04 SES 04 C, When Care Meets Inclusion In Early Childhood Education and Care
The project "Model of response to the educational needs of children at risk of social exclusion in early and preschool education / MORENEC" (funded by the Croatian Science Foundation, IP-2019-04-2011) is aimed at researching appropriate educational practices which can contribute to the well-being of children at risk of social exclusion. The quality of educational practice, within the humanistic concept and holistic developmental approach, is interpreted as the optimal adaptation of the educational process to the individual needs and abilities of children with their equal participation.
The EU Council Recommendation (2019) emphasizes the importance of institutional early childhood education (ECE), as one of the ways to equalize the educational opportunities of each individual. Early inclusion in the ECE setting is interpreted as a “key instrument for combating inequality and educational poverty” (Recommendation, 2019, paragraph 4). The quality of ECE is closely linked to the goals of sustainable development - responsible environmental, economic, social and culturally based decision-making, and action that will enable economic sustainability and social justice (UNESCO, 2017). The predictor of such an ECE is the professional and vocational development of practitioners. Fonsén and Ukkonen-Mikkola (2019) emphasize that the possibility of vocational development is a predictor of professional development, and the purpose is the development of competencies as functional knowledge. In the process of professional development, the teacher has the opportunity to systematically evaluate the quality of personal practice, previously implemented educational approaches and procedures, and review personal paradigms (Visković, & Višnjić Jevtić, 2018). Teachers' personal beliefs are important for the implementation of inclusive practice (Alexiadou, & Stadler Altmann, 2020). Deep-rooted prejudices can act as barriers to inclusion and oppose any policy attempts to influence policy reform (Silva, Bajzáth, Lemkow-Tovias, & Wastijn, 2020). They estimate that members of dominant groups cannot recognize the discourse and difficulties of individuals in socially deprived groups, resulting in additional segregation.
Children at risk of social exclusion are more exposed than average to violation, or risk of violating social, emotional, psychophysical and / or social integrity (Bouillet, 2019). The risks are usually multiple. Social exclusion implies both, social non-recognition and non-recognition which consequently generates dissatisfaction with life (Crous, & Bradshaw, 2017). The outcome is a relatively permanent, multi-conditioned and multiple deprivation of the individual as a result of cumulative, interconnected economic, cultural and political factors (Šućur, 2015). Inclusiveness is therefore one of the fundamental aspects of the quality of the educational process (Peleman, Vandenbroeck, & Avermaet, 2020; Pramling Samuelsson, Li, & Hu, 2019). It presupposes an egalitarian inclusion and appreciation of the diversity of children (different developmental and psychophysical status, ethnic and cultural background, family structure and socio-economic status). The shortcomings of relevant research suggest that children at risk of social exclusion are not adequately recognized in ECE settings, and consequently inclusive practice procedures are not adequately developed.
It is therefore justified to investigate teachers' individual opinions on educational procedures, and the effect of the level of formal education and professional development on their assessments. Research questions seek to find out which dimensions of inclusive educational practice teachers prefer as quality ones, and how they value collaborative relationships. It is assumed that teachers' professional experience (education and professional development, length of work experience and age) is related to the importance they attach to certain dimensions of pedagogical practice.
The pilot research was conducted in ECE facilities in the Split-Dalmatia County, Republic of Croatia, during teachers’ professional meetings (a form of internal professional development). The purpose of the research was explained to all potential participants in the research and the right to withdraw from the research was indicated. The research was approved by the Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Split. It included 146 teachers, average age of the sample was 38.81 years (SD = 10.76) in the range of 21-60 years. The majority of participants in the sample, 72% (N = 96) are bachelors, and 28% are graduate teachers (N = 38), which corresponds to the structure of employed teachers in ECE (CBS, 2019). The Questionnaire for the assessment of the quality of pedagogical practice/UP-PKPP was constructed for the needs of research. It is constructed based on the findings of empirical research practice and the ISSA standard of pedagogical quality. The measuring instrument contains 8 independent variables and a scale for assessing the quality of inclusive pedagogical practice with 40 items. The assessment was made using a five-point Likert-type scale. The measuring instrument has adequate reliability (α = .837). The subscale items describe aspects of the inclusive educational process in the dimensions of educational strategies, interaction of children and teachers, and children with each other; educational values of the educational group curriculum: planning, monitoring and evaluation of learning ,and communication and cooperation settings, cooperation with parents of the children involved, and the professional development of the teachers. The pilot research aimed to validate the research instrument with regard to the procedures of inclusive pedagogical practice. The research findings are used to develop an instrument for the main research of the dimensions of educational practice, which can contribute to the well-being of children at risk of social exclusion. Recognizing and understanding the dimensions of existing practice, indicates the necessary activities through education and support of the teachers.
