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Young children’s funds of identity: Zoe’s learning, knowledge and agency

1.3 Learning, knowledge and agency
Paper in a Symposium (Symp)
3:50 PM, Tuesday 29 Aug 2017 (30 minutes)
Children’s formation of multiple identities as learners, communicators and citizens is a key outcome of their early years. Identity was once the domain of psychology; now it is argued as a vital link between learning and sociocultural context (Sfard & Prusak, 2005). Therefore considerations of sociocultural theories and identity have appeared in the literature. From a sociocultural perspective, children learn through active and intent observation and participation in experiences they are exposed to in their families and communities (Paradise & Rogoff, 2009). Through these experiences, children learn funds of knowledge (González, Moll, & Amanti, 2005). Recently, funds of knowledge have become argued as a source for funds of identity when people use these actively and agentically to explore and define themselves (Esteban-Guitart, 2016; Esteban-Guitart & Moll, 2013). Similarly, children may seek to define themselves and related identities through showing adults what is important to them, and interests them, related to their life experience in their families and communities. Bruner (1996) argued that people construct identity through narratives. This paper extends the ideas of Bruner (1996) and Esteban-Guitart (2016) and explores them in relation to the potential identity construction of children aged less than five years. These young children may tell stories about their lives in their families and communities, or represent these stories in various ways, drawing on and using artefacts as well as their increasing verbal capacities. The paper draws on data generated from a two-year qualitative research project undertaken in Aotearoa New Zealand (Hedges & Cooper, 2014). The project was a collaboration between academic and teacher researchers and included teachers, families and children as participants. This paper will focus on one 4-year-old child, Zoe. Data used in this paper includes selected excerpts of video footage of teachers and children engaging in activities and conversations during everyday teaching and learning experiences, the transcript of an interview between teachers, Zoe, and her parents in the family home, and pedagogical documentation of Zoe’s learning in the early childhood setting. Ways funds of knowledge were apparent in Zoe’s interests, and ways she used her agency to select, express and represent these in the early childhood setting are identified. The ways that these findings, collectively, formed sources of funds of identity are explored. Specifically, Zoe’s funds of knowledge will be used to argue and exemplify ways she actively sought to develop and understand her growing identities as a learner, communicator, member of wider family and cultural groups, and as a future, responsible citizen. The paper provides evidence that age is not a marker for capability in terms of ways children might perceive their future selves. It further argues that funds of identity are a useful concept for teachers to consider in their work in making decisions about which of children’s interests might be highlighted and engaged with in early childhood curriculum in order to work with children’s learning, knowledge and agency in ways that matter to children’s identity development.
University of Auckland, New Zealand
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