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“CARIÑO IS THE PEDAGOGY”: Assessing 4-year-olds whilst making sense of their behaviours An analysis of policy and practice

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Alicia Blanco-Bayo
Publication date26/05/2022
Number of pages182
Awarding Institution
Award date7/03/2022
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The current focus on ranking the performance of 4-year-olds in England (Bradbury & Roberts-Holmes, 2017; Bradbury, 2018) threatens to erase the value of relational pedagogy. These assessment methods that measure progression according to set criteria discourage the idea of developing affectionate relationships with children (Moss, 1992; Noddings, 2005 and Cameron & Moss, 2007). I use the word cariño in a pedagogical context in England to describe the intensity of the loving bond that develops as practitioners make sense of children’s behaviours during observational assessment. In order to understand how cariño fits within assessment processes, I explore the impact of current policy and practice. Whilst examining whether some assessment methods help practitioners make sense of children’s behaviours, I also examine to what extent Saarni’s eight skills of emotional competence are being assessed (Denham et al., 2016). I take an interpretivist stance to construct a definition of a pedagogy which focuses on the expressions of cariño that can occur between Early Years practitioners and children (Ortiz-Ocaña, 2013).
I employ qualitative data collection methods to explore how some Early Years practitioners in England include the identification and support of skills of emotional competence as building blocks for the development of other skills; with focus groups, interviews and video-diaries recorded in three phases. I propose the CASEC model of assessment (Cycle of assessment for socio-emotional development based on cariño) after reviewing some of the recent literature related to assessment practices in Early Years and their impact on social and emotional development. This model is also shaped following the explanatory cross case study analysis which enabled me to present the findings as storyboards. The collective and individual storyboards highlight that cariño as pedagogy might be naturally embraced as Early Years practitioners build affectionate relationships during observational assessment.