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Towards a re-conceptualisation of risk in early childhood education

Cooke, M and Wong, S and Press, F (2019) Towards a re-conceptualisation of risk in early childhood education. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood. ISSN 1463-9491

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Abstract

© The Author(s) 2019. Children’s engagement in risk-taking has been on the agenda for early childhood education for the past 10–15 years. At a time when some say the minority world has become overly risk averse, early childhood education aims to support confident, competent and resilient children through the inclusion of beneficial risk in early childhood education. The concept of risk is a complex phenomenon. Beneficial risk is engaging in experiences that take a person outside of their comfort zone and include outcomes that may be beneficial to learning, development and life satisfaction. To date, research on beneficial risk in early childhood has focused on children’s risk-taking in outdoor play. This focus has led to a predominant conceptualisation of beneficial risk in early childhood as an outdoor physical play activity for children. In this article, the authors problematise this conceptualisation. Drawing on both broad and early childhood education specific literature, the authors explore the current discourse on risk in both childhood and early childhood education. The authors identify the development of the current conceptualisation of risk as an experience for children within play, outdoors and as a physical activity, and highlight the limitations of this conceptualisation. The authors argue that for risk-taking to be in line with the predominantly holistic approach of early childhood education, a broad view of risk is needed. To achieve this broad view, the authors argue for a re-conceptualisation of risk that encompasses a wide range of risk experiences for both children and educators. The authors suggest further research is needed to expand our understanding of beneficial risk in early childhood education. They propose further research will offer a significant contribution to the early childhood sector.

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