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  • Barnträdgårdens didaktik

    2020. Annelie Maria Fredricson (et al.).

    Avhandling (Dok)

    This thesis, which touches on the fields of preschool didactics and history of education, deals with a specific period of the kindergarten movement’s history. With the foundation of the Swedish Fröbel Association’s journal Barnträdgården (Kindergarten), knowledge and ideas about the kindergarten movement and its activities could be disseminated to kindergarten teachers in Sweden and throughout the Nordic region. The thesis studies the journal from its first year of publication in 1918 until 1945, in order to analyse its content regarding how materials and working methods used in kindergartens should be designed and used. The theoretical point of departure for the thesis is a narrative inquiry approach. Using thematic close readings, content analyses have been performed to demonstrate how the journal balanced the variation, contradictions and complexity of the movement’s development during that period. By analysing how the content of Barnträdgården advanced the discourse on materials and working methods, the thesis thereby contributes to the knowledge from previous studies of preschool didactics and its development. The thesis also reveals that during this period the journal published the work of some 60 writers, a number significantly greater than the handful of pioneers normally credited as making an important contribution. Analysis of the journal demonstrates that Fröbel gifts – i.e., activity materials intended for use by the children – and the form of activities played a considerably larger role in the movement’s work than has been revealed or highlighted in previous studies. International research has shown that the use of Fröbel gifts was called into question as new knowledge was acquired about children’s development: firstly, because they afforded the children too little freedom if kindergarten teachers deemed that the materials should be used in a single prescribed way; and secondly, because they were used in a perfunctory manner. Groupings with various agendas emerged in Fröbelism in both the United States and Britain – either seeking to renew or preserve Fröbel’s methods – something that was reflected in a Nordic context, even if it did take longer to emerge than in the Anglo-Saxon world. Similarly, the thesis demonstrates that Fröbel’s gifts and activities, as well as the design of the kindergarten environment, were critically reviewed in the journal. In the early 1930s, the critical view of Fröbel’s pedagogy and philosophy that emerged in the journal would be renegotiated by Austrian pedagogue Elsa Köhler, who introduced child-development theories and scientific thinking into the training of kindergarten teachers. Since launching Barnträdgården in 1918, the Swedish Fröbel Association had been emphasising the need to professionalise future kindergarten teachers. This is examined in depth in the journal, with elements of other professions working in related fields, something that among other things resulted in the journal offering continuing professional development in child psychology during the first half of the 1940s. The thesis highlights the fact that, as a subject, preschool didactics rests on the kindergarten’s two centuries of activities and content, through several aspects of continuity and change, then and now. In the thesis, I emphasise the fact that discourse on the design and use of materials has been crucial to the ability of children to freely express themselves and that the issue of this freedom is inextricably linked to the degree of access children had to the materials in day-to-day activities. Materials and working methods were related to how the environment should be designed and the thesis demonstrates that these issues were regularly discussed in the journal. The design of the environment through newly acquired knowledge of children and kindergarten teachers’ new outlooks on their own role became part of the profession’s development, something that has continued to play an essential part in the evolution of the preschool teaching profession ever since. Through my analysis, new interpretations of the present can be formulated – an interest that from the beginning led me to the research questions addressed in this thesis.

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