Nordic Families, Children and Early Childhood Education [1st ed.] 978-3-030-16865-0;978-3-030-16866-7

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Nordic Families, Children and Early Childhood Education [1st ed.]

Table of contents :
Front Matter ....Pages i-xvii
An Introduction to the Nordic Countries Around Family, Children and Early Childhood Education (Susanne Garvis, Heidi Harju-Luukkainen, Pia Williams, Sonja Sheridan)....Pages 1-14
Children’s Initiatives in the Finnish Early Childhood Education Context (Jonna Kangas, Anna-Leena Lastikka)....Pages 15-36
Do Children Learn Through Play? How Do We Know? (Kristín Karlsdóttir, Leigh O’Brien, Johanna Einarsdottir)....Pages 37-60
Practicing Belonging in Kindergarten: Children’s Use of Places and Artifacts (Sidsel Boldermo)....Pages 61-79
Parental Involvement in ECEC in Finland and in Sweden (Liisa Uusimäki, Tina Elisabeth Yngvesson, Susanne Garvis, Heidi Harju-Luukkainen)....Pages 81-99
Negotiating ‘Real Families’ in Swedish Preschools (Anette Hellman)....Pages 101-117
Instructional Practices in Early Swedish Immersion in Finland (Heidi Harju-Luukkainen, Desmond Amakye, Lisa Cederberg)....Pages 119-138
Children Under the Age of Three in Norwegian Childcare: Searching for Qualities (Ellen Os, Leif Hernes)....Pages 139-171
Systematic Quality Work in a Swedish Context (Karin Lager)....Pages 173-192
Early Childhood Education (ECE) in the Nordic Countries: Universal Challenges to the Danish Model—Towards a Future ECE Paradigm (Dion Sommer)....Pages 193-212
Back Matter ....Pages 213-219

Citation preview


Nordic Families, Children and Early Childhood Education Edited by Susanne Garvis Heidi Harju-Luukkainen Sonja Sheridan Pia Williams

Studies in Childhood and Youth

Series Editors Afua Twum-Danso Imoh University of Sheffield Sheffield, UK Nigel Thomas University of Central Lancashire Preston, UK Spyros Spyrou European University Cyprus Nicosia, Cyprus Penny Curtis University of Sheffield Sheffield, UK

This well-established series embraces global and multi-disciplinary scholarship on childhood and youth as social, historical, cultural and material phenomena. With the rapid expansion of childhood and youth studies in recent decades, the series encourages diverse and emerging theoretical and methodological approaches. We welcome proposals which explore the diversities and complexities of children’s and young people’s lives and which address gaps in the current literature relating to childhoods and youth in space, place and time. Studies in Childhood and Youth will be of interest to students and scholars in a range of areas, including Childhood Studies, Youth Studies, Sociology, Anthropology, Geography, Politics, Psychology, Education, Health, Social Work and Social Policy. More information about this series at

Susanne Garvis  •  Heidi Harju-Luukkainen Sonja Sheridan  •  Pia Williams Editors

Nordic Families, Children and Early Childhood Education

Editors Susanne Garvis University of Gothenburg Gothenburg, Sweden

Heidi Harju-Luukkainen Nord University Bodø, Norway

Sonja Sheridan University of Gothenburg Gothenburg, Sweden

Pia Williams University of Gothenburg Gothenburg, Sweden

Studies in Childhood and Youth ISBN 978-3-030-16865-0    ISBN 978-3-030-16866-7 (eBook) © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2019 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland


The Nordic Early Childhood Systems Approach Research Group (NECA) is an interdisciplinary research group that reflects the understanding that families and preschool play important roles in the shaping of children’s outcomes, including their academic, social, health, well-being and beliefs. Members are across the Nordic region. Our unit of study includes the child, their families and the institutions where families are involved. We consider the concept of family as a multifaceted concept embracing diversity. Families are continually evolving and take on many different forms. NECA draws upon a range of theoretical perspectives and methodologies including quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods methodologies. We bring together members from all parts of the society to discuss and share information about children and families. This includes researchers, government representatives, service representatives, community representatives, family/parent representatives and teacher representatives. This book is the first publication from members about the Nordic region. The intention is to share insights into contemporary Nordic society. Thank you to the contributors from the NECA network who were able to share important insights. Finally, we would like to thank the reviewers who were involved in the development of the book. Without their hard work and expertise, we would not have been able to create the book. v

vi Preface

Reviewers Dr Jennifer Cartmel, Griffith University Professor Johannes Lunneblad, University of Gothenburg Dr Jonna Kangas, Helsinki University Dr Karin Lager, University of Gothenburg Anna-Leena Lastikka, Helsinki University Dr Wendy Goff, Swinburne University Dr Elina Fonsén, University of Tampere Dr Heini Paavola, Helsinki University Tina Elisabeth Yngvesson, University of Gothenburg Sidsel Boldermo, Artic University of Norway Gothenburg, Sweden Bodø, Norway  Gothenburg, Sweden  Gothenburg, Sweden 

Susanne Garvis Heidi Harju-Luukkainen Sonja Sheridan Pia Williams


1 An Introduction to the Nordic Countries Around Family, Children and Early Childhood Education  1 Susanne Garvis, Heidi Harju-Luukkainen, Pia Williams, and Sonja Sheridan 2 Children’s Initiatives in the Finnish Early Childhood Education Context 15 Jonna Kangas and Anna-Leena Lastikka 3 Do Children Learn Through Play? How Do We Know? 37 Kristín Karlsdóttir, Leigh O’Brien, and Johanna Einarsdottir 4 Practicing Belonging in Kindergarten: Children’s Use of Places and Artifacts 61 Sidsel Boldermo 5 Parental Involvement in ECEC in Finland and in Sweden 81 Liisa Uusimäki, Tina Elisabeth Yngvesson, Susanne Garvis, and Heidi Harju-Luukkainen vii

viii Contents

6 Negotiating ‘Real Families’ in Swedish Preschools101 Anette Hellman 7 Instructional Practices in Early Swedish Immersion in Finland119 Heidi Harju-Luukkainen, Desmond Amakye, and Lisa Cederberg 8 Children Under the Age of Three in Norwegian Childcare: Searching for Qualities139 Ellen Os and Leif Hernes 9 Systematic Quality Work in a Swedish Context173 Karin Lager 10 Early Childhood Education (ECE) in the Nordic Countries: Universal Challenges to the Danish Model— Towards a Future ECE Paradigm193 Dion Sommer Final Thoughts213 Index217

Notes on Contributors

Desmond  Amakye  has a baccalaureate degree in Arts in Pre-School Education from Gothenburg University in Sweden. He has been working since his baccalaureate degree for two years with questions connected to children’s language learning. He has also worked at different preschools around Gothenburg which have language development as their aim at the preschool. Sidsel  Boldermo  is a PhD student at the University of Tromsø, the Arctic University in Norway. She is a trained kindergarten teacher, with a master’s degree in special needs education. Boldermo’s PhD project aims at early childhood education for diversity and sustainable futures, investigating the social dimension within education for sustainability, in the local and global context. Lisa  Cederberg has a baccalaureate degree in Arts in Pre-School Education from Gothenburg University in Sweden. Since she graduated two years ago, she’s been working as a preschool teacher in a multicultural area in Gothenburg, where most children have another language than Swedish as their first language. For their bachelor’s thesis, Amakye and Cederberg went to Finland to study the methods used in language immersion preschools, to support the children’s language development in Swedish. ix


Notes on Contributors

Johanna Einarsdottir  is Professor of Early Childhood Education at the University of Iceland. She holds Honorary Doctorate from the University of Oulu in Finland and was awarded The Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award from the University of Illinois in 2018. She has been involved in international research projects as a researcher and a consultant. She has presented numerous papers and research results on early childhood education. Susanne Garvis  is Professor of Child and Youth Studies at the University of Gothenburg and a guest professor at the University of Stockholm. She is the leader of the funded Nordic Early Childhood Research Group (NECA) and works on national and international research grants around early childhood education and care. Her research methods include mixed methods, allowing her to work with parents, children, teachers and governmental organizations. She has published numerous books, journal articles and reports within early childhood education with a specific focus on policy, learning and quality. Heidi Harju-Luukkainen  is Professor of Education and holds a PhD in education, special education teacher qualification and a qualification in leadership and management from Finland. She has published more than 100 international books, journal articles and reports as well as worked in more than 25 projects globally. Harju-Luukkainen has worked at top-­ ranked universities in the USA like UCLA, USC as well as in many Nordic research universities. She has been a Principal investigator (PI) of PISA assessments in Finland and functioned as board professional. Her research areas are early childhood education, justice in education and international student assessment. Anette Hellman  is Associate Professor of Education at the University of Gothenburg and holds a PhD in education and preschool teacher qualification in Sweden. She has published more than 100 international books, journal articles and reports as well as worked in more than ten projects globally. Hellman has worked at top-ranked universities in Japan and southeast Asia, such as Gakugei in Tokyo and UPI in West Java. Her research areas are early childhood education, justice in education and global childhoods.

  Notes on Contributors 


Leif Hernes  is a choreographer and professor in drama in the Department of Early Childhood Education at Oslo Metropolitan University. He managed the research project Searching for Qualities (2012–2018). His main research focus is performance art and children under the age of three. Jonna Kangas  has a PhD in Education. She works as a university lecturer and joint research member in Playful Learning Center, University of Helsinki. Her research focus is on play-based learning and participatory pedagogy in early childhood education. She is working with research projects to include playful learning to early mathematics and follow the development of children through pathways of play. She has participated in development projects about children’s participation, autonomy and self-regulation within the municipal ECEC in Finland, and has developed an international FinlandWay preschool model for transferring the best educational practices to teachers all over the world. Kristín  Karlsdóttir  is Associate Professor of Early Education at the University of Iceland. Her teaching and research touch upon preschool teacher’s reflections and professional development, children’s participation in play and learning, children’s agency and democracy in preschools. She is the head of the research center in early education and has taken part in several action research projects, the latest involving documentation and assessment in preschool education. Karin Lager  is a senior lecturer at the University of Gothenburg where she works within the field of teacher education. Lager is also a postdoc researcher at University West. Her research focuses on quality issues in educational settings, such as preschools and leisure-time centres, from a policy-process perspective. Her postdoc is directed towards children’s and teachers’ perspectives of leisure-time and how their voices can be a foundation in evaluation. Anna-Leena  Lastikka is a doctoral student in Education at the University of Helsinki. Her research interest lies in studying children and families with different language and cultural background perspectives and experiences of participation in early childhood education. Lastikka is also interested in using the Storycrafting method, a participatory method,


Notes on Contributors

in her research and practice. She is a board member of the Children Are Telling Group, which consists of researchers and developers involved with studying the knowledge children and adults produce together and developing participatory and empowering practices. Her professional desire is to move away from traditional, objectifying approach to children’s and educators’ shared participation and learning. Leigh O’Brien  is Professor at School of Education at the State University of New York at Geneseo. Her research interests include autobiography in education, diversity and education (especially regarding gender and ability), and education for democracy. She has presented widely, at the state and national levels as well as internationally, has authored or co-authored numerous papers and several chapters, and was co-­editor of one book. Ellen  Os is an associate professor employed at Oslo Metropolitan University in the Department of Early Childhood Education. She has initiated and taken part in several research projects and managed the research project Searching for Qualities (2012–2018). Her main research focus is children under three years of age. Sonja  Sheridan is Professor of Education at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Her research is oriented towards Early Childhood Education, focusing on quality issues related to conditions for children’s learning and preschool teacher competence. She has been a consultant for several authorities, led research projects and authored a wide range of books and articles. Dion  Sommer is Professor of Developmental Psychology at the Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, University of Aarhus, Denmark. Through more than 30 years, Sommer has developed theory and empirically studied how societal changes transform children’s socialization, learning and development. Focus is on day care, family and mother–father–child relationships. His research also encompasses the third paradigm shift—developmental psychology being transformed into the interdisciplinary developmental science.

  Notes on Contributors 


Liisa Uusimäki  has extensive teaching, supervision and research experience in Teacher Education from both Sweden and Australia. She is a senior lecturer at the University of Gothenburg where she teaches in several International and Swedish postgraduate and undergraduate courses. She is the recipient of the 2018 Excellent Teacher award from the Faculty of Education at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Her research areas are: inclusive education, cross-cultural studies, internationalization, international student and staff mobility, mentoring, educational/pedagogical leadership, identity and developmental psychology. Pia Williams  is Professor of Child and Youth Studies at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Her research is oriented towards Early Childhood Education, focusing on conditions for children’s learning and development in preschool. She has been a consultant for the Swedish Ministry of Education and authored a wide range of books and articles. Tina Elisabeth Yngvesson  (M.Sc. International Business, B.Sc. (Hons.) Social Sciences, Pedagogics A, B) is undertaking the International Master of Educational Research programme at the University of Gothenburg, where she is writing her thesis on parental engagement in the Swedish preschool. Alongside her studies and various research projects in child and youth sciences, she also works part-time in the Swedish pre- and primary school.

List of Figures

Picture 7.1 Teacher’s ways of emphasising essential points during the morning routine 127 Picture 7.2 Teacher whispering keywords in the “background.” 131 Fig. A.1 Major trends identified across the chapters 216


List of Tables

Table 1.1 Table 2.1 Table 2.2 Table 2.3

Children and education provision Examples of coding Children’s descriptions of their initiatives Teachers’ descriptions about children’s initiatives

5 23 30 30


1 An Introduction to the Nordic Countries Around Family, Children and Early Childhood Education Susanne Garvis, Heidi Harju-Luukkainen, Pia Williams, and Sonja Sheridan

Introduction The Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden1) continually score high in lifestyle measures, quality of life and children’s outcomes. With a combined population of over 26 million people, innovative policy is often implemented to deal with a small but spread-out population. For over 200 years, the countries have kept peace with each other and have substantial cooperation across national borders. Much of this has to do with specific culture and policy of the Nordic countries.  Also includes Åland, the Faroe Island and Greenland.


S. Garvis (*) • P. Williams • S. Sheridan University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden e-mail: [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected] H. Harju-Luukkainen Nord University, Bodø, Norway e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 S. Garvis et al. (eds.), Nordic Families, Children and Early Childhood Education, Studies in Childhood and Youth,



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For example, clear and well-established political intentions for families, children and preschool in terms of social reforms, stable funding, laws, curriculum, guidelines and a preschool teacher education on an academic level (UNESCO, 2008). Countries around the world are beginning to recognise the importance of understanding links between supporting families and young children and are often interested in the Nordic perspective for these issues. Furthermore, a growing interest is seen in the Nordic countries’ curricula of primary education, in order to meet the needs and new demands of today’s children and families, to allow positive life trajectories (Sylva, Melhuish, Sammons, Siraj-Blatchford, & Taggart, 2010). Thus, there is a need for the academic community as well as the general community to share the Nordic perspective. The intention of the book is to bring together authors from the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) to share and increase understanding around theory and empirical research, regarding families, children, primary education and children’s leisure time activities. The book provides a summary of the current research findings about families and children across the Nordic countries. The findings provide important insights into the ‘Nordic model’ and offer readers the chance to understand the relevant issues facing Nordic countries. What emerges is, while there are many similarities across the countries, differences also arise. As countries look at better ways to support their populations, it is important to understand different ways of working, including the Nordic perspective. The content of the book is more relevant now than ever, as countries explore different ways of producing better outcomes for all people.

Nordic Perspectives Over the last century the Nordic countries have established a welfare model that is often referred to as the ‘Nordic model’. This includes the development of policies that promote equality for all, with equal opportunities for both men and women. Part of this has meant reforms to support parents, such as child allowances, parental leave and provision for

1  An Introduction to the Nordic Countries Around Family… 


preschool for all children. The overall intention is to support all in society to create independence and equality. How Nordic countries do this differs across region. Significant for the Nordic preschool and leisure time programmes is that they emphasise similar skills and qualities that are valued as important for children to learn and develop, such as being active, to reflect, communicate and interact with other children and teachers. A global influence can be traced on quality aspects and qualities, which are valued as important: influences that can be drawn from modern theories of learning, emphasising communication and interaction (Bruner, 1996; Pramling Samuelsson, Sheridan, & Williams, 2006; Vygotsky, 1986). The Nordic countries have also imported ideas, methods and philosophies from other countries around family and child policy. So, rather than suggest a ‘Nordic model’, we take on the suggestion of Garvis and Ødegaard (2017, p. 1) of a Nordic dialogue that is common across the countries where ‘Nordic perspectives are closely linked to national and global economies as well as transnational cultural ideas and ideals on families and children’. The universal idea of how to better support families and children within the Nordic region motivates the focus of this book. The intention is to showcase various examples of policy and practice across the countries to highlight current successes and challenges within Nordic provision. It is important that the reader starts to understand Nordic policies and descriptions of families and how family structures impact on children’s and adolescents’ everyday life (Nordén, 2018). In a Nordic context, the concept of a family is broad with many inclusions. Families are understood as both nuclear and extended, with representations of many members. Family members may or may not live in the same house, be emotionally attached or related to the kin. Children become part of a family systems approach where ecological, cultural and systematic bases of knowledge affect the development and well-being of children. Within contemporary perspectives, family and children are seen as resources, where they can become partners who are more involved in activities, development and the creation of curriculum and change within early childhood education. On the other hand, children and families are also seen as a risk, underdeveloped and underprivileged (Rogoff, 2003).


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In reality, the two positions are often blended together. Involvement, development and change in institutions have traditionally been reserved for professionals, but ecological, cultural and systemic bases of knowledge take into account that children are parts of family systems and relations that affect children’s development and well-being (Garvis & Ødegaard, 2017, p.  3). Within the Nordic context, this suggests that institutions are continually changing to meet the needs of society and family. One of the most important education provisions connected to children is described in Table 1.1, which will also give us a better understanding of how this suggested in Nordic dialogue (Garvis & Ødegaard, 2017) between the countries can best be observed. All of the Nordic countries have similar childcare and education provision with only rather small differences. For instance, the ratification of UN Rights of the Child was done in all of the countries in the beginning of 1990s. The corporal punishment law was implemented first in Finland, followed by the other Nordic countries. While all countries have a similar way in dealing with universal access to preschool, starting school ages and provision for schooling, the actual provision of support differs slightly, especially around the cost. However, only in Finland and Sweden, children are provided with school lunch every day. Not only evident in this book but also observed by other researchers, there is a difference between the Nordic countries and some other European countries regarding the perspective on play and children’s social, cognitive and emotional development. For instance, Bennett (2005) has distinguished two broad categories between the different nations, particularly visible in Europe, as the pre-primary tradition (e.g. Belgium, France, Ireland, the UK and the US) focusing on cognitive goals and ‘readiness for school’ as important aims and the social pedagogic tradition (e.g. Nordic countries, many parts of Central Europe) focusing more on children’s play and social development with an emphasis on children’s agency (Sheridan, Garvis, Williams, & Mellgren, in press; Sheridan & Williams, 2018; Williams & Sheridan, forthcoming). In the Nordic countries, these two traditions are being replaced by a new approach to children’s learning and development. In this approach children’s social, emotional and cognitive learning is integrated and valued as


Children can start Since 2009, every Universal from one year of child from one to access to six years of age early learning age (since 1995), has a right to Three- to five-­ kindergarten year-­olds have 15 free hours a week Preschool class (children aged six) is mandatory from autumn 2018 Ten (six years) Ten (six years) Years of compulsory schooling and starting age Basic right to free Basic right to free Provisions education, education, provided in including including education equipment, text equipment, text books and school books, school transport transport and meals


Table 1.1  Children and education provision Denmark


Basic right to free Maximum cost is 2.551 (Copenhagen) education, including equipment, text books, school transport and meals

Of actual cost 30% in public institution and up to 50% in private institutions

Children can Children should be Eight months to start from one offered a place in five years since year of age. day-care facilities 1990 Obligatory for (dagtilbud) if their Preschool class bilingual parents want it. (children aged children from six) is mandatory Since 2000–2003 there three years has been a financial from 2015 agreement between the central government and local authorities to offer all parents a place Nine (seven years) Ten (six years) Ten (six years)


1  An Introduction to the Nordic Countries Around Family… 



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of equal importance to children’s learning and development. The importance of children’s learning today and for school is stressed as well as their lifelong learning (Pramling & Pramling Samuelsson, 2011; Sheridan & Williams, 2018). According to Table 1.1, all of the Nordic countries have early childhood curriculum that has a strong emphasis of play, learning and democracy. However, also a strong partnership with families is highlighted. For example, in Finland an entire chapter in the National Core Curriculum is devoted to this partnership and its implementation. According to the National Core Curriculum for Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) (OPH, 2016, pp. 32–33), the aim for the partnership is meeting the needs of the child to ensure their growth, development and learning. Information about compulsory schooling is also shared below. The welfare states also support the majority of children. All children have access to health and education and families have financial and educational support for their child to attend early childhood settings. Alongside the provisions for children and education, welfare support combines with education to provide a substantial foundation for children and their families. First, across all of the Nordic countries children are entitled to free health care (including free dental care). Some of the Nordic countries also provide free medicine for children if needed. As part of creating a safety net for families when children are sick, parents are also entitled to take paid leave to care for sick children. For example, in Sweden parents are entitled to take 120  days per child per year for children under 12 and have payment from the national insurance scheme (social welfare). In Norway parents can take 20 days per year per child under 12 and salary is 100%. And in Finland parents have the right to stay home to look after sick children under ten years as needed but up to four days per illness. The salary again is paid at 100%. Removing the pressure of earning an income during times of caring for sick children reduces stress on families and allows parents to take on career roles as needed throughout the year. Children who do not attend formal early childhood services are also supported within the welfare states. Parents are paid an allowance for children who are at home. This consists of a flat rate allowance of untaxed 3000 SEK per month in Sweden. In Norway, families who do not use

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kindergarten service at all get 6000 NOK per child per month; if the child use kindergarten service less than 20 hours a week, they get 3000 NOK per child per month. In Finland, the basic childcare allowance was €342.53 per month per one child if a parent stays home to care for a child. Families in the Nordic countries are also supported with a child allowance payment for children, regardless of income. Sometimes the payment is made directly to the mother or split between the parents. In Denmark, it depends on the child’s age to the amount of child allowance benefit. Children aged 0–2 years received 17,772 DK per child per year, children aged 2–6 years received 14,076 DK per child per year and children aged 7–17 years receive 11,076 DK per child per year. In Finland, a flexible care allowance encourages parents of children under the age of three to combine part-time work with part-time care. An amount of €244.18 per month is paid to parents working a maximum of 22.5 hours per week or 60% of their normal full-time hours and €162.78 to those working a maximum of 30 hours per week or 80% of their normal full-time hours. In Norway child allowance amounts to 970 NOK per month and per child under 18. In Sweden the child allowance is 1250 SEK per month per child under 16 years of age, combined with an increasing family supplement payment, for the second to the sixth child. Many of the countries also offer working parents flexibility in the workplace from the end of parental leave until the child starts school. Parents have the opportunity to work shorter hours or part-time, as part of employee rights and not be penalised by employers. The flexibility allows many parents to balance work with family and provides opportunities to be present in both roles. By allowing parents to work, the family’s socio-economic status will also be improved. Immigration of children from a foreign background is increasing in the Nordic region with recent waves of asylum. In Sweden, for example, 20% of children have a foreign background (Skolverket, 2017). Foreign background refers to children born abroad or children born in Sweden with both parents born abroad (Skolverket, 2017). In 2013, 106,900 children or 22% of children spoke a language other than Swedish (Skolverket, 2017). In 2014, the Swedish population grew by 127,000 (Sweden and Migration, 2019). This largely consisted of 80,000 asylum seekers, with the largest groups being Syrians, Eritreans and people with


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no state or country. This is because Sweden granted residence permits to all Syrians seeking asylum. In 2015, every fourth immigrant was from Syria, making them the largest immigrant group (Sweden and Migration, 2019). Similar statistics around migration are also found in the other Nordic countries. In 2017, 16.8% of Norway’s population were immigrants (883,751 people). The ten most common countries of origin (listed highest to lowest) were Poland, Lithuania, Sweden, Somalia, Germany, Iraq, Syria, Philippines, Iran and Pakistan (Statistics Norway, 2017). In Finland in 2017, 6.8% of the population (373,325 people) were immigrants. The majority were from the former Soviet Union, followed by other common countries of Estonia, Sweden, Iraq and Russia (Finlands Official Statistics, 2017). In Denmark, the ten most represented countries of origin in the order of greatest proportion of the population were Poland, Turkey, Germany, Iraq, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania, Norway, Iran, Sweden and Pakistan, where 8% of the population consists of immigrants (Statistics Denmark, 2015). In Iceland, there were 14,929 immigrants in 2017, with Poland being the largest contributor of immigrants (Statistics Iceland, 2017). Thus, in preschools there are a growing number of children from immigrant background who speak more than one language. This creates new challenges for the Nordic countries.

