Applied Social Science for Early Years


Ewan Ingleby & Geraldine Oliver

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    About the Authors and Series Editors

    Ewan Ingleby

    Ewan Ingleby is a Senior Lecturer in Education/Early Years at the University of Teesside. Alongside contributing to the University of Teesside's education programmes, Ewan has been involved with teacher training at Sunderland University. His research interests include mentoring and linguistic development. Previous publications include sociological analyses of organisations and psychological approaches to social work.

    Geraldine Oliver

    Geraldine Oliver is a Senior Lecturer in Education/Early Years at the University of Teesside. She is the Programme Coordinator for Early Years at the University of Teesside and has developed academic modules as well as having taught extensively within Early Years. Her research interests include mentoring and linguistic development.

    Lyn Trodd

    Lyn Trodd is a principal Lecturer and Head of Children's Workforce Development at the University of Hertfordshire. She is currently Chair of the Sector-Endorsed Foundation Degree in Early Years national network. Lyn was a member of Children's Workforce Development Council reference group consulted about the new status for Early Years Professionals and led a team which piloted EYPS at the University of Hertfordshire. Her research is focused on graduate roles for members of the Children Workforce and how professional learning programmes develop self-efficacy in participants.

    Gill Goodliff

    Gill Goodliff is a Lecturer in Early Years at the Open University where she teaches on work-based learning courses in the Sector-Endorsed Foundation Degree in Early Years and is a Lead Assessor for Early Years Professional Status. Her professional background with young children and their families was predominantly in the Public Voluntary and Independent sector. Her current research focuses on the professional development and identities of Early Years practitioners and young children's spirituality.


    Thanks go to colleagues and students at the University of Teesside and partner colleges for their contribution to the debates and discussions that have helped to form this book. Thanks also go to Professors John Fulton of Surrey University and John Davis of All Souls College, Oxford for encouraging perseverance in reconciling studying, research, writing, teaching and administrating.

    The authors thank the staff at Learning Matters, particularly Julia Morris, and Jennifer Clark for their patience, developmental comments and efficiency. Lyn Trodd and Gill Goodliff are also to be thanked for their guidance and collegiate support.

    As ever I am particularly grateful for the support of my parents and my wife Karen and children Bernadette, Teresa and Michael. Without them tomorrow would always be a much harder day.

    Dr EwanIngleby, June 2008

    Foreword from the Series Editors

    This book is one of a series which will be of interest to all those following pathways towards achieving Early Years Professional Status (EYPS). This includes students on Sector-Endorsed Early Years Foundation Degree programmes and undergraduate Early Childhood Studies degree courses as these awards are key routes towards EYPS.

    The graduate EYP role was developed as a key strategy in government commitment to improve the quality of Early Years care and education in England, especially in the private, voluntary and independent sectors. Policy documents and legislation such as ‘Every Child Matters: Change for Children’ DfES (2004); the ‘Ten Year Childcare Strategy: Choice for Parents – the Best Start for Children’ HMT (2004), and the Childcare Act, 2006, identified the need for high-quality, well-trained and educated professionals to work with the youngest children. At the time of writing (July 2008), the Government's aim is to have Early Years Professionals (EYPs) in all Children's Centres by 2010 and in every full day care setting by 2015.

    In Applied Social Science for Early Years Ewan Ingleby and Geraldine Oliver draw on their experiences of teaching Early Years practitioners to provide a text which contextualises the required knowledge and understanding of an EYP in an accessible, relevant way. The book makes links to the National Standards for Early Years Professional Status. It also provides useful case studies that illustrate the application of social science theory in the work of an Early Years Professional and self-assessment questions (with suggested answers) to support reader' confidence in their own understanding.

    This book is distinctive in the series because it provides some of the essential underpinning knowledge needed by candidates who wish to achieve EYP Status. It aims to deepen the understanding of its readers so that they become more aware of why they work in certain ways as a practitioner. In this way it aims to support reflection on practice and to help EYPs to articulate their thinking when they seek to influence other practitioners in their roles as change agents and leaders of practice.

    Applied Social Science for Early Years will support candidates on any of the pathways towards achieving Early Years Professional Status and we are delighted to commend it to you.

