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Framing children through observation practices: using art theory to re-think ways of looking at children

MacRae, Christina (2011) Framing children through observation practices: using art theory to re-think ways of looking at children. Reconceptualising educational research methodology, 2 (1). pp. 34-48. ISSN 1892-042x

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Abstract

This paper looks at methodological questions that are raised through the practice of observation to consider how researchers ‘keep an eye on the world’, and particularly how early years practitioners keep an eye on children. Drawing on notions of perspective in art history and theory as methodological resources it asks questions about the frames through which children have been conventionally seen in both research and Early Years Settings. In particular I have chosen to focus on the Target Child Observation System, as it was the system that I was first trained to use both as an Early Years Teacher and as a researcher. By referring to perspective as a method to represent what is observed, the paper contrasts two different models of perspective. Alberti’s use of the window and grid to project the observed is contrasted with Brunelleschi’s mirror play. Questions are raised about how observation as procedure acts to limit vision by organising the gaze. Brunelleschi’s demonstration of perspective can be useful in order to remind us of ways in which the objects of our gaze might escape verification through observation.

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