Overview of the Book The book idea was created after discussions from the Nordic Early Childhood Systems Approach to Research group (NECA) to provide a current overview of Nordic research. The research group provides a network for families, researchers, professionals and politicians interested in systems approach research and provides a space for important contribution to policy and practice. The research within the group reflects the understanding that families play an important role in the shaping of children’s outcomes, including their academic, social, health and well-being and beliefs. These outcomes can be studied using existing research paradigms that are based on systems approaches. In turn, families are part of a larger system that helps to

1  An Introduction to the Nordic Countries Around Family… 


shape the potentials of the family. Hence, the unit of study includes the individual, their family and the institutions where families are involved. An important framework within the group is the systems approach to early childhood education. The systems approach to Nordic research draws on interactionist perspectives, in which the learning environment is seen as a complex and multidimensional phenomenon, constituted of the interaction between societal and educational goals with preschool, school and leisure centres as well as teachers’ pedagogical approaches, children’s learning and the development of preschool practices. Over the past decades, the ecological systems model by Bronfenbrenner has provided a useful theoretical framework for understanding the process and interactions of change within education institutions (Bronfenbrenner, 1986; Johnson, 2008; Shonkoff, 2010). The model underscores the extent to which children’s outcomes are influenced by a dynamic interplay between the individual, family, education setting, community and the broader socio-economic and cultural context. This theory has been developed and extended by Garbarino (1992) and Dalli, Miller, and Urban (2011), who suggest a critical ecology of the early childhood profession. The ecological perspective contributes to the understanding of social policy issues affecting early childhood education, the profession of preschool teaching, and structural factors in early education and how this in turn shapes policy and practice. Through the ecological systems approach, early childhood education and society are examined from different interrelated systems: macro, exo, meso, micro and chrono. We begin the journey through the ecological system, with a focus on the child, with the authors Anna-Leena Lastikka and Jonna Kangas. In the second chapter of this book, the context of Finland and children’s initiatives in the Finnish early childhood education context is explored. The chapter has a specific focus on examining the gap between children’s experiences and teachers’ observations. We learn that children’s initiatives exist in a myriad of ways through the daily practices and processes that create motivation to create meaning by action. This leads to a focus on children’s participation to promote agency and motivation as a way to support positive, early childhood development. The third chapter provides insight into the concepts of children’s play, a highly valued construct across the Nordic countries. Play features within


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every early childhood curriculum. The authors Kristín Karlsdóttir, Leigh O’Brien and Johanna Einarsdottir explore the learning processes in two different Icelandic early childhood contexts, to explore the ongoing debate regarding what and how children learn. Findings from the study add to the extensive research that has shown the importance of play for young children’s learning. The fourth chapter continues to focus on the child. In this chapter the construct of practising belonging in kindergarten is shared by Norwegian writer Sidsel Boldermo, who explores the identity of migrant children. In the text, the social dimensions of education and sustainability in Norwegian early childhood education are explored. The focus is on the way migrant children negotiate social identity and create spaces for belonging. Fieldnotes, photographs and small stories are used from fieldwork conducted in a Norwegian kindergarten to highlight the importance of football and the football pitch for negotiating social identity and practice belonging to a community. Moving to the outer rings of the ecological system, the next group of chapters explore the role of families and teachers. In Chap. 5, written by Liisa Uusimäki, Tina Elisabeth Yngvesson, Susanne Garvis and Heidi Harju-Luukkainen, the concepts of families in two Nordic countries, Sweden and Finland, are explored in a descriptive study about parental involvement in key steering early childhood education documents. From the documents, Finland appears to have a stronger focus on parental involvement in early childhood settings and provides many resources to support parents. Sweden, on the other hand, encourages parent involvement as per curriculum guidelines but does not appear to actively seek differentiated views of parental engagement beyond the definitions in the curriculum. The next stage for both countries however appears to have renewed understandings about involving all families (regardless of background) that support the cultural and contextual differences that are at play in contemporary times. The focus on family continues in Chap. 6, with a questioning of norms and values around the discourses of ‘real’ families in Swedish preschools. The preschool is seen as a meeting place of cultural and social interaction and to act as a bridge between immigrant families and society. Anette Hellman focuses on teachers’ work with the theme of ‘family’ where

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c­ ertain values are labelled as ‘Swedish’ and directed towards children and their families from immigrant backgrounds. The chapter sheds light on concepts of family members and belonging and the ways gender equality and children’s rights are learnt within the negotiations around learning about family. In Chap. 7 the role of the preschool teacher in supporting the communication and language acquisition of children in Finland is shared by the authors Heidi Harju-Luukkainen, Desmond Amakye and Lisa Cederberg. This is important, given that Finland has two official languages, Swedish and Finnish. More broadly, multilingualism is viewed as an important capital within the globalised world. Within the Nordic countries, the rates of bilingualism are high and allow opportunities for cross collaboration. One approach to support both languages in Finland has been early Swedish immersion early childhood programmes for families. Early childhood teachers, therefore, take on a role of also being an immersion teacher for young children. The chapter reports on nine different teacher-led activities from Finland and shares a range of different strategies the teachers use to cater for the needs of all children. The next two chapters provide insight into aspects of quality within early childhood settings, moving to the outer layers of the ecological system. Chapter 8 by Leif Hernes and Ellen Os shares findings from a current study exploring quality in Norwegian kindergartens for children under the age of three years. Across the Nordic countries, children can have a place at an Early Childhood Education and Care formal settings from one year of age. In recent years there has been a growing awareness of how to support the youngest children. The findings from the Norwegian study show that there is a need for greater knowledge and competence regarding educational content with toddler groups. Such findings also begin to challenge what high quality means within Nordic kindergartens. Chapter 9 explores systematic quality work (a statutory obligation of preschools and leisure time centres) within the context of Sweden. Karin Lager shows that a significant amount of teachers’ time is focused on documentation of quality in terms of governance, materiality, sense-­ making, resistance, learning and the achievement of objectives. She argues that from a Nordic perspective, quality in education has been


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interpreted in relation to democratic processes that focus on participation. In Sweden the notion has been challenged however with increased trends of marketisation, where the concept of quality is associated with management objectives. Chapter 10 written by Dion Sommer uses Denmark as a case study to show how educational universalism has challenged the Nordic model. The chapter proposes a future early childhood education paradigm. From this perspective, early childhood education can be understood within the child’s actual complex learning and developmental ecologies. The family/ child care Relational Systems Paradigm (RSP) model is also presented with the sharing of ramifications for early childhood education and care across the Nordic countries. The new ways forward suggest the child’s two most important learning arenas—family and child care—need to be acknowledged simultaneously. The book concludes with a short reflection entitled ‘final thoughts’, drawing together the main ideas and concepts across the Nordic region around families, children and early childhood. As you read this book we hope you begin to understand the complexities of child, family and early childhood across the Nordic countries. The welfare state is designed to provide a financial safety net for children and their families against poverty. Given continual changes at societal levels in the Nordic countries with increased diversity, the ecological system must be explored to show direct impacts on young children and their families. The Nordic countries are continually in a state of change and it is important that early childhood education settings are able to work alongside families to support children’s well-being, learning and development in a multitude of ways. New models and understanding in the book provide one step forward to developing new ways of working.

References Bennett, J.  (2005). Curriculum Issues in National Policy Making. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 13(2), 5–23. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1986). Ecology of the Family as a Context for Human Development: Research Perspectives. Developmental Psychology, 22, 723–742.

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Bruner, J.  (1996). The Culture of Education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Dalli, C., Miller, L., & Urban, M. (2011). Early Childhood Grows Up: Towards a Critical Ecology of the Profession. In L. Miller, C. Dalli, & M. Urban (Eds.), Early Childhood Grows Up: Towards a Critical Ecology of the Profession (pp. 3–19). Dordrecht: Springer. Finlands Official Statistics. (2017). Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.stat. fi/index_en.html Finnish National Agency for Education (OPH). (2016). National Core Curriculum for ECEC 2016. Määräykset ja ohjeet 2016:17. Yliopistopaino: Finnish National Agency for Education. Garbarino, J.  (1992). Towards a Sustainable Society: An Economic, Social and  Environmental Agenda for Our Children’s Future. Chicago, IL: The Noble Press. Garvis, S., & Ødegaard, E. (2017). Nordic Dialogues on Children and Families. London: Routledge. Johnson, E. S. (2008). Ecological Systems and Complexity Theory: Towards an Alternative Model of Accountability in Education. Complicity: An International Journal of Complexity and Education, 5(1), 1–10. Nordén, P. (2018). Regnbågsungar. Familj, utbildning, fritid [Rainbow Children: Family, Education, Leisure Time]. Göteborg: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis. Pramling, N., & Pramling Samuelsson, I. (Eds.). (2011). Educational Encounters: Nordic Studies in Early Childhood Didactics. Dordrecht: Springer. Pramling Samuelsson, I., Sheridan, S., & Williams, P. (2006). Five Preschool Curricula  – in a Comparative Perspective. International Journal of Early Childhood, 38(1), 11–30. Rogoff, B. (2003). The Cultural Nature of Human Development. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sheridan, S., Garvis, S., Williams, P., & Mellgren, E. (in press). Critical Aspects for the Preschool Quality in Sweden. In S.  Phillipson & S.  Garvis (Eds.), Early Childhood Education in the 21st Century: Policification of Childhood: Early Childhood Education and Care in the 21st Century. Singapore: Routledge. Sheridan, S., & Williams, P. (Eds.). (2018). Undervisning i förskolan. En kunskapsöversikt [Teaching in Preschool. A Literature Review]. Stockholm: Skolverket. Shonkoff, J. (2010). Building a New Biodevelopmental Framework to Guide the Future of Early Childhood Policy. Child Development, 81(1), 357–367. Skolverket (Swedish National Agency for Education). (2017). PM - Barn och personal i förskolan hösten 2016. Stockholm: Skolverket.


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Statistics Denmark. (2015). Population at the First Day of the Quarter by Region, Sex, Age (5 Years Age Groups), Ancestry and Country of Origin. Statistics Denmark. Statistics Iceland. (2017). Highest Positive Net Migration Since Registration of Migration Began in 1901. Retrieved from Statistics Norway. (2017). Population by Immigrant Category and Country Background. Statistics Norway. Sweden and Migration. (2019). Retrieved from Sylva, K., Melhuish, E., Sammons, P., Siraj-Blatchford, I., & Taggart, B. (2010). Early Childhood Matters: Evidence from the Effective Pre-school and Primary Education Project. London: Routledge. UNESCO. (2008). The Contribution of Early Childhood Education to a Sustainable Society. Paris: UNESCO. Vygotsky, L.  S. (1986 [1934]). Thought and Language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Williams, P., & Sheridan, S. (forthcoming). Preschool Teacher Competence – the Point of Intersection of Quality in Teaching (Accepted Manuscript for the Journal Tidskriftet Barn).

2 Children’s Initiatives in the Finnish Early Childhood Education Context Jonna Kangas and Anna-Leena Lastikka

Introduction The Nordic discourses in childhood, especially in early childhood, emphasize the competent child, who is able to express desires, perceptions, and interests. In the Nordic curricula, children are seen as active, competent, developing, and learning (Alasuutari, 2014). This reflects the viewpoint of sociological research of childhood where children are seen as active agents of their lives (Corsaro, 2011). Furthermore, equality and the ideal of universal access of Early Childhood Education (ECE) services are central in the Nordic educational policies (Karila, 2012). Children’s active participation has been a prevalent theme in the educational research for over ten years. In the Finnish Early Childhood Education (ECE) context, which is the context of this chapter, the recently revised National Core Curriculum for early years (Finnish National Agency for Education, 2016) emphasizes children’s participation, which, for example, involves that educators listen, react, and plan according to children’s initiatives. J. Kangas (*) • A.-L. Lastikka Helsinki University, Helsinki, Finland e-mail: [email protected]; [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 S. Garvis et al. (eds.), Nordic Families, Children and Early Childhood Education, Studies in Childhood and Youth,



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Our starting point for this research is that when teachers pay attention to children’s ideas and wishes, the curriculum is motivating for children as their ownership of it becomes clearer (e.g. Lastikka & Kangas, 2017; Sheridan & Pramling Samuelsson, 2001). We rely on to the new sociology of childhood (Corsaro, 2011) and the socio-cultural learning paradigm (Kumpulainen, Lipponen, Hilppö, & Mikkola, 2014; Rogoff, 2008), where children are considered as active agents of their own lives and reproducers of the culture. Through agency children can gain capacity to have some control and to be able to exert influence on their lives (Corsaro, 2011; Hilppö, 2016). In our research, children’s initiatives toward their own actions, their peers, and teachers are considered as active meaning-making through which children shape their environments and reproduce educational culture around them. We follow the research tradition of ECE research, where the research focus is on interactions between child, teachers, and learning environment, and reflecting and developing the pedagogical practices. The complex nature of childhood (and our lives) and the diversity of being a human in postmodern era are reflected in a new tradition of ECE studies together with the voice of participants and many-sided or versatile descriptions of everyday life in classrooms (Hatch, 2013). Although pedagogical practices, which embrace children’s initiatives, have been found to have an effect on children’s participation skills, the research on children’s initiatives and their role in learning and pedagogical planning in ECE is scarce. For example, already in 1978, Straughan stated that children do express wishes, wants, and initiatives, which promote children’s motivation toward learning. Therefore, our particular interest is to investigate ECE teachers’ and children’s conceptions of initiatives. In this chapter, we will combine results of a qualitative study of four- to six-year-old children’s (N = 94) initiatives and teachers’ (N = 143) conceptions of children’s everyday initiatives in the context of Finnish ECE in order to promote children’s learning by contributing to the development of participatory and democratic early childhood education pedagogy and research. Our intention is to answer the following research questions:

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1. To whom are children expressing their initiatives in educational settings? 2. What kind of initiatives children make in educational settings? 3. What kind of gaps of participation can be identified from descriptions of children’s initiatives?

Theoretical Framework Our study supports the idea of Sheridan and Pramling Samuelsson (2001) that children should feel that they participate, express their views and ideas on equal terms, as well as become involved in democratic processes and actively have an influence on their own learning process. Consequently, our theoretical framework supports children’s participation and motivational learning, which are complementary to each other. Next, we will discuss the frameworks and the theoretical underpinnings of our study. In the last part of the theoretical framework, we will introduce the educational discussion about everyday interactions between teachers and children and the framework of participatory pedagogy.

Children’s Participation In this study, children’s participation is viewed through the participatory learning approach where children are seen as active agents of their learning and meaning-makers of their social interactions (Berthelsen, 2009). This relies strongly on the socio-cultural learning paradigm (Rogoff, 2008) in which children are viewed as active learners, agents of their lives, and reproducers of the culture instead of being needy and helpless beings (Corsaro, 2011; Piaget, 1976). In general, participation can be seen as a developing cultural aspect within the community of children and educators participating in everyday practices (Kangas, 2016; Kumpulainen et al., 2014). Participation is also associated with liking school and higher perceived academic performance, better self-rated health, higher life satisfaction, and greater reported happiness together with better self-regulation (De


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Róiste, Kelly, Molcho, Gavin, & Gabhainn, 2011; Kangas, 2016). The research of Sheridan and Pramling Samuelsson (2001) also highlights that it is vital for the children to participate in decision-making in their ECE settings. For example, Shier (2001) has shown that becoming listened to and having opportunities to express opinions (i.e. to express initiatives) are prior to actual decision-making and sharing of power. This creates a feeling of belonging where the joy of learning emerges, and motivation and resilience are developing (Kumpulainen et al., 2014; Liew, 2012). Finally, empowerment of an individual child is considered through the power shifting from an institutional level to an individual level. Children’s participation has been in the focus of development and administrative procedures and thus considered supporting better decision-making by adults and improving policies aimed at children (Mayall, 1999).

Motivation and Learning Our approach to learning promotes the view that a learning environment in which children have choices and are involved in individual and shared decisions is crucial for learning and intrinsic motivation (Sheridan & Pramling Samuelsson, 2001). Motivation is a central factor, because it is fundamental for biological, cognitive, and social regulation (Ryan & Deci, 2000). In the self-determination theory of motivation and personality, Ryan and Deci (2000) have found three psychological needs, which are crucial for intrinsic self-motivation and personal well-being. These are autonomy, competence, and relatedness. It is important to highlight that autonomy does not imply independence but a feeling to have a choice and a free will. Following, the need for competence is satisfied, when children feel that they have developed new skills and that they are capable of accomplishing activities or tasks. The need for relatedness refers to the need of feeling belongingness and connectedness with ­others. Also Straughan (1978) states that children’s initiatives and “wants” are educationally valuable, because these interests can be used effectively sustaining child’s interest in learning. Straughan separates the concepts of wanting something as inner motivation from other motivational aspects of things which children consider to justify or require their actions (Straughan, 1978).

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The three psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness are similar to the key elements of the participatory pedagogy. Additionally, all contemporary theories of motivation include a concept, which is related to beliefs about competence (Cook & Artino, 2016). Furthermore, in the self-determination theory, as well as in the participatory pedagogy, the social environment and the feeling of togetherness and belongingness play an important role. Being attentive to children’s intentions and interests enables collaborative actions and encounters between children and educators (Cheeseman & Sumsion, 2016). Therefore, we see that the role of an educator is crucial, because of the decision to seize or not on children’s initiatives toward shared actions (Rutanen, 2012).

 he Pedagogical Concerns of Interactions T in the Classroom From the pedagogical viewpoint, participation in ECE contexts can be seen as a shared activity with children and adults to interpret the world. However, this requires that adults respect children and are interested in their experiences, opinions, and are willing to answer to their initiatives (Karlsson, Weckström, & Lastikka, 2018). This means that children are assumed to have a chance to be listened to and to have opportunities for independent initiatives (Kangas, 2016). Children’s participation has been found to occur within the interaction between a child and a learning environment including peers and teachers (Woodhead, 2015). Young children’s participation is seen as developing a set of skills to have influence and take responsibility (Kangas, 2016). Additionally, it is important to understand that while policy-makers, teachers, and even parents are aiming to make decisions “in the best interests of children,” they may end up abusing children’s rights to participate in the decisions concerning their own lives (Woodhead, 2015). Children’s expressions of their initiatives are traditionally interpreted as desires or ideas for short-term pleasure. For example, Thomas and O’Kane (1998) have stated that children’s ideas may be in conflict with their “best interests” (see also Straughan, 1978). This kind of way of thinking refers


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to the traditional psychological view of children as needy and non-­ competent individuals, who cannot make decisions or take initiatives concerning their lives (Mayall, 1999). It might also be difficult for teachers to facilitate children’s motivation through participation, because they are unsure of what things children can decide and how to include children in decision-making (Leinonen & Venninen, 2012; Sheridan & Pramling Samuelsson, 2001). It has been found that education practices are empowering only when they are planned and developed together with the children and not prepared by adults and handed down to the children (Hilppö, 2016). This co-­ operation for making a shared curriculum becomes possible when teachers listen to and observe children’s initiatives and empower children into a joint decision-making process (see Leinonen & Venninen, 2012). Furthermore, it has been shown that children’s initiatives are sometimes considered less important than adults’ in educational context (Aras, 2016; Straughan, 1978). On the other hand, Hilppö (2016) states that if professionals are willing to support and promote children’s sense of agency, more consideration should be given to the small agentic moments in the daily lives of children.

Methods The Finnish ECE Context In Finland, ECE and care for zero- to five-year-old children is guided by the National Core Curriculum for ECE (Finnish National Agency for Education, 2016) and the Early Childhood Education and Care Act. In general, the Finnish ECE system is built on a holistic view of children’s growth, development, and learning through play. Children’s participation is highlighted: children’s, personnel’s, and guardians’ initiatives, perceptions, and opinions are appreciated. This in turn involves that participatory practices are promoted through experiences of being heard and listened to (Kangas, 2016).

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Data Collection The research data consist of two data sets. Teachers’ (N = 1150) conceptions of children’s participation in their classrooms are collected through a survey questionnaire where they explained in open-ended questions about different kinds of independent initiatives, ideas, and wishes that teachers had been observing from the past month in their class. A survey was used because according to Lodigo, Spaulding, and Voegtle (2006), it is a method for gathering opinions and perspectives from a rather large population about how the current issue, in this case children’s participation, is understood in practical Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) work in Finland. The congruence of the questionnaire was examined carefully by testing it with 72 ECEC teaching team and evaluated by experts from theoretical and practical understanding about the practices in the field. The second data set consists of interviews with three- to seven-year-old children (N = 153). Children’s initiatives have first been written down in research books (each child had her/his own booklet) through the Action Telling method, which is a participatory and active storytelling method focusing on children’s conceptions of their initiatives, interactions, decision-­making, and dilemmas they face in educational settings as it promotes children’s agency and meaningful problem-solving (Lastikka & Kangas, 2017). The research was conducted through individual interviews where, instead of questions, children were presented with a set of pictures about their everyday interactions and activities where there was a child in front. The researcher asked the interviewee to describe what he/ she would do if he/she were that child and wrote down word by word the narration the interviewee constructed about the situation. Children decided what should happen next, what to do, and with whom to interact. The interviews included the presentation of the research pictures, the child’s telling about each picture, and finally the read-through of narratives to the child (see Lastikka & Kangas, 2017). The initiatives were also recorded and documented in a research diary. The data of children’s research booklets were copied into a research table where also the recorded interviews were transcribed and additional notes included. This dual


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record model was used in order to empower children in the data collection phase. The researchers wanted that children did not only have a copy of their answers but that they have their own research books, which were meaningful for them. The data set was reduced for this study, and the focus was aimed for the children aged 48–83 months (four- to six-year-old children) (N = 94), and the same reduction was made for the data set of the teachers working in classes of three- to six-year-old children (N = 143) were selected (in Finland three- to six-year-olds can be in mixed classes). The data sets were read through for this study, and ambiguous questions, remarks, and documentations were exposed for the triangulation of this particular research.

Data Analysis The congruence of the study comes from the abductive analysis approach, which combines the theoretical phenomena, children’s participation, and motivation theories with the voices of children and teachers. The combination of the theory, analysis, and finally the findings of this research is designed to form a holistic viewpoint to discuss about the phenomenon of children’s initiatives with the focus of educational practices. In the process, specific observations and more general processes of such situations are discussed together to determine the aspects of the phenomenon that could be generalized and differ from the others specific to situation itself. In this process, the researchers’ understandings of the cultural experience connected to the phenomenon are essential (Danermark, 2001; Kovács & Spens, 2005). In the process, the analysis was conducted through the abductive approach, which is considered as a process of intuition or as a kind of systematized creativity in research to create “new” knowledge (Andreewsky & Bourcier, 2000) together with recognizing the voice of participants. Through the abductive approach, children’s initiatives were systematically analyzed and the challenges in pedagogical practices of supporting children to express initiatives were identified. In the analysis process, both data sets were first read through in order to understand what kind of initiatives teachers and children were express-

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ing. Then both data sets were coded following a content analysis process with code names like “expressing an idea,” “want,” or “idea of action.” This coding was done in interaction with the theories using abduction to create systematic output. Through this first coding round we defined initiatives as children’s wishes, proposals, problem-solving initiatives, questions, and ideas of actions. These codes were classified under three types of activities in classroom: independent activities (focusing on self ), peer-­ related activities (focusing on peers), and teacher-guided or joint activities with teachers (focusing on teacher). In Table 2.1, examples of each sub-category can be seen. In this process, 12 (7.8%) interviews of children and 13 (9%) answers from teachers were identified that did not have any kinds of initiatives described. These were coded as missing cases. In the next phase, the data sets were read through for the second time. They were categorized in three types of focus of action based on the description about was the initiative focused only on child’s own activity (like choice of a toy) action, action shared with peer (like joint play), or teacher-initiated activity (like circle time or music class) and three types of target person (self, peers, or teacher). Table 2.1  Examples of coding Children’s interviews Independent activities Peer-related activities

Joint activities with teachers


Survey for teachers

Child chooses toys for play time after I want to draw. I the meal. would take crayons. Children get excited about constructing Can I join your games. They wished that they could game? build big huts in the yard. Let’s go to the swings! I ask teacher to give When a child expresses interest toward me that car. a teacher-guided activity, we may I want to sing continue the class∗ longer than it was imse-vimse-spider planned. in our music classa.

In Finnish preschools there are no official “classes.” “Class” is used here for musical circle or related activity moment


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In the second phase, the two analyses of different data sets were compared together for creating knowledge about the gaps of participation and observing children’s initiatives from the pedagogical point of view. In this process, the actual numbers of codes in each sub-category were compared in a cross-table. Through this process we gained the results about the target persons and focused on activities in children’s initiatives.

 hildren’s Initiatives in Classroom from Teachers’ C and Children’s Perspectives In the first part of the results, we will introduce the variety of children classified through the focus of action. In the second part, we map to whom children are expressing their initiatives (the target person), and finally, we bring forward the gaps of participatory practices by comparing these to paths of analysis through cross-table.

The Focus of Action All the three sub-categories of the focus of action (self-initiated, peer related, and teacher initiated) were found in both children’s and teachers’ answers. In children’s interviews, the self-initiated initiatives were mostly of “inner talk” of children, who explained and described their wishes and choice-making processes. In the first quote, a five-year-old girl describes a simple choice-making situation. In the second quote, a rather different way of making initiative is described. Here I choose if I paint or draw. I want to draw … a house of ghosts. (girl, 5 years and 4 months) … the boy didn’t want to do anything. He muddled the puzzle, opened books and left the car, doll and ball on the floor. (boy, 5 years and 9 months)

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Teachers’ descriptions about children’s focus of action were mainly targeted on situations where play-based and children-initiated activities were on the schedule. This kind of free play time where children were allowed to choose their toys and playmates is typical in Finnish ECE (see, e.g. Karila, 2012). These initiatives focused on child’s independent actions were about choice-making or expressing a wish or a personal need. For example in the first quote, the teacher describes an initiative about a need, and in the second quote the teacher explains a personal choice-­ making opportunity. Children make initiatives about wishes to discuss or sit in the lap of teacher. During the afternoon class children may choose toys and play with them.

In children’s interviews, the initiatives related to the focus of peer activities were targeted on shared play. In these children described how the negotiation processes and different ways of making initiatives in everyday interaction (e.g. one can ask, one can suggest, one can start an activity and invite others in, or one can negotiate with peers) are generated. The first quote shows a successful way of making an initiative within the play, while the second quote is focused on sharing the responsibility of cleaning toys after play. And then I said ‘Do we change toys?’ and the girl said ‘Yes, let’s change’. And then I could drive that car. (boy, 5 years and 2 months) Then the children clean. So, he needs to clean. Is it fair that he needs to clean by himself? He could say to the girl: Could you clean the toys with me? (girl, 4 year and 11 months)

Teachers also described children’s initiatives toward joint activities with peers emphasized the joint negotiations of children and cases where the child would like to join the other’s game. In the first quote, the teacher describes how discussion with peers ends up to a joint creative activity. In the second quote, the teacher explains the existing way of setting up the focus of action in her classroom.


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The children discuss together about what they have been doing at home and draw and create play characters. The child suggests a game or to play tag… Usually the whole group is inspired by children’s ideas e.g. in sport games.

Finally, children described initiatives that were focused on teacher-­ initiated activities. These focused on situations where children made an initiative by asking help from a teacher. Some rare initiatives were also described where children made an initiative to help teacher, as can be seen in the first quote. Also initiatives which were based on shared activity between children and adult were described, as in the second quote. When this teacher has put these toys on the shelf. That girl wants to help that teacher. (girl, 4 years and 7 months) … he made a puzzle and it was wrongly made and he was annoyed by that and he went to ask the teacher for help. And that teacher helped him a little… And then after a little while he did the puzzle again a bit wrongly and he went again to the teacher to ask for help and got help and managed to finish well the puzzle. (boy, 6 years and 2 months)

Children’s initiatives focused on the teacher-initiated activities were observed also by teachers. In these children were expressing wishes toward play-based activities, art and craft activities, and sports activities to be implemented with teacher(s). For example, in the first quote, the teacher explained how the child invites her to join in a play. In the following quote, the teacher describes how the children’s meetings promote participation and support children to express initiatives toward shared activities. Often the children ask for an adult to join in a play and tell adults about their wishes for activities and play. In the children’s meetings we decide together about things or implement one child’s wish about some common activity.

