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Democratic fostering for competent children? An ethnographic study in different preschools

Research project This project is about democratic fostering in preschools in different kind of areas. It covers both children´s own attempts to influence, and the teaching and environment they are offered, in the daily activities at preschool.

In Sweden, preschool is the first important step for many children in the education to be a democratic citizen. The goals in the curricula are ambitious, for example, children from different backgrounds shall have the same possibilities to exercise influence and to learn about, and “to live”, democracy in preschool. How this should be realized is left to the teachers to decide. The democratic commission in the curricula is sometimes contradictory (e.g. solidarity with others and individual freedom of choice), and research from Nordic countries reports that the commission are understood in different ways, and often seen as difficult to implement. One often emphasized key component for children´s possibilities to participate is to be seen as competent persons. However, what is perceived as competent is not neutral, for example, in Kjørholt´s study, competences that were highly valued in other cultures than the Norwegian, ran the risk of being interpreted as shortcomings.

Head of project

Carina Hjelmer
Associate professor

Project overview

Project period:

2015-01-01 2018-12-31


Internally funded

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Applied Educational Science Research, Faculty of Social Sciences

Research area

Educational sciences

Project description

The aim of this study is to acquire knowledge regarding democratic fostering in preschools in different local contexts. Of special interest is the content and methods used in the pedagogic practice, as well as the children´s own attempts to influence in preschool. Questions about how democratic subjects are presented in the pedagogic practice, as well as questions about how, and what, the children are promoted to, and themselves try to, influence are focused. Preschools were selected to cover a variety of local contexts in terms of ethnicity and socio-economic circumstances, from rural area, and from districts in big cities (with a large number of immigrated families and, with a majority of families with high income/higher studies). A critical ethnographic approach have been applied, and the empirical material consist of observations, conversations and interviews with groups of children and with teachers. In this study, it is central to consider both different groups of children´s attempts to influence, and the power relations in the pedagogic practices, i.e. the relationship between agency and structures in the different settings.

Latest update: 2018-12-06