ERG SES D 05, Children and Education
Taking into account the Pedagogical Guidelines for Day-care centres in Portugal and the theoretical contributions of Experiential Education, Authentic Assessment and Evaluation for Improvement tendencies, we developed an assessment tool for day-care centres (CRECHEndo) as part of an ongoing doctoral project. This tool aims to improve the quality of educational practice through the evaluation carried out by early childhood teachers (ECT). CRECHEndo is composed by individual and group components that must be filled in by the teacher, throughout the year, assuming the principles of process evaluation as a starting point for observation, reflection and curriculum planning. In this communication we aim to present some results of case studies developed during the 2013/2014 school year, based on the monitored implementation of CRECHEndo in two Portuguese day-care centres. Regardless of the broader project, we focus here on only one of our specific goals – to test CRECHEndo in practice (in collaboration with ECT), assessing its strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, we present and discuss the teachers’ evaluation of involvement and wellbeing, identify the general themes emerging from the teachers’ analysis of the group/context and compare the data collected in two different moments (at the beginning and at the end of the project). In Portugal, as in many European countries, care and education for children under 3 years of age are not covered by clear and systematic policies, often enhancing care over the educational component (Taguma, Lijtens, & Makowiecki, 2012). Several studies have shown that early childhood services have low quality levels, being the lack of specific training of responsible adults presented as one of the possible explanations for these results (Barros & Aguiar, 2010). In short, "critical reflection, questioning practices and teamwork [are] not sufficiently implemented" (Góis & Portugal, 2009, p. 29) in childhood education contexts, generating some accommodation that impairs the quality of interventions. There is, therefore, an urgent need for initiatives that promote quality in day-care centres (Araújo, 2012). Although the literature advocates a constant improvement of practices and an authentic evaluation, many ECT have gaps in this area (Portugal, 2013). Contrary to the most common and traditional forms of evaluation, Bagnato and Neisworth (2007) consider that evaluation in childhood contexts has to be developed in an authentic and genuine way, that is, in the natural environments of children, by significant adults and in collaboration with the family (Bagnato & Neisworth, 2007).
The theoretical perspective that underpins this project is Experiential Education, which defines quality as a multidimensional concept that includes three types of variables - context, process and outcome. Unlike context and outcome variables, process variables express the way children experience the educational context "here and now", allowing for continuous monitoring and more grounded goals and initiatives. Experiential education values the internal experience of children, perceived through process variables - wellbeing and involvement. Knowing wellbeing and involvement provides feedback on the quality of the activity/situation, given the way these are experienced by each child (Laevers, Moons, & Declercq, 2012; Portugal & Laevers, 2010). This approach has been adopted in many countries through the creation and adaptation of evaluation tools (e.g. Laevers et al., 2012; Laevers, 2005b; Portugal & Laevers, 2010) and numerous studies show that wellbeing and involvement observation, accompanied by a reflection on the relevant contextual factors, provides a framework for practice improvement and for defining initiatives that can lead to higher quality (Araújo, 2012; Laevers & Declercq, 2011; Laevers, 2005a; Ulich & Mayr, 2003; Van Sanden & Joly, 2003). We aim with this communication to present an example of the use of experiential evaluation tools with the purpose of improving practice.
Araújo, S. (2012). Researching change: a praxeological case study on toddlers’ educational contexts. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 20(4), 505–517. doi:10.1080/1350293X.2012.737706 Bagnato, S., & Neisworth, J. (2007). Assessment for early intervention: Best practices for professionals. New York: The Guilford Press. Barros, S., & Aguiar, C. (2010). Assessing the quality of Portuguese child care programs for toddlers. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 25, 527–535. Góis, S., & Portugal, G. (2009). A avaliação da qualidade num contexto de educação de infância. In G. Portugal (Ed.), Ideias, projectos e inovação no mundo das infâncias – o percurso e a presença de Joaquim Bairrão (pp. 213–228). Aveiro: Universidade de Aveiro. Laevers, F. (2005a). Deep level learning and the experiential approach in early childhood and primary education. Leuven: Leuven University Department of Educational Sciences. Laevers, F. (2005b). Sics [Ziko] Well-being and involvement in care – a process-oriented self-evaluation instrument for care settings. Leuven: Kind & Gezin and Research Centre for Experiential Education, Leuven University. Laevers, F., & Declercq, B. (2011). Raising levels of well-being and involvement in Milton Keynes Preschool Settings [School year 2009-2010]. Leuven: CEGO. Laevers, F., Moons, J., & Declercq, B. (2012). A process-oriented monitoring system for the early years [POMS]. Leuven: CEGO. Portugal, G. (2013). Avaliar o desenvolvimento e a aprendizagem das crianças – desafios e possibilidades. In M. J. Cardona & C. M. Guimarães (Eds.), Avaliação na educação de infância (pp. 234–253). Viseu: Psicossoma. Portugal, G., & Laevers, F. (2010). Avaliação em Educação Pré-Escolar - Sistema de Acompanhamento das Crianças. Porto: Porto Editora. Stake, R. (2005). Qualitative Case Studies. In The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research (pp. 443–466). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. Taguma, M., Lijtens, I., & Makowiecki, K. (2012). Quality Matters in Early Childhood Education and Care - Portugal. Paris: OCDE. Ulich, M., & Mayr, T. (2003). Implementing the involvement scales in German day care centers: practitioners perspectives. In F. Laevers & L. Heylen (Eds.), Involvement of children and teacher style - insights from an international study on experiential education (pp. 25–41). Leuven: Leuven University Press. Van Sanden, P., & Joly, A. (2003). Well-being and involvement as a guide in realizing good conditions for inclusive education in Nicaragua. In F. Laevers & L. Heylen (Eds.), Involvement of children and teacher style - insights from an international study on experiential education (pp. 143–172). Leuven: Leuven University Press.
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