    LynTroddUniversity of Hertfordshire
    GillGoodliffThe Open University July 2008
  • Conclusion

    This book has been written for Early Years professionals who need to develop their skills by applying academic concepts to professional practice. It can be argued that social science provides a number of potential explanations for complex aspects of human behaviour. This is one of the reasons why subjects such as psychology, sociology and social policy are such an integral part of the Early Years academic syllabus. Each of the main chapters has referred to the core elements of the EYPS benchmarks. These ‘standards’ represent one of the ways of reinforcing professional status within Early Years.

    Book Structure

    The book has adopted an interactive approach by using activities and considering case studies in each of the main chapters. This is to ensure that the main themes are applied to specific Early Years contexts. Each of the chapters has attempted to engage the reader with issues that are of importance to Early Years. It is hoped that this book is more than a general social science textbook because the content places social science within the everyday context of Early Years practice.

    The book's chapters have concentrated upon particular aspects of social science in relation to Early Years. Chapter 1 applies psychology to the Early Years context. The differing schools of psychological thought have been considered alongside working with children and families. Whereas behaviourist psychologists such as Skinner have emphasised the importance of external environmental factors in producing thoughts, humanists such as Rogers have placed an emphasis upon the importance of unique individuals processing thoughts that have been generated by the environment in a highly original way. It was argued that it is important to adopt as holistic an approach to psychology as possible if the subject is to be applied to Early Years. The therapies that are offered to Early Years professional practice from each perspective of psychology have merits that depend upon the particular context within which the therapies are being applied. Moreover, this holistic approach to applying psychological therapies to Early Years appears to support collaborative provision and multiagency working. It can be argued that this is an important policy theme within Early Years practice in general.

    Chapter 2 has explored the application of sociology to the Early Years context. The ideas within sociological perspectives such as functionalism, interactionism and conflict theory have been considered in developing the argument that social factors are particularly important for children's growth and development. The application of sociology to the Early Years context has been considered through exemplification and critical appraisal of sociological perspectives in relation to Early Years.

    Chapter 3 has discussed the importance of social policy for Early Years. The chapter has explained what social policy is, alongside analysing how social policy impacts upon the work of Early Years professionals. The chapter also offers a critical appraisal of the implications of selected social policies for Early Years practice. This means that it is important to be aware of the key social policy legislation that shapes the Early Years context. We argued that a key theme is the emphasis that is placed on partnership and collaborative working. This means that the ideal is for all the Early Years sectors to work together to help find what we referred to as ‘joined-up solutions to joined-up problems’. We also argued that the emphasis that is placed on ‘partnership’ and ‘working together’ assumes that this model of practice is possible. It can be argued that the deep-seated social divisions that can characterise UK society may mean that a model of partnership and working collaboration becomes more of an ‘ideal’ than a ‘reality’. The effectiveness of current government policy directions can be considered in view of this.

    Chapter 4 has identified and discussed some of the issues that are associated with literacy and learning in Early Years. The chapter has focused on how children's learning develops with experience. A main theme of the chapter has been that the child's personality, thought processes and linguistic ability develop over time. This means that it is important for Early Years professionals to place children's development within context. We have argued that we cannot explain child development by focusing on one factor. A number of important experiences appear to influence the child's ability to learn. We also argued that it is important to adopt the holistic approach to child development that was recommended in Chapter 2. In other words, as opposed to regarding child development as being influenced by either ‘biology’ or ‘social factors’, it is important to accept that there are a combination of psycho-social and biological factors that appear to influence children's development. As opposed to adopting an ‘either/or’ approach to child development we need to adopt as broad a perspective as possible.

    Chapter 5 has discussed the different experiences of childhood that appear in other places at other times. We argued that childhood differs according to time and place. In other words, the experience of childhood in the UK differs according to historical and cultural factors. The chapter also reveals that other cultures can have very different interpretations of the family and childhood. This means that children's experience of childhood is influenced by social communities. After discussing the importance of ‘time and place’, the chapter looked at UK society and discussed some of the current social issues that are affecting children and families in the UK today.

    The final chapter has discussed research methods for EYPS. After identifying what the term ‘research’ means, we analysed ways that the research process can be used by Early Years practitioners. We identified that there are different research models and methods. We also argued that the type of research models and methods used in a research project will depend upon the nature of the research question. It can be argued that research is one of the most important aspects of academic work within Early Years. We need to conduct research into professional practice in order to identify how the profession can move forward. This means that the design of our research question and its associated methodology become critical to the process of identifying what needs to be changed within Early Years professional practice.

