'Professional Love' in A Time of Cholic: Innovative Application of a Practitioner Framework and Researching Abstract Concepts with Children & Young People

  • Martin Purcell (Speaker)
  • Reid, J. (Speaker)
  • Jools Page (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


This innovation session at the BERA annual conference expounds a framework for shaping effective practice in early years care and education, and explores the potential for applying this approach with older children and young people. It also explores innovative approaches to researching the intangible concept on which this approach is based (i.e. ‘professional love’), something that does not necessarily lend itself to traditional forms of educational research.

In the workshop, Page discusses her concept of ‘professional love’ (2011; 2014) as an essential element of effective early years practice. She draws on Noddings (2003) theoretical framework to articulate the need for the practitioner to achieve ‘motivational displacement’ through becoming engrossed in the child, knowing and understanding their needs, based on their ability to interpret the child’s mental and emotional state. Page, further argues that caregivers need to draw from their own experiences of being loved, and emphasises that ‘professional love’ can only emerge when “highly attuned, experienced, well supported and resilient caregivers… shift their thinking” (op cit: 123).

Purcell (2016; 2017) has taken Page’s concept and argues that it can help inform practice in work with older children and young people; and, indeed, with adults. Drawing on Freire’s assertion that education ‘is an act of love’ (1970: 29), Purcell explores where ‘love’ might feature in the dialogical relationships developed by community educators and other practitioners. Concerned particularly with the crippling challenges of postmodern living that contribute to the damage of the mental and emotional wellbeing of the ‘millennial’ generation, he sees professionally loving practice as a means of helping young people become more resilient in the face of these.

However, the philosophical and emotional aspects underpinning the thinking behind the concept of ‘professional love’ present challenges in researching this concept and its application – both with practitioners and (particularly) with children and young people. Having researched extensively the ‘ethic of care’ in the context of educational institutions, Reid is curious to critique the concept of 'professional love' and to develop ways to help research participants and researchers generate meaningful data to help us shape good practice. There are many existing approaches to generating, analyzing and sharing data, however, there are particular challenges when a concept is difficult to articulate. In the workshop, Reid explores with participants’ innovative research techniques that allows preference for technological, creative and performance to shape the way in which they engage with explorations of ‘love’, from both sides of professional relationships.
Period5 Sep 2017
Event titleBritish Educational Research Association Annual Conference 2017
Event typeConference
LocationBrighton, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational