Relations, play, aesthetics, learning. The focus in this project was to investigate and enhance the quality in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) for children under the age of three years in a context characterized by considerable transitions in Norwegian ECEC.
The project focused on whether changes in group compositions from traditional small group organization towards more flexible groups, would affect the quality of daily life for children under the age of three in ECEC. Focus was be given to different aspects of quality, especially:
- caregivers' interactions with the children.
- children's opportunities for participation.
- aesthetic learning.
According to "Framework Plan for the Content and Tasks of Kindergarten" (2011), day care shall increase the opportunities for children to learn and participate in safe relations. They should also be engaged in stimulating learning processes in a qualitative good physical, social and cultural context.
Status of knowledge
Within a few years there has been a substantial increase in the number of children under the age of three enrolled in ECEC at the same time as there has been considerable structural changes in day care, e.g. group size and composition. Emphasize on aesthetic subjects has decreased significantly the last ten years despite the guidelines in the Norwegian Framework Plan. In public discussions the quality of ECEC for the very young is questioned. At present time there is a lack of research-based knowledge concerning quality for the very young in Norwegian ECEC.
Different aspects of care and learning for the youngest children in their everyday life in respectively traditional small groups and large, flexible groups will be investigated.
The importance of children meeting with aesthetic processes, as a part of their daily life will also be investigated in this project. The project will aim to contribute to enhance quality in aesthetic processes for the very young, connected to theatre, dance, music and visual arts as inseparable parts of communication and interactions.
The main objectives are to
- generate research-based knowledge about how different group compositions affect the quality in care, relations, play and learning for children under the age of three.
- generate research-based knowledge about aesthetic processes and aesthetic learning for children under the age of three, connected to theatre, dance, music and visual arts as a part of the overall quality in day care centres.
- develop tools for researching, evaluating and enhancing quality in Norwegian day care institutions, as well as contribute to strengthen the education of students in ECEC.
The secondary objectives are to
- identify staffs and parents experiences within different group compositions in a large number of Norwegian day care centres.
- identify potential differences in qualitative aspects in groups with different group compositions.
- develop knowledge about the consequences of the structural changes in Norwegian day care for care, well-being and learning for the individual child.
- develop knowledge about aesthetic activities and learning and contribute to increased focus on and quality in these learning-processes.
- contribute to increased awareness of and improved practice in day care for children under the age of three.
To be able to identify and analyze the complexity of daily life for small children in different day care settings, it seems necessary to approach the field from different angles and positions, combining methods of investigation. The design will be in line with what Denzin and Lincoln (2008) describe as "crystal-method" indicating that multiple methodological approaches to a problem can contribute to enhanced and nuanced knowledge. This project will combine quantitative and qualitative approaches to the field in order to give a nuanced picture of everyday life for the very young children in day care.
At group level two international scales which are promising in measuring general process quality and interactions between caregivers and children, has been chosen as indicators of process quality. At the individual level, participants' experiences of meaningfulness and pleasure, is seen in relation to contextual matters, relations between people and the individual child's expressions of well-being and belonging.
Relevance to society
The concern is the general quality in ECEC for children under three, qualities in interactions and everyday life as well as the quality in aesthetic processes in day care. This knowledge may guide politicians, teacher educators and teachers in ECEC in their endeavour to enhance quality for the very young in day care.
The project was a co-researching process by researchers from different research institutions: Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences (HiOA), University of Tromsø (UiT), University of Stavanger (UiS), Norwegian Social Research (NOVA), Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), practitioners and students within the field of ECEC.
The project had international collaboration with NCKO / Marianne Riksen-Walraven.