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The Target Person Initiatives toward self, peers, and teachers were found and categorized from both the children’s and teachers’ data. Children expressed wants and ideas of actions for learning new skills and competences toward themselves, that is, as inner dialogue. Children told about wanting a certain toy or making a choice between different options, as in this quote of a five-year-old girl. The second quote shows an example of wish of competence. It wonders, why there are so few toys. Then it decides to play with a car. And then it wants to read a book and then it wants to play with barbies. (a girl, 5 years and 9 months) I would like to blow bubbles as high as I can. (a boy, 4 years and 10 months)

Teachers expressed observations about initiatives that an individual child made about him/her own actions. These independent activities concerned about the choice of toys, the spot of starting a self-initiated play, and making independent crafts during classroom time. In the first quote, a teacher describes the practice in her classroom to allow children to regulate their own actions through initiatives. In the second quote, the teacher mentions how a want of a child can lead to an activity. During afternoon children can choose themselves activities and friends Children’s initiatives for activities are tried to put into practice: e.g. a child wants to sew > we make this possible by taking out sewing materials

When focusing on peers, children expressed that initiatives could also be directed toward a peer, who was harming others or disturbed play, as the first quote shows. Children also expressed that some of the initiatives were shared with a friend, like in the second quote. The other girl is breaking those. You are not allowed to break those. The others try to [say]. ‘Don’t break’. (girl, 4 years and 11 months)


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Because they want to play, play. They decide that it is fun. (girl, 4 years and 6 months)

The initiatives that were aimed to peers were identified from the observations of teachers. These were focusing on shared play activities and games (such as soccer) and sharing about conceptions and knowledge of phenomenon in the society (such as media characters), as in the first quote below. Sometimes teachers also reported peer-focused initiatives about an activity in the middle of teacher-guided activity, as in the second one. Children discuss with each other about what they have been playing at home… and develop e.g. play figures and characters. In the middle of a gymnastic exercise children invented own tag play and we gathered participants for this great play idea.

Finally, teachers described initiatives focused on them as persons and teacher-guided classroom activities (see the first quote) and also during self-initiated playtime. Teachers also pointed out that some children wished to spend time with the teacher and made initiatives about care and cuddling, as in the second example. This is in line with the recent research of Katsiada, Roufidou, Wainwright, and Angeli (2018) in which children under three-year-old performed agency in order to initiate and accept or reject warm, sensitive, affectionate, and playful interactions with adults in an ECE setting. A child wants to perform his own performance and introduce research explorations and realizations. Children’s initiatives for coming to sit on a lap … are taken into account.

Children expressed initiatives toward teachers by asking questions or making initiatives for help, as can be seen in the first quote. There were also invitations to join in actions, as in the second quote.

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Then the boy shouted: ‘Adult! No one plays with me, not a girl, not an adult’. (girl, 4 years and 9 months) … tried to reach a car with hands. Then I said to the teacher that ‘Could you give me that police car’ and she gave and then I said ‘Thank you, now I go to play’. (boy, 5 years and 2 months)

 he Gaps of Children’s Initiatives in Pedagogical T Practices We were also interested in studying how children’s initiatives were taken into account in pedagogical practices according to children. Here we will introduce cross-tables of different kinds of described initiatives by teachers and children in order to form a holistic view about to what focus of action and to whom children’s initiatives are focusing in everyday interaction of ECE. The tables have been conducted by comparing the coded data of focus of action and target person. Table 2.3 shows that teacher observes mainly individual children and their personal wishes but miss initiatives toward peers. They lack observation when children are making initiatives about their own or their peers’ actions during teacher-guided activities. One challenging issue was also that teachers did not recognize wishes for support from a teacher as initiatives (0% of initiatives toward teacher or peers during a self-initiated activity). If a child is focused on a self-initiated activity, he/she has to solve problems and make decisions on his/her own. Also the percentage of initiatives toward a teacher during peer activities is low (3%), so if a problematic issue emerges, children are expected to solve it out themselves. In Table 2.2 about children’s initiatives, it can be seen that children make all kinds of initiatives; thus, majority of these were their inner talk to regulate personal wishes and actions by making choices. However, children did express more initiatives toward peers and teachers than the teachers themselves described. For example, in 12% of interviews, a child expressed an initiative or wish toward peers that was focused on her own action. The lack of teachers’ observations in these kind of situations (teachers described none of these kinds of activities, see Table 2.3) can cause conflicts between children or even bullying situations.


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Table 2.2  Children’s descriptions of their initiatives Focus of action Target person

1 Self-initiated activities

2 Shared activities with peers

3 Teacher-initiated activities

1. Self 2. Peers 3. Teachers

27% 13% 6%

12% 15% 5%

11% 7% 4%

Table 2.3  Teachers’ descriptions about children’s initiatives Focus of action Target person

Self-initiated activities

Shared activities with peers

Teacher-initiated activities

Self Peers Teachers

46% 0% 0%

9% 12% 3%

6% 6% 12%

Conclusions When comparing teachers’ observations and children’s conceptions, it can be seen that teachers are focused on observing individual children (46% of all observations) and wishes and initiatives children express. Observed initiatives are generally seen as positive wishes and suggestions, and teachers did not describe controversial initiatives, such as wants that could not been fulfilled. ECE teachers in Finland seem to have adopted children’s participation by observing and then supporting their self-­ initiated activities and teacher-initiated activities (i.e. teaching activities): they recognize and support children’s initiatives toward guided classroom activities, for example, asking for a favorite song to be sung during a music class or a book to be read in a circle time. These can be seen as acceptable wants or positive initiatives that teachers are willing to answer. Children’s other wants, as described by Straughan (1978), are still almost 40 years later not acceptable. However, in general teachers fail to observe some of the initiatives toward them of peers during all types of focus of actions, which may be based on traditional observation and evaluation strategies of an individual child although the new curriculum of ECE in

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Finland (2016) emphasizes social skills, shared learning, and belonging. Therefore, teachers need more observational tools to follow in order to understand and support children to make initiatives toward their peers. It is interesting that children also expressed a lot of inner talk (27%) about personal wishes and choices. However, when looking at the cross-­ table (Table 2.3) of children’s interviews it is seen that children express all kinds of initiatives more widely than teachers could observe. Children expressed also controversial initiatives (e.g. “Do not take it from me!” or “I want to be alone!”), which teachers did not mention at all.

 iscussion and Implications for Research D and Practice We share Ødegaard’s and Kotliar’s (2013) statement that in order to be democratic, there is a requirement for social action: someone has to take children’s initiatives into account. Therefore, we have studied in the Finnish ECE context the initiatives children take and teachers’ conceptions of children’s initiatives. The results of this chapter show that children’s initiatives about their and shared actions are not recognized and supported by teachers in ECE context. Teachers were mainly focusing on individual child’s personal initiatives and choices, and thus the interactional initiatives toward peers were remained unviewed. As Arvola, Lastikka, and Reunamo (2017) have shown, children are eager to interact with peers. However, their skills for co-operation should be supported in order to promote their citizenship and participation skills in future society. For example, Sheridan and Pramling Samuelsson (2001) state that for the development of participation skills, it is essential to have opportunities to express independent initiatives. Our results show that young children are competent to express initiatives toward different actions and members of their society and do not hesitate to express also socially less accepted initiatives. However, as research shows (e.g. Liew, 2012) young children are not fully controlling their self-regulation and they have wishes and wants that are not always building shared well-being. Furthermore, children with special needs and of immigrant backgrounds


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may express their initiatives with other languages or with gestures or facial expressions. Therefore, teachers’ support and help would be important; it is unsettling to find out that teachers are not capable of observing the multitude of children’s initiatives. Furthermore, with the support of teachers, practices including influence and bearing responsibility with enjoyment and feelings of belonging are crucial for participation skills (see also Leinonen & Venninen, 2012). Although there is research evidence of participation’s positive outcomes and the rights for participation, the research of young children’s decision-making processes is still scarce. Additionally, children’s voices have been strictly regulated and silenced in educational institutions (Hohti & Karlsson, 2013; Woodhead, 2015). In our study, we did not focus on teachers’ regulation processes but on the cross-tables about what kinds of initiatives were observed, that is, socially accepted showed that certain types of initiatives remain unseen. Although the discourse of a competent child may dominate the educational discourse, it is too simplified to expect that it would be the predominant approach in educational practices (Alasuutari, 2014). Furthermore, as has been discussed earlier, children’s initiatives play a crucial role in learning and motivation. Our research implies that in the future, more emphasis should be put on the psychological need of ­relatedness: children expressed more initiatives toward peers than teachers themselves described. Children also wished to spend time with teachers: to play, to share explorations, and to cuddle with them. Feeling belongingness and connectedness with others is clearly important for children (see also Hilppö, 2016) and their motivation in learning (see also Ryan & Deci, 2000). In addition, we would like to stress the psychological need of competence, which is important in increasing children’s motivation (see also Fredriksen, 2010; Ryan & Deci, 2000). Although in our study teachers reported practices, which allow children to regulate their own actions through initiatives, it is essential to promote competence in education in order that children feel that they are capable and able to learn new skills. Therefore, the needs of relatedness and competence should be integral parts of the operational culture of an ECE setting. More detailed research

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is needed in studying how children’s initiatives are considered in early childhood education pedagogy. Participation can be seen as a developing cultural aspect within the community of children and educators participating in everyday practices (Kangas, 2016; Kumpulainen et  al., 2014). In our study, children described their ideas of actions, the process of making initiatives and wants. They also expressed wishes about their growing competence, as telling about the skills they would wish to have. Thus we could build a picture of children as competent meaning-makers, who are eager to interact with peers and teachers and build their skills. This research is in line with previous researches about children as active agents of their own learning (Berthelsen, 2009; Hilppö, 2016). Following our results, it would be significant to focus more on children’s initiatives in different daily interaction situations in educational settings. In order to understand the processes that nourish motivation and create meaning-making through individual and shared actions, it is essential to focus on children’s participation and pedagogical practices aiming to promote children’s agency and motivation in ECE. The process where a wish or a want is transformed as an initiative and further on a process of decision-making is an important part of these participatory practices.

References Alasuutari, M. (2014). Voicing the Child? A Case Study in Finnish Early Childhood Education. Childhood, 21(2), 242–259. Andreewsky, E., & Bourcier, D. (2000). Abduction in Language Interpretation and Law Making. Kybernetes, 29(7/8), 836–845. Aras, S. (2016). Free Play in Early Childhood Education: A Phenomenological Study. Early Child Development and Care, 186(7), 1173–1184. Arvola, O., Lastikka, A.-L., & Reunamo, J.  (2017). Increasing Immigrant Children’s Participation in the Finnish Early Childhood Education Context. The European Journal of Social & Behavioural Sciences, 20(3), 2538–2548. Berthelsen, D. (2009). Participatory Learning. In D. Berthelsen, J. Brownlee, & E.  Johansson (Eds.), Participatory Learning in the Early Years: Research and Pedagogy (pp. 1–11). New York: Routledge.


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Cheeseman, S., & Sumsion, J. (2016). Narratives of Infants’ Encounters with Curriculum: The Benediction as Invitation to Participate. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 17(3), 275–288. Cook, D. A., & Artino, A. R. (2016). Motivation to Learn: An Overview of Contemporary Theories. Medical Education. medu.13074 Corsaro, W.  A. (2011). The Sociology of Childhood (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE. Danermark, B. (2001). Explaining Society: An Introduction to Critical Realism in the Social Sciences. Florence, KY: Routledge. De Róiste, A., Kelly, C., Molcho, M., Gavin, A., & Gabhainn, N. (2011). Is School Participation Good for Children? Associations with Health and Wellbeing. Health Education, 112(2), 88–104. Early Childhood Education and Care Act (2015). Finnish National Agency for Education. (2016). The National Core Curriculum for Early Years. Fredriksen, B. C. (2010). Meaning Making, Democratic Participation and Art in Early Childhood Education: Can Inspiring Objects Structure Dynamic Curricula? International Journal of Education through Art, 6(3), 381–395. Hatch, A. J. (2013). Back to Modernity? Early Childhood Qualitative Research in the 21th Century. In A.  J. Hatch (Ed.), Early Childhood Qualitative Research (pp. 7–18). New York, NY: Routledge. Hilppö, J.  (2016). Children’s Sense of Agency: A Co-participatory Investigation. Doctoral dissertation, University of Helsinki. Hohti, R., & Karlsson, L. (2013). Lollipop Stories: Listening to Children’s Voices in the Classroom and Narrative Ethnographic Research. Childhood, 21(4), 548–562. Kangas, J.  (2016). Enhancing Children’s Participation in Early Childhood Education with Participatory Pedagogy. Unigrafia: Helsinki. Karila, K. (2012). A Nordic Perspective on Early Childhood Education and Care Policy. European Journal of Education, 47(4), 584–595. Karlsson, L., Weckström, E., & Lastikka, A. L. (2018). Creating the Operational Culture of Participatory through the Storycrafting Method. In J.  Kangas, J.  Vlasov, E.  Fonsén, & J.  Heikka (Eds.), Participatory Pedagogy in Early Childhood Education 2: Planning, Implementation and Developing (pp. 73–99). Tampere: Suomen Varhaiskasvatus ry. Katsiada, E., Roufidou, I., Wainwright, J., & Angeli, V. (2018). Young Children’s Agency: Exploring Children’s Interactions with Practitioners and Ancillary

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Staff Members in Greek Early Childhood Education and Care Settings. Early Child Development and Care, 188(7), 937–950. Kovács, G., & Spens, K. M. (2005). Abductive Reasoning in Logistics Research. International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, 35(2), 132–144. Kumpulainen, K., Lipponen, L., Hilppö, J., & Mikkola, A. (2014). Building on the Positive in Children’s Lives: A Co-participatory Study on the Social Construction of Children’s Sense of Agency. Early Child Development and Care, 184(2), 211–229. Lastikka, A.-L., & Kangas, J. (2017). Ethical Reflections of Interviewing Young Children: Opportunities and Challenges for Promoting Children’s Inclusion and Participation. Asia-Pacific Journal of Research in Early Childhood Education, 11(1), 85–110. Leinonen, J., & Venninen, T. (2012). Designing Learning Experiences Together with Children. Procedia: Social and Behavioral Sciences, 45, 466–474. Liew, J.  (2012). Effortful Control, Executive Functions, and Education: Bringing Self-Regulatory and Social-Emotional Competencies to the Table. Child Development Perspectives, 6(2), 105–111. Lodigo, M.  G., Spaulding, D.  T., & Voegtle, K.  H. (2006). Methods in Educational Research. From Theory to Practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Mayall, B. (1999). Children and Childhood. In S. Hood, B. Mayall, & S. Oliver (Eds.), Critical Issues in Sociology Research Buckingham (pp.  10–24). Buckingham: Open University Press. Ødegaard, E., & Kotliar, I. (2013). Kindergarten as an Arena for Cultural Formation. Cultural-Historical Psychology, 2, 29–30. Piaget, J. (1976). The Child’s Construction of Reality. London: Routledge. Rogoff, B. (2008). Observing Sociocultural Activity on Three Planes: Participatory Appropriation, Guided Participation, and Apprenticeship. In K.  Hall, P.  Murphy, & J.  Sole (Eds.), Pedagogy and Practice: Culture and Identities (pp. 58–74). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE. Rutanen, N. (2012). Socio-spatial Practices in a Finnish Daycare Group for One- to Three-year Olds. Early Years, 32(2), 201–214. Ryan, R.  M., & Deci, E.  L. (2000). Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68–78. Sheridan, S., & Pramling Samuelsson, I. (2001). Children’s Conception of Participation and Influence in Pre-school: A Perspective of Pedagogical Quality. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 2(2), 169–194.


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Shier, H. (2001). Pathways to Participation: Openings, Opportunities and Obligations. Children & Society, 15, 107–117. Straughan, R. (1978). Children’s Wants. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 12, 149–155. Thomas, N., & O’Kane, C. (1998). The Ethics of Participatory Research with Children. Children & Society, 12, 336–348. Woodhead, M. (2015). Psychology and the Cultural Construction of Children’s Needs. In A.  James & A.  Prout (Eds.), Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood (pp. 72–91). London: Routledge.

3 Do Children Learn Through Play? How Do We Know? Kristín Karlsdóttir, Leigh O’Brien, and Johanna Einarsdottir

Introduction For a long time, play has been seen as vital for young children (Rubin, Fein, & Vandenberg, 1983), and in recent years, research results have found that play is important for children’s development broadly, including as a valuable way for them to learn (e.g., Johnson, Celik, & Al-Mansour, 2013; Pramling Samuelsson & Johansson, 2006; Wood, 2014). These findings align with recent approaches to understanding young children’s learning (e.g., Corsaro, 2015; Prout & James, 2015; Qvortrup, 2009). Within this frame, adults view children as strong and competent, as having the right to be agents in their lives, and as able to construct knowledge with the support of others, including their peers K. Karlsdóttir (*) • J. Einarsdottir School of Education, University of Iceland, Reykjavík, Iceland e-mail: [email protected]; [email protected] L. O’Brien State University of New York, Geneseo, NY, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 S. Garvis et al. (eds.), Nordic Families, Children and Early Childhood Education, Studies in Childhood and Youth,



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and preschool teachers (Mayall, 2003; United Nations, 1989; Vygotsky, 1933/1967). According to these views, children learn by being active in what interests them, within a socio-cultural context where their well-­ being and democratic interaction with preschool teachers and other children are emphasized. Approaches that prioritize learning through play typically incorporate the preceding. These views have appeared in policy documents and in practice, internationally as well as in Iceland, but recently attention has been brought not only to an existing gap between practice and policy but also to conflicting messages within policy documents (Moss et al., 2016). The views from some countries (e.g., Iceland, New Zealand, Ireland, and Sweden) include planning learning where children are seen as participants in a democratic society and the emphasis is on children as active participants in their daily lives, who are supported to be critical and creative thinkers, understanding their own learning. However, some policy documents have begun a shift to a more primaryschool-like provision for children. The latest OECD documents (e.g., OECD, 2011, 2015) have, for example, gradually put greater emphasis on outcomes, and the most recent plans for the standardized test IELS (the International Early Learning and Child Well-being Study) has led some to refer to it as “baby PISA.” (PISA is the Programme for International Student Assessment). The IELS is a test intended to identify key factors that drive or hinder the development of children’s learning when they are about five years of age. This policy has been questioned by theoreticians and researchers in early education (Moss et al., 2016; Moss & Urban, 2017), who have criticized, for example, the lack of sensitivity toward the influence of the social context. These contradictions suggest that we take a deeper look into what experiences are important for children in preschools and how educators might best support their learning. We will do this by looking closely at data that the first author of this chapter gathered for her doctoral thesis.

 hanging Values in Policy and Practice C in the Nordic Countries The curricula and pedagogy used in Icelandic preschools were inspired by what some refer to as the Nordic model or the social democratic model (Broström, Einarsdottir, & Pramling Samuelsson, 2018). These ideas

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evolved during the last century and have been maintained by policies such as financial support for families of young children and provision of access for all children to preschool education (Broström et  al., 2018). Related to the Nordic tradition has been the notion of child-­centeredness, which is a concept deriving from Key (1909) who, in the beginning of the twentieth century, wished for “… a more child-centered pedagogy, and an upbringing where the children’s own perspectives and interests were to be guideposts for children’s education” (Kristjánsson, 2006, p. 17). The emphasis in Nordic early education, then, became a project aiming to make society equal for children and their families. In Sweden, around 1930, this emphasis appeared in abandoning the “old authoritarian ways of raising children” and replacing them with “education for the community and solidarity” (Broström et al., 2018, p. 870). Hence the long tradition in the Nordic countries where children’s contributions are valued, children’s views and interests are supported, and, in some situations, seeing the child as an active agent and citizen (e.g., Bae, 2009; Dahlberg, Moss, & Pence, 1999; Mayall, 2003). Building on these views, preschool has become a part of everyday life for most families in the Nordic countries and most children have the opportunity to be part of a preschool community. However, in the last ten years in the Nordic countries, changes have been appearing in regard to emphasis on a more traditional academic curriculum and thus toward less focus on the social-pedagogical approach in preschool policy and practice (Broström et al., 2018, p. 881). This can be explained, in part, by the search for ways to prove that children benefit from preschool education. A similar trend has appeared in early education in other countries (Moss et al., 2016; Moss & Urban, 2017; OECD, 2006, 2011, 2015), resulting in a more goal-driven, content-oriented, and traditional primary school learning experience for children. Others, in contrast, argue that rather than testing children’s knowledge, educators should help children to build knowledge in preschools. Pramling Samuelsson, for instance, argues that tests are limited, and she recommends instead that preschool teachers analyze everyday interactions with children to capture the process of their knowledge building (Pramling Samuelsson, 2010). If, as seems likely, educators and society agree to “blend” foci and hence approaches, the challenge for preschool


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teachers, then, lies in finding the balance between goal-oriented learning and emphasizing play within a learning space where children are actively learning about what is of interest to them.

Children’s Play and Learning in Preschool For most of the twentieth century, supported by child-centered pedagogy, play was seen as a spontaneous activity, led by children and their interests. Preschool teachers using this pedagogy usually saw play and learning as separate activities: learning was either about adult-led transmission of knowledge or a play-based, child-led acquisition that is spontaneous, exploratory, and voluntary (Brooker, 2010). In the light of more contemporary post-Vygotskian research and theorizing, researchers and theoreticians have been developing play pedagogy wherein they see social, interactional, and verbal skills as developing through play (Pramling Samuelsson & Asplund Carlsson, 2008). No longer mainly focusing on the role of the preschool teachers (as in the child-centered pedagogy), now the emphasis is on seeing the interaction between preschool teachers and children as a co-constructive process seeking a more equal power balance between the two. Ample research (e.g., Johnson et  al., 2013; Pramling Samuelsson & Johansson, 2006; Souto-Manning, 2017) has shown the value of play as a means for children to learn. In addition to play helping children develop in the socio-emotional realm and in terms of traditional primary school subjects related to literacy and numeracy, researchers have demonstrated that play supports the development of other diverse areas such as imaginative pretense, friendship, and fairness. Furthermore, children who engage in make-believe play also exhibit more complex and imaginative pretense, which has shown to be associated with stronger perspective-­ taking skills (Meyers & Berk, 2014). The foregoing does not suggest that the adults have no role in children’s learning through play. Rather, research suggests that preschool teachers facilitate play most effectively by supporting and extending but not controlling children’s play themes and choices (van Oers & Duijkers, 2013). Importantly, the relation between play and learning seems to be

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dependent on whether the children’s ideas, interests, and activities within the play are “in focus” (van Oers & Duijkers, 2013), that is, children need to be controlling their play for learning to take place. At the same time, research has indicated that adults’ encouragement, emotional support, and scaffolding during play predict increased effort and more successful performance when children attempt challenging tasks (Berk, Mann, & Ogan, 2006). In Whitebread’s 2010 study, the children, for instance, demonstrated more problem-solving strategies, higher levels of involvement, and less distraction in playful situations than when in a formal situation. These research findings also suggested the importance of a preschool teacher showing children emotional warmth, providing security, supporting children’s initiatives and feelings of control, and providing children with achievable challenges. Löfdahl (2014), however, found that most preschool teachers tended to stay in the background when children were playing, rather than being actively engaged. Furthermore, although adults formulated rules about the rights of each child to belong to the group, Löfdahl observed that some children were marginalized by their peers on a daily basis. These studies and a more recent one conducted in Iceland (Ólafsdóttir, Danby, Einarsdottir, & Theobald, 2017) thus imply not only the value of play in preschool practice but also raise questions about how preschool teachers should facilitate play for children’s learning to take place and how they might be attentive to children’s marginalization or exclusion. All this leaves us with many unanswered questions with regard to play and pedagogy in preschools. Some advocate a “play pedagogy” where play and learning are intertwined and the preschool teacher’s role is to stimulate, support, and cooperate with children in their own engagement in play (e.g., Broström, 1998, 1999; Karlsson Lohmander & Pramling Samuelsson, 2015; van Oers, 2010; Wood, 2014). Others suggest that children develop social and interactional skills through their own efforts in the company of more able peers rather than in the company of adults seeking to support their development (Broadhead, 2001). And some see the culture of the peer group (Corsaro, 2015) as being as important as the pedagogy used. In Iceland and the other Nordic countries there has been a growing emphasis on teaching traditional content knowledge, such as reading and writing, while children’s well-being and interactions with


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peers (Broström et al., 2018; Einarsdottir, 2017; Karlsson Lohmander & Pramling Samuelsson, 2015) are also valued. To look further into these contradictions, this study aimed to gain some insights into young children’s learning processes in two Icelandic preschools using differing pedagogies.

The Study Location and Participants The study took place in two distinctively different preschools in the larger Reykjavík area. The two preschools built their practices on the Icelandic National Curriculum Guide (Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, 2011) and thus had some similarities in their pedagogy. Nevertheless, each preschool adopted very different approaches in the stated preschool curricula that led to different day-to-day pedagogy. One preschool worked in the spirit of Reggio Emilia, while the other adopted a relatively new Icelandic curriculum approach, the Hjalli model (http:// The pedagogy in Seaside, the Reggio Emilia-­ inspired preschool, derives from the work and ideology developed by Malaguzzi (1998) and his co-workers in the city of Reggio Emilia in northern Italy. According to Seaside’s stated preschool curriculum, the emphasis is on democracy and adults view children as strong and competent. The aims are to support children in creative activities, developing their ideas and hypotheses, and co-constructing meaning, both individually and in collaboration with others. The pedagogy in the other preschool, Lava Ledge, the Hjalli model, builds on concerns about gender discrimination. In addition, the model aims to support children as they learn “good” behavior, where adults see children as needing clear rules, protection, and advice from preschool teachers. Preschool practice is planned with boys and girls in separate classes and is seen as a way to work against gender inequality and to work toward justice and democracy in Icelandic society. Building on these views, the Hjalli model developed compensation projects and games for

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children, with the aim of strengthening boys’ empathy and caretaking, and girls’ courage and self-confidence (Ólafsdóttir, 2014; Sigurðardóttir & Ólafsdóttir, 2008; The Hjalli pedagogy, 2016).

