Original Research

Understanding inclusion in early childhood care and education: A participatory action learning and action research study

Ashnie Mahadew, Dipane J. Hlalele
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 12, No 1 | a1073 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v12i1.1073 | © 2022 Ashnie Mahadew, Dipane J. Hlalele | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 August 2021 | Published: 13 September 2022

About the author(s)

Ashnie Mahadew, Department of Early Childhood Education, Faculty of Education, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Dipane J. Hlalele, Discipline of Educational Psychology, Faculty of Education, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa


Background: Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) refers to the care and education of children from birth to age four. There is a scarcity of research on inclusion in this marginalised sector in many developing countries, including South Africa.

Aim: This article reports on a virtual learning participatory workshop on understanding inclusion with six ECCE teachers and two ECD practitioner trainers.

Setting: Due to the social distancing necessitated by the Corona Virus pandemic, all interactions were facilitated through the WhatsApp platform.

Methods: The study employed a participatory action learning and action research (PALAR) design that focuses on collaborative and contextually relevant learning and research. Data were generated in two iterative cycles using a baseline questionnaire, photovoice, reflective journals and purposeful conversations.

Results: Cycle one found that some of the participants’ understanding of inclusion needed to be challenged. Their understandings of inclusion centred on discourses of disability with a narrow view of inclusion. This action learning set (ALS) mainly regarded inclusion to be a product rather than a process and claimed that segregation had some advantages. Some of the members of the ALS also misconstrued inclusion for micro-exclusive practices of assimilation and integration. Cycle two was planned to address these misunderstandings. Cycle two revealed that becoming inclusive means revisiting dominant ideologies about inclusion and a critical awareness of micro-exclusive practices.

Conclusion: This research serves to challenge dominant beliefs of what inclusion is. The knowledge presented here could be cascaded to other ECCE centres in the South African context. With a scarcity of research on inclusion in ECCE, this study may provide a point of departure for future research.


inclusion; participatory action learning and action research; early childhood care and education, micro-exclusion, critical pedagogy


Total abstract views: 2044
Total article views: 3019


Crossref Citations

1. Rural Early Childhood Educators’ Perception of Music-Based Pedagogy in Teaching Communication Skills to Children
Avosuahi Deborah Arasomwan, Glynnis Daries
E-Journal of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences  first page: 254  year: 2024  
doi: 10.38159/ehass.202341222