Young children's expressions of spirituality : an ethnographic case study

Goodliff, Gillian Diana (2013). Young children's expressions of spirituality : an ethnographic case study. EdD thesis The Open University.



Historically the fostering of children's spirituality or spiritual development has been embedded in English education legislation. The underpinning principles of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework (DC SF, 2008), for children from birth to five years, made explicit reference to a spiritual dimension of young children's wellbeing. Yet spirituality receives scant acknowledgement in practice and there is little research focusing on exploring young children's spirituality in pre-school contexts. Located within an interpretive paradigm, this ethnographic case study of children aged two and three years in a day nursery, explores the language(s) of spiritual expression. A socio-cultural (Vygotsky, 1978) perspective of the child underpins the study that recognizes children's agency (Dahlberg et aI., 1999) in constructing meanings about the spiritual through their relationships and participation in everyday activities and interactions. Multi-layered data collection methods for listening to young children were chosen including direct observation, participant and non-participant observation, audio recording and digital photographs. A hermeneutic approach underpins the analysis and interpretation of the data. Findings reveal the multi-dimensional nature of young children's spirirual languages expressed in relational and imaginative spaces through creativity, reflection and embodied meaning making. This thesis argues for a broader situating of spirituality in English early childhood education that recognises the cross-curricular potential for learning imbued with the spiritual. A model of the multi-dimensional language of spirituality is presented to support practitioners in recognising young children's expressions of the spiritual separate to any association with religion or a belief system.

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