Methods, Methodology, and Analysis The research approach was inspired by ethnography and focused on studying children in their social context in two preschools (Gobo, 2011). According to Fetterman (1989), fieldwork requires an insightful, sensitive cultural interpretation combined with rigorous data-collection techniques. Ethnographers generate understandings of cultures by constructing data first from the native (i.e., insider or emic) perspective, after which they seek to make sense of what they have collected in terms of both the insiders’ view and their own external or scientific analysis, the outsider or etic perspective. In the current study, detailed descriptions of children’s activities in their daily lives in the respective preschools were made with the purpose of gaining insight into the multiple factors influencing the children’s learning processes. Data generation involved lengthy participant observations focusing on both ordinary and extraordinary day-to-day events (Hatch & Coleman-King, 2015). The data were analyzed in several steps and grounded in theories and concepts in contemporary education. Throughout the process of data generation, an attempt was made to observe with an open mind and foreground children’s competence with the aim of gaining insight into their learning processes. Building on the research notes (written observations, photos, and videos), children’s experiences were described and developed. The researcher also constructed stories about individual children and groups, inspired by the Learning Story approach developed in New Zealand (Carr, 2011; Ministry of Education, 1996). Furthermore, the data were analyzed in relation to the children’s communication, their well-being and belonging, and if/how they took responsibility for and contributed to the preschool activities. In both preschools, data generation occurred in a group of the oldest children, most of whom were five years old and would begin primary school the following year. Three preschool teachers were invited to be a


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part of this study as were the oldest children in each group, one gender-­ mixed group in Seaside and two groups, one with boys and one with girls, in Lava Ledge. The data generation mainly built on observations from a total of 24 participating children in both preschools.

Ethical Considerations During the study, confidentiality and anonymity of sensitive data was attended to by gaining informed consent from stakeholders and all participants in the two preschools. Diverse methods were used to inform the children about what their participation in the study involved and the researcher asked for their permission to be with them each time a new activity occurred. To build trust, the first priority was to reduce the power imbalance between the researcher and the participants (Clark, 2005; Dockett, 2008). To do so, an attempt was made to read children’s expressions carefully, such as if they did not want to take part in all activities or even if they wanted to opt out during the research process (Dockett, Einarsdottir, & Perry, 2012). During the data-generation process, the children were asked to take part in reflection meetings where together they looked at photos or videos from the data generation and discussed what the children had experienced. Finally, in order to become more aware of how her own views might influence the data-generation process, the researcher attempted to be as open minded and non-judgmental as possible. This primarily occurred as she reflected on her professional identity and wrote about the relationship of her views to ideology and methods in early education.

Findings and Discussion  imilarities and Differences Between the Two S Preschools The daily schedules, or time frames, of the two preschools were superficially similar, in spite of ideological differences. For instance, both

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included sessions lasting an hour to 90 minutes that alternated between group time and choice time. This type of timeframe has until recently been common in Icelandic preschools. Nevertheless, the methods at both preschools were fundamentally different, especially concerning group time and in the beginning of choice time, when the children were making their choices, in the selection process itself. Other differences were observed in the available materials and organization of the indoor environment and are shaped by the different methods that the preschool teachers planned during the choice process and group time.

 vailable Materials and Organization of the Indoor A Environment Within these contrasting environments, the preschool teachers at both schools controlled decision-making, yet also provided opportunities for children to have their say and choose among options. At Seaside, the environment was planned to provoke children’s reactions, pique their interests and curiosity, and cultivate their imaginations. Beautiful and interesting artwork, artifacts, and play material used to attract children’s attention were situated in the preschool surroundings and often made accessible to the children. Throughout each day, children could move freely in the rooms and choose among various play materials; for example, items for role-play such as masks, ears, and tails were hung on a wall within children’s reach. Additional material was available in transparent boxes so that children could see each box’s contents, although fetching the material at times required asking for a preschool teacher’s assistance. At Lava Ledge, the environment had clear messages for children, with few artifacts; the aim was to keep children focused and calm, yet also to offer children opportunities to use their imaginations in interpreting open-ended material. Usually no drawings, pictures, or children’s artwork of any kind decorated the walls, although sometimes the preschool teacher and the children decided to display the children’s drawings for a few days. Each material was designated a specific place, and children were expected to follow rules concerning when materials could be used. The daily routines were structured by rules regarding how children could


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progress from one activity to another; the children waited in designated places or else stood in rows until their preschool teacher signaled that they could proceed to the next activity.

The Choice Processes and Play in the Chosen Areas At Seaside, the choice process was informal, with few rules. It often occurred in small groups where a preschool teacher sat on the floor, scattered choice cards, and asked the children who wanted to choose now. The range of materials from which children could choose was extensive, and children had the opportunity to influence both which material was allowed in areas and the process of the selection procedure. Three girls Erla, Dora, and Kara, were playing in a room with access to all sorts of playing materials. They developed the play collaboratively and all held several roles each and developed two play themes at the same time. One theme had the roles of a queen, a king and a prince; the other involved a mother, a teenage girl and a baby boy. They also built two scenes for the play, a home for the family with kitchen and bedrooms and the other a scene for the royal family to appear for their people. Ragnar came into the room. At first, he watched the girls play, then went and picked up some tiger tails hanging on the wall, then crawled on all fours and started to howl outside the girls’ house. The baby became frightened and the mother said, “This is okay, it’s just dad.” Ragnar stood up and said, “It’s just me, dad,” and went back on all fours again and crawled and howled.

These children seemed to be able to not only change roles but to go in and out of the roles as well as to hold several roles at the same time. During these interactions, the children used their social competence to find solutions, either on their own or in collaboration with other children. At Lava Ledge, by contrast, the choice process was formal and always followed the same rules. Children sat on their marked places, one child at a time in the same order, and during this time, the children took turns in being the first to choose. The material was more or less always the same and, on a daily basis, the organization or framework was not supposed to be changed.

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Nevertheless, once children arrived in their chosen area, choice time was remarkably similar in both preschools: they played, experimented, and negotiated in their groups of peers with minimal intervention from preschool teachers. At both preschools, the children played with materials they had chosen in collaboration with other children, developed their own play themes, and together found solutions to problems. In these situations, the observations showed children developing friendships; they helped each other, expressed themselves in a friendly tone, and listened to one another. The observation below was made in the girls’ group in Lava Ledge, but similar observations were made in all the other groups. When the children were choosing, Hera and Katla gave each other a sign to choose the same area, the water play area. Katla said: “Hera, we are teenage girls … or … no, we are seven-year-old girls.” She went ahead, “We are chicks … don’t you agree that we are singing in a concert? We are the best singers.” As Hera accepted these ideas, she was pouring water from one plastic cup to the other and said she was baking a cake for the singers’ tournament. She said she was the mom. Later Katla said she was the older sister, and for awhile they both were baking, using the plastic toys, and pouring water back and forth. Katla then suggested a song they would sing on stage in a concert. The girls then were singers, holding cones from the water-play material to their mouths as microphones. After several songs, Katla used the microphone, the cone, as a monocular, peeped through it and said in a teasing voice that she was spying on the children playing in other areas.

Hera and Katla made their choice as they wanted to play together and their play developed smoothly. They seemed to be prepared to weave their play themes together, each putting ideas forward, accepting others’ ideas, and adding new ideas. During the observations in this study, this happened frequently when children were playing. Still, in some groups it took some time before the play theme started to develop more effortlessly, that is, children putting their own ideas forward, listening to others, and developing a common thread. However, the opposite was also possible, since some children at times seemed to be insecure and even might have felt excluded. This is an example from the observations, from the boys in Lava Ledge, but similar interactions were observed in the other groups in both preschools.


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Three boys, Finnur, Hallur, and Omar, were in the soft cube area. They were playing traveling in space with roles of spaceship captains (or aliens) and dogs. After they had started to play, Axel came into the room. He wanted to be a cat, and he and Finnur struggled for a long time when Axel wanted to get the role of the cat accepted in the play. Finally, Finnur gave in and Axel played in another corner of the room, away from the spaceship where the other boys were. Axel was under the chairs, making the cat’s house; several times he tried to get the other boys’ attention by telling them he was making a house under the chairs but they ignored him. After a while, Axel went over to the other boys and told them he now was playing a cheetah, adding, “a bad cheetah.” He repeated this several times and always got the answer from Finnur that there was no such thing happening in this play, that this was not that kind of a game. Farther into the dispute, Finnur added that if Axel was a cheetah, he was a dead cheetah. Omar and Hallur did not take part in this squabble, but finally Hallur, standing in the spaceship, said, “I am just in my spaceship, flying away.”

In this observation, Axel seemed to want to take part in the play and also knew he had the right to be a participant. He continued to try to get his roles accepted and to influence the play theme. But Finnur had certain ideas on what roles and play themes there were and did not give in to Axel’s wishes. Omar and Hallur seemed engrossed in the play and did not support Axel’s being a full participant in the play. In this particular situation, Axel was marginalized, but it’s important to note that this was not always the case.

The Differences Observed During Group Time The differences between the two preschools observed during group time showed that the time was spent quite differently. The activities carried out at the preschools during group time could nevertheless be similar—for example, taking walks, playing in the outside area, and engaging in activities in the preschool, either in their allocated spaces or in common areas.

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However, during these activities, the preschool teachers supported children’s participation differently. At Seaside, groups collaborated on projects or other activities, and the preschool teachers supported children’s participation in cooperating, developing ideas, and finding solutions. Via reciprocal interaction, the preschool teachers also encouraged children to discuss their ideas, ask questions, and put their personal interests first while at the same time considering others’ wishes and feelings. The preschool teachers made documentations from children’s activities and, in their reflection meetings, discussed the possible projects and activities that might be of interest in the children. For example, when the children showed interest for letters, the preschool teacher brought a poster with the alphabet into the classroom. Among the different artifacts in the second room, I saw a poster with the letters of the alphabet, with the letters all mixed up and irregularly spread around. As Vera explained the poster to me, I saw it as an example of things that she had brought into the room because they were of interest for the children. At the beginning of this term, letters had seemed to interest the children to the extent that she decided to produce the opportunity for her group to play and work with letters.

During group time at Lava Ledge, by contrast, the preschool teachers planned what would be done and practiced the specific aims of Hjalli pedagogy: they supported children’s collaboration, informed them that all group members were friends, and also provided opportunities for children to influence agenda setting and invited children to find solutions. The preschool teachers worked toward achieving the aims of the gender-­ focused curriculum and toward encouraging children to be independent and believe in their competences. During the autumn term the data generation in the current study took place, all the letters of the alphabet were introduced, most of the time using methods taking the form of games or playing with words the children themselves suggested in connection with the letter explored. In the following example, the preschool teacher and the children worked with letters.


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In group time John told the girls to put on their outdoor clothes. Once outside, he gathered the group to sit down on the pavement just outside the house. He brought cards with the next letter to introduce to the girls. They all vocalized the letter and then, one girl at a time, they found a word starting with the letter or having it in the middle or end of a word. John wrote down on paper the words each girl had suggested, and the list was put up on the board in the large room after the group time. Suzy worked in a very similar way with her group of boys.

Although the approaches used in the two preschools differed, the aims and methods common to both preschools in this research are similar to those in most Western countries: at both preschools, the children were supported in playing and being active in pursuing their interests, cooperating in their peer groups and with preschool teachers, developing friendships, finding solutions for themselves and others, and developing positive self-images. Although both preschools shared these goals, the processes of fostering children’s participation differed.

 ifferent Degrees of Participation Appearing D in the Preschools Children’s participation in preschool groups involves a focus on children learning through structured involvement with preschool teachers and other children (Rogoff, 2003). Rogoff describes the concept of guided participation as children and adults finding ways to understand each other’s perspectives and jointly support each other’s involvement, as both groups participate in and are guided by the values and practices of the communities. Focused on young children’s right to be listened to and taken seriously, as confirmed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (United Nations, 1989), Lansdown (2005) developed a typology of degrees of participation to explore how children’s right to be agents in their daily lives can be supported. Building on Rogoff’s and Lansdown’s work, the following section will address the different levels of participation seen in the two schools.

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Seaside’s preschool teachers systematically invited children to decision-­ making meetings, where their participation was based on their interests and methods of finding solutions. Preschool teachers often played the role of partners who encouraged children to rely on their own views and judgment, and tried to achieve a balance of power between themselves and the children. For example, they interacted with children on terms as equal as possible and encouraged them to express their ideas freely. Nonetheless, the children at Seaside had a fair amount of power and children’s participation in decision-making often exhibited the participatory processes (level two) described in Lansdown’s (2005) framework. Though often initiated by preschool teachers, these processes allowed children to influence both decision-making and the processes themselves. These methods are most evident in the observation from the project of painting and acting, during which preschool teachers encouraged groups of children to share ideas, construct shared meaning, and revisit ideas. For example, they asked questions or made comments such as “Oh, is that so?”, “What is he or she thinking?”, “What does he or she see?”, and “How does he or she feel?” This guidance encouraged children to take responsibility for and be fair to each other, which reflected the preschool teachers’ efforts to strike a balance of power among children and adults, as well as to respect children’s right to express themselves. At Seaside, self-initiated processes (Lansdown’s level three) were manifest beginning with the second part of the painting project, during which children worked to put on the play. The children and the preschool teachers, in collaboration, were putting on a play. They had decided it would be about Búkolla (the Icelandic folk-­ tale), the roles being: a boy, an ugly giantess, and the boy’s parents in smaller roles. But as they started to develop the thread, children started to suggest other roles, more imaginative and often referring to what they had painted in the first part of the project. The preschool teachers asked the children if there could be other roles like a mermaid, an alien and a child-­ alien-­ dinosaur and the children just continued to discuss these different roles.


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With this kind of support from the preschool teachers, the children managed to take action and be a part of the decision-making. At some moments, the children’s participation was as close as possible to resembling the self-initiated process described by Lansdown (2005). Examples of these moments were seen when Irma planned how to proceed with the project by suggesting roles for the preschool teachers, and later in the process when the children were acting, another girl, Kolka, made an effort to negotiate between the children’s contrasting suggestions of roles to include: Now the preschool teachers and the children started to plan the play. Irma suggested roles for the preschool teachers: Sunna (a preschool teacher) should be the theater manager and Vera (a preschool teacher) should be the narrator. Vera asked the children if they were going to make the story. Oddur and Irma said yes but they also said they were the actors and wanted to act. Vera told the children she could write everything down if they told her what the narrator was supposed to say. Rosa sat with Dagur on her lap and asked the children about their roles. Irma said she was going to play Búkolla (the cow) and said the other roles were a boy, his parents, and a giantess, like in the story. Rosa asked her who Búkolla was and she said “a girl.” Kolka wanted to stick to the roles in the story: a cow, a boy, his parents and a giantess.

The observations revealed that the action built on the girls’ initiative with support from the preschool teacher who continued to hand the decision-making to the children. At Lava Ledge, children were encouraged to be independent, yet always within the frame of rules established by the preschool teachers. According to the Hjalli pedagogy, preschool teachers are encouraged to remember that they are the adults and should take responsibility for following the preschool curriculum, and make decisions in their practice, especially as they prepare, plan, and conduct group time. However, the preschool teachers at Lava Ledge systematically gave each child the opportunity to express his or her wishes and ideas. Furthermore, the research notes show that often when a child was excluded by his or her peers, the preschool teacher clearly informed the children that this was not allowed. Sometimes

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the preschool teacher talked on behalf of the child being excluded, as the following excerpt shows. Suzy came in and asked, “Isn’t everyone happy here?” Finnur answered, “No, Axel is. Axel was playing a game where he was changing into a cheetah.” Suzy said, “But, he might want that.” Finnur replied, “But we aren’t playing that sort of a game.” Suzy: “Are you deciding what the game is or is everyone?” Finnur: “He is playing with us.” The preschool teacher: “Yes, isn’t that great?” Finnur demurred, but the preschool teacher said, “Boys, just try to play in a manner that makes everyone happy.” Then Hallur said, “But there is no cheetah,” Suzy said: “No, but Axel might want to be a cheetah, huh?”

The preschool teachers, though, maintained the traditional adult role by retaining power and control. Research notes attest to this practice by underscoring how preschool teachers planned learning centers. In this process, children could suggest activities to be included among the choices and often voted on the possible activities, which preschool teachers reported before issuing their ultimate decisions. Within the strong curricular framing used at Lava Ledge, playing with peers during free time marked the sole occasion during which children were given the opportunity to make decisions (which they took full advantage of ) and preschool teachers intervened only when needed or invited. At Lava Ledge, children’s participation in decision-making most often resembled the consultation processes (level one) described in Lansdown’s (2005) framework. Their participation was managed and initiated by adults, and they seldom had opportunities to be a part of making the final decisions. The rules and routines at Lava Ledge were systematically observed at all times; when any group of children was engaged in a discussion with a preschool teacher, one child at a time was given the ­opportunity to talk. Although children’s voices were heard, all decisions remained in the hands of their preschool teachers. The observations of participatory processes in the two preschools showed that children were supported, albeit in different ways, and that teachers used specific methods to support children’s influence in both preschools.


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Pedagogy for Children’s Play and Learning The differences seen in the two preschools can be related to current theories and research. As expected, the pedagogy used at Seaside, the Reggio Emilia-inspired preschool, reflects post-modern views representing children as strong and active participants in their preschool context (Dahlberg et  al., 1999). Practices at Seaside suggested that adults believed children had the right to direct their own lives and were competent learners able to engage actively and contribute to their society (Lansdown, 2005; Mayall, 2003). On the other hand, the pedagogy in Hjalli reflects a different understanding of appropriate preschool aims and practices, showing specific aims and rules that suggest that preschool teachers know what is best for the children (Wood, 2014). Importantly, however, the data reveal that the pedagogical approaches used in the two preschools are not as distinct as they might at first appear. In both preschools, children are provided with ample opportunities for free-play sessions, with minimum intervention from the preschool teachers. The findings of this study add to previous research stating the importance of providing children in preschools with ample opportunities to play (Johnson et al., 2013; Wood, 2014). Observations frequently provided evidence of children’s ability to collaborate in highly developed play, which involved planning, communicating, solving problems, and negotiating peer relationships. This is in line with other research showing that children who engage in make-believe play also exhibit more a complex and imaginative presence which is associated with perspective-taking skills (Meyers & Berk, 2014), and children demonstrate more problem-­ solving strategies in playful situations (Whitebread, 2010). In short, children learn all sorts of things through play including traditional primary school subjects related to literacy and numeracy (Johnson et al., 2013). Nevertheless, not everyone believes in the wonders of play for children’s learning; some of these skeptics want their learning to be confirmed by test scores and some would like to see all children learning a prescribed set of knowledge and skills.

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Policy for Children’s Play and Learning As seen in OECD documents (2011, 2015) and in discussion on the development of the Nordic tradition in early education (Broström et al., 2018), many countries’ emphasis on assessment has become stronger. These developments are related to the view that all children have the right to be “well educated” and that they need to be “properly” and directly taught. Although the national curriculum in Iceland emphasizes process-­ oriented assessment, as in many other countries, the ongoing public debate focuses on children’s educational outcomes. Some of these views are related to methods that were used in primary schools in the past, when socio-cultural situations were profoundly different and education was built on different beliefs and had different aims. Approaches based on these views might call for a view of early education where most of children’s time in preschool would be spent responding to preschool teacher-directed lessons wherein all children are expected to learn the same thing, at the same time, in the same way. While this approach makes it easier to assess if children have met predetermined outcomes, it obviously contradicts the evidence of learning through play highlighted in the present study, as well as that found in reams of other research.

Final Words The current study reveals how young children, given the opportunity to play and interact with their peers, sought and often managed to find solutions to problems they encountered, and constructed and shared knowledge with peers. The study further shows how the children used methods characterized by their individual qualities, suggesting that observing and documenting children’s activities might be helpful for preschool teachers as a way to support children’s learning. These practices also align with the policy put forward in the current Icelandic National Curriculum Guide (2011), including valuing play as both an aim and a method, and emphasizing democracy, well-being, equality, and interpersonal relationships in preschool education.


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This study’s findings further suggest that when we turn our focus toward young children’s interaction processes, their many strengths are revealed: they can, for instance, find clever solutions and negotiate challenging peer relationships, with (and often without) the support of preschool teachers. These findings provide an opportunity to wonder if, instead of measuring children by using scales meant to see what a “normal” child looks like, observing and documenting the particularities in children’s daily experiences might be a way to keep the “Nordicness” in Icelandic preschools and to hold back the “push-down” pressure found in the latest OECD documents. Building on the preceding, several thoughts and questions pertinent to the early childhood field arise. Early educators might discuss, for instance: • Whether the assumption the recent OECD documents build on, that more formal assessment or testing of outcomes will secure quality in early education, is valid. Or, might preschool teachers instead gain more useful information from carefully analyzing children’s everyday actions and interactions to be able to see and map children’s learning processes? • How international documents like the ones from the OECD are used or should be used. Are they/should they be used as instructions to follow exactly, or might they rather be used more effectively as a lens to support analysis and reflection? • Whether the Nordic tradition in preschool pedagogy is declining, and if so, what will happen to children’s opportunities to play, where their views and interests are foregrounded and they can create, inquiry, experiment, investigate, and problem-solve? • Whether, once again, the emphasis in young children’s learning will be focused on teaching children to find (and memorize) the right answers for the test. To teach children to fit the mold others have created and the demands of the tests, and thereby risking the disappearance of their views, interests, and creative thinking. • If this will lead to adults teaching children the “right” answers—not how to think for themselves. And, if, following this train of thought, socio-cultural frames for education are undermined, might not democratic societies in which people with different strengths collaborate and develop new knowledge together, be undermined as well?

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Acknowledgments  Many thanks to Dr. Liz Brooker who supported and supervised the first part of the work on the study this chapter builds on.

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Reggio Emilia Approach-Advanced Reflections (2nd ed., pp.  49–97). London: Ablex. Mayall, B. (2003). Sociologies of Childhood and Educational Thinking. London: Institute of Education. Meyers, A. B., & Berk, L. E. (2014). Make-Believe Play and Self-Regulation. In L. Brooker, M. Blaise, & S. Edwards (Eds.), The Sage Handbook of Play and Learning in Early Childhood (pp. 43–55). London: Sage. Ministry of Education. (1996). Te Whāriki. He Whāriki Mātauranga mō ngā Mokopuna o Aotearoa: Early Childhood Curriculum. Wellington, NZ: Ministry of Education. Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. (2011). Aðalnámskrá leikskóla [National Curriculum Guide for Preschools]. Reykjavík: Ministry of Education. Moss, P., Dahlberg, G., Grieshaber, S., Mantovani, S., May, H., Pence, A., et al. (2016). The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s International Early Learning Study: Opening for Debate and Contestation. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 17(3), 343–351. Moss, P., & Urban, M. (2017). The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s International Early Learning Study: What Happened Next. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 18(2), 250–258. OECD. (2006). Starting Strong II: Early Childhood Education and Care. Paris: OECD. OECD. (2011). Starting Strong III: A Quality Toolbox for Early Childhood Education and Care. Paris: OECD. OECD. (2015). Starting Strong IV: Monitoring Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care. Paris: OECD. van Oers, B. (2010). Children’s Enculturation through Play. In L. Brooker & S. Edwards (Eds.), Engaging Play (pp. 195–209). Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill. van Oers, B., & Duijkers, D. (2013). Teaching in a Play-Based Curriculum: Theory, Practice and Evidence of Developmental Education for Young Children. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 45(4), 511–534. Ólafsdóttir, M. P. (2014). Hjallastefnan: Handbók leikskóla [The Hjalli Model: A Handbook for Preschool]. Reykjavík: Hjallastefnan. Ólafsdóttir, S., Danby, S., Einarsdottir, J., & Theobald, M. (2017). ‘You Need to Own Cats to Be a Part of the Play’: Icelandic Preschool Children Challenge Adult-Initiated Rules in Play. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 25(6), 824–837. Pramling Samuelsson, I. (2010). Ska barns kunskaper testas eller deras kunnande utvecklas i förskolan? [Should Children’s Knowledge Be Evaluated or


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Should Their Learning Develop in the Preschool?]. Nordic Early Childhood Education Research, 3(3), 159–167. Pramling Samuelsson, I., & Asplund Carlsson, M. (2008). The Playing Learning Child: Towards a Pedagogy of Early Childhood. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 52(6), 623–641. Pramling Samuelsson, I., & Johansson, E. (2006). Play and Learning: Inseparable Dimensions in Preschool Practice. Early Child Development and Care, 176(1), 47–65. Prout, A., & James, A. (2015). A New Paradigm for the Sociology of Childhood? Provenance, Promise and Problems. In A.  James & A.  Prout (Eds.), Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood: Contemporary Issues in the Sociological Study of Childhood (pp. 6–28). London: Routledge. Qvortrup, J. (2009). Childhood as a Structural Form. In J.  Qvortrup, W. A. Corsaro, & M.-S. Honig (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Childhood Studies (pp. 21–33). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Rogoff, B. (2003). The Cultural Nature of Human Development. Oxford: University Press. Rubin, K. H., Fein, G. G., & Vandenberg, B. (1983). Play. In M. E. Hetherington (Ed.), Socialization, Personality, and Social Development (Vol. IV, pp. 693–774). New York: John Wiley & Sons. Sigurðardóttir, L.  S., & Ólafsdóttir, M.  P. (2008). Hjallastefnan [The Hjalli Pedagogy]. Garðabær: Hjallastefnan ehf. Souto-Manning, M. (2017). Is Play a Privilege or a Right? And What’s Our Responsibility? On the Role of Play for Equity in Early Childhood Education. Early Child Development and Care, 187(5–6), 785–787. The Hjalli Pedagogy. (2016). The Hjalli Pedagogy Information Website. Retrieved from United Nations. (1989). Convention on the Rights of the Child. Retrieved from Vygotsky, L. (1933/1967). Play and Its Role in the Mental Development of the Child. Soviet Psychology, 5, 6–18. Whitebread, D. (2010). Play, Metacognition and Self-Regulation. In P. Broadhead, J. Howard, & E. Wood (Eds.), Play and Learning in the Early Years (pp. 161–176). London: Sage. Wood, E. (2014). The Play-Pedagogy Interface in Contemporary Debates. In L. Brooker, M. Blaise, & S. Edwards (Eds.), The Sage Handbook of Play and Learning in Early Childhood (pp. 145–156). London: Sage.

