Challenging taken-for-granted ideas in early childhood education: A critique of Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory in the age of post-humanism (2024)

Elliott, Sue & Davis, Julie(2018)Challenging taken-for-granted ideas in early childhood education: A critique of Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory in the age of post-humanism.InMalone, K, Barratt Hacking, E, & Cutter-Mackenzie, A (Eds.) Research handbook on childhoodnature: Assemblages of childhood and nature research (Springer International Handbooks of Education).Springer, Switzerland, pp. 1-36.

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A significant theorist in the early childhood education field is Urie Bronfenbrenner who, in 1979, proposed his “ecological systems theory,” sometimes referred to as the “ecological framework for human development.” This theory offers a multidimensional systems model for understanding the influence of family through to economic and political structures; thus, it presents a way of understanding the human life course from early childhood through to adulthood. In this theory, the ecological framework enables the mapping of information about individuals and their contexts over time in order to understand their diverse systemic interconnections. A critique of this model, however, from a childhoodnature stance, is that it ignores consideration of human-nature interconnections. Thus, it is a deeply anthropocentric model of human development that is at odds with emergent post-humanist thinking that seeks to de-center the human condition. In this chapter, we argue that the pervasiveness of this human-centered systems approach works against sustainability, in that it reinforces the sociocultural, political, and economic dimensions of being human at the expense of environmental interconnections. Drawing on systems theory, post-humanist theory, new materialism, a critical lens to pedagogy, and new sociology of childhood, we propose alternative ways of approaching Bronfenbrenner’s work that, both, facilitates human connections and strengthens children and nature connections that have implications for early childhood education philosophy and pedagogy.

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ID Code: 117679
Item Type: Chapter in Book, Report or Conference volume (Chapter)
Measurements or Duration: 36 pages
Keywords: Anthropocentricism, Bronfenbrenner, Critical theory, Early childhood education, New materialism, Post-humanist theory, Sustainability, Systems theory
DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-51949-4_60-1
ISBN: 978-3-319-51949-4
Pure ID: 33303894
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Education
Current > Schools > School of Early Childhood & Inclusive Education
Copyright Owner: 2018 Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature
Copyright Statement: This work is covered by copyright. Unless the document is being made available under a Creative Commons Licence, you must assume that re-use is limited to personal use and that permission from the copyright owner must be obtained for all other uses. If the document is available under a Creative Commons License (or other specified license) then refer to the Licence for details of permitted re-use. It is a condition of access that users recognise and abide by the legal requirements associated with these rights. If you believe that this work infringes copyright please provide details by email to
Deposited On: 30 Apr 2018 04:16
Last Modified: 02 Mar 2024 02:25

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Challenging taken-for-granted ideas in early childhood education: A critique of Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory in the age of post-humanism (2024)
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