Skip header navigation


The culture of practice in pre-school provision: outsider and insider perspectives

Stephen C & Brown S (2004) The culture of practice in pre-school provision: outsider and insider perspectives. Research Papers in Education, 19 (3), pp. 323-344.

This paper explores, contrasts, and considers some of the implications of the different ways in which the culture of practice in pre-school provision is construed by various actors (‘outsiders’ and ‘insiders’) in the enterprise. ‘Outsiders’ means those with responsibility for the formulation of the curriculum, the inspection of provision and the training of pre-school staff (typically managers and assessors). The perspectives of two types of insiders, that is, pre-school practitioners and children, are considered. Differences are mapped out in the perspectives of outsiders and of insider practitioners and insider children, drawing on findings from a series of research projects carried out (between 1996 and 2001) investigating aspects of pre-school provision in Scotland. The evidence suggests that outsiders adopt an espoused culture that envisages practitioners fulfilling prescribed roles to deliver a curriculum that will allow children to achieve planned outcomes and which is largely independent of context. In contrast, the implicit culture of practitioners arises from the context of the setting in which they work, is dynamic, flexible, and focuses on maintaining desirable activities in the playroom rather than specified progress goals. The children’s perspective is characterized by a focus on play, making choices to satisfy individual preferences and enjoying the company of other children. This study goes on to link these differences to differing pressures and responsibilities that rest on outsiders and insiders and their differing construction of childhood in the context of pre-school provision. The paper concludes with a consideration of some of the implications of these differences for innovations in practice, the initial and continuing education of practitioners, accounting for practice and planning for provision in a way that recognizes differences, and the need to test tentative educational knowledge in context, rather than assume a consensual body of knowledge.

Preschool provision; insider/outside perspectives; playroom culture; implications for practice; Education, Preschool; Preschool children Services for

Research Papers in Education: Volume 19, Issue 3

Author(s)Stephen, Christine; Brown, Sally
Publication date30/09/2004
Publication date online18/02/2007
PublisherTaylor & Francis (Routledge)
Scroll back to the top