The subject of this thesis is everyday life in the school classroom with a focus on
what matters to the children. The classroom is understood as a more-than-human
context consisting of combinations and gatherings of material things, bodies, time,
space and ideas. The study is located at the intersection of education,
interdisciplinary childhood studies, narrative and ethnographic studies, and
informed by the ‘material turn’ of social sciences.
The empirical part took place in a third- and fourth-grade class where the
researcher was the class teacher. An approach called ‘classroom diaries’ was
developed in which the 10-year-old pupils wrote their observations, thoughts and
stories freely. The nomadic analysis departed from the question, ‘What is
happening in the classroom?’ and proceeded through repeated readings and
retellings, working with writing as inquiry. The fragmented, controversial and
messy writings of the children challenged the teacher/researcher to find nonrepresentational
ways of engaging with data.
The study consists of a summary part and four research articles. First, the
analysis focuses on children’s voices in stories that intertwine in classroom
interactions. By defining three inter-related analytical spaces, the study illustrates
how children’s voices are not unitary or ‘authentic’, but emergent, constructed in
reciprocal processes of telling and listening, and contingent on their social,
discursive, material and physical environments and power relations.
Second, the study presents the narrative approach of Children writing
ethnography (‘classroom diaries’) as a way of engaging with children’s lives in
the classroom and in research. Nomadic thinking serves to enable one to see the
children’s writings as emergent knowledge and to embrace the connectivity
among the writings, the classroom reality, the child-ethnographers and the
research, which are seen as mutually producing one another.
Third, the thesis examines time and children in the classroom. The concept of
entanglement is activated to bring time into connection with matter and space. The
analysis concentrates on a music lesson and the musical instrument the recorder
about which two children write. The recorder is seen as organising actions in the
classroom, producing intense moments of now and various enactments of children
and adults. The notion of time as a neutral, ‘outside’ parameter is unsettled and
both children and time are seen as hybrid.
Fourth, the study develops the idea of research with children as an entangled
practice. It presents a post-qualitative analysis that attempts to center children’s
views throughout the research and seeks to do so in ways other than through
representation. The study draws attention to classroom assemblages involving
time and things, as well as to temporality and materiality as parts of the research
process. The study suggests engaging with children’s open-ended narration by
retelling and responding. These engagements highlight particular situations, the
unpredictable and strange qualities of children’s lives, and the significance of
‘tiny’ things in educational environments.
The study suggests that an open-ended narrative space allows children to
produce rich and thought-provoking knowledge about what matters to them in the
school classroom. The idea of entanglement can be employed to engage with that
knowledge in ways that do not reduce the complexities of children’s lives.
Keywords: classroom, Children writing ethnography, voice, matter,
time, space, entanglement, nomadic