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Belonging in early years settings: research and theory

This is the study programme for 2019/2020. It is subject to change.

The PhD-course Belonging in early years settings: research and theory is an international, transdisciplinary PhD Course involving a maximum of 15 PhD students. The aim is to promote critical reflection and deep understandings of various perspectives on belonging and related concepts such as diversity, inclusion, participation and social justice, in early years settings. The course will support PhD-students’ own research and stimulate theoretical, methodological, empirical and ethical discussions with peers and experienced researchers in the same field. The participants are expected to contribute with a draft paper. These texts will be an important contribution to the collective learning during the course.

The course has a transformative approach to education which means taking responsibility for and actively contributing to societal challenges, such as international migration and increasing diversity. While there is international recognition of the child’s right to participate and experience belonging in their communities and society, there is limited research which problematizes issues of belonging (and related concepts) across a range of cultural, social, political, economic and environmental contexts. Such reflection and understanding will be underpinned by theory, methodology, and empirical research.

Lectures are held in English.

Learning outcome

The specific learning outcomes relate to knowledge, skills and overall competencies as follows:

By the end of the course, the students will have gained insight and knowledge of theoretical and methodological approaches and empirical findings on belonging, diversity, inclusion, participation and social justice in early year’s settings:
  • on a policy level
  • on an institutional level
  • on a personal level

By the end of the course students will be able to:
  • Critically reflect, evaluate and engage with different ways of knowing, methodological approaches, and perspectives in studies on education for belonging in early years settings.

General competencies
By the end of the course students will be able to:
  • Critically reflect and problematise theoretical, methodological, empirical and ethical issues in research on education for belonging, in early years settings.
  • Explore, enact and apply knowledge and emancipatory consequences linked to belonging, and related concepts.


The course content consists of research and theory on belonging, and related concepts such as diversity, inclusion, participation and social justice, in early years settings. The intersections of these concepts will provide thematic provocations that highlight different tensions and ways of knowing about education for belonging. The participants are expected to contribute with a draft paper. The draft papers produced by the students before the course is an important content and will be discussed, analysed and reviewed to take account of the integrated thematic provocations. Students will engage in critical reflection on transformative education through the lens of the integrated themes.

Guest lecturers:
Professor Emeritus Nira Yval Davis, The University of East London
Professor Mariana Souto-Manning, Columbia University
Professor Mathias Urban, Dublin City University/University of Stavanger
Associate professor Liv-Mette Strømme – Karmøy kommune

Subject teachers
Professor Eva Johansson, University of Stavanger, Course leader
Professor Johanna Einarsdottir, University of Iceland
Professor Anna-Maija Puroila, University of Oulu
Docent Anette Emilson Lennaeus University, Course leader
Associate Professor Barbara Piskur, Zuyd University
Associate professor Anita Berge, University of Stavanger
Associate professor Gunnar Magnus Eidsvåg, University of Stavanger
Associate professor Jaana Juutinen, University of Oulu

Required prerequisite knowledge


Recommended previous knowledge

Students enrolled in a doctoral program.


Weight Duration Marks Aid
Individual paper1/1 Pass - Fail
Evaluation will be based on a student's individual paper of 4500 words (+/-10%). The student's workload is approximately 20 days of work. The full paper should be submitted within 3 weeks after the final seminar.

Course teacher(s)

Course coordinator
Eva Marianne Johansson

Method of work

Students are required to deliver draft papers before the course. When applying for the course participants are expected to submit a short abstract (max 300 words) as a first step in the writing process. The author will be advised to develop the text further and submit this first draft before the course starts. The papers will be analysed and reviewed by the students and teachers in small groups during the course. After the course ends the students will be given a deadline to finalise their paper.

The course includes both lectures and working seminars with discussions of reading material and student presentations, where active participation is required. Language will be English. The course is organized around various perspectives on belonging, and related concepts such as diversity, inclusion, participation and social justice in early years settings, and a number of provocations. It runs over 5 days. A detailed schedule will be sent to the participants in due course.

Open to

International and local students enrolled in a doctoral programme. Applicants may be turned down due limitations on the number of places (15).

