LIVING AND LEARNING IN TWO CRECHES IN BRAZIL: UNDERSTANDING ECONOMICALLY-POOR YOUNG CHILDREN'S MEANINGS OF PEDAGOGY
Panisset, Maria Leticia Melo
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My interpretive study is about low-income Brazilian children's pedagogical experiences and the meanings the children made of their experiences in two creches (non-profit early childhood centers). I focused on children's own interpretations and how they exerted agency within the pedagogical constraints. By contributing to the understanding of what it means to be four- and five-years old and economically poor in two creches, my study offers insight into 'new understandings' of children and pedagogy. It also raises questions about the perpetuation of discriminatory pedagogies for the poor in Brazil. My study was informed by a socio-constructivist approach centered on a view of children as rich, competent social actors, who are connected to others and who actively co-construct knowledge and self. Other significant concepts are pedagogy, Dewey's theory of experience and the interpretative approach to children's narrative thinking. Such theoretical framework disputes views of the child reared in poverty as simply destitute, lacking, or the object of oppression, demanding multi-faceted inquiries of the pedagogical experiences of poor children. Uncovering the rich lives of children and their meanings demanded 'rich' methods. I collected various data, including conversations, stories, pretend-play and children's tours. I videotaped extensively. Data analysis continued to center on understanding and narrating experience from children's own perspectives. In this work I describe and analyze the so-called educational activities, or trabalhinhos, and children's views of 'what' and 'how' they learned, particularly how they 'learned about learning.' Then I discuss children's experiences of play and of bagunça and castigo (misbehavior and punishment). Next I explore children's meanings of these conflict-ridden experiences, which they seemed to find central aspects of their lives at the creches. Finally, I discuss children's meanings of mandar or 'who is in charge.' The children in my study were keen interpreters, offering some serious critiques of their experiences. My analysis provides understanding about (a) how the pedagogy seemed to lead to children's miseducation, 'teaching' submission, yet, how children were agents who actively and collectively created a place for themselves at the creches; and about (b) a complex paradox between children's active meaning-making and the passivity reflected in their accounts.