Research Study - share your views on the professional identities of early years educators


Nathan Archer is a Doctoral Researcher in Education at the University of Sheffield who is conducting a research project to collect the views and experiences of professionals from across the early years sector, on the subject of professional identities in early childhood education in England. Read more about the research project in this blog, and find out how you can take part and have your say on the construction of professional identity for early years professionals.


Are you an early educator? Do you have views on how your professional identity is shaped? Have you been involved in advocacy or activism about your role in early childhood education?

Your participation in a study on ‘Agency and Activism in Early Childhood Education:  Exploring Constructions of Professional Identities’ would be welcomed.


A woman and young boy examine an exhibitThe research aims to explore how early childhood educators understand, interpret and build their professional identities. It seeks to investigate the influences of policy and of individual’s motivations, values and beliefs in constructing their roles as early educators and the extent to which they may be involved in activism on this issue.

A two-stage approach is planned. Firstly, a number of Online Focus Groups using closed, private Facebook groups (by invite only) will be organised. Secondly, individual 1:1 interviews will be arranged, and participants will be asked to share their life stories and the influences on them as early childhood educators.

This research will run from January 2018 – May 2018.


MethodsYoung male practitioner and girl play with trucks

Phase 1: Online Focus Groups

These Focus Groups will be hosted as closed, invite-only groups on the social media platform Facebook. Participants will be invited to join one group. Each group will be open for four weeks and consist of the researcher/facilitator and early childhood educators by subsector, e.g. teachers, childminders, setting managers. One or two open questions will be posted each week for four weeks and participants will be encouraged to share their views on the subject.

Phase 2: Individual Interviews

Focus group participants will be invited to take part in individual interviews on the same topic.

There will be one interview per participant lasting 60 -120 minutes. It can be held face to face at a time and location to suit you or via Skype, again at a convenient time for you. This interview will also be on the topic of professional identities and the opportunity for you to discuss a personal and professional history. The interviews will be semi-structured in style with a series of open questions. The interviews will be audio recorded.


A woman reads with a young girlFor the online focus groups, I would like to recruit:

Childminders - A Registered Childminder provides care and education for babies, toddlers and children in their own home, supporting their learning and development.

Early Years Educators (Group based) - Early educators help babies and children up to 5 years old to develop and learn in a safe and supportive environment.

Teachers - An individual who has secured Qualified teacher status (QTS) is required in England and Wales to work as a teacher of children in state schools under local authority control, academies and in special education schools. Participants should have worked or be working in Nursery or Reception years.

Private, Voluntary and Independent (PVI) Leaders/Managers - Nursery or pre-school managers run early years centres, providing sessional or full day care for babies and young children from birth to 5 years.

Advisors/Consultants/Lecturers- Early Years Advisors provide advice and challenge in developing high quality practice and provision across the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). Lecturers work in Further Education/Higher Education Institutions teaching courses in early childhood education.

From this group, for the 1:1 interviews I would like to recruit:

1 x Childminder

1 x Early Years Educator

1 x Teacher

1 x Private, Voluntary and Independent (PVI) Leaders/Manager

1 x Advisor/Consultant/Lecturer

If you are interested in taking part in one or both parts of this research, please contact Nathan Archer, Doctoral Researcher, University of Sheffield by email at: