What is your dissertation about?

Mimmi Waermö
Mimmi Waermö

This study is about the children in a fourth and fifth grade Swedish primary school class and their play during breaktimes. The study takes the theoretical point of departure in seeing children’s breaktime play as a cultural historical activity.

The overarching research problem concerns breaktime play emphasising the phenomena of children’s negotiation, participation and agency. It concerns how breaktime play takes shape and which capacities children possess, who are breaktime play literate, to participate and to uphold play. What is the significance of children’s capacity to negotiate rules and roles? How do they use culturally, historically developed objects and motives to transform and expand established versions of play and games?

The research problem foregrounds how the play activity emerges, is carried out and how participation is enabled through negotiation. The aim of the study is to explore the phenomena of children’s negotiation and agency in dialectical change processes in breaktime play activity. The questions explored are:

  • What are the mechanisms in dialectical processes of collectividual action and collective object transformation in children’s play activity?
  • How does the play activity emerge?
  • How does the object of the play activity transform?

What are the key results? 

Mimmi Waermös avhandling i pedagogik.
Mimmi Waermös avhandling i pedagogik.

The findings show how the children negotiate involvement, rules, role set-up and the hierarchy of demands as a continuous elaboration of the conditions to establish and maintain boundaries of playfully accomplished activity.

The notion of negotiagency is introduced, uncovering that breaktime play literacy does not occur in the children’s minds apart from social interaction but develops in and through negotiation.

Negotiagency emerges and is realised when the children are engaged in a playfully accomplished activity. The dialectical processes of collectividual action and collective object transformation in playfully accomplished activity are enabled through negotiation. This whole mechanism is referred to as Dialectics of Negotiagency

How was the study conducted? 

The data consists of field notes from participant observations and of audio memos. Audio memos, short smartphone recordings of the children’s verbal reflections on aspects of their actions and experiences, were continuously produced to get the children’s verbal reflections in the immediacy of acting. Various documents and interviews form additional data. 

Since this study draws on Cultural Historical Activity Theory, I see the ethnographical method of dealing with rich points as a matter of tracing objects of activities and manifestations of contradictions. To trace the objects and manifestations of contradictions, I accessed the children’s school days to establish relationships with the children and to observe what was going on during breaktimes and lessons. I refer to the tracing of objects and manifestations of contradictions as a matter of dealing with rich points in an abductive process.

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