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International Journal of Early Childhood

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 27–52 | Cite as

Using Strengths-Based Approaches in Early Years Practice and Research

  • Angela FentonEmail author
  • Kerryann Walsh
  • Sandie Wong
  • Tamara Cumming
Original Article

Abstract

Strengths-based approaches draw upon frameworks and perspectives from social work and psychology but have not necessarily been consistently defined or well articulated across disciplines. Internationally, there are increasing calls for professionals in early years settings to work in strengths-based ways to support the access and participation of all children and families, especially those with complex needs. The purpose of this paper is to examine a potential promise of innovative uses of strengths-based approaches in early years practice and research in Australia, and to consider implications for application in other national contexts. In this paper, we present three cases (summarised from larger studies) depicting different applications of the Strengths Approach, under pinned by collaborative inquiry at the interface between practice and research. Analysis revealed three key themes across the cases: (i) enactment of strengths-based principles, (ii) the bi-directional and transformational influences of the Strengths Approach (research into practice/practice into research), and (iii) heightened practitioner and researcher awareness of, and responsiveness to, the operation of power. The findings highlight synergies and challenges to constructing and actualising strengths-based approaches in early years childhood research and practice. The case studies demonstrate that although constructions of what constitutes strengths-based research and practice requires ongoing critical engagement, redefining, and operationalising, using strengths-based approaches in early years settings can be generative and worthwhile.

Keywords

Strengths approach Strengths-based approaches Collaborative research Case study 

Résumé

Les approches basées sur les forces s’appuient sur des cadres et des perspectives provenant du travail social et de la psychologie, mais n’ont pas nécessairement été définies de manière systématique ou été clairement formulées à travers les disciplines. Au niveau international, on incite de plus en plus les professionnels des services à la petite enfance à travailler avec ces approches basées sur les forces pour favoriser l’accès et la participation de tous les enfants et leurs familles, et particulièrement de ceux et celles dont les besoins sont complexes. L’objectif de cette étude est d’examiner le caractère prometteur d’usages innovateurs des approches basées sur les forces dans la pratique et la recherche en jeune enfance en Australie, et d’envisager les implications de leur application dans d’autres contextes nationaux. Dans cet article, nous présentons trois cas (résumés provenant d’études de plus grande envergure), qui illustrent différentes applications de l’approche basée sur les forces, étayés par une enquête collaborative à l’interface de la pratique et de la recherche. L’analyse révèle trois thèmes principaux à travers les cas : (i) la promulgation des principes de l’approche basée sur la force; (ii) les influences bidirectionnelles et transformationnelles de l’approche basée sur les forces (la recherche dans la pratique/la pratique dans la recherche); et (iii) la conscience accrue des praticiens et des chercheurs, ainsi que leur réceptivité au fonctionnement du pouvoir. Les résultats font ressortir les synergies et les défis de l’élaboration et de l’actualisation des approches basées sur les forces dans la pratique et la recherche en jeune enfance. Les études de cas démontrent que, même si l’élaboration de ce qui constitue la pratique et la recherche basées sur la force requiert la participation critique, la redéfinition et l’opérationnalisation continues, l’utilisation de ces approches basées sur les forces dans les services aux jeunes enfants peut être fructueuse et rentable.

Resumen

Los enfoques “basados en fortalezas” utilizan marcos de trabajo y perspectivas que provienen desde lo social y la psicología, pero no se han definido ni articulado necesariamente bien a través de las disciplinas. Internacionalmente, se han aumentado las llamadas para profesionales de la primera infancia, para trabajar de forma “basada en fortalezas”, para así apoyar el acceso y la participación de todos los niños y sus familias, especialmente, aquellos con necesidades especiales. El propósito del presente estudio es examinar la promesa potencial que ofrecen los usos innovadores de enfoques “basados en fortalezas” en la práctica e investigación de los primeros años en Australia, y considerar las implicaciones para su aplicación en otros contextos nacionales. En este estudio, presentamos tres casos (resumidos desde estudios más amplios) que describen distintas aplicaciones del Enfoque “basado en fortalezas”, respaldados por la consulta colaborativa en la interfaz entre la práctica y la investigación. El análisis reveló tres temas claves a través de los casos: (i) la implementación de principios “basados en fortalezas”; (ii) las influencias bi-direccionales y transformadoras del Enfoque “basado en fortalezas” (la investigación sobre la práctica/la práctica basada en la investigación); y (iii) la elevada toma de conciencia de parte de educadores e investigadores de, y su sensibilidad hacia, la operación del poder. Los resultados resaltan las sinergias y los retos a la construcción y actualización de enfoques “basados en fortalezas” en la investigación y la práctica de los primeros años. Los estudios de casos demuestran que, aunque las construcciones sobre lo que constituye la práctica y la investigación de los primeros años requieren un compromiso crítico continuo, su redefinición y puesta en funcionamiento, empleando enfoques “basados en fortalezas” en entornos de los primeros años pueden ser generativas y de gran valor.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Angela Fenton
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kerryann Walsh
    • 2
  • Sandie Wong
    • 3
  • Tamara Cumming
    • 4
  1. 1.Faculty of EducationCharles Sturt UniversityAlburyAustralia
  2. 2.Faculty of EducationQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning and EducationCharles Sturt UniversityBathurstAustralia
  4. 4.Faculty of EducationCharles Sturt UniversityBathurstAustralia

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