Child-centred diversity in quality early childhood education and care

Project description

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) is internationally recognised as a social investment strategy for supporting parental employment and providing the foundations to children’s lifelong learning. ECEC provides early intervention for disadvantaged groups; high quality ECEC can help lessen the negative consequences of disadvantage on children’s later learning. 

Internationally those who work in ECEC are recognised as central to the quality of ECEC. The European Commission (2014) identified the importance of initial training and subsequent professional development as contributing to the development of professional competences of the ECEC workforce and contributing to the overall quality of ECEC. Despite the continued focus on the importance of the ECEC workforce for the quality of services, structural attributes, such as initial qualification requirements, are variable across Member States, and professional development requirements, if present at all, are even more differentiated (Lindeboom and Buiskool, 2013). Beyond these structural attributes are questions as to what constitutes the knowledge, skills and attitudes required for a competent ECEC workforce (Urban et al., 2011).

This project will enhance and extend understandings of the competences required for working in ECEC in diverse contexts, whilst creating innovative professional development to support the ECEC workforce in developing professional competences. 

The project focusses on child-centred practice, a commonly used and deeply embedded concept for ECEC encompassing developmental, democratic and individualised constructions of ECEC (Chung and Walsh 2000). These different constructions resonate with different aspects of ECEC’s importance in supporting children’s development whilst offering equality of opportunity irrespective of social circumstances and individual needs. 

However, questions arise as to how all children can be at the centre of pedagogical practice, particularly when considering diverse communities and whether democratic approaches can be combined with a focus on developmentalism.

Online training

Following a literature review, observations of practice and survey of training needs, three online courses have been developed by early childhood academics and professionals to support educators in reflecting on their child-centred practice. 

The courses can be accessed by visiting and registering for an account. 

Participants should then search for ‘child-centred’. 

Three courses will be listed:

  • Doing child-centredness from an embodied perspective
  • Child-centred documentation for quality early childhood education and care
  • The power of stories for child-centred practice in early childhood education and care.

All courses are free to access and offer a range of learning materials to engage with. Participants are asked to complete a short evaluation about the courses after which a certificate of participation can be provided. We recommend completing the courses with colleagues in order to share and reflect on the content.

Project objective and overview

How might different understandings of child-centered practice promote learning amongst diverse groups within early childhood education and care provision? The project is broken down into seven Intellectual Outputs (IOs)

1. Review to identify understandings of child-centered practice evident in international literature and existing pre- and in-service training requirements – (October - December 2017)
2. Scoping exercise amongst partners to identify and collect examples of how child-centred practice is enacted in different contexts to support learners – (January - March 2018)
3. Quantitative training needs amongst all partner countries via an online survey informed by the analysis in IO1 and administered to ECEC providers in six countries in their native language (April - June 2018)

4. Development of three training modules based on IO1, IO2 and IO3, to reflect different interpretations of child-centred practice and responding to multiple perspectives on diversity e.g. Special Educational Needs, Poverty and Disadvantage and Multiculturalism (July- September 2018)
5. Piloting of three training models in all partner countries with supporting toolkits that offer advice and guidance on supporting diversity and child-centred practice (October 2018 – March 2019)
6. Quantitative and qualitative evaluation of training and its impact on practice (December 2018 - June 2019)
7. Manual of Good Practice to incorporate data from IO1, IO2 and toolkits developed in conjunction with IO4 providing a comprehensive overview of both child-centred practice and diversity in ECEC, with examples from literature and practice and guidance for ECEC practitioners (June 2019 - September 2019).

Project partners

  • Verity Campbell-Barr and Jan Georgeson, Plymouth Institute of Education, UK (joint Principal Investigators) 
  • Katarina Rengel and Adrijana Visnjic Jevtic, Osijek University, Croatia
  • Lillian Buus and Michal Pilgaard VIA, Denmark
  • Rita Melia, Early Childhood Ireland, Ireland
  • Paolo Sorzio, Trieste University, Italy
  • Federica Marani and Riccardo Lelli, Coopselios, Italy
  • Concepción Sanchez-Blanco and Cathryn Teasley, University of Coruña, Spain
  • Helen Adams and Emma Short, Truro and Camborne Nursery Schools, UK