image of the child (in short- subjectivities of ‘quality’) of your potential participants? If your idea is perhaps considered too radical, too different you might find that potential participants are uninterested or apprehensive of taking what could be seen as a professional risk by being involved.
So let’s say your research has been completed- but now it needs to be presented to wider audiences so that they can learn about it (and in this case, use it to craft quality indicators). But what are the politics, priorities, values, ideas, aspirations and their image of the child (in short- subjectivities of ‘quality’) of conference organisers? In which forums might your ideas be heard? In which might they be excluded if they are seen as too risky, too different?
So perhaps you want to publish some of your research so that many people can read it (and in this case, use it to craft quality indicators)- but what are the politics, priorities, values, ideas, aspirations and their image of the child (in short- subjectivities of ‘quality’) of potential publishers? If your research is seen as too risky, too different, too inappropriate it might be considered not financially worthy of publishing. And if you do find a publisher that takes a risk with some ‘radical’ work, then who is their readership? What audience does their publications reach? Will it be used as a TAFE or university required reading? Will it be widely distributed or read by only a small percentage of early childhood educators and/or academics?
There are subjectivities at every level in the research process. The idea of ‘best practice’ is not objective, it simply pleases many conservative subjectivities and thus finds itself becoming wide-spread and accepted. When the people that wrote the quality standards decided ‘what counts’ as quality, they did so from research that has gone through this subjective process of being funded, clearing ethics, finding willing participants, finding conferences and publishers who think the research worthwhile and indicative of ‘quality’ in early childhood education.
But by no means are these subjectivities limited to those of early childhood academics, educators and research. No. Not at all. When the EYLF draft came out it stirred up an almighty temper tantrum from politicians, newspaper columnists and of course the dreaded letter to the editor- all of whom stamped their feet because children weren’t being seen as innocently developing and stamped long and hard enough that references to politics and power relations, civic justice and the like were eliminated from the EYLF. The complaints of people who have not much to do with early childhood education (except for perhaps being a child at some point of their life) shouted their subjectivities until the framework was diluted, censored and consequently presented a different view of what ‘quality’ looks like than was originally intended by the writers.
And all of these subjectivities are shaping how ‘quality’ is rated before an assessor even knocks on the door and says ‘hello, I’m here to see how much quality you have’.
Objectivity is a dangerous myth.
Insider perspectives on developing Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. By J. Sumsion, S. Barnes, S. Cheeseman, L. Harrison, A. Kennedy and A. Stonehouse.
Published in: Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 34(4)
Beyond quality in early childhood education and care: Languages of evaluation. By G. Dahlberg, P. Moss and A. Pence
Published in Contesting Early Childhood book series
A critical analysis of the National Quality Framework: Mobilising a vision for children beyond minimum standards. By M. Fenech, M. Giugni and K. Bown
Published in: Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 37(4)
© Awilda Longstocking 2014
Refuse. Resist. Rebuild.