4 Practicing Belonging in Kindergarten: Children’s Use of Places and Artifacts Sidsel Boldermo

Introduction and Background This chapter investigates belonging as a concept within the social dimension of education for sustainability in Norwegian early childhood education. During the last decades, the Education for Sustainability, which is situated within environmental, social, cultural and economic contexts, has become a global movement (Davis & Elliott, 2014). There is consensus among today’s researchers within the sustainability field that in order to acknowledge all aspects of sustainability, the research and educational attention must expand from just focusing on nature and the environment toward a holistic perspective on sustainability that incorporates social, cultural and economic issues, and which encourages children’s experiences related to international understanding, citizenship and social justice (Ärlemalm-Hagsér & Elliott, 2017; Davis & Elliott, 2014; Eriksen,

S. Boldermo (*) UiT, The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 S. Garvis et al. (eds.), Nordic Families, Children and Early Childhood Education, Studies in Childhood and Youth,



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2013; Hägglund & Johansson, 2014; Pramling Samuelsson & Park, 2017; Sageidet, 2015). Although international research within the field of education for sustainability has developed and increased during the last years, early childhood education as context for social aspects such as social justice and human rights has received little attention (Hägglund & Johansson, 2014). In the Norwegian early childhood education context, the values and competencies related to education for sustainability, as described by UNESCO, correspond well to the holistic process of development and learning outlined in the 20111 Norwegian curriculum document for kindergartens. Despite this, the social and cultural aspects of education for sustainability have not been recognized in the Norwegian research and education context (Eriksen, 2013, pp. 108–109). In Norway, as in Nordic and international research contexts, the research on education for sustainability in early childhood has been closely related to issues surrounding the environmental dimension, with an emphasis on the need to educate children to be environmentally responsible and to live sustainable lives (Boldermo & Ødegaard, 2019; Pramling Samuelsson & Park, 2017; Sageidet, 2014). The social dimension of education for sustainability includes human rights, citizenship, social justice and equality, social participation and inclusion, and the building of stable and dynamic societies where basic human needs are fulfilled (Ärlemalm-Hagsér & Sundberg, 2016; Dyment et  al., 2013; Hägglund & Johansson, 2014; Hammond, Hesterman, & Knaus, 2015; Sageidet, 2015). In the space of the last decades, the diversity in the Norwegian as well as the Nordic and European population has increased as a result of globalization, increased mobility and forced migration. Within five years, from 2011 to 2016, the percentage of refugees residing in Europe has increased from 16% to 31% as a result of an ongoing refugee crisis because of warfare in several parts of the world (Kraly & Abbasi Shavazi, 2018, p. 305). This makes immigration and diversity a global matter of sustainability which places issues of belonging highly on the agenda, as migrants’ experiences of citi In the new 2017 Norwegian curriculum document for kindergarten, the holistic process of development and learning has been continued, and the focus on sustainability has increased. 1

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zenship in their new communities may be related to their experiences of social identity and belonging to the new society (Craith, 2012; Dahlstedt, Fejes, Olson, & Sandberg, 2017). The importance of such experiences of belonging and of being socially included in a community is becoming greater in an increasingly diverse society (Juutinen, 2018; Ødegaard & Pramling Samuelsson, 2016). As ‘citizenship’ is a concept that is frequently emphasized in today’s context of education for sustainability (Ärlemalm-Hagsér & Davis, 2014; Reunamo & Suomela, 2013; Somerville & Williams, 2015), ‘belonging’ is closely related to the experiences of such citizenship (Juutinen, 2018; Nutbrown & Clough, 2009). However, migrant children may encounter challenges in experiencing belonging in early childhood education contexts, due to language differences, differences in interaction patterns, and also different sociocultural values between home and kindergarten (Stratigos, Bradley, & Sumsion, 2014, p. 175). Children and youth with an immigrant background can long for belonging to a socially accepted and desired social identity, and they can strive to be accepted or included in peer groups of the majority culture (Kalkman & Clark, 2017; Skattebol, 2006; Steen-Olsen, 2013). Consciously or subconsciously, the migrant child can be aware of the risk of being stigmatized as the ‘outsider’ looking into a community to which they do not belong (Kalkman & Clark, 2017, p. 310). Such experiencing exclusion may lead to marginalization and create foundation for inequality. To maintain a social sustainable society for all, migrant children’s experiences of belonging are becoming increasingly important and thus need to be investigated further (Boldermo & Ødegaard, 2019; Juutinen, 2018, pp. 17–25). On these premises, and in order to explore how children from different backgrounds and upbringings experience, negotiate and practice belonging in kindergarten, the following research question was formulated: how can children’s use of places and artifacts in kindergarten be understood as materially mediated manifestations of belonging? In order to answer this research question, a fieldwork in a multicultural kindergarten was conducted, and the findings were analyzed within a cultural-historical framework.


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Theoretical Framework Research in early childhood education often focuses strongly on children’s social relations, but also the children’s relations to materiality; artifacts, toys and places could be investigated in order to widen the perspective on children’s negotiations and practices of belonging in kindergarten (Juutinen, 2018, p. 40). In this study, the operationalizations of the concept of belonging imply that belonging is regarded as a process that happens in places and through the use of cultural artifacts. Place is conceptualized as relational and in constant motion, constituted through stories and narratives, and thus alternative narratives of who we are in our places can emerge (Duhn, 2012; Massey, 2005; Somerville, 2010). The term artifact refers to cultural resources such as objects and tools that are created and taken into use by humans, and by that is related to human activity and meaning making. The artifacts that are made available for the children in the kindergarten thus facilitate their cultural formation (Ødegaard, 2012, pp.  94–95). The children’s narratives and stories are in this study regarded as ‘social artifacts’ that tell as much about the society and culture, as they do about the individual child (Riessman, 2017, p. 256). A theoretical framework that corresponds with such a holistic and relational approach can be found in the cultural-­ historical framework as it takes social interaction, cultural and material conditions and historical development into consideration. Research with children within such a framework includes the children as individuals and as participants in societal collectives. To understand children’s perspectives, the focus must be on their activities in their everyday lives, and as researcher one must separate between the various institutional activity settings in which the activities take place (Hedegaard, 2008a). The data constructions in this study were developed drawing on Mariane Hedegaard’s interpretations and development of Vygotskij’s perspectives on human development (Hedegaard, 2008a, 2009, 2011, 2012), Ditte Winther-Lindqvist’s (2011) conceptualizations of motive development related to children’s social identity and belonging in peer groups, and Seth Chaiklin’s (2011) holistic perspectives on the relationships among motives, development, action and societal practice.

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Method and Analysis The basis for the study is eight weeks of fieldwork conducted during two periods, autumn and spring, in a large Norwegian multicultural kindergarten with 70–80 children and 20–22 employees: teachers and assistants. Many of the children in the kindergarten had parents with a history of migration for various reasons. The use of the term ‘migrant child/children’ in this study implicates that one or both of the child’s/children’s parents were born and raised outside of Norway. Initially, the researcher applied a strategy inspired by Gulløv and Højlund (2003), which implicated to follow the children as they moved between places and activity settings, and participated in various activities. Based on an understanding that children’s activities always have a societal dimension (Chaiklin, 2011), the intention was to identify which places and artifacts were actively taken into use by the children and to interpret the use and the activity from a relational perspective within a societal dimension. The research project was registered and approved by the Norwegian Centre for Research Data.2 Children in Norwegian kindergartens have the right to participate according to their ages and abilities, and their views and proposals shall be recognized according to their age and maturity level (Framework Plan for Kindergartens. Content and Tasks, 2017). This applies also when research is being conducted in kindergartens. As 29 children, aged between two and five years, were registered as participants due to their parents’ consent, the real participants in the study were the children who in addition to this were attending the kindergarten on the days of the data collection and who themselves wanted to participate on a day-to-day basis. This was accomplished by that the researcher only followed children that verbally or by body language or gestures invited her in, and by that photos and recordings of children were taken exclusively with their consent. Such strategy is associated with the approach  This means that the data collection and retention, as well as the participants’ anonymity, have been safeguarded in accordance with the applicable regulations. The Guidelines for Research Ethics in the Social Sciences, Humanities, Law and Theology (Guidelines for Research Ethics in the Social Sciences, Humanities, Law and Theology, 2016) states that researchers who involve children in their research have a particular responsibility to protect the participants in the study. 2


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called ‘Deep hanging out’ (Powell & Somerville, 2018), which includes that the researcher in addition to being open and curious is patiently awaiting something interesting to emerge. Following such approach, the researcher should know when to be involved and when to keep distance, to wait to be invited and to know when she has been included or excluded by the children (Powell & Somerville, 2018, p. 12). As a consequence of conducting the fieldwork within such an approach, the number of participating children, as well as photos and recordings of children, was limited. The fieldwork were conducted two or three days a week, inside and outdoors, during children’s free play, or during the children’s participation in activity settings and activities, led by the educators, or initiated by the children themselves. Such activities varied from nature excursions, digging for worms, football playing and bicycle-riding outdoors, to inside circle time, physics experiments, seasonal projects, playing hide-and-­seek, drawing, listening and dancing to music and storytelling. The collected amount of data comprised photographs, video recordings and the researcher’s handwritten fieldnotes which included unstructured observations, children’s utterances and stories, and the researcher’s own common sense interpretations (Hedegaard, 2008b). The analysis was conducted in steps. First, the photos and recordings were reviewed and systematized, and the content was interpreted on a common sense level. Second, the handwritten fieldnotes were re-written as documents on the computer. In the third step, in order to interpret the data on a situated practice level, the photos and recordings and the approximately 50 pages of re-written fieldnotes were explored, with an aim to search for conceptual patterns (Hedegaard, 2008b, pp. 58–60). In order to try to recognize the children’s motives, descriptions of how the children approached and participated in the activity settings and their attitudes like engagement, disengagement, enthusiasm or resentment were especially looked into (Winther-Lindqvist, 2011). The reading of Skattebol’s (2006) descriptions of children’s embodiment into roles, and Winther-Lindqvist’s (2011, 2013) theorizing of how children’s wanting for belonging can be expressed in group settings influenced the interpretations in this step of the analysis.

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Over 300 photos were taken during the fieldwork. A large proportion were of places and artifacts. As it turned out, six children appeared more often on the photos and were referred to in the fieldnotes, than other children. These were children that had showed great interest in spending time together with the researcher during the fieldwork. As a fourth step of the analysis, the fieldnotes and the photos3 that included these six children and also their places, activity settings and artifacts were analyzed by using Nvivo, a computer program for analyzing qualitative data. To capture manifestations of belonging, 24 different categories were compiled, inspired by Wastell and Degotardi’s (2017, pp. 42–44) components of belonging. The 24 categories included among others ‘inclusion’ and ‘exclusion’, ‘being suitable’, ‘shared interests’, children’s relationships with peers and educators, and children’s places, artifacts and belongings. A total of 81 photos were analyzed, together with the fieldnotes. Four of the six children often seemed to be on the outside of the peer community, in various ways. One girl seemed to actively choose to play by herself, while another girl were more openly excluded by her desired playmates. Three of these four children had migrant background, including a young boy ‘Mike’, whose real name is not disclosed. ‘Mike’ caught the researcher’s interest already during the first days of the fieldwork. He was new in the kindergarten, and the researcher interpreted his claim of not having any friends there, as an expression of not experiencing belonging there. Perhaps as a consequence of this, ‘Mike’ seemed interested to spending time together with the researcher. During the data analysis, it turned out that the amount of data related to ‘Mike’ was more consistent over both periods of the fieldwork than the data related to the other five children, probably because he spent more time together with the researcher. Because of his background as new in the kindergarten and in Norway, his case and his voice was perceived as especially interesting in order to investigate the project’s research question. When describing an individual child as a single case, the researcher’s focus is directed on the aspects of the child that are relevant to the research questions posed in the study (Yin, 2014). Garvis, Ødegaard, and Lemon (2015, pp.  22–24) referred to a ‘narrative way of knowing’, which is  The video recordings were not analyzed in Nvivo, due to technical issues.



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about the researcher trying to capture the variety of local practices and experiences, and contextualize the situations in which the children live and their identities are shaped. Drawing on Garvis et al. (2015) and such a ‘narrative way of knowing’, the case ‘Mike’ was created within a narrative approach. In order to re-tell the content of the data concerning ‘Mike’, the researcher narrated selected parts of it into written small stories (Georgakopoulou, 2006). The small stories were created on the basis of the photos and of the fieldnotes which included unstructured observations, dialogues and Mike’s utterances and stories. His stories were perceived as shared cultural tools rather than just originated from within himself (May, 2013, pp.  101–102), and when analyzing them, the researcher focused on interpreting the content and the intra- and interpersonal function of the story (Engel, 2005, pp. 213–214). Such kind of narrativization of the data, which is the researcher’s way to construct and thus bring the data come to life, assumes some point of view, and the interpretations of the data material depend on the researcher who are interpreting it (Juutinen, 2018; Riessman, 1993). The narrativization of the data in this study is thus the researcher’s voice, based on the selection of parts of the data that appeared as especially relevant in order to create Mike’s case and to answer the research question.

Mike Mike comes to the kindergarten together with his mother, and he does not want her to go. After he has spent a long time on his mother’s lap in the wardrobe, a teacher helps him to say goodbye to his mother and let her leave. Mike tells me that he has no friends in the kindergarten. Inside the music room, he plays hip hop music on the CD player and begins to jump and dance to the rhythm, all by himself.

Mike was quite new to the kindergarten. As the youngest in his family, with two older brothers, he was born on the run, fleeing from acts of war and conflict in South Asia. The researcher’s observations during the first

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period of the fieldwork confirmed the content of Mike’s utterance: the kindergarten seemed to be a place in which Mike did not have any friends. Even if there were no observations of Mike being actively excluded, Mike was often observed being by himself. He wandered from one activity setting to another with a non-smiling, almost sad facial expression. Occasionally, he would be busy with some kind of toy or artifact just briefly. The one thing by which Mike seemed to be motivated during the first period of the fieldwork was the CD player in the music room. He often asked to listen to hip hop music, and he would dance and jump to the rhythm. On one occasion while he was listening and dancing to the music, several other children came in and started to dance as well, demanding different songs. Mike stopped his dancing and began to operate the CD player, changing the music, finding new songs to play and adjusting the sound level, however he did not join the other children in their dancing and laughing around. In the next period of the fieldwork some months later, the situation seemed to have changed. Although Mike still occasionally wandered around alone between activity settings, his reluctance to attend the kindergarten seemed to have subsided. He was no longer sitting on his mother’s lap in the mornings, and when his parents left, everything seemed to go smoothly. On several occasions, he was observed participating enthusiastically together with his peers in the activities that were provided within the kindergarten’s practices such as circle time, playing hide-and-seek or carpentering with hammer and nails. On other occasions, he played alone by himself, constructing with bricks or taking a role as ‘shop owner’ writing receipts and lists. Outdoors, Mike spent a lot of time on the football pitch. The children in the kindergarten often brought their own belongings to the kindergarten, such as stuffed animals, books or toys. Mike brought his football. Mike often brings his football to the kindergarten. He is familiar with the names of several famous football players. Ronaldo is not the best, Neymar is, according to Mike, and he tells me with shiny eyes that he has seen both Manchester United and Arsenal in real life. When he gets a bit older, Mike


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explains, he will start playing football for the local football team, which plays in the elite series and of which he is a big fan.

Mike gave the impression of being very motivated to play football and to talk about football playing and football players. He strongly disagreed with the researcher favoring Ronaldo as the world’s best football player. If someone was playing football at the pitch, he would be there, especially if some of the teachers or assistants were participating. He often asked whether he could wear his football shorts not only when he was inside but also when he was outdoors. He was happy to be allowed to wear them over his pants and even over his rain trousers or winter clothes if it was raining or cold outside. Mike played football in a manner that was a bit different from that of the other children, he was initiative and he seemed to have talent as well. He was fast on the pitch, and he tried to dribble and trick with the ball. He somewhat embodied the role of ‘football player’ in the way he moved and turned quickly, dribbled and tricked, and gesticulated on the pitch. In conversations, Mike often spoke about his brothers. They were older than him and had already started school, and Mike would often referred to what they had said or done, or about their football aspirations and what kind of mobile phones or camera they had. When Mike was explaining his knowledge of football and football playing, or other things, for example, technical details related to the use of the CD player, the tablet or the action camera, or arguing about something about which he knew the facts, he would often emphasize his knowledge using his brothers as truth witnesses. Mike and Lea are discussing what it might be like to be in prison. Mike tells Lea that according to his older brother, a person could get a real beating in prison. Mike illustrates it to Lea by holding his hands in front of his throat with a dramatic expression on his face. Lea gives him a sceptical glance, saying that she does not believe it. But Mike argues eagerly and definitely that this is true because it is what his big brother told him. He further said that if someone were really unlucky, that person could end up in prison for the rest of his life.

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Mike showed great interest in the researcher’s action camera and tablet that were used in the fieldwork. He often asked to use or to borrow the action camera in particular, which he favored. He liked to take ­photographs, but he was not that interested in discussing the content of the photographs: neither the ones he himself had taken nor those made by the researcher. What was noticeable in the analysis of the photographs, after the fieldwork had ended, was Mike’s clothing. The outfits he wore most often seemed to include caps or other headgear, regardless of whether he was inside or outdoors. He also frequently wore football shorts and T-shirts or sweaters with football logos or the surnames or numbers of well-known football players. One of the last days of the fieldwork, Mike passes me in the wardrobe, running barefoot and wearing T-shirt and football shorts. As he passes me he smiles over his shoulder, saying: Look! Ronaldo! Before I can ask what he means, he runs towards the play rooms and out of my sight. It doesn’t hit me until weeks later, as I explore the photos from this day and realize that the T-shirt he was wearing had number 7 on his back; Cristiano Ronaldo’s number.

Discussion Drawing on Riessman (2017), Mike’s claim during the first period of the fieldwork that he did not have any friends in the kindergarten is understood as an utterance that expressed his current (at the time) experience of not belonging in the kindergarten (pp. 256–257). When children start to attend institutions like kindergarten, this can be their first experience of ‘living across institutions’ and of being part of a community outside their families (Hedegaard, 2009, p. 77). Starting such ‘living across institutions’, an important task for many children is to find their place in the new social environment and to belong to a social group (Winther-­ Lindqvist, 2011, p. 128). The social circumstances of Mike being ‘new’ in kindergarten and his seeming lack of motivation, with respect to the material and physical surroundings as he wandered alone between places


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and activity settings, confirmed the researcher’s impression that he had not found his place in the social environment, and he did not belong. One major development in Mike’s everyday life in the kindergarten that was changed between the first and second periods of the fieldwork was his way of attending the kindergarten. Children’s motivation can be identified through their attitudes such as enthusiasm, engagement, resentment and disengagement when approaching and participating in activities (Winther-Lindqvist, 2011, p. 121). Mike’s attitudes during the first period of the fieldwork is described as being characterized by disengagement because of his reluctance to be left in the kindergarten, his frequent wandering alone between activity settings instead of participating actively and his sad facial expression. His motivation for participating in the activities facilitated by the kindergarten seemed changed in the next period of the fieldwork, when his attitude to a larger extent was characterized by enthusiasm and engagement as he came up with suggestions and ideas in playing, in carpentry with hammer and nails and on the football pitch. How his social relationships with the other children in the kindergarten had developed between the first and second periods of the fieldwork was difficult to discern though. He still wandered alone between activity settings or played shop alone as ‘shop owner’. However he was also observed laughing and running and being together with the other children both inside and outdoors, and his initiative and engagement on the football pitch was something that was different from the earlier period. When ‘living across institutions’ like home and kindergarten, the child not only adjusts to the possibilities and demands of the institutions (home and kindergarten) but he also contributes to and influences the same possibilities and demands (Hedegaard, 2011, p.  132). Mike’s motives for playing football, his embodiment of a football player through his clothing and movements on the football pitch, and his frequent references to his older brothers could be understood as related to his competencies and experiences, and to the possibilities for his realizing his motives, thus influencing the frame of institutional practices in the kindergarten. Mike’s stories of having seen both Manchester United and Arsenal ‘in real life’, and about being a future football player on the local football

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team, could be explained as related to the social and cultural context he was embedded in at that time (May, 2013, p. 103). In Norway, football playing and discussions and predictions about how the local football teams will perform in the elite series permeate the local culture discourse during spring and summer, perhaps especially in communities in which football teams are located and matches are played. The fact that the kindergarten’s outdoor materiality included a football pitch seemed to motivate Mike, in particular, to the activity of playing football. The football pitch, here perceived as Mike’s place, is interpreted as important to his stories of being a future football player, thus who he could be, on that particular place. The use of material artifacts, like Mike’s football, and also his football clothes, can help signify an identity (May, 2013, pp. 145–146). Allowing the children to bring their own belongings, the kindergarten’s materiality included Mike’s football, and his action of bringing the football to the kindergarten is understood as part of a meaningful practice and as an activity within a societal dimension (Chaiklin, 2011, p.  215). From a societal perspective, the football is an artifact that conveys relation and access to a local as well as a global community of football players and supporters. Mike’s bringing the football and the initiating of football playing, his way of dressing and his techniques of embodiment on the football pitch can be perceived as his tools for practicing belonging and framing himself as being suitable and compatible within the local identity discourse. Such issues of embodiment and performance related to negotiations of belonging and being suitable have been discussed both in the Australian early childhood context by Skattebol (2006), who showed how a migrant boy, ‘Kyle’, used techniques of embodiment as tools to negotiate belonging to a specific desired community, and also in the Norwegian early childhood context by Kalkman and Clark (2017), who has actualized the issue of migrant children’s awareness of being unsuitable because of appearance, clothes and ways of behaving. Mike’s practice of framing himself as a proper football player and supporter through his stories, his football and football clothes and his embodiment on the football pitch is interpreted as him being motivated by a wanting for a specific social identity and a making of claim for belonging to a local and global football community.


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Concluding Remarks In this study, belonging as a relational phenomenon was investigated in order to explore and widen the perspective on how children’s use of places and artifacts in kindergarten could be understood as materially mediated manifestations of belonging within the context of early childhood education for sustainability. Through analysis and discussion, the migrant child Mike’s use of the football and the football pitch was interpreted as being his tools to negotiate a desired social identity as a proper football player and supporter, and thus to practice his claim for belonging to a local and global football community. The chapter was introduced by emphasizing the importance of developing new knowledge related to the social dimension of education for sustainability in early childhood education and migrant children’s experiences of social identity and belonging. As outlined in the introduction, experiencing belonging is closely related to concepts that are emphasized in today’s context of education for social sustainability, namely, ‘citizenship’ and ‘global citizenship’. In order to perceive oneself as a significant member and citizen in the kindergarten community, or in the local society, or even in the global society worldwide, the experience of belonging and of being socially included is crucial. The process of researching children’s use of places and cultural artifacts has shown that there is a need for more knowledge of migrant children’s social and cultural belonging. Answering the research question, the chapter aims to contribute to a body of research within early childhood education for sustainability that acknowledges how migrant children’s wanting for social identity and belonging can be facilitated in early childhood education. As children’s social worlds can be made sustainable through the experiences of having significance in social communities (Ødegaard & Pramling Samuelsson, 2016, p. 60), children’s practices of belonging and negotiations to be suitable and compatible within the majority culture are important issues to be further investigated within the frame of education for sustainability.

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5 Parental Involvement in ECEC in Finland and in Sweden Liisa Uusimäki, Tina Elisabeth Yngvesson, Susanne Garvis, and Heidi Harju-Luukkainen

Introduction Around the world, there is a growing awareness of the importance of parental involvement in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC). Research has shown the benefits of positive partnerships in parental involvement, when parents are encouraged to take an active role in their child’s schooling (Hakyemez-Paul, Pihlaja, & Silvennoinen, 2018; Hujala, Turja, Gaspar, Veisson, & Waniganayake, 2009; Venninen &

L. Uusimäki • T. E. Yngvesson • S. Garvis (*) University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden e-mail: [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected] H. Harju-Luukkainen Nord University, Bodø, Norway e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 S. Garvis et al. (eds.), Nordic Families, Children and Early Childhood Education, Studies in Childhood and Youth,



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Purola, 2013). Many early childhood services now make a conscious effort around parental involvement.1 In the literature, there is a growing awareness of factors that influence a child’s educational outcomes. The main critical factors around the world that have been identified include a family’s socio-economic and cultural status (Harju-Luukkainen et al., 2014; Yamamoto & Holloway, 2010) and parental involvement in their child’s education (Christenson, 2004; Fantuzzo, Tighe & Childs, 2000). It is important that teachers and policy makers are aware of both to provide supportive parental engagement to enhance the child’s well-being. In this chapter we focus specifically on parental involvement. Parental involvement is described ‘as motivated parental attitudes and behaviours intended to influence children’s educational wellbeing’ (Christenson, 2004; Fantuzzo et al., 2000). Parental involvement is also influenced by the family’s beliefs and aspirations around education as well as the level they should participate based on past experiences (Siraj-­Blatchford, 2010). Some studies have shown the importance of parental involvement in children’s academic achievement within schooling, influencing both the social and academic outcomes for children (El Nokali, Bachman & Votruba-Drzal, 2010). There is however limited research in this area. The overall impact of parental involvement is positive, but exactly which components of the participation are most important is yet to be determined within the research field. This chapter explores the differences in parental involvement in ECEC between Finland and Sweden. While Finland and Sweden share a border and have a common language (Swedish), the way the two nations approach parental involvement in ECEC differs. The differences relate to teacher training, traditions, cultural contexts and ECEC steering documents (or policy documents). The chapter begins with a brief overview of international literature about the effect of families’ socio-economic  Parent active schooling in means that the parent is present every day for the first two weeks for up to three hours a day. As the child grows confident in his or her new surroundings, the parent reduces his or her time at the preschool and eventually is not present at other than drop-off and pick-up. This is to ensure that the transition is non-traumatic for the child and to create a safe atmosphere in which the child can develop, learn and grow. 1

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b­ ackgrounds on children’s educational achievement, parental involvement in children’s education and family expectations. This is then followed by a presentation of the Finnish context and the Swedish context, where the following three areas are described: (1) ECEC context, (2) steering documents and parent/carer involvement in ECEC and (3) research and parent/carer partnership in ECEC. A discussion and reflection about parental involvement in ECEC from Finland and Sweden concludes the chapter. The next section will begin by presenting an overview of the Finnish ECEC steering documents and parental/carers involvement in ECEC, Finland.

