In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Relational Pedagogies in Early Childhood Education

  • Introduction
  • Relational Pedagogies—Practice Guidance
  • Relational Pedagogy—Unexplored Areas of Study

Education Relational Pedagogies in Early Childhood Education
Theodora Papatheodorou
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0301


Relationships are crucial throughout life and transcend temporal, geographical, cultural, and discipline boundaries. Aristotle recognized that humans are social beings, while the African philosophy of Ubuntu posits that humans exist in relation to and because of others. Research from brain development, during the last fifty years, has also demonstrated and asserted the importance of relationships for the child’s development and well-being. Indeed, relationships are at the heart of early childhood care and education curricula and practices and well-ingrained in the consciousness of early years educators. While philosophical and cultural notions of existence in the world converse with evidence from neuroscience about child development, the field of early years education is at an early stage to conceptualizing the relational dimension of pedagogy. It was in the early 2000s that relationships started to be explored from a pedagogical perspective and the term relational pedagogy emerged in the field of early childhood education. Notable early publications include J. Brownlee’s article “Teacher Education Students’ Epistemological Beliefs: Developing a Relational Model of Teaching” (2004) and J. Brownlee and D. Berthelson’s article “Developing Relational Epistemology through Relational Pedagogy: New Ways of Thinking about Personal Epistemology in Teacher Education” (2008). The edited volume by T. Papatheodorou and J. Moyles, Learning Together: Exploring Relational Pedagogy (2009), also offers a compilation of research and reflective papers exploring relational pedagogy. This annotated bibliography provides an evidence base for relational pedagogy as it has evolved from early 2000s to present time. It is organized under four main sections to include (i) theoretical and conceptual papers, (ii) empirical research papers, (iii) publications which provide practice guidance, and (iv) unexplored areas of study relevant to relational pedagogy. This annotated bibliography was supported by Bogdan Dragomir, who conducted initial literature searches, and the anonymous reviewers, who provided initial constructive feedback.

Theoretical and Conceptual Papers

Theoretical and conceptual papers explore relational pedagogy from different schools of thought to provide a rationale for its place in early childhood education and attempt to conceptualize it. Similar arguments pertaining to relational pedagogy in early childhood are also raised in theoretical papers exploring relational pedagogy in the wider educational context to reinforce its place with the educational system, in general. In the following section, theoretical and conceptual papers about relational pedagogy are discussed and summarized under key themes, that is, (i) a rationale for relational pedagogy in early childhood education, (ii) relational pedagogy in the wider educational context, and (iii) foundational reading for understanding relational pedagogy.

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