Contextualizing child-centeredness: Lessons from an American Samoan Head Start

Allison Sterling Henward, Mene Tauaa, Ronald Turituri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Child-centeredness is a pedagogical approach common in US early childhood education, one that advocates young children should direct their own learning and excercise individual choice in activitites. This approach is reflected in national US Head Start policy. Using multivocal, video-cued, and traditional ethnographic methods, this study presents an analysis of interview data collected from three focus groups with American Samoan teachers to argue that the child-centered approach in newly adopted performance standards may not actually be child-centered, particuarly when ignoring the knowledge base and cultural expectations for children in culturally diverse communities. Analyzed through post-colonial theory, which recognizes the erasure of indigenous approaches to educating young children, we focus on Samoan teachers’ understanding of child-centeredness. Results indicate Samoan teachers had drastically different understandings of child-centeredness, instead pointing to optimal pedagogy as collaborative, community-oriented, and structured, and stressing the value of learning from each other. In forgrounding the voice of Samoan educators, we complicate the existing and pervasive binary positioning of child-centered and teacher-directed instruction in early childhood curriculums, to offer another alternative, an expanded notion of child-centeredness that is contextually bound and locally determined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)383-401
Number of pages19
JournalPolicy Futures in Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education


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