An Investigation into the Mother/Practitioner Relationship through Digital Documentation in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC)

  • Dr Amanda Crow

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis explores partnership working in an English Preschool in the North of England and examines, using digital documentation, the perceptions of mothers and practitioners when they share stories about ‘their child’. Partnership is a term used Interchangeably, especially in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC), and a positive relationship is regarded as fundamental when considering how best to support young children. Relationships are complex nevertheless, and there are often underlying tensions and power dynamics that influence the way practitioners and parents develop their working relationship and communicate their values and beliefs; additionally, there are questions about the contribution and way the child’s everyday experiences are interpreted. A qualitative study design was adopted to explore the perspectives of seven mothers and their respective child’s key person, using the child’s unique digital story as the focus they discussed their relationship, their hopes and worries for their children. Phenomenographic interviews were conducted, the method chosen for its collaborative and conversational style, yet potential to reveal nuanced meanings. The data was analysed using sociocultural theory and aligned to Reflexive Thematic Analysis. I propose that the participant mothers and practitioners had developed their own unique pedagogical practice, influenced by their relational and cultural experiences. The digital documentation provided a perspective to explore how each child was framed by the adults as they discussed, negotiated, and celebrated what they saw. Nevertheless, the discussions about the child, their care, learning and development, whist seemingly informative and collaborative was entirely from an adult perspective. The study highlights a number of key findings that advance an understanding of partnership working and also the contribution documentation can play in ECEC practice. Familiarity and a shared history when working in partnership became evident and of significance was the importance placed on the way the mothers and practitioners engaged in a dialogue about their children’s needs. However, they freely discussed assessment practices and a desire for their children to be ready, and the mantra of children being ready for school came through strongly, reinforcing the presence of professional and political power in early years practice. Children were not physically present in the interviews but their voices, feelings, wants, and needs were interpreted by the adults. I propose they had a presence, captured in the observations, photographs and videos of the digital documentation. The research findings challenge practitioners and parents to consider the way children become subjects of documentation and how this can lead to the normalisation of monitoring and assessment practices. Partnership as a concept is complex and the research findings concur that establishing a collaborative relationship in ECEC is not without challenge, however, the findings suggest the need for practitioners to acknowledge and explore how children’s experiences are interpreted by adult carers and used to inform relationships and partnership working.
Date of Award14 Jun 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorHelen Lomax (Main Supervisor) & Samantha McMahon (Co-Supervisor)

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