How to measure physical activity?

Research Centre for Physical Activity and Health (LIKES) conducts and develops multidisciplinary and applied research on physical activity. Likes is leading the PIILO-project on monitoring joy, physical activity and motor skills in young children. The specific purpose is to improve monitoring physical activity at national level and its use in promoting early childhood education. The project compares different methods of measuring physical activity and motor skills. The project started in spring 2019. Progressive Feedback participates in the project.

`Measuring movement is not a simple matter. In 2019, we compared physical activity indicators in kindergarten. The aim has been to compare the results of accelerometer and observation. The metrics were compared during normal day care days. The pilot was carried out in the vicinity of Jyväskylä in the fall of 2019. The physical activity of the child was measured with accelerometers placed on three different points of the body and a heart rate monitor. In addition to the accelerometer measurements, the physical activity of the child and his or her environment in the kindergarten were observed by three different methods, one of which was Progressive Feedback. Observers have been methodologically trained surveyors.

In 2020, in the second phase of the project, measurements will be carried out in ECEC units. At the end of the project, a report will be completed in 2020, which concludes with a justification of the plan to carry out population monitoring of the movement of young children. More information about the project can be found (in Finnish) at https://www.likes.fi/tutkimus/piilo-tutkimus-ja-kehittamishanke.

From the point of Progressive Feedback, the project is an excellent way to learn more about the reliability of the observation and the validity of the criteria (the relation of observation to other indicators).

Fear & Anxiety in Early Education

Fear and anxiety are species-specific adaptation reactions. We have been observing these feelings as part of other emotions since 2015. Through random sampling, we are able to provide a reliable picture of the observed amounts of anxiety and fear and their relationship to children’s tendencies, learning environment, and leadership. Anxiety and fear occurred for an average of 43 seconds per day per child. Most fears occur in the morning. As a result, fears are over-represented in outdoor activities, the child is usually out of focus, often interrupted, and attention is concentrated on a variety of subjects. In situations of fear, the child is often withdrawn or bound to his or her own perspective. 1-3 year olds have most of fearful emotions, even though these emotions are only 0.26% of all observations. Girls have somewhat more fears than boys. However, the emotions of fear in early childhood education are not the experiences of characteristically helpless children, but those of sensitive and skillful children. Fear in early childhood education does not only appear to be negative, but it expresses the courage to experience emotions and the ability to engage with things that are important despite the fear. Only a child who feels secure enough does not prevent him from acting and facing his/her fears. (The figure shows the relationship between fear and anxiety experiences and the child’s assessed social skills in the child group. Observation and assessment are completely independent, so the connection reflects a real phenomenon.)

Below are some examples of children’s descriptions of their fears:

It’s when the adults are loud and when the adult says it
If you play ghost games – in the morning I feel anxious
if it’s dark and someone is scared
That I will be alone somewhere, and the others will leave
I’m afraid I won’t be chosen.
Loud noise. When it’s dark.
Jumping scares, climbing poles.
One boy always hits and is naughty because he hasn’t learned things yet.
If I had to do something and I don’t know if I could do it.
I’m afraid the teacher will get angry if I make an accident.
At daybreak I had dreams of wolves and they ran over me.
When the kindergarten is big.
Monsters
Well, every time someone made me stupid games and laughed. I don’t like it when I am laughed at.
All boys
If the electricity goes out

Toddlers and outdoor activities

The results of Progressive Feedback were presented in  Hangzhou CECECin early education conference 3.12.2019. In the results we saw that the weather is a challenge for the toddlers and their educators. In Finland, especially cold winter months require winter clothes, which may restrict children’s movement and activities. On the other hand, outdoors highlights the importance of peer contacts and movement. In the table the distribution of the toddlers emotions is presented. In outdoor activities, children have a lot of positive emotions, but the amount of negative emotions is also higher than in other activities. The toddlers need Outdoor activities could include developing different types of sun loungers, heaters, shelters, heated sandboxes, and intermediate spaces for flexible outdoor use throughout the day. During summer, for example, shade and water play need attention.

