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Constructed spaces: Affordances and a theory of the built environment in Christian early learning education

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posted on 2024-07-02, 06:30 authored by Brendan HydeBrendan Hyde
The aim of this project was to explore the perceptions of early childhood teachers working in Christian early learning centres in Victoria and NSW to ascertain the features of those environments, as constructed spaces, that enhance the Christian education of children. Two theoretical perspectives underpinned the research. Firstly, Affordance theory, a notion emanating from Gibson’s (2015) ecological approach to perception, in which affordances refer to what the environment presents to an individual. The affordances present in a given environment are “its functionally significant properties considered in relation to an individual” (Heft, 1988, p. 29). Secondly, a theology of the built environment, which concerns our experience of being placed, and the extent to which God is both revealed and concealed in our experience of space (Gorringe, 2022). A mixed methods approach was utilised for the data collection and analysis. Firstly, early childhood teachers working in Christian early learning contexts in Victoria and NSW were invited to (1) take part in an anonymous online Qualtrics survey, the data of which was analysed using thematic analysis (n =32), and (2) take part in a Zoom interview to ascertain the features of those environments, as constructed spaces, that enhance the Christian education of children (n =4). The interviews of these participants were recorded (audio and visual) and analysed using a phenomenological framework. Findings from the survey data indicate four themes - theological, structural (physical), emotional, and ‘wished for’ environments. Findings from the interviews analysed using a phenomenological framework indicated that the constructed space yielded five common types of affordances – emotional space, embodied space, physical space, relational space and theological space. The findings suggest that it is the constructed environment of the early childhood centre itself that affords particular types of spaces, such as emotional space, embodies space, and so on. They also indicate that it is the educator who make the difference in seeing the possibility for and creating such spaces, and their intentionality in acting to create such spaces. While there are limitations to this study, including the small sample size, the findings nonetheless indicate the importance of the constructed space in enhancing the Christian education of young children in early childhood educational contexts.

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Research statement

Background The aim of this project was to explore the perceptions of early childhood teachers working in Christian early learning centres in Victoria and NSW to ascertain the features of those environments, as constructed spaces, that enhance the Christian education of children. A mixed methods approach was used to collect the data - an online survey and interviews. The findings suggest that it is the constructed environment of the early childhood centre itself that affords particular types of spaces, such as emotional space, embodies space, and so on. They also indicate that it is the educator who make the difference creating such spaces. Contribution This is a research report (technical) of a project that resulted in new knowledge. Significance The project was significant in that it was the first to explore the perceptions of early childhood teachers working in Christian early learning centres in Victoria and NSW to ascertain the features of those environments, as constructed spaces, that enhance the Christian education of children.

Publisher

Australian Research Theology Foundation inc (ARTFinc)

Place of publication

Australia

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