Conditions for children as explorers

Project owner

Western Norway University of Applied Sciences,

Project period

November 2016 - December 2023

Project summary

There is an increasing political and educational engagement for better quality in early childhood education - both nationally and internationally. Conditions for quality in kindergartens are embedded in structures (i.e. as time, place, space, artefacts), relationships and materials. However, the teacher’s knowledge, values, believes and professional performance comes forward as the one most influencing important condition for quality. Quality can be traced by the teacher’s didactical performances to meet children’s ability to grow, learn and live. Therefore, we emphasize the dialectic of children’s learning and cultural formation as social. That implies that children’s learning is culturally and contextually constructed; and at the same time as children also are co-constructers and re-constructers of their cultural formation and learning, and their social and cultural context. This dialectic is captured in our understanding of the concept exploration.

Our objects are comparative (cross-cultural) studies, emphasizing indoors and outdoors explorative activities in ECE involving play, art and E-STEM. In addition, comparative studies of transitions from home to early childhood education, and between early childhood education and school, are studied. These transitions are seen as conditions for children’s explorations in new contexts. We also study teacher students’ conditions for critical reflections and facilitators for children’s exploration.

Our main aim is to describe, analyze and disseminate knowledge about conditions for children’s explorations, and thereby indicate what practices to preserve, and/or challenge. We also aim at indicating needs of inventions of new artefacts and didactical thinking to improve quality in early childhood education, closer to sustainability.

Another aim is to conditioning implication for qualitative improvements in the early childhood institutions, by involving staff, children, parents and Bergen municipality in our research. In addition, we are aiming at straighten the relations between children’s home, the kindergarten and the local community.

Our aim is also to contribute to methods for studying explorative activities. In additions to more traditional observations, interviews, narratives and discourse analysis - are constructing inquiry participatory research designs. In these designs, a variety of stakeholder like children, headmasters, kindergarten teacher, assistant, parents and the people from Bergen municipality will be participating and influencing the research question, the empirical data and the analysis. Through workshops we involve different stakeholders by asking them for example to present the most popular and most unpopular artefact in their institution, followed by discussions about both physical, ideological, time-regulations and priorities among tasks, as conditions for play- and learning. There will also be work-shops about analysis and publications. All the workshops will be videotaped, preserved for further and later analysis. The project is excepted by NSD.

To understand more of children’s learning, socialization, their cultural formation and well-being in the web of relations and structural conditions, we are also aiming to challenge single dimensional, linear causality as it comes to ways of understanding quality, professionalism, children’s exploration, learning, socialization, cultural formation and well-being.

Method

Participatory designs are guiding our research. The involved person’s voices – the children, practitioners, and local and global stakeholders are involved in processes of knowledge construction, for example in work shops. Thereby also the researcher’s cultural position and research positions are challenged and explored. Both quantitative methods as questionnaires, and qualitative methods like fieldwork, formal and informal interviews, case studies and narrative approaches will be used, both in national and international comparative studies.