Multicultural children and families in early education

Anna-Leena Lastikka has studied in her licentiate thesis the experiences of multicultural children and families in Finland. The thesis name is Culturally and linguistically diverse children’s and families’ experiences of participation and inclusion in Finnish early childhood education and care. Currently, countries around the world are concerned with migration flows, which set challenges to the development of inclusive ECEC services. It is possible to build (see Figure) an empowering pedagogy that is based on the strengths, knowledge and active participation of children and families. The results of the study imply that to develop an inclusive and participatory ECEC pedagogy, more emphasis should be placed on building social cohesion and mutual understanding among all children, families and educators in the ECEC contexts. One of the thesis article is based on Progressive Feedback data. Read the thesis in here.

Learning environment evaluation

The Finnish Education Evaluation Centre (Karvi) has published the Guidelines and Recommendations for Evaluationg the Quality of Early Childhood Education and Care in 2017. Now, two years later Karvi has published a report (in Finnish) based on a survey based on educators’ self-evaluation on the quality of Early Education in daycare centres and childminders. Mari Sillman has just finished her graduated thesis on the reliability of self-evaluated quality based on the Karvi indicators. The thesis is an invaluable perspective on the challenges of valid and reliable early education evaluation. According to Sillman, a survey based on self-evaluation is challenging or impossible. Multimethod evaluation could be a more reliable
way. Mari’s thesis is available here. In Progressive feedback, we can compare the self-evaluation surveys with independent measures of observation, leadership evaluation, child evaluation and tests.

Evaluating Early Education

Evaluation or Early Childhood Education is a multifaceted and complex science and art.Who would be a better judge on the quality of Early Education than the children themselves? Our data suggests that children’s evaluations are a valuable part of the multi-method quality evaluation of early education. Results can be used to develop practices by paying attention to children´s participation and positive aspects that children mention about Early Education. See the new article in Journal of Early Childhood Education and Research.

Effective teaching and its effects on early childhood development

In EARLI 2019 conference (Aachen Germany), we had a symposium discussing the comparison of two different teaching practices in two different cultures, Hong Kong and Finland. We examine the relationships between effective teaching and childhood development. Our aim is to compare two different educational cultures by using the same observation instrument in both countries and to reveal the most effective teaching methods both in Finland and Hong Kong. In the picture is our research team in Aachen, from left to right: Jyrki Reunamo (University of Helsinki), project leader James Ko (Education University of Hong Kong), Kathy Sylva (University of Oxford), Pamela Sammons (University of Oxford).

Equality & segregation

In Finland, we have been doing research on Early Education for long. Our comprehensive and deep results expose the hidden processes of inequality. The leading Finnish newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, had these research results as main news in 2 August 2019. Early Education can make headlines. This is important, because the processes of inequality are often unconscious and the best way for more equal future is to become aware of the small, but repeating obstacles of equality. The best way to enhance equality is to get a hold of the processes of inequality as early as possible. Read the article.

Finnish Education Evaluation

Finnish Education Evaluation Center organized a meeting for the content producers of evaluation 17 June 2019. The goal of the meeting was to enhance the information exchange on the national level, increase national cooperation, decrease overlaping data collection and add perspectives, openness and effectiveness. Jyrki Reunamo presented Progressive Feedback, which has deep, fresh and comprehensive early education evaluation system running in Finland, comprising of more than half of the Finnish Early Education. You can see the presentation at https://karvi.fi/app/uploads/2019/06/Jyrki-Reunamo.pdf.

CLASS-observation

To check criterion-validity we will compare the Finnish PF-observation and American CLASS-observation. Both observations will be conducted in the same groups. Yasmin Fong from the Education University of Hong Kong visited Finland to train four observers. Now we have four observers licenced to do CLASS-observations in Finland. It will be interesting to compare the Finnish PF with the American Class. Furthermore, it will be even more interesting to compare Finnish and Hong Kong Early Education based on the two observation methods. Yasmin will train Hong Kong observers to use also PF in Hong Kong. The picture is from CLASS training with Roosa-Maria Laaksonen, Mari Sillman, Yasmin Fong, Jenny Hietanen and Jouni Veijalainen.