Overview of Finnish ECEC Two steering documents guide the Finnish Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) sector: (1) National Core Curriculum for Early Childhood Education and Care (OPH, 2016) and (2) the National Core Curriculum for Pre-primary Education (2014). The first document guides the work for children under the age of six and the latter the work with children during the preschool year. These documents were prepared in collaboration with specialist educators from the field and included ECEC specialists, researchers, trade union representatives as well as administrators. The responsibility for ECEC on the national level lies with the Ministry of Education and Culture on the local level; it is the municipalities that are responsible for arranging the different ECEC services and ensuring their quality and supervision. The Finnish ECEC is based on an integrated approach supporting children’s well-being through care, education and teaching, the so-called educare model and where learning through play has the centre stage. The National Core Curriculum for ECEC (OPH, 2016, p. 14) states that the mission is ‘to promote children holistic growth, development and learning in collaborations with their guardians’ (p.  1). The term guardian (or guardians) referred to in this chapter is as parent (or parents). The focus for ECEC is to promote equality and equity and to prevent social exclusion. The skills and knowledge children learn during


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ECEC is to strengthen children’s active engagement in society. Similar, to the Swedish ECEC perspective there is an emphasis on a holistic perspective of the child. This means that a child’s development is a dynamic and closely interwoven interaction between children’s physical and mental circumstances, as well as the environment. There is an emphasis on play, imagination, creativity and exploration. According to Terveyden ja hyvinvoinnin laitos (THL) (2017), 243,946 children were enrolled in ECEC in Finland 2016 or approximately 68% of one- to six-year-olds. A breakdown in numbers of children participating in ECEC of different ages suggests the following: 0.7% of children under 12 months participated in ECEC, 28% of one-year-old children participated in ECEC, 54% of two-year-olds participated in ECEC and 78% of five-year-olds were participating in ECEC. Interestingly, in comparison to Sweden and other Nordic countries, Finnish children participate less in ECEC. The reason may relate to the structure of the support system available for parents with young children in Finland. Parents who want to care for their children under three years at home are eligible for a home care allowance. This allowance is not available when the child attends day care run by the municipality. In 2012, about 50% of children under the age of three were cared for at home and can explain the reason why children under five years do not participate in ECEC as actively. The reason for the popularity of this allowance and of concern to the government is that 90% of recipients of home care allowance are mothers with low levels of education and with several children. The concerns relate to Finnish mothers being at risk of being marginalised from the labour market that may also result in children’s marginalisation from public early childhood education (Pölkki & Vornanen, 2016, p. 582). To become a general classroom teacher in Finland, teaching (basic education) grades 1–9 takes five years and includes a master’s degree. To teach in grades 7–12, (secondary schooling) teachers need to have a master’s degree with a specialisation in a subject area. Graduation from a three-year university programme or a university of applied sciences programme (bachelor’s degree) gives the official qualification to teach children under the age of seven (e.g., preschool and kindergarten).

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All teacher education programmes in Finland integrate theory and practice with the aim to develop high-quality inquiry-oriented teachers (Jyrhämä & Maaranen, 2012). Research-based teacher education programmes provide opportunities for teachers to apply both theoretical and practical knowledge to their work with children as well as the opportunity to develop a personal theory. In addition, teacher education programmes with a focus on research support the development of preservice teachers’ pedagogical thinking-decision-making skills, including the ability to justify decisions (see Kansanen, 2006) that relate to Finnish teachers working autonomously and without explicit supervision. There is yearly in-service training provided to all Finnish teachers, which are compulsory to attend.

ECEC Steering Documents in Finland The co-operation (also called the partnership, parental involvement or parental collaboration) with the parents is highlighted in the Finnish ECEC steering documents. An entire chapter in the National Core Curriculum is devoted to this partnership and its implementation. According to the National Core Curriculum for ECEC (OPH, 2016, pp.  32–33), the aim for the partnership is meeting the needs of the child to ensure their growth, development and learning. The partnership between ECEC and parents is defined by such terms as ‘trust, respect, and equality… and parental knowledge is underlined’ (Alasuutari, 2010, p. 150). The initiation of a collaborative partnership is the role of the ECEC and requires expert collaboration skills in meeting families with understanding and respect. Particularly, in meetings when a translator may be needed so that both parties can understand one and another. This is important when special support is identified for a child and for the parents to meet with child support team. An important requirement is for parents to be included in developing the ECEC environment together with the children and ECEC personnel. Different technological solutions are encouraged to be used. For example,


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all necessary information can be found online. Schools can ask parents to participate by filling out parental questionnaires online as well as use ­different online tools for communication. An expected outcome is that the co-operation will also support the parent-to-parent interaction, strengthen the sense of community between the parents and further give support to personnel’s everyday work. Partnerships have multiple functions and can take on different forms during the child’s ECEC. For instance, to promote the child’s everyday learning and development experience that are shared with parents or aid the process of creating a trusting environment between the guardians and personnel. The latter being of particular importance in challenging situations where there might, for example, be a concern regarding the child’s well-being. The observations parents and the personnel make and share with each other form the basis for the child’s overall well-being and the positive development. Partnerships are crucial especially during transitional phases, whether the child enters the next level in ECEC or transferred to year 1 of primary school. In summary, the importance of open and positive dialogue is specifically important during two occasions: (1) design of an ECEC educational plan and (2) a support plan for child’s development and learning. Both plans are described in more detail within the National Core Curriculum. In Finland, there are two parent’s associations, one working with the Finnish language preschools and schools and one working with the Swedish preschools. These two parent organisations collaborate as a central association organising all local parent associations in schools and preschools. The central associations provide a variety of projects and information in different forms for both parents and teachers. They also work with policy makers across the country. The goal of this work is to strengthen a positive dialogue between parents and early childhood and school environment as well as lift the parent’s voices. The associations have a functional status in the society and they employ several full-time specialists (who are teachers with vast experience of collaboration in the field).

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 esearch on Parent/Carer Involvement R in ECEC, Finland ECEC teachers in Finland require expert skills in collaborating with parents (Alasuutari, 2010). The challenge is to agree on the interpretation of partnership and participation. In the vertical frame the collaboration is considered as a hierarchical relationship, but in the horizontal frame, which reflects the partnership approach, parallel expertise and proximity are emphasised. However, the idea of partnership seems to lead to varying interpretations about what partnership and parent participation mean in practice. An International Parent-Professional Partnership (IPP) research study conducted by Hujala et al. (2009) focused on the contemporary challenges of the parent-teacher partnerships in early childhood education from a cross-cultural perspective. The purpose of the research was to examine parent-teacher partnerships in ECEC services in five countries: Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Norway and Portugal. The survey questionnaire focused on teachers’ views of parents’ involvement in ECEC centres. According to the results there were differences in teachers’ approaches to parent-teacher partnerships between societies as well as within each country. Parents also differed in their capacity to develop and maintain partnerships with teachers. There were differences in the professional status of the teachers in each country, which were connected to the parents’ role in the parent-teacher partnerships in ECEC services. In another study conducted by Hakyemez-Paul et al. (2018), with a sample of 287 educators with both qualitative and quantitative data. According to the results, the Finnish early childhood educators have in general a positive attitude towards parental involvement. However, participants stated that difficulties in parental involvement are often caused by poor parental motivation and a lack of time on the part of both educators and parents. However, deeper analysis revealed that these positive attitudes were somewhat superficial and Finnish early childhood educators want to restrict education to institutions and regard parents as passive. These attitudes teachers have can be viewed from many perspectives. In their study Venninen and Purola (2013) identified three different ways to characterise educator’s attitudes in Finland concerning parents’


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­ articipation in ECEC. These were (1) the professional, (2) the customer p and (3) the partnership perspectives. In the professional perspective the ECEC professional takes an expert role in discussion with parents. From the customer perspective, parent satisfaction is the driving force. The challenge for ECEC educators from the customer perspective might be that the expertise, responsibility and experience of the child lie with the parents. Partnership perspective includes the two previous perspectives. The staff that acquires the partnership standpoint seems to have best possibilities to cooperate successfully with parents. ECEC services in Finland maintain a central role supporting families with young children. How this partnership between families and service providers conducted and understood is dependent on the political, societal and cultural changes in the nation’s context (Vlasov & Hujala, 2017). In the forthcoming section introduced is an overview of the Swedish ECEC sector, guiding ECEC documentation and research on parent involvement.

Overview of Swedish ECEC A ‘school for all’ is a policy deeply embedded in the Swedish Education Act where it has been since the 1960s (Gerrbo, 2012). A school for all is a fundamental aspect of Sweden, its democracy and welfare state (Uusimäki, Garvis, & Sharma, 2018). Sweden is committed to the continuous provision of a free and comprehensive education, where ‘all children, young people, and adults should be given the opportunity to test and develop their ability and their skills to their full potential, irrespective of age, gender or disability’ (Ministry of Education & Research, 2016). This perspective aligns with Swedish values and underpins several international conventions signed by Sweden to prevent exclusionary activities in schooling (Uusimäki et  al., 2018). The recent vote by the Swedish government for the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to be law in Sweden is a clear indication of this (The law comes to effect 2020). The inclusion of all children begins in the Swedish Förskola (or preschool) between the ages of one and five where currently 84% of all Swedish children attend, including children with diverse and special

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needs (Axelsson, 2017). Children under 12 months do not attend preschool due to the generous parental leave offered by the government and with the carer often during the first months is the mother. Children, in general, begin preschool between 15 and 18  months. Preschools offer full-time care and flexible hours to meet the needs of working parents. Swedish Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) is in the main publicly funded by the municipalities. The year when children turn six, they attend the compulsory preschool class and begin their journey through the ten-year compulsory Swedish schooling. The Swedish Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) (Skolverket, 2011) is based on a holistic perspective of the child where child development is recognised as a dynamic and closely interwoven interaction between children’s physical and mental circumstances, and the environment. There is an emphasis on play, imagination, being creative and exploring the nature and the world. Learning is related to care that provides a sense of well-being and forms the basis for development and learning. Included in learning is the idea of a ‘pedagogical’ meal where children learn about social skills and the value of nutrition and different foods. The Swedish ECEC curriculum promotes fundamental democratic values such as lifelong learning, social justice, equity, respect for human rights and the environment, values that are to reflect in the attitudes and pedagogical approaches of all EC teachers and staff. Currently more than half of Sweden’s Early Childhood (EC)/Preschool teachers employed in preschools are university graduates. The other half of EC/Preschool staff are made up of childcare assistant who has obtained a childcare assistant certificate (barnskötarutbildning) after completing a two-year course in upper secondary school, which that permits them to work with young children (Larsson, Antelius, & Sellin, 2017). At present Sweden is experiencing an acute lack of qualified EC/ Preschools teachers, which has led to unqualified personnel working in Swedish EC/Preschool settings often without any teaching qualifications or experience (see Skolverket, 2017). In response, the Swedish School Commission (2017) has put forward recommendations of alternative pathways to support EC/Preschool staff without formal qualification to obtain childcare certification while working in EC/Preschool


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settings. A fast track programme to support qualified teachers from non-Swedish backgrounds to register as teachers has also been approved and will commence in 2018 (Larsson et  al., 2017; Swedish School Commission, 2017).

ECEC Steering Documents in Sweden In Sweden, majority of children may spend up to eight hours or more a day in preschool and while the expectation is that the preschool teachers are responsible for the pedagogical and social activities, the parents are responsible for the child’s upbringing and development. According to the Swedish preschool steering document, the role of the preschool is to ‘supplement the home by creating the best possible preconditions for ensuring that each child’s development is rich and varied. Thus, the preschool’s work with children should take place in close and confidential co-­ operation with the home. Parents should have the opportunity to, within the framework of the national goals, be involved- and influence activities in the preschool. A prerequisite for children and parents to have the opportunity of exercising influence is that the preschool is clear about its goals and what its work involves’ (Skolverket, Lpfö 98, 2016). The guidelines of the curriculum dictate that the preschool teachers and preschool work team are responsible for the following: Preschool teachers are responsible for: • each child, together with their parents, receiving a good introduction to the preschool, • for ensuring that parents receive opportunities to participate and exercise influence over how goals can be made concrete in pedagogical planning, • for the content of the development dialogue, its structure and how it is carried out, and • for involving guardians in assessing the work of the preschool (Skolverket, Lpfö 98, 2016).

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The work team is to: • show respect for parents and be responsible for developing good relationships between staff of the preschool and the children’s families, • maintaining an on-going dialogue with guardians on the child’s well-­ being, development and learning, both inside and outside the preschool, and holding development talks at least once a year, and • take due account of parents’ viewpoints when planning and carrying out activities (Skolverket, Lpfö 98, 2016). Source: Swedish National Agency for Education, Curriculum for the Preschool lpfö 98, revised 2010 Thus, the role of the parent in the Swedish preschool curriculum embodies the idea that Swedish society has a comprehensive and holistic view of the child, meaning ‘the whole child.’ ‘The whole child’ refers to all aspects of the child, which is a preschool perspective, and means that the child’s entire day is carefully planned for, including routines for meals, toilet needs, sleep, and learning through play. These areas of the child’s pedagogical day must also represent the parent’s needs about their child, on a holistic as well as practical level (Markström & Simonsson, 2017). Some municipalities are discussing a possible restructuring on what is today referred to as Brukarråd or Föräldraråd. This is the Swedish version of a parent association where parents are provided a forum in which they ‘receive opportunities to participate and exercise influence over how goals can be made concrete in pedagogical planning’ (Skolverket, Lpfö 98, 2016). This includes but is not limited to routines, meals, menus, daily activities, annual activities, general structure of communication and so on. However, several weaknesses have been identified in the practical organisation of these associations, resulting in the inconsistent execution of meetings as well as confusion regarding the general understanding of what the association is expected to achieve. The primary weaknesses that one municipality identified were that there are significant discrepancies between the curriculum statement about preschool responsibility, ‘for ensuring that parents receive opportunities to participate and exercise influence over how goals can be made concrete in pedagogical planning’ (Skolverket, Lpfö 98, 2016), and the meaning of ‘receiving opportunities to participate and exercise influence’ in fact means. Parents experience


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that meetings mostly centred around maintenance issues, rather than goals in pedagogical planning. The lack of clarity regarding what the terms ‘influence’ and ‘participation’ means to each individual family, as well as to each individual preschool teacher within each preschool, prompted a call for change. To discover how this organisation can be better structured to ensure that the parents can be actively involved in the planning of the curriculum, one municipality in the west of Sweden has decided to form an overarching umbrella association. This association consists of four parents from various pre- and primary schools who have come together under the encouragement of the Educational Development Manager in the municipality. The team has recently established channels of communication with local politicians to re-assess the objectives of a Swedish parent association and ultimately to determine in what capacity (this) benefits the children. The team is currently in discussion with the municipality’s secondary school student board, as well as local politicians, to identify where it is that parents need to place emphasis for the children’s voices to be heard better. It is believed that to proceed, tasks such as clarifying terminology and curriculum content must be addressed to achieve change and progress within parent-teacher boards/associations in Sweden. Furthermore, there is an overall heavy emphasis on establishing strong teacher-parent relationships in the Swedish National Curriculum for Preschools (Lpfö̈ 98, Lpo 94 & Lgr 11 chapters 1–2), as parental involvement in preschool activities is seen as necessary for reasons such as promoting a healthy development of the child, as well as socialisation and learning through play (Johansson & Pramling Samuelsson, 2006; Löfdahl & Hägglund, 2006; Widding & Berge, 2004).

 esearch on Parent/Carer Involvement R in ECEC, Sweden Since the 1970s, Swedish childcare and preschool system has become one of the primary foundations upon which Swedish family policy is built (Gunnarsson, Korpi, & Nordenstam, 1999; Hiilamo, 2004). The constant boundary work between the home and preschool requires parents to

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be active when the child is introduced into the preschool system, and one of the primary curriculum-based policies in the Swedish system is that each preschool works on parent active schooling. This principle ‘governs parents to take a more self-regulating role in preschool from the beginning’ (Markström & Simonsson, 2017). By this is meant that the parent has an open invitation to participate in their child’s life in preschool and that both their physical presence and opinions regarding both social and pedagogical planning are welcomed. The domain between home and preschool in Sweden today is one of the constant negotiations between understanding the various terminology, personal background and home culture as well as views on how to raise and educate children (Persson & Tallberg Broman, 2017). From a research perspective, the three primary discourses that have been identified are responsibility, performativity and efficiency (Karlsson, Löfdahl, & Prieto, 2013; Markström & Simonsson, 2017). As Swedish children are usually introduced to preschool between 15 and 18 months of age, preschool teachers are in accordance with the curriculum, responsible for ensuring that each family has a good introduction to their child’s start at preschool (Skolverket, Lpfö 98, 2016; OECD Family Database, 2017). This introduction is assumed to be at the root of the child’s well-being in preschool and allows parents and teachers to get to know each other. Furthermore, the curriculum allows for some flexibility in interpretation which allows for the various municipalities and the individual preschools within, to adopt this introduction according to their preschool’s internal culture (Markström & Simonsson, 2017).

Comparing the Two Contexts: Key Messages After reflecting on both Finland and Sweden, differences as well as similarities emerge. First, both countries have generally high preschool participation rates for children compared to many countries around the world. All children are included in the education systems and generally have access to qualified early childhood staff (though in the Swedish context this was also identified as problematic). The early childhood systems have also been established over several years and have governance from


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national steering documents. The key message is that both countries have a generally high-quality early childhood system that provides opportunities for all children to be included in preschool. Parents appear to take up preschool for their children. Finland has a long history of parent and school collaboration. A Swedish language Parents’ Association was founded into Finland in 1969 and it has nowadays a strong societal status. Their work has expanded towards ECEC context during the last years. Similarly, during the 1960s in Sweden a Parents’ Association was founded, but their work was put down. In Sweden a similar association, working in the interface of ECEC and parents for the benefit of the children, is highly needed. In both countries there is a document that has written sections about parental involvement. Both countries’ documents describe parental involvement as a form of collaboration and co-operation, with examples given of working towards positive parental involvement. Information sharing and communication appear vital to each country to achieve productive parental involvement relationships. However while Sweden has a small section on parental involvement, Finland has one chapter explaining the partnership as well as the responsibilities. In Finland this partnership is called in Finnish ‘Kasvatuskumppanuus,’ which is translated into educational partnership in English. Therefore, in Finland the partnership with the parents is seen as continuum of the educational context. The partnership is also seen as vital in both countries during transitional phases (such as starting preschool or leaving preschool for formal schooling). Both countries also stipulate the importance of educational planning for the child’s learning and development and provide examples of how this is done for teachers and preschools. The key message is that the joint planning is based on productive communication between parent/ guardian and the preschool. This approach, however, could also be considered a ‘one approach fits all’ with prescribed ways of how the parent and teacher should participate (mandated expectations and involvement). There is a definite need in both countries for future research about parental involvement in preschools. In both countries, current research about parental involvement is scarce, especially from the perspectives of families and children. There appears slightly more research in the Finnish context compared to the Swedish context. Of research that has been

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c­ onducted on parent involvement, the teacher voice has been explored, also showing the misconceptions teacher sometimes have about working with families. It is crucial that such misconceptions are challenged to ensure parents feel a partner in their child’s participation in preschool, rather than in a power relationship with the preschool. The key message from comparing the limited research is that more is needed within this topic in both countries, to explore the different perspectives that interplay together (teachers, parents and children). Research is needed on the complexity of what co-operation, partnership and collaboration actually means within both contexts. The two countries appear to share more similarities than differences in relation to parent involvement in preschools. The challenge, however, is the reality of steering documents as they are implemented into daily practices and routines within the preschools. While both countries have robust early childhood education systems, the next stage appears to be understanding and involving all families, while also understanding cultural and contextual differences that are at play. Finland has a head start with a very strong parent’s organisation that has a strong profile across Europe. Here the teacher education plays an important role in preparing future teachers to collaborate in educational partnership with parents for the best interest of the children.

Conclusion This chapter has provided a descriptive comparison of parent involvement in early childhood education and care in Finland and Sweden. Three areas were provided for comparison: context, steering documents and country-specific research. From this, we can identify the importance of parental involvement in steering documents and the growing field of Nordic parental involvement research that provides a mirror to the steering documents enacted. From the Finnish context, an entire chapter is dedicated to working in collaboration with parents and guardians for the best outcomes for children. In the Swedish context collaboration with parents is also presented in the curriculum, with direct statements about the preschool responsibility for supporting parents. This suggests that at


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a steering document level, there is strong support and organisation for parental involvement. What this looks like however in practice can be different. What is clear is that more research is needed within the specific field of Nordic ECEC and parental involvement, specifically around the actual enactment of policy into practice and the perspectives of parents, teachers and children from preschool (collaboration triad). The voices of this collaboration triad appear absent within the research rhetoric, and it is vital that reflections are made from preschools across both countries.

References Alasuutari, M. (2010). Striving at Partnership: Parent–Practitioner Relationships in Finnish Early Educators’ Talk. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 18(2), 149–161. Axelsson, M. (2017). Förskolans arbete med särskilt stöd. Skolinspektionen. Retrieved from Dgranskning/Kvalitetsgranskning/Skolinspektionen-granskar-kvaliteten/forskolans-arbete-med-sarskilt-stod/ Christenson, S. L. (2004). The Family-School Partnership: An Opportunity to Promote the Learning Competence of All Students. School Psychology Review, 33, 83–104. El Nokali, N. E., Bachman, H. J., & Votruba-Drzal, E. (2010). Within- and Between-Child Parent Involvement and Academic and Social Skills in Elementary School. Child Development, 81, 988–1005. Fantuzzo, J., Tighe, E., & Childs, S. (2000). Family Involvement Questionnaire: A Multivariate Assessment of Family Participation in Early Childhood Education. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92, 367–376. Gerrbo, I. (2012). Idén om en skola för alla och specialpedagogisk organisering i praktiken. Doctoral Thesis, Gothenburg Studies in Educational Sciences 326. Retrieved August 18, 2017, from Gunnarsson, L.  M., Korpi, B., & Nordenstam, U. (1999). Early Childhood Education and Care Policy in Sweden. Stockholm: Ministry of Education and Science. Hakyemez-Paul, S., Pihlaja, P., & Silvennoinen, H. (2018). Parental Involvement in Finnish Daycare – What Do Early Childhood Educators Say? European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 26(2), 258–273. /10.1080/1350293X.2018.1442042

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Harju-Luukkainen, H., Nissinen, K., Sulkunen, S., & Suni, M. (2014). Avaimet osaamiseen ja tulevaisuuteen: Selvitys maahanmuuXajataustaisten nuorten osaamisen tasosta ja siihen liittyvistä taustatekijöistä PISA 2012  – tutkimuksessa [Keys to Competence and Future. A Report on PISA 2012 Results and Related Underlying Factors for Students With an Immigrant Background]. Jyväskylä: Finnish Institute for Educational Research. Hiilamo, H. (2004). Changing Family Policy in Sweden and Finland During the 1990s. Social Policy and Administration, 38(1), 21–40. Hujala, E., Turja, L., Gaspar, M. F., Veisson, M., & Waniganayake, M. (2009). Perspectives of Early Childhood Teachers on Parent-Teacher Partnerships in Five European Countries. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 17(1), 57–76. Johansson, E., & Pramling Samuelsson, I. (2006). Play and Learning-Inseparable Dimensions in Preschool Practice. Early Child Development and Care., 176(3–4), 441. Jyrhämä, R., & Maaranen, K. (2012). Research Orientation in a Teacher’s Work. In H. Niemi, A. Toom, & A. Kallioniemi (Eds.), Miracle of Education. The Principles and Practices of Teaching and Learning in Finnish Schools (pp. 97–111). Rotterdam: Sence Publishers. Kansanen, P. (2006). Constructing a Research-Based Program in Teacher Education. In F. K. Oser, F. Achtenhagen, & U. Renold (Eds.), Competence Oriented Teacher Training. Old Research Demands and New Pathways (pp. 11–22). Rotterdam and Taipei: Sense Publishers. Karlsson, M., Löfdahl, A., & Prieto, H. P. (2013). Morality in Parents’ Stories of Preschool Choice: Narrating Identity Positions of Good Parenting. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 34(2), 208–224. Larsson, I., Antelius, J., & Sellin, A. (2017). Förskolans kvalitet och måluppfyllelse. Delrapport 2. Skolinspektionen. Retrieved August 20, 2017, from Löfdahl, A., & Hägglund, S. (2006). Power and Participation: Social Representations Among Children in Pre-school. Social Psychology of Education, 9(2), 179–194. Markström, A.-M., & Simonsson, M. (2017). Introduction to Preschool: Strategies for Managing the Gap Between Home and Preschool. Nordic Journal of Studies in Educational Policy, 3(2), 179–188. 80/20020317.2017.1337464 Ministry of Education and Research. (2016). Towards an Outstanding Knowledge Nation with Equal Education and World-Class Research. Swedish


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Government. Reference No.: Article: U16.005. Retrieved from http://www. Opetushallitus (OPH). (2016). National Core Curriculum for Early Childhood Education and Care 2016. Retrieved from tuote/national-core-curriculum-for-early-childhood-education-and-care2016/2453249 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development – Family Database. (2017). Key Characteristics of Parental Leave Systems. OECD – Social Policy Division – Directorate of Employment, Labour, and Social Affairs. Retrieved from Persson, S., & Tallberg Broman, I. (2017). Early Childhood Education and Care as a Historically Located Place – The Significance for Parental Cooperation and the Professional Assignment. Nordic Journal of Studies in Educational Policy, 3(2), 189–199. Pölkki, P.  J., & Vornanen, R.  H. (2016). Role and Success of Finnish Early Childhood Education and Care in Supporting Child Welfare Clients: Perspectives from Parents and Professionals. Early Childhood Education Journal, 44(6), 581–594. Siraj-Blatchford, I. (2010). Learning in the Home and at School: How Working Class Children Succeed Against the Odds. British Educational Research Journal, 36(3), 463–482. Skolverket. (2011). Preschool Curriculum (Läroplan för förskolan, Lpfö), 1998, and the Amended Preschool Curriculum 2010. Skolverket. (2016). Läroplan för förskolan. Lpfö 98. Stockholm: Skolverket. Skolverket. (2017). Andelen obehöriga lärare ökar. Retrieved from https://www. Swedish School Commission. (2017). Samling för skolan. Nationell strategi för kunskap och likvärdighet. Stockholm, Statens Offentliga Utredningar (SOU 2107:35). Terveyden ja hyvinvoinnin laitos (THL). (2017). Varhaiskasvatus 2016 [Early Childhood Education in 2016]. Tilastoraportti 29/2017. Retrieved from Uusimäki, L., Garvis, S., & Sharma, U. (2018). Swedish Final Year Early Childhood Preservice Teachers’ Intentions, Attitudes, and Concerns Towards Inclusion. International Journal of Special Needs Education. https://doi. org/10.9782/17-00034

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Venninen, T., & Purola, K. (2013). Educators’ Views on Parents’ Participation on Three Different Identified Levels. Journal of Early Childhood Education Research, 2(1), 48–62. Vlasov, J., & Hujala, E. (2017). Parent-Teacher Cooperation in Early Childhood Education – Directors’ Views to Changes in the USA, Russia, and Finland. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 25(5), 732–746. 93X.2017.1356536 Widding, G., & Berge, B.-M. (2004). Implementing a National Curriculum in Swedish Preschools: Teachers’ and Parents’ Experiences of Using Parents as Resources in Swedish Primary Education. International Journal of Early Childhood Education, 10(2), 53–78. Printed with Permission from the Korean Society for Early Childhood Education. Yamamoto, Y., & Holloway, S. D. (2010). Parental Expectations and Children’s Academic Performance in Sociocultural Context. Educational Psychology Review, 22(3), 189–214.

