FERA Conference on Education 2023

At the 2023 FERA Conference on Education in Vaasa, there were two presentations based on Progressive Feedback data:

Syrjämäki, M., Reunamo, J., Pesonen, H., Pirttimaa, R., & Kontu, Elina. Autistisen lapsen sitoutuneisuus varhaiskasvatuksen toimintaympäristössä [The involvement of autistic child in early childhood education].

Lahtinen, L., Fonsén, E., Heikonen, L., Kallioniemi, A. & Reunamo, J. Johtajuuden ulottuvuudet ja niihin liittyvät ilmiöt varhaiskasvatuksessa [The dimensions of leadership and their relations to the unit descriptors].


Early education experience increases children’s social influence

Aada Heikkilä’s study examines the connection between the years that children spent in early childhood education and care (ECEC) and their social orientations and main objects of attention. The data were collected within the Progressive Feedback project by observing children: 20,457 observations of 972 six-year-olds from 360 child groups in Finland. According to the results, the years children spent in ECEC have a connection to their social orientations and main objects of attention, and differences between genders were discovered. The longer the children had attended ECEC, the less adaptive orientation was observed. The children that had attended ECEC for under a year were observed to be the least participative. Dominant orientation increased the longer the children had attended ECEC. Those that had been in ECEC for more than four years rarely paid attention to non-social objects and adults and often paid attention to several children.

As both participative and dominant social orientations include impacting the learning environment in early education, we can conclude that children with more years in early are education are more agentive in comparison to children with less time in early education. The results can be seen in the Table (click it to enlarge it). The observers did not know how long the children had spent time in early education, which mean that the found differences are not based on the observers presuppositions. The results are statistically significant. All in all, the more time you spend in early education, the more agency you have in social situations!

Aada Heikkilä & Jyrki Reunamo (2023) The years children spent in early education in relation to their social relations and objects of attention, European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, DOI: 10.1080/1350293X.2023.2254534

Practicum studies for Taiwanese students in Finnish early education

Taiwanese students from Taitung University did their practicum studies in Heikkilän päiväkoti, Kerava. The students showed remarkable sensitivity and consideration to support children and pedagogy. A big thank you to director Johanna Nevala for making it all possible. Special thank you to the staff introducing Finnish early education to the students!

Supporting physical activity in early education.

Anna-Liisa Kyhälä defended her thesis on 14, 2023 with the topic “Children’s physical activity and early childhood opportunities in its promotion”. The dissertation looked at the overall picture of children’s physical activity based on weekly accelerometer measurements and explored physical activity in different children’s activities in early childhood education, which gives perspective to the selection of priorities. In addition, the factors of the learning environment were connected to physical activity. The results based on observation and evaluation of the learning environment indicated that children’s physical activity during the early childhood education day can be increased through pedagogical choices, planning, and consideration of children’s social needs. Children’s physical activity can be influenced! Unfortunately, the thesis is in Finnish, but luckily the articles are in English, see http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-951-51-9004-8

Professor Chen granted to study children’s reading processes

Professor Hui-Hua Chen from the Taiwanese Dong Hwa University Department of Early Childhood Education has been granted to join our team in Finland July-November 2023. The Taiwan ministry of science and technology has given professor Chen a grant to study children’s processes of learning to read. The pedagogical choices connected with learning to read will also be explored. Finnish and Taiwanese practices will be compared based on a large random sample conducted in Taiwan and Finland.

We have observed children’s reading sessions when the adult reads for the children and when children read books themselves. We have thousands of random observations of children’s reading processes. A comparison between two cultures gives perspective to understand the learning process not just as a personal learning task, but also as a culturally mediated production of shared understanding.

