In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Reconceptualizing and Reimagining Early Childhood Education

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works: Books
  • Reference Works: Articles
  • International Perspectives and Globalization
  • Social Justice
  • Relationalities
  • Democracy and Early Childhood Care and Education
  • Curriculum
  • Postcolonialism and Reconceptualizing
  • Philosophy in/and Early Childhood Education
  • Image of Childhood/Child
  • Ethics/Feminism
  • Research and Documentation
  • Quality in Early Childhood Care and Education
  • The Images of Teaching, Education, and Childhood
  • Journals
  • Chapters
  • Book Series

Childhood Studies Reconceptualizing and Reimagining Early Childhood Education
Annabella Cant
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 August 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0276


The reform of educational systems has been taking place since the beginnings of institutionalized education. Continuing to contest, rethink, reconceptualize, and reimagine the field of early childhood education is necessary owing to the prevalent presence of dominant discourses that have a firm hold on its values, praxis, and pedagogies. These dominant discourses have emerged in times when standardization, measurability, and the economic gains of educating citizens have been the ultimate goals of education. Today, those goals are considered narrow and outdated, complexified by current discourses and practices taken up in a globalized world that starts to see itself with faults, errors, and even guilt. The so-called Reconceptualist movement launched during the 1980s as a series of events, such conferences and scholarly gatherings. Special publications were organized by critical scholars and educators who were questioning developmentalism as the core of early childhood education, recognizing the lack of diversity of pedagogical practices in the field. Scholars who were drawn to this movement started to question and unsettle modernist views that were based primarily in Euro-American privileged knowledges. By doing so, they have opened space for alternative perspectives rooted in critical feminist, postcolonial, and postmodern paradigms. The first wave of Reconceptualists were deeply inspired by thinkers such as Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Jean-François Lyotard. They emphatically critiqued the dominance of so-called developmentally appropriate practices. As a response to the control of universal truths being so widely accepted and taken for granted by practices in early childhood education, Reconceptualists have responded by opposing such practices by considering them through a social-constructionist lens of understanding and interpreting the world and the human condition. Reconceptualist scholars have contested the globalization of childhood and deconstructed the idea that all children should be measured and qualitatively compared to a Western model of the developed child. Their critique of these structural and modernist ways of seeing the child is based on the lack of contextualization of childhoods: the value of culture, place, socioeconomic situation, traditions, histories, and so on. By exposing the power of narrowly understood developmentalism and the deep effects of the sociopolitical contexts in education, they proposed frameworks based in social justice and equity. This movement’s momentum continues to present times, with myriad scholars fighting for the idea of reframing and reimagining early childhood education. The following bibliography presents some of the initiators and the sustainers of the movement, along with philosophies and practices that inspired or were inspired by them.

Reference Works: Books

A general description of the Reconceptualist movement can be found in Bloch, et al. 2018, Cannella 1997, and Yelland and Bentley 2017, and a more specific view on some of the salient topics within the movement is presented in Hauser and Jipson 1998. The contested and complex topic of quality in early childhood care and education is discussed in Dahlberg, et al. 2013 and in Kinkead-Clark and Escayg 2021. Pacini-Ketchabaw, et al. 2015 and Lenz-Taguchi 2009 engage with the practice of pedagogical narration, and Mac Naughton 2005 talks about Foucault and poststructuralism in the realm of early childhood education. Pence and White 2011 take a postmodern perspective on pedagogy and praxis. Moss 2014 and Moss 2018 contrast dominant narratives with alternative ones.

  • Bloch, Marianne N., Beth Blue Swadener, and Gaile S. Cannella. Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Education and Care—A Reader: Critical Questions, New Imaginaries and Social Activism. New York: Peter Lang, 2018.

    DOI: 10.3726/b13310

    A book that contains a diversity of writings by authors who are part of the Reconceptualist movement in early childhood education.

  • Cannella, Gaile Sloan. Deconstructing Early Childhood Education: Social Justice and Revolution. Rethinking Childhood 2. New York: Peter Lang, 1997.

    A book that is considered part of the beginning of the Reconceptualist movement in early childhood education. It describes a process of deconstruction of the traditional notions of child development and opening toward multiple perspectives instead of new curricular stencils.

  • Dahlberg, Gunilla, Peter Moss, and Alan Pence. Beyond Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care: Languages of Evaluation. 3d ed. London: Falmer Press, 2013.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203371114

    The third edition of this book works with postmodern ideas to approach the subject of “quality” in the realm of early childhood education. The authors suggest that there are many other ways for making meaning of pedagogical work beyond the discourses on quality.

  • Hauser, Mary E., and Janice A. Jipson. Intersections: Feminisms/Early Childhoods. Rethinking Childhood 3. New York: Peter Lang, 1998.

    A collection of scholarly reflections and lived experiences that analyze the foundation of early childhood education through feminist lenses.

  • Kinkead-Clark, Zoyah, and Kerry-Ann Escayg, eds. Reconceptualizing Quality in Early Childhood Education, Care and Development: Understanding the Child and Community. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021.

    An inclusive collection that contains research, theories, and cultural knowledges that “dare” to imagine new alternatives in the interest of children, families, and communities.

  • Lenz-Taguchi, Hillevi. Going beyond the Theory/Practice Divide in Early Childhood Education: Introducing an Intra-active Pedagogy. London: Routledge, 2009.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203872956

    A book that presents pedagogical documentation as a tool for pedagogical transformations. Through feminists and philosophical lenses, the book describes materials as performative agents instead of objects of human activity, a perspective that is known as intra-active pedagogy.

  • Mac Naughton, Glenda. Doing Foucault in Early Childhood Studies: Applying Post-structural Ideas. London: Routledge, 2005.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203465332

    A book that showcases examples of poststructuralism in classrooms.

  • Moss, Peter. Transformative Change and Real Utopias in Early Childhood Education: A Story of Democracy, Experimentation and Potentiality. London: Routledge, 2014.

    DOI: 10.4324/9781315779904

    A book that contests two dominant narratives in the field of early childhood, greatly influenced by neoliberalism— “quality and high returns” and “the story of markets”—while proposing alternative narratives that suggest early childhood places to be genuinely democratic.

  • Moss, Peter. Alternative Narratives in Early Childhood: An Introduction for Students and Practitioners. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2018.

    DOI: 10.4324/9781315265247

    A book that challenges the dominant discourses in the field of early childhood and presents a list of alternative narratives along with discussions about the importance of paradigms, politics, and ethics in the field.

  • Pacini-Ketchabaw, Veronica, Fikile Nxumalo, Laurie Kocher, Enid Elliot, and Alejandra Sanchez. Journeys: Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Practices through Pedagogical Narration. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press, 2015.

    A book that shares collaborative stories of pedagogical documentation as a way of making learning visible without using conventional evaluative checklists.

  • Pence, Alan, and Jennifer White, eds. Child and Youth Care: Critical Perspectives on Pedagogy, Practice, and Policy. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press, 2011.

    A book that uses critical and postmodern perspectives to look at and critique conventional views in early childhood education. It approaches the subject through policy, pedagogy, and practice.

  • Yelland, Nicola, and Dana Frantz Bentley, eds. Found in Translation: Connecting Reconceptualist Thinking with Early Childhood Education Practices. New York: Routledge, 2017.

    A book that connects Reconceptualist theories in early childhood education to practice in the classroom.

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