6 Negotiating ‘Real Families’ in Swedish Preschools Anette Hellman

Introduction The Nordic countries have become increasingly diverse as a result of immigration. As such, questions of democracy, belonging, citizenship and social justice are highlighted as important for preschool children. Generally, education is seen as a key to competitiveness, social welfare, equality and well-being in all Nordic societies. Preschool is seen as an essential place for equity and social justice for children (Wagner & Einarsdottir, 2006). A manifestation of this may be found in national policy acts across the Nordic countries where early childhood education settings are defined as arenas for social and cultural interactions, aimed to prepare the coming generations for life in an increasingly internationalized society. In preschool it is common to work with activities and themes such as ‘family’, as a way of taking a holistic perspective on children and includ-

A. Hellman (*) University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 S. Garvis et al. (eds.), Nordic Families, Children and Early Childhood Education, Studies in Childhood and Youth,



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ing children’s experiences from home. Including diverse families and highlighting good communication and cooperation between preschool and home cultures is one successful way to work with social justice in preschool (Paavola, 2017). This includes teaching about families in an equal way where language and other forms of communication are essential parts of construction of normality. Research has shown how preschool tends to function as a ‘bridge’ between the newly arrived children and their families and society, explaining not only practical things, but also norms and expectations in the Swedish society. Some of these norms relate to being a family in a proper and civilized way. Taking the point of departure from Swedish preschools working with thematic work on ‘my family’, this chapter explores how norms and values about Swedishness and gender are negotiated through ideals about ‘real’ families. The teacher and children aged three to five years participated. It will be argued that it is a democratic necessity to recognize the complexity of categorizations such as ‘civilized families’ and ‘Swedishness’. Using concepts on normalization and civilizing processes (Butler, 2013; Elias, 1994; Gulløv, 2011) two main themes will be presented on teachers’ and children’s negotiations about Swedishness and gender, namely, diverse families; narrow understandings of national backgrounds and home cultures and teaching Swedish values and Swedish language. These themes will be further developed in the findings section, where examples from children, principals, parents and teachers will be presented.

The Research Context and Method The Nordic educational platform presents a holistic view on education and care (EduCare) where academic, emotional and social needs of children are seen as intertwined and where children are viewed as active initiators in their own learning processes (Einarsdottir & Wagner, 2006; Engdahl & Ärlemalm-Hagsér, 2015; Garvis & Ødegaard, 2017). The national curriculum for early childhood education as well as local Swedish policy documents describes diversity as a positive resource in early childhood education settings. Diversity and questions about inclusion are also highlighted as important questions for the teachers in preschools.

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However, inclusion can be understood in quite a different way, such as promoting and putting the teaching of Swedish values and Swedish language, while still opening up for a diversity of home cultures and languages. Results in this chapter are based on data produced in the project ‘learning spaces for inclusion and social justice, success stories from four Nordic countries’ founded by Nordforsk 2013–2016. Preschools were chosen based on their previous work with social justice, inclusion and diversity (the SALSA database was used for the schools. Preschools were linked to the chosen schools and judged by school authorities to be successful in implementing learning spaces for all children). The sample included two preschools, one in an urban area and one in a rural area. The researcher, Anette Hellman,1 visited both preschools several times for interviewing and observing various activities over a period of four months between 2014 and 2015. Data came from field notes, observations, photographs, children’s drawings and local policy documents that were produced in both settings. Semi-structured interviews were also chosen. Themes in the interviews were principals’, teachers’ and children’s experiences of social justice, diversity, inclusion and exclusion in preschool practice. All interviews were recorded and transcribed. Excerpts from the interviews have been translated into English by the author.

The Preschools The village preschool was situated in a village. The municipality has a population of 38,000 inhabitants, of which 10% were born outside Sweden. Apart from Swedish, eight different languages were spoken by the children. There were around 100 children and 40% of children used another language at home other than Swedish. The preschool had five groups of children divided by age (four groups with children one to three years of age and one group with children three to five years of age). In the observed

 Anette Hellman worked as the national leader for the Swedish research team with specific focus on the Early Childhood Education from a Nordic perspective. 1


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group (three- to five-year-old children) there were two preschool teachers who had university degrees in education and one nursery teacher. The city preschool was situated in an urban area of Sweden with approximately 48,000 inhabitants, of which 70% were born outside Sweden. Apart from Swedish, 15 different languages were spoken among the children including sign language. A total of 22 children attended the city preschool. The educators included two female preschool teachers with university degrees in education, one female nursery teacher and one female assistant. None of the teachers had an immigrant background. The educator retention rate was high. The preschool consisted of one group of children aged one-and-a-half to five years.

Theoretical Framework A theoretical framework with inspiration from Norbert Elias’ work on civilization processes (Elias, 1994) and Judith Butler’s work on norm and normality processes (Butler, 1993, 2004) was used in order to understand and analyse how teachers work with the theme ‘my family’. Judith Butler has explored the effects of norms of gender and sexuality and how these norms repeat and connect to nationality. Some norms are given hegemonic order for certain bodies, desired behaviours and ways of organized life that open up for processes of normality where, for instance, some institutions, families or individuals are produced as recognizable and understandable and given an included position as ‘normal’, while others are produced as impossible to understand, marginalized and given a position as ‘un normal’. A way of discussing how ‘Swedishness’ and normality are produced in preschool is by looking at the institutions where teachers have obligations to teach certain values that are linked to the national curriculum, exploring concepts of socialization and civilization. Elias (1994) has shown how processes of civilization, even if they may occur in other contexts, often manifest in specific ways in western societies due to the central role of the state. The combination of state monopolization and increased integration has led to greater physical security for the members of a society, and over time, a general aversion towards violence. What were earlier external

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requirements are gradually internalized as self-restraints associated with feelings of shame or disgust over uncivilized behaviour of yourself or ­others and thus replace the fear of aggression of others. What is understood as ‘civilized behaviour’ will then be an important part of normality and shame, where self-regulation is central in order to uphold respectability. It is through social interaction, and particularly so in childhood, that an individual will learn to adjust their own drives in relation to society’s norms. However, this does not mean that ‘uncivilized and uncontrolled behaviours’ is no longer present in the social life. Rather, they become a marker of taboo of key cultural significance (Douglas, 2003). In this chapter, I will discuss what in the investigated preschools was understood as ‘uncontrolled’ notions of the concept of ‘family’ and the markers of key cultural significance as teachers tried to teach immigrant children and their families how to be (come) Swedish.

Analysis The data used in this chapter were produced in a project on social justice and diversity in Norway, Island, Finland and Sweden. The project ‘learning spaces for inclusion and social justice’ explored how schools and preschools created social just learning spaces through theories of multicultural education, with the core of developing multicultural educational practices (Banks, 2013; Nieto & Bode, 2010). In relation to the scope of this book on children and families, this means that early childhood teachers counteract norms about lack of abilities among children and their families through a more holistic approach based on knowledge about diverse experiences of children and their families (Biesta, 2015; Hellman & Lauritsen, 2017; Hellman, Lunneblad, & Odenbring, 2017; Palludan, 2017). Hence, social justice emerges when teachers structure learning environments with a focus on participation. This includes diverse children as well as diverse families and an awareness of discrimination against and inequity of families (May & Sleeter, 2010). It is therefore important to highlight a diversity of family backgrounds and to emphasize children’s potentials and competences. This perspective also includes viewing multicultural education as emerging from an ethical stance, which puts the


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concept of care and the ability to create intersubjective encounters for learning (Johansson, 2004; Noddings, 2013) at the centre of the professional identity and professional development of teachers. The data in the project were initially analysed in a national Swedish context and thereafter in cross-country analyses across the Nordic countries. Using an ethnographic analysis model where data production, analysis and writing of field notes were done in a holistic way, certain tracks of meaning were identified (Sanjek, 1990). These tracks of meaning were ‘real families’, ‘Swedishness’ and ‘children’s resistance’. A reanalysis of the text was made for this chapter, where concepts on civilization processes (Elias, 1994; Gulløv, 2011) and normality production (Butler, 1993, 2004) were used in order to further understand the way ideals of ‘proper families’ and ‘Swedishness’ were negotiated in the preschools. Two main points emerged: (1) diverse families; narrow understandings of national background and home cultures and (2) teaching Swedish values and Swedish language. These points will be discussed in the following section.

Findings Both ‘city preschool’ and ‘rural preschool’ had a large number of multilingual children in their settings. A common pattern was a strong focus on inclusive work in daily activities with language and communication, something also reflected in national and local policy documents. One example was from the quality report at the city preschool, where the children’s backgrounds were described as part of their identity and where diversity was seen as part of Swedish identity. However, in the preschool practice there were several different interpretations of the concept of inclusion and diversity. As described by Hellman et  al. (2017) teachers and principals could describe the importance of working with inclusion but at the same time have actions linked to different practices. Sometimes teachers and principals would have actions where the Swedish language was seen as the number one language. At other times, teachers and principals would focus on the diversity of languages where children were encouraged to speak their first language(s) in the preschool as well as

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Swedish where communication was seen as the basis for participation in social relations. The latter was the most common way of working with language and inclusion in the settings, and several teachers emphasized that a child’s first language(s) is an important part of her or his identity. The importance for children’s ability to communicate in a ‘safe’ and more known language was also highlighted. In the reanalysis of the data for this chapter, it became clear that it was the concept of diversity and diverse families that was understood in different ways and linked to narrow understandings of home cultures.

 iverse Families; Narrow Notions of National D Backgrounds and Notions of Home Cultures All the preschools in the study described how they worked with inclusion, diversity and social justice. One common way was to highlight diversity by linking children to their presumed national background. In the following example, I will discuss how this was done in relation to a teacher’s presentation of the theme ‘my family’, posted in the preschool entrance: All children have photos of themselves above their pigeon-holes in the preschool entrance. There is a wall full of pictures and photos from the present theme ‘My family’ where the children have placed pictures and photos of their family members and houses. A map of the world is also placed here where the children’s names are linked to certain countries across the world and Sweden. As the researcher enters the room, the children present themselves with the help of the map. Kalle: Peter and I are from the same country Peter: Yeah, I am also 5 years old, just like you Kalle. Kalle: Yeah, but I am still a bit more since I have already had my birthday. But Peter, we are actually talking about our countries here! We do live in the same country Anette. It is our names there on Sweden. Fatima: But Anette, I also live in Sweden! Peter: No Fatima, You are in another country, you have a string to another country and you are not together with us other here in Sweden on this map.


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Fatima: But I am in Sweden! I am also 5 years old and also in Sweden! You are stupid, Peter! Peter: But it might be that your father or mother is living in another country, Fatima? Fatima: No! My father and mother also live with me in my family here in Sweden! Anette, that map is wrong! That map is stupid!

Using Butler’s concepts on normality production (Butler, 1993, 2004) (Horst & Gitz-Johansen, 2010), the theme ‘My family’ can be analysed. The children seemed to have little influence on the way some children, such as Peter and Kalle, are linked to ‘Sweden’ and others, such as Fatima, to other countries across the world. Even if the children not had been involved in this process, they tried to (re)negotiate positions produced through the teachers ‘mapping’ of children and their families as ‘Swedes’ and ‘non-Swedes’. Kalle and Peter start by introducing themselves, not only belonging to the status filled group of older children in the preschool (Hellman, Heikkilä, & Sundhall, 2014) but also through a status filled position as ‘included Swedes’ (Lunneblad, 2017). The way their positions seemed to be understood by themselves and others as quite normal was challenged by Fatima, when she refused to accept the idea that she, her mother or her father did not belong to Sweden. She and her family lived in Sweden, just like the other children and their families. She refused to accept the marginalized position as ‘non-Swede’ given to her through the teachers map and wanted to be included in ‘normality’. One could argue that an easy way to solve this dilemma would be to ask the children themselves. However, this was not done in the village preschool, where the way of working with diversity and variation was according to fixed and categories of national backgrounds, where individuals were understood as belonging to a certain specific culture or nation, rather than multiple belongings based on children’s own understandings of their subjects, backgrounds and belongings (Horst & Gitz-Johansen, 2010; Lappalainen, 2009; Lunneblad, 2017). To be(come) ‘Swedish’ through such fixed understandings of Swedishness was difficult. As in the example of Fatima, she was born and living in Sweden, but categorized as ‘not belonging’ to Sweden and instead categorized to Somalia. The city

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­preschool worked in a different way with variation and diversity where a child’s multiple backgrounds became a normalized way to be a ‘Swedish preschool child’. Children could express multiple countries and languages, where multiple backgrounds become a marker of status. For example, a child claimed to ‘have’ Gambia, Somalia, Africa and Sweden (Hellman et al., 2014; Anette Hellman & Lauritsen, 2017). As a way of challenging narrow understandings of children’s essential national backgrounds, some teachers emphasized the idea of ‘home cultures’. The teacher called ‘Lotta’ discussed this in the following: We try to talk about children’s home cultures instead of talking about children from a specific Arabic, Swedish or whatever other culture. I mean. There is not one single culture in Sweden either, so why talk about culture as one? We think it is better to say that every family has their own little culture, your home culture, that of course also could be similar to others— but it is ok to be different as well. It is in fact interesting that we can do families in different ways and I think it is a necessity for inclusion, as long as we all stick to Swedish law of course.

In the quotation above, the teacher Lotta opens up for all children and all families in the group to use a position of ‘home culture’ in her effort to create a diverse environment. Her way of using a new concept could be understood as a way of deconstructing essential understandings of national background and Swedishness in language and practice (Butler, 2013). There is however obvious risks that the concept of ‘home culture’ could be understood as quite narrow and stereotype if ‘culture’ was understood as fixed and singular. One way to work with inclusion and diversity could be to highlight multiple belongings and open up positions of complexity, such as the child who discussed himself as ‘having Gambia, Somalia and Sweden’. In recent years, a popular way to work with such constructions of normality has been to work with the child’s home culture. However, there is a risk that narrow views about ‘culture’ are present in notions about children’s and families’ ‘home cultures’. With limited reflection and uncritical teaching on themes such as ‘home cultures’ or ‘my family’, there is also a risk that certain family values are linked to Swedishness and directed


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towards children and families with immigrant backgrounds. The next section provides perspectives on the second point, teaching Swedish values and civilization.

Teaching Swedish Values and Civilization Some teachers worked to make children use Swedish with the teachers and with one another, with Swedish deemed the proper language. Other languages were seen as a temporary help when the children were new in the preschool environment. This was, according to the teachers, a faster way for inclusion for children who did not yet speak Swedish, both in peer-to-peer relations in play and for the children and their families in Swedish society. To understand and learn ‘Swedishness’ through language was a matter of inclusion for the children. The Swedish-speaking preschool teachers also wanted to understand the conversations for the children in order to be able to hear what was going on. The teachers could also listen for events that may be considered unequal or undemocratic. This was also important for the principal who discussed the necessity to check if something turned out to be unequal, especially since they now received some Muslim families in preschool. Here emerged a production of normality where immigrant children and their families, especially Muslim families, were given positions as ‘unequal’ or ‘undemocratic’ (Hellman & Odenbring, 2017). The role of preschool was to act as a bridge ‘between society and immigrant children and their families’ and to teach ‘Swedish values’. Teachers thought was extra relevant for children with multicultural backgrounds (Gilliam & Gulløv, 2017). The teacher Lisa from ‘the rural preschool’ stated: Lisa: I have been working in many different groups and it is really important here in this group with children and families from so many different countries, to teach values such as children’s influence and gender equality. We need to discuss this with the children as well as with the parents, especially now with this group with so many Muslim boys. Also, it is important to teach Swedish traditions, so it will be easier for the children to blend in later on. Like Lucia and Christmas. We have also asked the families to buy a small Christmas gift for the children, since this is a Swedish tradition.

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Anette (researcher): Do you celebrate other traditions as well here at preschool, such as Ai Id (the end of Ramadhan, Muslim big tradition)? Lisa: No, that is not what we do; the thing is to explain the Swedish traditions, like Christmas, Swedish and seasons.

According to Lisa, it was important to teach values such as gender equality and traditions such as ‘Christmas’ in this group of children with Muslim boys. The teacher did not take account of the children’s experiences or family background but was only focused on the category of ‘Swedish’. Children in preschools have different family backgrounds. However, there is a risk that certain family ideals and family backgrounds repeatedly are put forward and hereby normalized (Butler, 2013), even if there exist an ambition to show a diversity of families (Eilard, 2009). Eilard shows in her study on ethnicity and gender in preschool class and school, how textbooks in Swedish tend to place children and families with diverse language and cultural backgrounds in marginalized positions. One example is ‘the immigrant girl’ and their mother, especially if they wear a veil, represented as passive and a victim of inequality. The position of ‘immigrant boys’ is often ascribed as rowdy, acting out, sporty and active. ‘Immigrant fathers’ are ascribed as dominant and oppressive, especially towards the mother and the girls. Hence, as other research has shown, unequal masculinity is placed somewhere else, outside the dominating discourse of white, middle-class men labelled as Swedish. In an ideal Swedish family, children are listened too without fear. When this image does not happen, it is exemplified as children from immigrant families, with Muslim religious heritage. The way some teachers emphasized a teaching of ‘Swedish values’ emerged in certain situations, such as when they discussed gender equality or in themes about ‘families’. In the following situation, the teacher Ella gathered nine four- and five-year-old children in order to work on activities around ‘My family’. Ella started by asking the children how many members they had in their family. The children started to count on their fingers, flapping with their hands in the air and describing all their family members. Lisa smiled and said that they were all very clever, but they now really have to listen very carefully in order to learn what a ‘proper family’ is in Sweden.


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Ella: A family in Sweden is the persons you live with—not everyone else. So if you think again and just count the persons living in your house or in your apartment Nora: I have an apartment… Ella: Yeah, and how many lives in your apartment? Those are the ones that you should paint in your drawing and later on I will write the names of those persons living in your apartment or in your house. Then we can put these lovely paintings on the wall in the entrance, so your mummies and daddies can see them when they pick you up. Wouldn’t that be nice? The children start to draw their families. Marco draws a colourful painting with ten persons, children and adults. One of them seems to be an older man in a wheelchair. Marco keeps talking while he is painting and tells me about his grandfather that he likes very much. “I will give grandpa an orange pullover…” Lisa walks around and writes names on all family members on the paintings. Ella: So is this your granddad Marco? Is he living in your apartment? Marco: This is my painting and I decide over the persons I paint. I want to do all persons in my family, not only the ones who lives there. Who lives in your apartment Ella? Ella: Ehhhh, me and my husband Kenneth…I am a family with Kenneth. Fatima: Is there no children in your family? I don’t think that is a fun family with no children Marco: Anyway, I will draw everybody because I like them Karim: Yes, I agree. I love my grandma as well I want her in the picture Ella: But, then you can draw two pictures. One real with the one living with you and then another one for fun Marco: My mother says that the ones you love is part of your family, that is anyway how I will paint

In the observation, a teaching of ‘proper’ families was produced through the teacher Ella’s way of normalizing a certain family ideal. While the children tried to build a concept of ‘family’ by including grandfathers, the teacher did not agree. Rather Ella insisted on a more narrow family ideal without a large extended family. This ideal was a small family with parents and children living together in one space. The way of ­organizing a family was put forward as ‘proper’ or seen as civilized and something that the group of children with immigrant backgrounds

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needed to learn. Hence, what is understood as ‘civilized behaviour’, is that a respectful family has a proper amount of members living together, creating normality (Elias, 1994). As shown in the observation, shame was used when the children used ‘family member’ in ways seen as less civilized. As discussed by both Elias and Douglas (2003) shame and selfregulation are central in order to create and uphold respectability. A lot of actions labelled as ‘uncivilized and uncontrolled behaviour’ may exist in preschool and the chapter has shown how children sometimes counteract them. These actions could also be understood as markers of taboo of key cultural significance (Douglas, 2003). If we explore the data on values taught to this particular group of children (and their families) through the concepts of civilization and markers of cultural taboo, it could be suggested that civilized behaviour is linked to ‘Swedishness’. Markers identified are gender equality, children’s influence and a specific family ideal where ‘family’ is a quite small unit consisting of two parents and some children. Elias’ (1994) concept of civilization processes focused on how actions relating to individuals bodies, such as eating, drinking and control of bodily expressions such as violence, aggression or sexuality, often became subject to normalization and shame. The example in this chapter shows how ‘uncontrolled family members’ became ‘uncivilized’. As such, an extended family of relatives, loved ones and friends become excluded and the markers of cultural taboo—actions marginalized from normality and civilized behaviour—may then be understood as uncontrolled categories of family members, uncontrolled number of family members and family members in wrong places. Other markers of cultural taboo seem to be unequal actions and a marginalization of children’s influence. I have shown how teachers and principals express the need to control groups of children and their families with an immigrant background, especially individuals with Muslim backgrounds who are seen as in extra need of teachers’ education and overview regarding these values. At the same time, children are given very little influence in situations where civilized behaviour is taught. Hence, there appears a one-way process thriving from the teacher towards the child. Further, normalization of gender equality and children’s influence as


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‘Swedishness’ seems to be produced with a low level of teachers’ self-­ reflection or critical analysis.2

Some Conclusions To conclude, it is problematic if teachers do not take the time to reflect on central concepts. Cummins (1996) has emphasized that educational settings with bilingual and multicultural children are sites where intercultural communication is part of the relationship between the children. However, these relations are never neutral in regard to societal structures and power relations. The communication and relations between educators and children can both reinforce and challenge these power relations. Cummins argues that one way to challenge power relations is for teachers to create what he defines as spaces of affirmation—relationships that offer children support to develop their senses of self and belonging. This chapter has shown a common pattern in the preschools around diversity, inclusion and social justice. In the teachers’ everyday work there were different interpretations around concepts of inclusion and diversity. For some teachers, diversity was understood as emphasizing rather essential understandings of children’s backgrounds and cultures, while others tended to open up for possibilities of having multiple belongings. Some teachers highlighted that all children have a culture such as a home culture. The concept of inclusion was also interpreted in different ways. The most common interpretation was to encourage a diversity of languages and to build on children’s different home cultures with the parents. For these teachers, variation was not only used as a way to create caring relationships (Noddings, 2013) but was also discussed as a fruitful learning space as a didactic tool. Another way of working with inclusion was to emphasize the need for children with diverse language or cultural backgrounds, to learn Swedish language by promoting only the Swedish language in preschool. These teachers discussed the importance for children to learn what was considered ‘Swedish values’ and traditions. Values  This is also true in terms of the Swedish concept ‘fostran’ (Bigsten, 2015), a concept with some similarities to ‘civilizing’. 2

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about ‘Swedishness’ were for these teachers often negotiated through ideas about ‘real’ families where certain values and norms (such as gender equality and children’s influence) were labelled as ‘Swedish’ and directed towards immigrant children (and their families). The label ‘family member’ also seemed to be important to learn in order to become a ‘Swedish family’, where only individuals living in the home environment was counted as ‘family’. Other ways of understanding ‘family’ put forward by the children (whose influence seldom was recognized by the teachers) such as ‘persons you love is your family’ were marginalized. However, some of the older children or children who could speak Swedish language often negotiated these norms and included beloved family members living in other countries or in other homes within their own norm. Is a family really a (fun) family without children?

References Banks, J.  A. (2013). The Construction and Historical Development of Multicultural Education, 1962–2012. Theory into Practice, 52(1), 73–82. Biesta, G. J. (2015). Beyond Learning: Democratic Education for a Human Future. London: Routledge. Bigsten, A. (2015). Fostran i förskolan. Gothenburg: University of Gothenburg. Butler, J. (1993). Bodies That Matter: On the Limits of “Sex”. London: Routledge. Butler, J. (2004). Undoing Gender. London: Routledge. Butler, J.  (2013). Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. London: Routledge. Cummins, J.  (1996). Negotiating Identities: Education for Empowerment in a Diverse Society. Ontario, CA: California Association for Bilingual Education. Douglas, M. (2003). Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. London: Routledge. Eilard, A. (2009). Förändrade geunsmönster i grundskolans läseböcker. In I. Wernersson (ed.), Genus i förskola och skola. Förändringar i policy, perspektiv och praktik. Göteborgs Universitet: Göteborg studies in educational sciences. Einarsdottir, J., & Wagner, J. A. (2006). Nordic Childhoods and Early Education: Philosophy, Research, Policy and Practice in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. Greenwich, CT: IAP.


