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This exploration is rooted in the vision of a democratic classroom in which all voices are heard and takes place in an early years setting, or community of practice, in Dublin Ireland. The aim of the study is to explore what it means to belong to this particular community of practice from multiple perspectives. The objective is twofold: to respond to our ethical commitment as teachers, and to explore the sense of belonging in a community of practice. This is a qualitative study conducted in three distinctive stages that build on each other. To start, I immersed myself in the setting as a participant-observer for four days to become familiar with routines and to build rapport. These participant-observations informed the design of the focus groups in the second stage of this project in which their sense of belonging was explored: One focus group consisted of five children aged 44 months to 55 months, and one group of two teachers. In the third stage of the data collection I conducted interviews with a parent, an Early Childhood Education student, the centre manager, and another teacher. The findings highlight the ways in which the participants are respected for their unique identities, while sharing some aspects of a social identity with other members of their community. In addition, the findings revealed factors that facilitate a sense of belonging. Children’s invaluable insight into their own perspectives stands out as a strength of this research project, while a limitation lies in the interpretation of the findings without consulting the children. Recommendations for the future include designing spaces for teachers to renew their practice, and researching with, rather than on, children.
Bitterberg, A (2013) Feeling a sense of belonging in the Early Childhood Centre: An exploration into a community of practice. Masters Dissertations, Dublin Institute of Technology, 2013.