UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Hermeneutics in early childhood education : broadening interpretations of children's ideas and actions, and learning in the process about our conceptions of children, our educational practices, and ourselves Sánchez Álvarez, Alejandra


Students, teachers, and instructors in early childhood education (ECE) in British Columbia (BC) have dedicated time and effort to understand and interpret children’s ideas and actions and teachers’ practices. Despite our willingness to perform as well-prepared professionals, we have not agreed sufficiently about common and extended uses of philosophies and strategies that might broaden our perspectives. While we have strived to prepare ourselves for interacting and fostering relationships with children, their families, and other educators, it is not uncommon that educators interpret children’s ideas and actions according to dominant discourses of how children should develop. Much scholarly attention has been given to pedagogical documentation in BC and other contexts. However, dialogue and mutual understanding of the possibilities for documenting children and teachers’ pedagogy have not happened sufficiently within and across the institutions whose mandate is to provide an early years education that does not normalize children’s initiatives and needs but rather fosters children’s competence and interdependency with others and the world. This study proposes hermeneutics, or the art of interpreting, as a valuable philosophical and educational approach in ECE for understanding and interpreting children and pedagogies. By assuming a hermeneutical attitude, educators become part of a promising, ongoing dialogue with ourselves and others that gives value to our existence in the world and influences children’s experiences. The study illustrates that the systematic use of circles of understanding in the practice of listening, thinking, dialoguing, and creating pedagogical documentation helped early childhood (EC) students to broaden their conceptualizations of the child, pedagogy, and themselves. It addresses the participating EC students’ capability to deal with resistance and frustration and to remain in hermeneutic dialogue while they studied scholarly literature and collaboratively interpreted a text or object of study. It also examines difficulties and challenges they encountered. The study proposes that being and acting hermeneutically in ECE might provide a plurality of perspectives to engage in ongoing repeated circles of interpretation among educators that enrich our mutual understanding and encourage us to embrace differences thoroughly and respectfully.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International