The invited commentators are Rachel Sinquefield-Kangas (Doctoral candidate, M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction) and Jonna Kangas (University Lecturer, PhD in education), both from the Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki.
The presentation is titled: The social construction of acts of compassion in the everyday life of a kindergarten
This paper proposes a new perspective on researching compassion in early childhod education. In particular, we examine the construction of acts of compassion in everyday social situations of a kindergarten. We also examine how the kindergarten community responds to children’s distress and suffering. By compassion we refer to recognizing others’ suffering, experiencing empathic concern, and acting to alleviate the suffering. Our research questions the theoretical premises of the existing research on compassion in early childhood education settings. The existing research often conceptualizes compassion as an individual skill or trait to act compassionately. However, the culture of a kindergarten, for example, its division of labor, rules and norms play a role in how suffering can and must be expressed and how the community responds to the suffering. Our research was conducted in a public kindergarten in Helsinki in a group of under 3-year-old children. The data were collected by observing the interactions of adults and children, using the method of structured observation. The results show that acts of compassion cannot be explained only by reference to individuals’ properties; compassion was often the result of cooperation. The results also suggest that the culture of the kindergarten and its established practices partly constituted the form of the compassionate acts. In particular, the results shed light on the division of labor between the adults and the children in the acts of compassion. Based on our results, we propose avenues for further research for the examination of cultures of compassion and pedagogical recommendations for cultivating cultures of compassion in early childhood education.
The draft of the paper is available upon request from Antti Rajala (email@example.com). For background reading, please see an already published theoretical paper from the research group here.
Everyone interested is very welcome to join the seminar!