Music linked with well-being for 1-3-year-old children

The data of the Progressive Feedback reveals that, especially for young children, music and singing have clear and important connections to children’s well-being. Children in groups with an emphasis on music/singing expressed more positive emotions and were more committed to the activity. In addition, these children were more socially adaptive and had more participatory interactions with adults. The music was thus connected to a strong, lasting, and creative interaction. The same positive effect was not observed in older children. At the age of 1-3, music is associated in many ways with quality pedagogy, when the same was not observed in older children. This suggests that for younger children, music is better integrated into the pedagogical enhancement. However, for the older children, the connections between music and pedagogy were invisible. The results highlight both the importance of music for the well-being of young children and the low pedagogical integration of music in older children, which needs attention. Article can be accessed at https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14613808.2021.1965564. Article information below:

Ruokonen, I., Tervaniemi, M. & Reunamo, J. (In print). The significance of music in early childhood education and care of toddlers in Finland: An extensive observational study. Music Education Research. DOI 10.1080/14613808.2021.1965564.

Children’s time use and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in early childhood education and care in Finland

Anna-Liisa Kyhälä with Jyrki Reunamo and Juha Valtonen have written an article about children’s physical activity in different children’s activities. The article will be published in South African Journal of Childhood Education. The article highlights rule plays as important factors in increasing children’s physical activity in early education.

Pedagogical leadership

The article “Pedagogical leadership and children’s well-being in Finnish early education” by Elina Fonsen, Jyrki Reunamo, Leena Lahtinen and Mari Sillman has been published in the journal Educational Management Administration & Leadership. The article uses the data of the Progressive Feedback. The results show a link between a leader’s pedagogical leadership and children’s observed activities, including learning, positive emotions, physical activity, and participation. In addition, a there is a link between the need for pedagogical leadership assessed by staff and leadership assessed by the manager, which emphasizes the need for the manager to focus on pedagogical leadership and staff involvement. The results provide a perspective that allows the director to focus on the primary task of early childhood education, the well-being of children.

The table above summarizes the themes related to good pedagogical leadership. The director of the kindergarten could attach the table to his wall and check out the most important things of his own management once a week!

Creativity in Early Education

Teemu Nikkola et al. have written an article about creativity in education ‘Children’s creative thinking abilities and social orientations in Finnish early childhood education and care’. The journal is Early Child Development and Care. The data is from Progressive Feedback. The perspective of creativity is important both from the personal and environmental points of view. Creativity includes all kinds of everyday activities in kindergarten – not just arts or planned creativity. The personal aspects of creativity highlight the importance of valuing children’s creative efforts, even though the act may have been created by others previously. The environmental aspects of creativity highlight the importance of children participating in the creation of both the curriculum content and educational conduct. The article is open access and can be downloaded from the link at the end of the post.

In the table, we can see how child interviews and separately conducted creativity test (Torrance) are related. In participative orientation, children concern the situation and intend to change it. The strategy highlights contact with others’ and children’s agency. In participation, children learn to build the future while at the same time considering others. The sooner the children can practice their creative abilities, the better they are ready to take part in the creation of their lives and also the lives of others. Teemu is strongly weaving creativity into the everyday experiences of children and the creation of early education. Click the link below!

Nikkola, T., Reunamo, J. & Ruokonen, I. (2020). Children’s creative thinking abilities and social orientations in Finnish early childhood education and care. Early Child Development and Care. https://doi.org/10.1080/03004430.2020.1813122

Children as quality evaluators of early childhood education

An article based on Progressive Feedback data Children’s negative experiences as a part of quality evaluation in early childhood education and care has been accepted for publication in the journal Early Child Development and Care. Children’s evaluations have been used in Progressive Feedback since 2011. In the article, children’s views in evaluating early childhood education is central. The data consists of 5 439 child interviews conducted by the children’s parents and guardians. Peer relations are central to children and difficulties in peer interaction are central to all children in every age group. Children’s views provide essential first hand experiences. Processing children views between adults help the staff and parents to consider children’s point of view. Processing children’s views together with children provides an opportunity to practice interaction skills together with others. Additionally, children’s views help adults to consider children’s solutions. Furthermore,  children’s evaluations help children to learn to impact their own lifes and also the shared commynity with others.  Children’s experience in belonging together with other children is important. Four-year-old children reported most negative peer experiences. The negativity of daily activities increase as children grow older. Also adults’ guidance is experienced more negative as children grow older. For the smallest children the descriptions are often concrete descriptions of mental of physical discomfort. In the table can be seen the trends in children’s negative experiences as children grow older in early childhood education. The article can be accessed at https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03004430.2020.1801667.