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Becoming a problem: behaviour and reputation in the early years classroom

MacLure, Maggie and Jones, Liz and Holmes, Rachel and MacRae, Christina (2012) Becoming a problem: behaviour and reputation in the early years classroom. British educational research journal, 38 (3). pp. 447-471. ISSN 1469-3518

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How does it happen that some children acquire a reputation as a ‘problem’ in school? The article discusses some findings of a qualitative study involving children in the Reception year (ages 4–5). The research focused on problematic behaviour as this emerged within, and was shaped by, the culture of the classroom. A key question for the research was: what makes it difficult for some children to be, and to be recognised as, good students? Using an analytic framework derived from discourse and conversation analysis, we identify some critical factors in the production of reputation, including: the ‘discursive framing’ of behaviour; the public nature of classroom discipline; the linking of behaviour, learning and emotions; the interactional complexities of being (seen to be) good, and the demands on children of passing as the ‘proper child’ required by prevailing discourses of normal development, as coded in UK early years curriculum policy and pedagogy.

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