    The book aims to make a contribution to enhancing the professional development of Early Years professionals. If this occurs it will achieve the highest of aims. There cannot be a more important professional role than helping children to develop. After all, today's children are tomorrow's adults and they represent the social future for generations to come.

    Appendix: Answers to Self-Assessment Questions

    • The five major schools of psychology are: psychoanalytical, behaviourist, humanistic, neurobiological and cognitive.
    • The best way of applying psychology to Early Years is through holistic therapies that combine the principles of behaviourism, humanism, cognitive, psychodynamic and neurobiological psychology to meeting the complex needs of individuals.
    • Table 1.2 Schools of psychology
    School of thoughtStrengthWeakness
    BehaviourismAcknowledgement of environmental influences on the mind.A tendency to neglect individual creativity with external factors.
    HumanismAcknowledgement of how individuals manipulate external variables.Rogerian theory is idealistic.
    PsychodynamicAcknowledgement of the workings of the unconscious mind.The theory is not methodologically proven.
    CognitiveAcknowledgement of the different thought processes during human cognitive development.The idea of stages of development is not necessarily the case. Cognitive development is more a process than a series of stages.
    NeurobiologicalAcknowledgement of the link between human thoughts and hormones/chromosomes.The theory is biologically reductionist.
    • Three influential sociological perspectives are functionalism, interactionism and conflict theory.
    • The best way of applying sociology to Early Years is through combining the perspectives with psychological therapies in order to meet the complex needs of children and families.
    • Table 2.2 Schools of sociology
    School of thoughtStrengthWeakness
    FunctionalismAcknowledgement of the importance of the social system.A tendency to neglect individuals who negotiate social meanings.
    InteractionismAcknowledgement of the importance of creative individuals generating social meanings.A tendency to focus on the role of individuals to the detriment of wider social structures.
    Conflict TheoryAcknowledgement of the importance of economics.A tendency to reduce social factors to economic variables
    • New Labour's key policy theme is ‘partnership’.
    • Three examples of New Labour policy affecting Early Years are Every Child Matters, mentoring and multiple intelligences.
    • A strength of New Labour is the importance that is given to statutory services. A weakness of the emphasis on partnership is that it is difficult to be ‘all things to all people’. To apply the familiar saying, it is impossible to please all of the people most of the time.
    • The main psychological perspectives accounting for the development of the child's personality are behaviourism, humanism, psychodynamic theory, cognitive theory, and biological psychology. These perspectives can be combined with the sociological perspectives that are outlined in chapter 2 to give a detailed explanation of children's linguistic and learning development.
    • Malim and Birch (1998, p468) argue that both Piaget and Vygotsky accept the fundamental importance of the child interacting with its environment if cognitive development is to occur. The difference may be considered as being how the two psychologists are perceived. Whereas Piaget is characterised as placing an emphasis upon stages of cognitive development, Vygotsky is remembered for his notion of a ‘scaffold’ of influential peers influencing cognitive thought processes. It is important to acknowledge that although the two psychologists may have a difference in focus this does not necessarily mean that they are diametrically opposed to one another.
    • It can be argued that it is too simplistic to argue that a child's personality is a product of either its biology or its social circumstances. It is more effective to acknowledge that personality development is a complex combination of social, environmental and biological variables. This view is supported by writers such as Richard Gross (2004) who argue against reducing personality development to one particular set of variables.
    • The nuclear family is not universal. Kathleen Gough's (1962) research on the Nayar indicates that there are a variety of family types so we cannot say that all families are ‘nuclear’.
    • Family form is influenced by ‘history’ and ‘location’ or ‘time and place’.
    • Family breakdown appears to be one of the key factors influencing children's experience of childhood in the UK today.
    • The three research models that are especially relevant to Early Years are the normative, interpretive and action research perspectives.
    • The best way of applying the research process to Early Years is through identifying a possible topic of ‘action research’ so that the research can be used to inform future professional practice.
    Research modelStrengthWeakness
    NormativeAcknowledgement of quantitative data.A tendency to neglect individuals creating social meaning.
    InterpretiveAcknowledgement of how individuals negotiate meaning.Research is usually small-scale and localised.
    Action ResearchThe research can be used to inform future professional practice.It is difficult to be ‘impartial’ as an action researcher as you are intimately involved with the research process.

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