Reconciling perspectives on quality in New Zealand early childhood services

Full reference
Zhang, Q. (2018). Delineating and reconciling various perspectives on quality in New Zealand early childhood services. NZ International Research in Early Childhood Education Journal, 21(1), 76 - 87.  Retrieved from https://www.childforum.com/research/2018-nz-international-early-childhood-education-journal/1566-reconciling-perspectives-on-quality.html

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Original Research Paper
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Delineating and reconciling various perspectives on quality in New Zealand early childhood services   

Qilong Zhang
Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, NZ

 

Abstract

In the context of evaluation of the quality of an early childhood service, tension can be created when internal stakeholders (e.g., manager, teachers, and parents) have a different perspective on what constitutes quality compared to an external evaluation authority. This study aims to delineate such perspectival differences and explore approaches to mediating the tensions. Data is comprised of individual interviews with 27 participants from nine early childhood services (one manager, one teacher, and one parent from each service) in a North Island city of New Zealand as well as the relevant Education Review Office documents. A combination of theoretical thematic analysis and deductive qualitative analysis captures three areas of difference in perspective between the sampled early childhood services and Education Review Office documents: level of compliance, appropriateness of practice, and robustness of evaluation. In an attempt to exemplify a multiple-lens approach to addressing the three areas of difference, three theoretical lenses are considered: the self-review framework, practical hermeneutics, and critical pragmatism.

Key words: Early childhood, quality, evaluation, multiple perspectives.

 

Introduction

Quality early childhood education has become a priority policy area for many jurisdictions in the world (Fenech, 2011; Jackson, 2015; Logan, Press, & Sumsion, 2012). Although quality of an early childhood service is traditionally viewed to be measurable against a set of universally applicable standards (e.g., Harms, Clifford, & Cryer, 2005), more recent literature highlights its value-laden and contextual nature (Dahlberg, Moss, & Pence, 2007; Dalli, et al., 2011). Researchers recognise that different stakeholders may have different perspectives on quality of early childhood services, as vividly expressed in the parody ‘quality is in the eye of the beholder’ (Farquhar, 1993; Pence & Moss, 1994). In the context of quality evaluation of early childhood services, this can create tensions for both teaching practice and quality evaluation, particularly when a consensus cannot be reached. The present study explores ways to ‘deal with’ the tensions.

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