Evaluating certain dimensions of inclusive educational practice, the teachers in the sample believe that the activities in the educational process need to be adjusted to the children’s interest and children encouraged solving problem situations independently. Teachers are reluctant to ignore children’s conflicts and remarks that contain prejudice. They equally find important giving the affirmative feedback that highlights children's strengths, children's collaborative play, and children's mutual reflections on joint activities. Cooperation with parents, other practitioners and scientists, and the use of community resources the participants in the sample consider important for the quality of pedagogical practice. They are also sceptical about the importance of universal design of the learning environment, motivation of children to follow the rules with unannounced awards, and emphasizing children’s normative achievements. The level of formal education has proven to be a predictor of assessing the importance of certain aspects of the educational process. It was found that teachers of higher level of education statistically significantly (p≤ .05) assess the importance of educational strategies (t=2.36), and professional development (t=3.37) for the quality of the educational process. Teachers of higher level of education also statistically significantly assess the importance of additional training in the field of developmental and social risks of children (t=2.05; p= .04); use of community resources (t=2.24; p= .02), and parental involvement in planning individual support for a child with disabilities (t=2.68; p = .009). At the same time, teachers with higher level of education statistically significantly assess the importance of children's reflections on the activities in which they participated (t=3.07; p = .003). It is worrying because 27.7% of participants state that they have never participated in professional development in the field of educational process with children who are above average at risk.
Alexiadou, N., Stadler Altmann, U. (2020). Early childhood education research in Europe: contexts, policies, and ideas. Education Inquiry, 11 (2), 89-93. https://doi.org/10.1080/20004508.2020.1736795 Bouillet, D.(2019). Inkluzivno Obrazovanje: Odabrane Teme; Učiteljski fakultet: Zagreb. Council Recommending on High-Quality Early Childhood Education and Care Systems (2019) (2019). Official Journal of the Europea Union, C 189/02. Available online: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/HR/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32019H0605(01) Crous, G., Bradshaw, J. (2017). Child Social Exclusion. Children and Youth Services Review, 80, 129–139. https://dro.dur.ac.uk/20774/1/20774.pdf Croatian Bureau od Statistic (2020). Kindergartens and other legal entities implementing preschool Education programmes, beginning of 2019/2020 pedagogic year. https://www.dzs.hr/Hrv_Eng/publication/2020/08-01-08_01_2020.htm Fonsén, E., Ukkonen-Mikkola, T. (2019). Early childhood education teachers’ professional development towards pedagogical leadership. Educational Research, 61 (2), 181- 196. https://doi.org/10.1080/00131881.2019.1600377 Peleman, B., Vandenbroeck, M., Avermaet, P. (2019). Early Learning Opportunities for Children at Risk of Social Exclusion. Opening the Black Box of Preschool Practice. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 28 (5), 1–22. https://doi.org/10.1080/1350293X.2020.1707360. Pramling Samuelsson, I., Li, M., Hu, A. (2019). Early childhood education for sustainability – A drive for quality. Journal of Early Childhood Education, 47, 347-366. https://doi.org/10.1177/2096531119893478 Silva, C., Bajzáth, A., Lemkow-Tovias, L., & Wastijn, B. (2020). Encouraging intercultural attitudes and practices in contemporary ECEC services. Insights from A research conducted in Italy, Spain, and Hungary. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal 28 (1), 90-103. https://doi.org/10.1080/1350293X.2020.1707365 Šućur, Z. (2015). Siromaštvo i dobrobit djece predškolske dobi u Republici Hrvatskoj. Ured UNICEF-a za Hrvatsku: Zagreb. UNESCO – The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (2017). Education for Sustainable Development Goals – Learning objectives. Pariz: UNESCO. http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002474/247444e.pdf Visković, I., Višnjić Jevtić, A. (2018). Professional development of kindergarten teachers in Croatia – a personal choice or an obligation. Early Years, 38(3), 286297. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09575146.2017.1278747
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