Navigating the entanglements: Curriculum and assessment priorities in transitioning to school in Aotearoa-New Zealand
This thesis critically examines the curriculum and assessment priorities children encounter as they transition from early childhood to school and the modes of being, doing, knowing, and relating these priorities promote or make difficult. An initial focus on children’s multimodal ways of operating shifted as this study progressed toward a more relational materialist conception of multimodality, drawing on the thinking of Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari and Karen Barad. A key focus became tracing the heterogeneous forces and entities that authorise and prioritise particular constructions of learning and learners. The thesis follows the curriculum and assessment priorities six focus children met with in their last six months at kindergarten and their first six months in a new entrant classroom, and explores how these priorities relate to those of the children and their families. Data drawn on include a range of policy and practice-related documentation, interviews, fieldnotes and video-recorded observations. Excerpts of video are incorporated into the thesis as ‘cases to think with’ about key dimensions of everyday pedagogical activity not well represented by words. While it may be a truism to say children navigate the move from early childhood to school differently, this thesis brings attention to the multiplicity of forces at play in how this move unfolds for particular children. It offers critical insights into the complex ways the global, local and ‘here and now’ specificities operate in entanglement to produce pedagogical priorities and learner-subjectivities. It highlights that the curriculum and assessment priorities for children in this study being/becoming new entrants strongly favoured children who were lingusitically adept, and willing and able to adjust to tightly prescribed classroom normativities, many of which centred around control of the body. This thesis challenges the ongoing privileging of the verbal, arguing for the importance of making space for children’s other modes of being, doing, knowing and relating. It questions the recent narrowing and intensifying emphasis on standards-based assessment and the strongly individualistic, regulatory discourse of self-managing learners. It foregrounds the ways in which transition to school agendas have escalated nationally and internationally and become part of day-to-day curriculum and assessment priorities. On the basis of these findings I call for greater ethical regard for the heterogeneity of children and the capacities they bring and are capable of, including the capacity to engage with ‘real world’ multiplicity and difference-making interconnectivities with human and more-than-human others.