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FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren

Better provision for Norway's children in ECEC: A study of children's wellbeing and development in ECEC, and new tool for Quality Evaluation

Awarded: NOK 20.1 mill.

Better Provision for Norway?s Children in ECEC (Early Childhood Education and Care) (BePro) aimed to investigate the quality of Norwegian ECEC and the relationship between structural factors and organization, educational processes, children's well-being and their development and learning. The project focused on three areas: i) to gain knowledge about the quality of the care-, play- and learning environment in Norwegian ECEC, ii) how varying ECEC quality affects children's social, emotional and cognitive development iii) to develop a self-evaluation tool (observation tool) for mapping and evaluating process quality in ECEC. BePro was a longitudinal project where we followed children and ECEC institutions for several years, from 2013-2018. 206 groups with children aged 0-3, and 205 groups of children aged 3-6 years, from 93 centers, participated in the study. From the 93 centers, we followed a total of 1152 children born in 2011 and 2012, from the age of 2.5 to the age of 5. In order to investigate the quality of the care-, play- and learning environment, and follow the children's development, we applied various methods and data collection strategies. To systematically assess the overall quality of the learning environment, we used the Infant / Toddler Environment Rating Scales-Revised (ITERS-R) and the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scales-Revised (ECERS-R). To examine the quality of staff's interaction skills with groups of children, we applied video observations and the Caregiver Interaction Profile-Scales (CIP). We mapped children's social, emotional development with the Kari Lamer-scales and their cognitive and verbal development with the British Ability Scales (BAS III). The children were mapped when they were 3 and 5 year. We collected information from parents and center managers through questionnaires and interviews. Additionally, several qualitative in-depth studies were implemented to examine pedagogical practices (these are not addressed further here). In the following, we give a brief summary of the main findings i) The overall ECEC quality turned out to be at a minimal level, as measured with the ITERS-R and the ECERS-R. On a scale from 1 to 7 (where 1=Inadequate and 7=Excellent), groups for children under three years scored 3.9, and groups for children over three years scored 4.2. Low scores were particularly related to poor hygiene and safety, lack of variation and access to play materials, and poor performance in areas of diversity, language and interaction. Even if we found the same trends for both age groups, toddler groups scored lower, and had greater challenges, related to meals, hygiene and interaction. Just over half of the staff maintained what is defined as positive interaction with the children throughout the day. About half of the toddler groups had a good and stimulating language environment. Of structural factors we found higher quality in language environments; interaction and program structure when i) there was an ECEC teacher present, ii) there were lower staff-child ratios (one employee to a maximum of three children) and, iii) the center were organized in a traditional way, i.e. not organized in open/flexible ways. However, these structural factors did not appear to be significant for the overall quality for children over three years. Regarding staff-child interaction, as measured with the CIP-scales, results showed that the staff had trouble maintaining high quality interaction in relation to children?s development, i.e. verbal communication, developmental stimulation and fostering positive peer interactions. The quality was higher on interactions aimed at basic care, i.e. sensitive responsiveness, respect for children?s autonomy and structuring and limit-setting. ECEC teachers displayed better interaction skills related to respect for autonomy, verbal and developmental stimulation than assistants, but, in general, the differences between ECEC teachers and assistants were mostly negligible. ii) We found only a few associations between ECEC quality and children's development. This is in line with previous international findings, using similar research instruments, indicating that ECEC quality rarely predicts children's development in ECEC, but rather manifest at school age. Regardless, our findings showed that there was a small to moderate association between ECEC quality (as measured with ITERS-R) and the children's emotional development at the age of three and self-control at the age of 5. We only found weak associations between high quality language environments (as measured with ITERS-R) and the children's verbal skills at the age of five. These weak associations may be due to the structure of the research instruments;thus,we are currently working on reorganizing them for new analyzes.ECEC starting-age turned out to have a positive effect on cognitive development at the age of three, but a negative effect on socio-emotional development at the age of three

Resultatene har blitt løftet fram i dagens samfunnsdebatt og bidratt til en bevisstgjøring og refleksjon rundt hva vi ønsker norske barnehager skal være i framtiden. Spesielt viktig er resultatene knyttet til de yngste barna i barnehagen om hvordan barnehagen organiseres, bemanningsnorm og kompetanse for å kunne tilrettelegge for et trygt og utviklingsstimulerende barnehagetilbud. Resultatene har skapt stor interesse innenfor profesjonen og benyttes av eiere og organisasjoner som ledd i kompetanseutvikling og kvalitetsheving i barnehagetilbudet som tilbys. Når det gjelder utdanning har funnene stor nytteverdi om hvilken kunnskap og kompetanse barnehageprofesjonen skal besitte, spesielt i forhold til språkstimulering, samspillskompetanse og tilrettelegging for et godt utviklings- og læringsmiljø. Resultatene er også av betydning for internasjonale forskningsmiljø og muligheten for komparative analyser og samarbeidsprosjekt

The study is about the quality of ECEC on children's learning, social, emotional and cognitive development and wellbeing, with a focus on the younger ones, and on marginalized children, in relation to the Framework Plan. The task is also to develop a new National Quality Evaluation tool. - The challenge is to design a coherent and effective research design, built on international knowledge and transform these experiences into research that is rooted in the ECEC context in Norway, and in the most recent re search on young children. - Central to the proposal is a longitudinal study of 1600 children in 80 ECEC centers. The study will establish the quality of the 80 centers for learning, development and wellbeing; i.e. to what extent do children in a specific center develop allowing for child and family background. The quality of centers will be linked with data on the center and municipality characteristics (staff, qualifications, management, leadership, ratios, group size, etc.). Staff composition, education al level and turnover are important factors. - Development of a National Quality Evaluation tool informing about the quality of ECEC in Norway is important and will start in existing instruments like the Dutch NCKO. - Case studies of 10 centers, starting when children are 2 years of age, will explore the processes that differentiate high quality centers from from moderate ones. The relation between staff resources, structure, pedagogical processes and children's learning is important. - The results and t he new national evaluation tool will support a science-based ECEC policy, and the understanding of the variation in ECEC and how this contributes to variation in outcomes for different children. Evidence could guide future improvements to ECEC, such as th e development of the National Framework plan, or Preschool teacher education. Such knowledge is important for decisions on the optimal composition of a peer group; child:staff ratio; staff education etc.

Publications from Cristin

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FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren