Educators’ interpretations of children’s belonging across borders: Thinking and talking with an image

Anna Maija Puroila*, Anette Emilson, Hrönn Pálmadóttir, Barbara Piškur, Berit Tofteland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


European quality framework for early childhood education and care calls for creating environments that support all children’s sense of belonging. This study aims to advance empirical knowledge on educators’ interpretations of children’s belonging in early education settings. The study is part of a project conducted in five European countries – Finland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. The following research question guides the study: How do educators interpret children’s belonging in early education across borders? The study draws from the theory of the politics of belonging by Yuval-Davis and employs ‘thinking and talking with an image’ as a methodological approach. The findings explicate educators’ taken-forgranted categorisations, thus portraying their views about educational settings as sites for children’s belonging. Opposing, joint play and being alone were identified as emotionally loaded interactions that educators interpreted as significant for children’s belonging. The educators emphasised democratic values, such as diversity, participation, equality and equity. However, they viewed diverse tensions in embodying democratic values in a diverse group. The shared basis of the profession appeared as a more significant basis for educators’ interpretations than the different societal contexts. The study encourages educators and researchers in European countries to collaborate in promoting children’s belonging.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Educational Research Journal
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The study is part of the research project ‘Politics of belonging: Promoting children’s inclusion in educational settings across borders’, funded by NordForsk research programme ‘Education for Tomorrow’ (project number 85644).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.

Other keywords

  • Belonging
  • children
  • cross-cultural
  • early childhood education
  • educator
  • interpretation
  • visual methodologies


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