Course assessment

The course participants are encouraged to contribute to course evaluation. The course evaluation will include a dialogue-evaluation and a questionnaire.


Literature (to be updated)
Antonsich, M. (2010). Searching for belonging: An analytical framework. Geography Compass,4(6), 644-659.

Armstrong, D., Armstrong, A. C. & Spandagou, I. (2011). Inclusion: by choice or by chance?
International Journal of Inclusive Education, 15(1), 29-39.

Arnt, S. (2018). Early childhood teacher cultural Otherness and belonging. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood pp. 392–403.

Bennett. J (2014). Gifted places: The inalienable nature of belonging in place. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 32:658–671.
Booth, T., & Ainscow, M. (2011). Index for Inclusion. Developing Learning and Participation in Schools. Bristol: CSIE.

Einarsdottir, J., & Egilsson, S. T. (2016) Embracing diversity in childhood studies:
Methodological and practical considerations In A. Farrell & I. Pramling Samuelsson (Eds.),
Diversity: Intercultural Learning and Teaching in the Early Years Oxford: Oxford University.

Graham, I., Logan, J., Harrison, M., Strauss, S., Tetroe, J., Caswell, W. & Robinson, N. (2006). Lost in knowledge translation: Time for a map? The Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions, 26(1), 13-24.

Harpur, P. (2012). Embracing the new disability rights paradigm: The importance of the convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. Disability & Society, 27(1), 1-14.

Imms, C. , Granlund, M. , Wilson, P. H., Steenbergen, B. , Rosenbaum, P. L. & Gordon, A. M. (2017), Participation, both a means and an end: a conceptual analysis of processes and outcomes in childhood disability. Dev Med Child Neurol, 59: 16-25. doi:10.1111/dmcn.13237

Karlsudd, P. (2017). Disability, CBR & Inclusive Development. 28. 142-160.

Karlsudd, P. (2007). The “Narrow” and the “Wide” Activity: the Circumstances of Integration.. The International Journal of Disability, Community & Rehabilitation. 6.

Lähdesmäki, T., Saresma, T., Jäntti, S., Sääskilahti, N., Vallius, A., Ahvenjärvi, K. (2016). Fluidity and flexibility of ”belonging”: Uses of the concept in contemporary research. Acta Sociologica, 59(3), 233–247.

McKay, J. (2014). Young People's Voices: Disciplining Young People's Participation in Decision- Making in Special Educational Needs. Journal of Education Policy, 29(6), 760-773.

May, V. (2013). Connecting self to society. Belonging in a changing world. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Peers, C. & Fleer, M. (2014). The theory of ‘Belonging’: Defining concepts used within Belonging, Being and Becoming – The Australian early years learning framework. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 46(8), 914-928.

Piškur, B., Daniëls, R., Jongmans, M. J., Ketelaar, M., Smeets, R. J., Norton, M., & Beurskens, A. J. (2014). Participation and social participation: are they distinct concepts? Clinical Rehabilitation, 28(3), 211–20.

Roffey, S. (2013). Inclusive and exclusive belonging – the impact on individual and community well-being. Educational & Child Psychology, 30(1), 38-49.

Ruijs, N. M., & Peetsma, T. T. (2009). Effects of inclusion on students with and without special educational needs reviewed. Educational Research Review, 4(2), 67–79.

Slee, R. (2011). The irregular school: exclusion, schooling and inclusive education. London: Routledge.

Souto-Manning, M. (2018). Disrupting Eurocentric epistemologies: Re-mediating transitions to centre intersectionally-minoritised immigrant children, families and communities. European Journal of Education, 53(4), 456-468. DOI:10.1111/ejed.12309.

Souto-Manning, M., & Rabadi-Raol, A. (2018). (Re)Centering quality in early childhood education: Toward intersectional justice for minoritized children. Review of Research in Education, 42, 203-225.

Souto-Manning, M., Falk, B., Lopez, D., Barros Cruz, L., Bradt, N., Cardwell, N., McGowan, N., Perez, A., Rabadi-Raol, A., & Rollins, E. (2019). A transdisciplinary approach to equitable teaching in early childhood education. Review of Research in Education, 43, 249-276.

