Eleonor Bredlöv Eknor_FotografSören Andersson
Postdoc. Eleonor Bredlöv Eknor. Fotograf: Sören Andersson.

Eleonor Bredlöv Eknor is, since August 2020, a postdoc at FUFF. She has a research-oriented social science education, and she defended her doctoral thesis in pedagogy with specialisation in adult learning at Linköping University.

You have researched beauty education and its students, can you tell us more about that and what your research found?

- In my dissertation, I looked at education within the beauty industry and primarily spa and esthetician education. Some of the articles I wrote then were about how they are created through emotional work. Emotional work is a sociological term that is about how you deal with your own emotions and emotional expressions in your profession, and also about how you deal with the emotions of people you meet in your profession.

- The people in the profession have to create themselves as professional in some ways, for example through more renowned, scientific knowledge. The students emphasised very clearly that they also study “real” subjects such as chemistry and anatomy. It is also about how you should be, what you should know, and there caregiving plays a part, but they did not talk about it as much as their professional knowledge. The whole thing with legitimacy, status, and sex makes it so that some knowledge ends up in the dark. That is why it is important to study it and highlight it. Things that you know and have learned, but that are not acknowledged in the same way or has the same status. The emotional knowledge is crucial in order to work and become successful and do a good job. To see emotional work as something innate, especially in women, when actually it is a big part of the learning for a profession. What I carry from my previous research is how sex affects a profession’s status and legitimacy. The preschool teaching profession is heavily women-dominated just like the beauty industry, which has a great impact looking at identity and professional knowledge and how you have to work with your professionalism.

What is your entry and what focus on teaching placement and which questions, methods, and theories do you have?

 - By making observations and looking at emotional work specifically, in my dissertation, I found new things that I had not learned by conducting interviews or reading previous research. I thought it was a good touch to use on the preschool teaching profession as well. Within early childhood education research, they have looked a lot on the relational and the caregiving, but the emotional aspect in particular has not had as much of a focus. When it comes to teaching placement and mentorship, they have investigated this primarily through interviews. I want to look at teaching placement and study what happens in the moment through observations and apply that touch on the preschool teacher education. A lot of what happens in the moment consist of so many complex processes. As a preschool teacher, you have an idea of what you want and why, but you don’t always know what the result will be, what is actually happening in the moment.
- It is difficult to look at emotions, and it is of course impossible to know how somebody feels, which is why I want to look at norms surrounding emotions and professionalism. What kind of emotional worker is created through teaching placement? To study the process around how you become a professional preschool teacher, especially when it comes to the emotional work. 
- The teaching placement is an incredibly important part of the education, in the learning, and in order to be able to reflect on what is happening in the preschool and what kind of profession it actually is. There, you also learn how to deal with emotions for example, which obviously is hard to know beforehand. It is a professional way of meeting children; we’re not talking about babysitting. To handle a group of children is undoubtedly something completely different.
- Another thing that’s interesting is to study what kind of emotional work you have to perform as a student. In the long run, it also becomes interesting to understand how they work with these questions. Those that don’t succeed in being students, that fail during their teaching placement, what have they failed in? Those that don’t succeed in reaching the goals – is it connected to emotional work? It is interesting to study this “silent knowledge” around becoming professional and “to behave”. To be able to handle your own emotions and emotional expressions. And to handle a child’s or a parent’s emotions and emotional expressions.

What is your reasoning behind using observations as method?

- One thing that is important is that I, through research, can wonder about how teaching placement as educational arrangement orchestrates a teaching process when it comes to emotional work. By investigating what happens on the students’ teaching placement – not only the student’s process but also everything that happens around. How norms about correct emotions surface. The student gets a clearer image of a preschool teacher’s professionalism and they are socialised into something.
- It is challenging to make observations. If you’re new in a place, people try to explain what they do and why, they formulate themselves in ways they might not have done otherwise. That is something you have to take into consideration in the research. They formulate some kind of norm or how they wish things to be. I hope to find a representation of the successful preschool teacher and how it is created through various processes and how those processes look. To investigate what is happening. The how question is central – how does this happen?

How did you become interested in these topics specifically?

- I have looked a lot at gender and class issues. I defended my doctoral thesis in pedagogy and learning processes, and wanted to take gender and power into consideration when I looked at learning processes. I want to be able to look at anything and include that perspective.
- This is a different context for me with my research areas, but it feels just right. It is fun that there is such substantial research and yet a gap that I can fill with my research. Because despite the teaching placement being an important part of the teaching education, there isn’t much research done on it.

Apart from her research as postdoc, Eleonor Bredlöv Eknor teaches twenty percent with mentoring and examination of undergraduate theses.

Contact: Eleonor Bredlöv Eknor

Read more about Eleonor Bredlöv Eknor’s research project: Emotionella och relationella aspekter av förskollärarstudenters lärandeprocesser under VFU