Subtle emotional process in early childhood pedagogy: Evaluating the contribution of the Tavistock Observation Method

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Nursery experience is now common for young children and their families. Questions of quality have focussed mainly on safety and early learning. The roles of subtle emotional processes in daily pedagogic interactions have received surprisingly little attention. This paper discusses the Tavistock Observation Method (TOM), a naturalistic method of observation underpinned by psychoanalytic conceptions and in which emotional experience is an integral part of observation narratives. The paper reports on a detailed evaluation of the use of an adapted version of TOM in nurseries in England and the contribution it can make to empirical exploration of emotional processes. A concurrent sister study will report on the use of A-TOM in Australia. The paper concludes that A-TOM offers a complementary methodology to existing approaches by which the voices and experiences of babies, young children, and nursery staff can be considered in greater depth and with rigorous attention to subjectivity and social and cultural positioning. Issues in the implementation of the method are discussed. 

© 2017 Pedagogy, Culture & Society. The attached document (embargoed until 18/07/2018) is an author produced version of a paper published in Pedagogy, Culture & Society, uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self- archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-445
JournalPedagogy, Culture and Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2017


  • Emotion
  • Nursery
  • Pedagogy
  • Tavistock Observation Method
  • Subjectivity

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