Souto-Manning, M. (2013). On children as syncretic natives: Disrupting and moving beyond normative binaries. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 13(3), 368-391.

Stratigos, T., Bradley, B., & Sumsion, J. (2014). Infants, Family Day Care and the Politics of
Belonging. International Journal of Early Childhood 46, 171-186.

Sumsion, J., & Wong, S. (2011). Interrogating ‘Belonging’ in Belonging, Being, and Becoming: the Early Years Learning Framework for Australia. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 12, 28-45.

Takala, M., & Head, G. 2017. Inclusion and practice: The perspective of two countries. In M.T. Hughes, & E. Talbott (Eds.), The Handbook of diversity in special education (pp. 115-128). Chichester, West Sussex, UK: John Wiley Press.

Urban, M. (2008). Dealing with Uncertainty. Challenges and Possibilities for the Early Childhood Profession. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 16(2), 135-152. doi:10.1080/13502930802141584.

Urban, M. (2015). From ‘closing the gap’ to an ethics of affirmation. Reconceptualising the role of early childhood services in times of uncertainty. European Journal of Education, 50(3), 293-306. doi:10.1111/ejed.12131

Urban, M. (2019). The Shape of Things to Come and what to do about Tom and Mia: Interrogating the OECD’s International Early Learning and Child Well-Being Study from an anti-colonialist perspective. Policy Futures in Education, 17(1), 87-101. doi:10.1177/1478210318819177.

Urban, M., Cardini, A., & Flórez Romero, R. (2018). It Takes More Than a Village. Effective Early Childhood Development, Education and Care Services Require Competent Systems / Los servicios efectivos de desarrollo, educación y cuidado de la primera infancia requieren sistemas competentes. In A. Cardini (Ed.), Bridges to the future of education: policy recommendations for the digital age / Puentes al futuro de la educación: recomendaciones de política para la era digital (pp. 25-42). Buenos Aires: Fundacion Santillana.

Yuval-Davis, N. (2011). The politics of belonging. Intersectional contestations. London: Sage.
Yval-Davis, N. (2006). Belonging and the politics of belonging’ in Patterns of Prejudice, 40(3):196-213.

Yval-Davis (2015) Situated Intersectionality and Social Inequality’ in Raisons Politiques no. 58:91-100, 2015.

Yval-Davis, N, Wemyss, G., & Cassidy, K (2018). Everyday Bordering, Belonging and the Re-Orientation of British Immigration Legislation’, with Sociology, 52(2):228-244.

Wastell, S. J. & Degotardi, S. (2017). 'I belong here; I been coming a big time': An exploration of belonging that includes the voice of children. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 42(4), 38-46.

Swindler Boutte, G., Lopez-Robertson, J., & v Powers-Costello, E. (2011). Moving Beyond Colorblindness in Early Childhood Classrooms, Early Childhood Education Journal, 39:335342 (8).

Hägglund, S. & Johansson E. (2014). Belonging, value conflicts and children´s rights in learning for sustainability in early childhood. In J Davies & Sue Elliott `International Research in Early Childhood Education for Sustainability: Beginning the Conversations. Routledge.

Juutinen, J. Puroila, A-M, Johansson, E. (2018) `There Is No Room for You! The Politics of Belonging in Childrens Play Situations. In E. Johansson, A. Emilson and A-M. Puroila (Eds): Values Education in Early Childhood Settings Concepts, Approaches and Practices. Dodrecht: Springer.

Miller, M. G. (2016). Whiteness scholarship in early childhood education. New Zealand Research in Early Childhood Education Journal, 19, 49-61.

Selby, J.M., Benjamin S Bradley, B.S., Sumsion, J., Stapleton, M., Harrison, L. (2018). Is infant belonging observable? A path through the maze. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood 2018, Vol. 19(4) 404–416.

Aprox. 500 pages

This is the study programme for 2019/2020. It is subject to change.

Sist oppdatert: 08.04.2020