From care-taking and teaching to mutually caring communication

Niklas A. Chimirri, Roskilde University, Denmark (

Background: The increasing digitalisation and datafication of ECEC institutions in Denmark and elsewhere runs the risk of catalysing one-sided understandings of what it means to exert good education and care, both among pedagogical staff and parents. These potentially undemocratic, one-sided understandings focus foremost on what the adults do with the children, in terms of taking care and teaching them what society and its learning curricula and concepts demand of them. The children’s caring and teaching acts are lost from sight and from daily pedagogical communication.

Aim: The aim is to conceptualize a more two-sided, democratically healthy understanding of care-taking and teaching, which underlines the internal relatedness of adults’ and children’s caring and learning practices and thus better describes the institutions’ empirical reality.

Method: Empirically the paper draws on long-term multimodal participations across three ECEC institutions in Denmark. These underline that two-sided understandings of caring and teaching-learning are constantly practiced in everyday interactions, but are difficult to communicate as pedagogically relevant.

Results: The paper presents Joan Tronto’s notion of ‘democratic caring’ in order to develop the notion of ‘mutually caring communication’ as an empirically relevant theoretical concept, which can highlight the necessary two-sidedness of daily caring and teaching-learning processes practiced in democratic ECEC institutions.

Conclusions: ‘Mutually caring communication’ offers a more relevant understanding of what it means to communicate and do pedagogy together with children, as an alternative to one-sided care-taking and teaching concepts that escalate in datafied societies.

Implications for children: Whatever you say or do shall be taken seriously by all your fellow citizens, as our democratic societies depend on caring for one another.

Implications for families: You may come to understand your child as a fellow citizen, who not only requires care-taking and teaching, but who also cares for and educates you.

Implications for practitioners: You may come to understand children as fellow citizens, who not only require care-taking and teaching, but who also care for and educate you.

Funding: This research is supported by The Danish Centre for Research in Early Childhood Education and Care.

Key words: children’s voices, wellbeing, communication, early literacy, educating for democracy, qualitative methods, theory

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: