Teacher educator practitioner plays with young early years children in nursery

Funding: The Montessori Group

Staff: Associate Professor in Early Childhood Studies Dr Verity Campbell-Barr and Associate Professor Dr Jan Georgeson, working alongside Lecturer in Education (Early Childhood Studies) Dr Katherine Evans and Doctoral Teaching and Research Assistant Sasha Tragenza-May.

This project seeks to identify the features of a high quality early years curriculum that best supports holistic child development.

Early years philosophy and pedagogy focus on the child as a unique learner, with a child friendly approach concerned with children's development. However, there are concerns that practitioners working in early years education are restricted by formal pedagogy and curriculum requirements under the Early Years Framework that sets the standards that school and childcare providers must meet for the learning, development and care of children from birth up to the age of five. 

Three stage project

The research involves a series of questionnaires directed at experts in the field on the nature of the curriculum and how it relates to child development. The project team are speaking with groups of practitioners, including childminders and day nursery staff, to get their views and to understand how the curriculum is delivered in practice. Researchers will then work with the Montessori Group to develop an online module for early years educators on Appreciative Inquiry. The module will support educators to undertake Learning Walks to document their curriculum delivery and it is ultimately hoped that will become a standalone course with formal certification.

1. A Delphi Survey of experts on the features of a high quality curriculum and how they might relate to child development

2. A series of Nominal Group Technique focus groups with groups of practitioners on the features of a high quality curriculum and how they might relate to child development

3. A series of learning walks and walking interviews with practitioners to understand how they develop their approach to the curriculum

Early years children clapping in nursery


The findings will provide an overview of what constitutes a high quality early years curriculum from the perspective of experts in the field and early years practitioners. In relating the curriculum to child development, it will be possible to highlight features of the curriculum seen to foster different aspects of children’s holistic development. It is hoped that findings will help inform debates on the nature of the structure and content of the early years curriculum and future iterations of the Early Years Foundation Stage.

Research with Plymouth Institute of Education

Research in Plymouth Institute of Education (PIOE) is both excellent and highly distinctive, with its lifelong and life-wide approach; foregrounding the vital role learning plays in society and culture. Our researchers explore how and why people learn at every stage of life, from babies to the very old. We have strong research links and networks across the world and a wide range of externally funded national and international research projects.
PRinOL learning outdoors