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Elias, N. (1994). The Civilizing Process: The History of Manners and State Formation and Civilization (E. Jephcott, Trans.). Oxford: Blackwell. Engdahl, I., & Ärlemalm-Hagsér, E. (2015). Att bli förskollärare: Mångfacetterad komplexitet. Stockholm: Liber. Garvis, S., & Ødegaard, E. E. (2017). Nordic Dialogues on Children and Families. London: Routledge. Gilliam, L., & Gulløv, E. (2017). Children of the Welfare State. London: Pluto Press. Gulløv, E. (2011). Welfare and Self Care: Institutionalized Visions for a Good Life in Danish Day-Care Centres. Anthropology in Action, 18(3), 21–32. Hellman, A., Heikkilä, M., & Sundhall, J.  (2014). ‘Don’t Be Such a Baby!’Competence and Age as Intersectional Co-Markers on Children’s Gender. International Journal of Early Childhood, 46(3), 327–344. Hellman, A., & Lauritsen, K. (Eds.). (2017). Introduction (Vol. Diversity and Social Justice in Early Childhood Education, Nordic Perspectives). Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Hellman, A., Lunneblad, J., & Odenbring, Y. (Eds.). (2017). Children’s Notions About Inclusion, Exclusion and Diversity. In A.  Hellman & K.  Lauritsen (Eds.). Diversity and Social Justice in Early Childhood Education Nordic Perspective (pp. 92–110). Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press. Hellman, A., & Odenbring, Y. (2017). Constructions of Boyness in Early Childhood Education. In C. Haywood & T. Johansson (eds.), Marginalized Masculinities: Contexts, Continuities and Change. Routledge: New York & London. Horst, C., & Gitz-Johansen, T. (2010). Education of Ethnic Minority Children in Denmark: Monocultural Hegemony and Counter Positions. Intercultural Education, 21(2), 137–151. Johansson, E. (2004). Learning Encounters in Preschool: Interaction Between Atmosphere, View of Children and of Learning. International Journal of Early Childhood, 36(2), 9–26. Lappalainen, S. (2009). Making Differences and Reflecting on Diversities: Embodied Nationality Among Preschool Children. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 13(1), 63–78. Lunneblad, J. (2017). Integration of Refugee Children and Their Families in the Swedish Preschool: Strategies, Objectives and Standards. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 25(3), 359–369. 80/1350293X.2017.1308162

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May, S., & Sleeter, C. E. (2010). Critical Multiculturalism: Theory and Praxis. London: Routledge. Nieto, S., & Bode, P. (2010). Understanding Multicultural Education in a Sociopolitical Context. Language, Culture, and Teaching: Critical Perspectives, 38. Taylor and Francis on line. Noddings, N. (2013). Caring: A Relational Approach to Ethics and Moral Education. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Paavola, H. (2017). Included or Not? Factors Related to Successful Preschool Education in Multicultural Preschools from Parents Perspective. In A. Hellman & K. Lauritsen (eds.), Nordic Perspectives on Diversity and Social Justice in Early Childhood Education (pp.151–172). Newcastle upon Thyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Palludan, C. (2017). Language: A Matter of Inequality. In A.  Hellman & K. Lauritsen (Eds.), Diversity and Social Justice in Early Childhood Education: Nordic Perspectives (pp. 33–47). Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Sanjek, R. (1990). Fieldnotes: The Makings of Anthropology. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press. Wagner, J. T., & Einarsdottir, J. (2006). Nordic Ideals as Reflected in Nordic Childhoods and Early Education. In J. Einarsdottir & J. T.  Wagner (eds.), Nordic Childhoods and Early Education: Philosophy, Research, Policy and Practice in Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden  (pp. 1–12). Greenwich, CT: Information Age.

7 Instructional Practices in Early Swedish Immersion in Finland Heidi Harju-Luukkainen, Desmond Amakye, and Lisa Cederberg

Introduction In all of the Nordic countries, we have seen a rapid increase in the number of different languages spoken in early childhood education contexts. A widely agreed notion today is that bilingualism and multilingualism are important capital in the globalised world. Being able to speak different languages enables wider communication and understanding across countries and people. However, there is variance in how different Nordic countries support early language learning, which may even reflect ideological differences towards languages and language teaching (García, 2009; Garvis, Harju-Luukkainen, & Flynn, 2018). On the basis of national steering documents, Garvis et al. (2018) argue that Finland can

H. Harju-Luukkainen (*) Nord University, Bodø, Norway e-mail: [email protected] D. Amakye • L. Cederberg University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden © The Author(s) 2019 S. Garvis et al. (eds.), Nordic Families, Children and Early Childhood Education, Studies in Childhood and Youth,



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be seen as a country with a language ideology that gives larger possibilities for early language learning compared to Sweden, for instance. Further, they also argue that it is important for policymakers to consider the role of immersion programmes in early childhood services and at school. The purposes of the programmes need to be discussed, and there is a need for clear plans and guidelines for how to support bilingual and multilingual development during early childhood and the primary years of schooling. In the Finnish context, the different language learning possibilities during early childhood education are described in related steering documents. While we can find today various immersion or Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) programmes in Finland, the most popular one is Early Swedish Immersion (ESI). Its roots lie in French as second language education in Canada and further in Early French Immersion that was developed in St. Lambert in the 1960s (see also d’Anglejan & Tucker, 1971). In Finland, ESI is considered a successful approach (Harju-Luukkainen, 2007, 2013a, 2013b; Mård, 2002; Vesterbacka, 1990) in line with research findings for French immersion in Canada (Cummins, 1998; Genesee, 1987; Lambert & Tucker, 1972; Swain, 1999) and other countries as well (Kukk, Õunb, & Ugasteb, 2014). Even though ESI is the most common one, we can also find other immersion approaches in Finland. Therefore, nowadays the Swedish language immersion in Finland can be seen as an umbrella term that covers a wide range of different interpretations of the original Canadian model (for specifics, see Harju-Luukkainen, 2013b). According to Harju-­ Luukkainen (2013b), this has made it somewhat difficult to define ESI exactly and exhaustively in Finland. In general, ESI often starts flexibly between ages 3 and 6 and is available at preschools through primary and secondary education. The ESI programme is designed for families where the children are not using the Swedish language at home. Therefore, all or most of the children entering ESI have no previous knowledge of the Swedish language. Finland and Sweden have a long joint history linguistically. It is therefore by no means a coincidence that also Swedish is an official language of Finland and that there are Swedish-speaking immersion programmes available. However, the Swedish-speaking Finns form a small minority in

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Finland: According to Statistics Finland (2018), around 89% of the population were registered as Finnish-speaking Finns and only 5.2% as Swedish-speaking Finns. Geographically, the Swedish-speaking minority is located mostly in the coastal areas of Finland. Most of the ESI-related research in Finland has been linguistically oriented (see Harju-Luukkainen, 2013b). Yet, also a pedagogical perspective is needed for exploring, interpreting and understanding the ESI contexts and settings. From these premises, we have formulated the following research question: What kind of instructional strategies (verbal or non-­ verbal) do preschool teachers use in order to support the communication situations with 3–6-year-old children? Further, we also investigate what instructional practices teachers use in order to support children’s language production in the immersion language. In order to answer these questions, nine different teacher-led activities were video recorded in four different preschool classes in Finland. The data was analysed by means of content analysis.

Theoretical Framework The theoretical framework of this paper consists of two parts. Firstly, we will introduce the Finnish context of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) as well as the content of main steering documents for different types of language programmes or approaches. Secondly, we will take a closer look at instructional practices supporting language acquisition in these settings.

ECEC in Finland with Language in Focus In Finland, all children under school age have a subjective right to Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) regardless of their linguistic or other background (Act on Early Childhood Education and Care, 2015; Constitution of Finland 731/1999, 1999). The municipalities are responsible for organising these services for families. ECEC is primarily provided by day-care centres and in family day-care, including both private


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and municipal service providers. According to the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) (2017), in 2016 a total of 243,946 children were enrolled in ECEC in Finland, which is approximately 68% of the 1 to 6-year-olds. Participation in ECEC increases towards the school age, as indicated by the following enrolment percentages: 0.7% of children under 12 months, 28% of 1-year-olds, 54% of 2-year-olds and 78% of 5-year-olds. At the national level, ECEC is a responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Culture, and the national expert agency for ECEC is the Finnish National Agency for Education. There are international, national and local policy documents governing early childhood education and care in Finland. As regards national legislation, ECEC is guided by the Constitution of Finland (731/1999) and the newly revised Act on Early Childhood Education and Care (2015). Further, the content of ECEC is guided by the National Core Curriculum for Early Childhood Education and Care (2016). In Finland, the National Core Curriculum for Early Childhood Education and Care (2016) encompasses three different types of language immersion programmes (for a closer description, see Garvis et al., 2018). The first one is called early language immersion in a national language (Finnish, Swedish or Sami). This programme was introduced in the early 1990s. Nowadays approximately 4500 children attend Swedish, Finnish or Sami immersion programmes yearly. The number of children involved in this type of immersion has been predicted to grow in the coming years (Miettinen, Kangasvieri, & Saarinen, 2013). Children usually start in the early immersion programme around the age of three or later, and they continue in the programme until the end of their compulsory education. As a rule, the immersion personnel speak only one language with the children, following thus the “one language one person” principle. However, there are some programmes that deviate from this principle in practice. In ESI, at early childhood the personnel speak solely Swedish to the children. Later on, at school, the children are taught in their mother tongue (Finnish) as well. The programme is designed so that children will receive the support they need in their immersion language development as well as in the mother tongue. Possible support needed in mother tongue development is coordinated with the guardians.

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The second type of immersion is called Early content and language integrated learning (CLIL) in two languages. In terms of its general principles or instructional practices, this type of programme is similar to the above-­ mentioned one (ESI). The only clear difference between these two programmes is that in CLIL the second language is some other language than one of the national languages of Finland, that is, often another European language like English, Spanish, German or French. According to Harju-Luukkainen (2013b), it is difficult to make a distinction between the different programmes in Finland when looking at their pedagogy. The National Core Curriculum for Early Childhood Education and Care (2016) stipulates that in CLIL programmes more than 25% of the education time should be in the second language. The third language immersion option for early childhood education is called early partial immersion. In this model, the language children acquire can be any foreign or national language other than the primary language of the ECEC setting. The “language lessons” provided need to be continuous and frequent, but covering less than 25% of the time devoted to education. There are no specific guidelines on how to organise the immersion in terms of pedagogy. However, the general goal for this type of education is to support and motivate children in their language learning and to broaden the language choices of the children (National Core Curriculum for Early Childhood Education and Care, 2016). Besides the three main types above, there is yet another type of immersion programme described in the Finnish steering documents called language revitalisation. It is intended for children speaking an endangered indigenous minority language. Also here the principles of organising immersion education on indigenous language are consistent with the other language immersion or content and language integrated programmes. It is important to note that all these language programmes are voluntary. This means that parents can choose, if they so wish, a language programme for their child. Although various programmes are organised all over the country, they are not evenly distributed. Most of the immersion programmes (ESI) can be found in the coastal bilingual areas of Finland (Miettinen et al., 2013). This also means that different immersion programmes are not yet available to all families and children in Finland. It is


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also important to note that in Finland there are no steering documents stating how the second language education should be delivered in ­practice. However, there are some research on best practices and also descriptions of immersion didactics or pedagogy in the Finnish context (e.g. Harju-Luukkainen, 2007, 2013a, 2013b).

Instructional Practices Supporting the Acquisition of the Second Language According to Cummins (1998), the methods teachers use with children have developed along the years from teacher-centred to more child-­ centred ones. Teachers have nowadays a variety of instructional practices they can use in order to support children’s language acquisition as well as to scaffold their understanding (see e.g. Baker, 2011; Bergroth & Björklund, 2013; García, 2009; Harju-Luukkainen, 2007, 2010; Laurén, 2000; Snow, 1990). Harju-Luukkainen (2007) developed a model on the different instructional practices of supporting language acquisition in early immersion contexts. This model is based on a review of both national and international literature. According to Harju-Luukkainen (2007), a leading idea in immersion education is to incorporate a high language intensity and use a wide variety of language-rich teaching materials and pedagogical activities (e.g. play-based learning, drama-based pedagogy, technology-­ supported learning and music-based pedagogy), where the instruction is done through the medium of the immersion language (see Baker, 2011; Cook, 2000; Harju-Luukkainen, 2007, 2010; Østern, 2002). The teacher’s task is to ensure that the language is introduced and used in various situations as well as on a linguistically appropriate level for the children. A variety of language learning opportunities should be provided, including a number of songs and stories embedded in the daily routines (see also Swain, 1999; Swain & Lapkin, 2000). Since the teachers’ serve as linguistic role models for the particular language, the way they use the language—in terms of vocabulary and children’s exposure to verbal communication and interaction, for instance—is highly significant (see also Savijärvi, 2011). The teachers

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should also use various practices to lure children into using the ­immersion language. Further, also certain daily routines can be harnessed to serve the language acquisition process; for example, singing a song while helping children get dressed, or a morning circle conducted similarly every day. Such routines help children not only to acquire the language but also to guess and predict the forthcoming content, even if they would not yet understand everything the teacher is saying. The language use can also be concretised by means of pictures, gestures, fictional characters and other non-verbal means (Pelletier, 1998; Snow, 1990). Gestures can be used consciously or unconsciously by the teacher. At the end, teachers also often use repetitions and seek to make sure that the children understand the matter. It is also important to connect the new information to a larger, already familiar context (Harju-Luukkainen, 2007, 2010).

Research Methods The data analysed in this study consists of nine video recordings, each ranging from 10 to 18 minutes. The data was collected at four different preschools in Helsinki and Espoo in Finland during the spring term (one preschool) and in autumn (three preschools) in 2015. The children in the preschool groups were between 3 and 6 years of age. All of them had been involved in the language immersion setting for less than three years, some of them only for a few months. Therefore, all of the participating children needed a lot of support from the teachers in any communication situations in Swedish, both for comprehension and language production. For this reason, video recording was preferred to mere audio, as it gave us better possibilities to interpret the pedagogical settings and related practices teachers use, non-verbal communication included. The videos were recorded during ordinary daily activities led by the teachers. Content analysis examines patterns and structures from textual data. It selects out the key features that researchers want to pay attention to, develops categories and aggregates them into perceptual constructs in order to grasp the meaning (Gray & Densten, 1998). According to Weber (1990), content analysis may address language, content meaning, techniques of communication, specific events or all of these simultaneously.


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In this research, the specific focus was on the instructional practices teachers use, both verbal and non-verbal. Because such practices may not be self-explanatory or explicitly evident, an interpretive approach to the data was needed. Therefore, we decided to use interpretive content analysis (for closer description, see Drisko & Maschi, 2015). Within these guidelines, the gathered video material was transcribed to make sense of the whole, to learn “what is going on” in the communication situations (Bengtsson, 2016). After this, the data was analysed by content analysis with an inductive approach and breaking down the material into small meaning units (see Bengtsson, 2016). Any kinds of instructional practices (verbal or non-verbal) that the teacher used were identified and categorised from the data. Next, the resulting categories were analysed further. Content analysis combined with categorising helped us identify different practices used by the teachers. As regards ethical considerations, our study adheres to the national guidelines for research ethics, including those set by the Finnish National Advisory Board on Research Ethics (2002). In this study, the focus was on the teachers and how they work in a language immersion setting. Therefore, the video recording was conducted in three preschools so that no children were visible on the video (the camera was specifically zoomed on the teacher). Also no personal information about the children was gathered. The children were informed of why these adults were in their preschool environment with their cameras, and this was discussed with the children. However, in one preschool class (6-year-old children), the video was zoomed for a broader view covering the entire preschool class. Here, the consent for this was asked from the teacher, parents as well as the children. Also the purpose of the recording was explained to the children, and they could see parts of the video later and talk about it in the classroom.

Findings The results of our analysis show that the teachers used many different verbal and non-verbal practices in order to support communication situations with the children as well as to help them use Swedish. Prominent

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non-verbal practices included visual support (pictures), routine activities (variously used), non-verbal feedback, body language and controlling the children’s understanding non-verbally (e.g. asking children to raise hands when the current weekday was mentioned in a song). As far as verbal practices are concerned, the teachers used a lot of songs, rhymes and repetition. They could also offer alternative phrases or words to the children, start a word or a sentence and use different prosodic means (whispering, talking slowly). The teachers could also translate children’s talk (from Finnish to Swedish) and give positive verbal feedback as well as control children’s understanding during routine activities.

 upporting Communication in the Immersion S Language The teachers used many practices in order to support the communication with the children and to make sure the children had understood the communication correctly. Firstly, in each of the language immersion classrooms, there was a lot of visual material on the walls. In Picture 7.1,

Picture 7.1  Teacher’s ways of emphasising essential points during the morning routine


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the teacher has prepared a morning circle board for the preschool class. Every morning started with the same routines, where the weekday, month, weather, season and year are repeated in songs, rhymes and talk. At the beginning of the year, this routine is led by the teacher and later on children take over so that everyone gets a chance to stand in front of the class and lead the morning circle using the immersion language. At this point of the year, one child was independently acting as a “teacher” in front of the classroom leading the morning circle, though with some help from the teacher. The child was asking questions like “what day is it today?” and “What year is it now?” from the other children. This all was conducted in a specific order, so that every morning the questions, songs and rhymes would be the same and presented in the same order. During one song, children had to raise their hands at the point of the correct weekday. This was a way of making sure everyone had understood what to do and what day it was. The specific order for morning circle routines was only one way of supporting children’s language acquisition. In Picture 7.1, the teacher uses another way of supporting the understanding of the immersion language. She had decided to point out the current day, month and so on with a movable magnetic button on the wall. Each of the different “learning units” (day, month, etc.) was presented with a different colour in order to distinguish them. The teacher also used her body language (pointing) in order to emphasise the thing she was talking about. She also used her tone of voice to stress the most important words in the sentence. She also used repetition while talking, saying the same things twice but each time a bit differently. Repetition as a supportive practice was used by all of the teachers. However, repetition can be used in many ways (as already described above). Songs were used frequently by all of the teachers in order to repeat weekdays, for example. Teachers could also repeat what children had just said but correcting their language errors (indirect correction). By the same token, if children were using Finnish in the communication, the teachers would use the corresponding Swedish words. An example of this is presented in the video clip 1. Here, the teacher repeats children’s Swedish answers and also uses her tone of voice and body language in highlighting the weekdays to be learnt.

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Video Clip 1 In video clip 1, children were gathered around the teacher for the morning circle. Teacher: Who knows what day it is today? Teacher calls one child by name, with an asking tone. Child 1: Wednesday. Teacher: (Repeating with a positive tone) Wednesday. (Smiling and shaking her head) No. Calling another child by name with an asking tone. Child 2: Monday. Teacher: (Repeating) Monday… The teacher initiates a weekday song and the children join in quickly.

In the first video clip, the teacher used a tone of voice as well as smiling to indicate that the child had done a good job by trying to answer the question, whereas head shaking indicates a wrong answer. The teacher also used her tone of voice in order to get a child’s attention. Teachers can use their tone of voice and other prosodic means for different purposes; for instance to point out the object the teacher is talking about. In video clip 2, the tone of voice was used to indicate a key word in the sentence so as to help the children get the meaning. Here, the teacher uses the tone of voice while also pointing to the focal object in order to support children’s understanding. In this video clip, the teacher used visual material (book with pictures), as well as prosodic means and body language or gestures (pointing, nodding) to support children’s understanding and further language acquisition. Video Clip 2 In video clip 2, children were gathered around the teacher to listen to a story book. In the transcript, the underlined words were pronounced slowly with a clear emphasis on that particular word by the teacher. Teacher: (Holding up the front page of a story book so that all the children could see) This is Alfons (pointing at Alfons). He wants, he wants to watch


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TV (pointing at the television), and he wants to eat a sandwich (pointing at the sandwich) and he wants to play (pointing at the castle). At the same time. Can you do that? Children: (Children answering simultaneously) No Teacher: No. No, dad (pointing at Alfon’s dad) Åberg is also saying no no (waving her index finger) one thing at a time. Child 1: Mumbles something in Finnish. Teacher: Yes Milla also says, one thing at a time. The teacher continues on the next page. Teacher: And today they have been shopping. And now they need to hurry up and put all the stuff in the right places. Here is Alfons’ biscuit. And here is Alfons’ dad’s long underwear. And Milla has…… what does she have? She has a tin here. And now they need to put everything in the right places. Teacher: And they run quickly and quickly. From the shelf to the cupboard, from the cupboard to the freezer. Everything should be in place. And quick, it has to go quickly. And then it’s Saturday. And they want it to be nice and cozy on a Saturday.

Supporting Children’s Language Production The ESI teachers used various instructional practices in order to support and even lure children into using their new immersion language. One of these methods was presented previously, where the teacher asked children to step in to perform the morning routines. The teachers could also use different other ways like whispering the right answer for the child to repeat, giving a needed word that children could then use in their sentences, making children repeat what the teacher had said and also using children’s first language where necessary. In the situation in Picture 7.2, the child is about to ask something from the others in the classroom, but she cannot remember how to say it in Swedish. The teacher resolves the situation by whispering the right keywords in Swedish to the child in front of the class. After that the child asks the question from the class. Child 1: Sputters something in Finnish Teacher: (quietly to the child, smiling, in a very positive tone of voice) Yes, what month is it today?

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Picture 7.2  Teacher whispering keywords in the “background.”

Child 1: (Repeats directly after the teacher and directs her talk to the classroom) What month is it today?

Children are allowed to use their first language (Finnish) freely in the ESI environment. Teachers usually understand the children’s first language, being often bilingual themselves. In the transcript below (video clip 3), the teacher is using both Finnish and Swedish. She uses Finnish in order to indicate that the child answered correctly to the question and to make sure everyone would get the corresponding Swedish word. Also here repetition was used. Video Clip 3 In video clip 3, children were gathered around the teacher to listen to a story book. The teacher is showing the story book to the children while talking about the pictures in it. In the translated transcript, underlined words were pronounced slowly with a clear emphasis on that particular word by the teacher.


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Teacher: Oh! You know what? Alfons was going to switch on the washing machine as well. He runs away (pointing at the washing machine) and switched on the washing machine. What is a washing machine? Child 1: Wash hands (answering in Finnish) Teacher: No, he isn’t washing his hands Child 2: Pesukone (Washing machine in Finnish) Teacher: Pesukone (repeating what the child said in Finnish). That’s a washing machine (continuing in Swedish). He is not washing his hands. He rather runs off and switched on the washing machine.

Repetition of a child’s words in a positive manner was common. In video clip 4, the teacher highlights a word with her tone of voice (underlined). A child repeats it and the teacher positively reinforces the child’s response as follows: Video Clip 4 The story book is finished, and all of the children have gathered around the teacher. The teacher points to the board with a lot of pictures. Teacher: We have a lot of pictures here. Do you see? Children: A lot! Teacher: Yes, a lot!

Discussion The aim of this paper was to describe different instructional practices both verbal and non-verbal that preschool teachers used in order to support communication with 3–6-year-old children as well as their language production in Swedish immersion. We specifically wanted to know what type of practices preschool teachers use for such purposes in these settings. For this study, nine different teacher-led activities were video recorded in four different preschools in Finland. The data was analysed by means of content analysis. The results indicate that ESI teachers use a wide variety of different instructional practices in supporting the language acquisition in the ESI context.

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Accordingly, teachers helped children in acquiring the immersion language by means of various visual materials, body language or gestures, tone of voice, routines and repetition in its many forms. Important elements in this acquisition process included songs, rhymes and teacher’s talk around the learning object while the teacher was also ensuring that everyone had understood what to do and how to react. The teachers sought to support children’s language production in various ways. For example, a teacher could whisper the right answer, give a corresponding Swedish word when the children were talking in Finnish, make children repeat what they just had heard as well as make sure everyone understood the newly introduced word. Another common practice was the repetition of a child’s talk with a very positive tone of voice. This was used in way of positive feedback on children’s Swedish language production and to repeat their utterances in correct form (indirect correction). The findings of this study are in line with previous studies indicating that teachers’ use a variety of practices when supporting both the communication and children’s own production of the immersion language (see e.g. Harju-Luukkainen, 2013a, 2013b; Laurén, 2000; Mård, 2002; Savijärvi, 2011). The teachers used different ways, including both verbal and non-verbal means, in supporting the children’s language production (see e.g. Baker, 2011; Bergroth & Björklund, 2013; García, 2009; Laurén, 2000; Snow, 1990). The results also indicate that we still have a very limited understanding of the immersion pedagogy, because many of the methods are not necessarily used consciously by the teachers and may remain implicitly expressed or enacted. This means that the methods are difficult to detect in the communication situations. This study also gave an indication that teachers attempt to adjust their communicational level as well as practices used according to the children’s linguistic level. However, here further studies are needed. Furthermore, it is important to note that immersion pedagogy is not presented in any way in the national steering documents (National Core Curriculum for Early Childhood Education and Care, 2016; Harju-­ Luukkainen, 2013b) and only scarcely in literature. There is therefore clearly a need for future pedagogical research into the practices used in


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language immersion settings in Finland. This is especially important for teacher education. It should be noted that this study is limited in that only four preschools were involved. The study is also limited in that it only provided a “snapshot” of different practices teachers use and not all are evident within this video material. Also teachers in these contexts elsewhere might have a different understanding of immersion pedagogy, since it is not clearly stated in steering documents or defined by research. Therefore, generalisation of the findings of this study should be made with caution and taking these limitations into account. Instructional practices in early immersion are applicable also outside actual immersion settings and can be used in other environments as well where children are acquiring or learning languages (mother tongue or second language, etc.). This is important considering the recent population movements across Europe. Even though the Finnish immigrant population has been growing modestly throughout the country’s history, we have seen an increase in the immigration rate in recent years. A peak was reached in 2016, exceeding the previous years by 21% (Statistics Finland, 2017). Consequently, also the number of children speaking languages other than the national ones has increased in Finland. This highlights the pedagogy used in ECEC settings as regards language acquisition. However, the issue of children’s language acquisition and learning is not only about supporting their learning processes, but also about the possibilities and frameworks that the language and education policies and related steering documents provide for children to learn languages. According to Garvis et al. (2018), it is important to discuss in each national setting what type of policies there are in place for supporting, among other things, children’s linguistic development in their mother tongue and other languages. By the same token, it is necessary to discuss the language policies and practices of each country in relation to the globalised world. Language policies that support acquisition and learning of multiple languages are important in today’s world, but equally important would be a solid understanding of the instructional practices that help children acquire and learn languages.

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References Act on Early Childhood Education 580/2015. (2015). Retrieved January 20, 2017, from Baker, C. (2011). Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd. Bengtsson, M. (2016). How to Plan and Perform a Qualitative Study Using Content Analysis. NursingPlus Open, 2, 8–14. Bergroth, M., & Björklund, S. (2013). Kielikylpyohjelman tutkimustuloksia Suomessa (Research Findings on a Language Immersion Programme in Finland). In L. Tainio & H. Harju-Luukkainen (Eds.), Kaksikielinen koulu – tulevaisuuden monikielinen Suomi. Suomen kasvatustieteellisen seuran julkaisuja. Kasvatusalan tutkimuksia 62. (pp. 91–114). Jyväskylä: Jyväskylä University Press. Constitution of Finland 731/1999. (1999). Retrieved January 20, 2017, from Cook, G. (2000). Language Play, Language Learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Cummins, J. (1998). Immersion Education for the Millennium: What Have We Learned from 30  Years of Research on Second Language Immersion? In M. R. Childs & R. M. Bostwick (Eds.), Learning Through Two Languages: Research and Practice. Second Katoh Gakuen International Symposium on Immersion and Bilingual Education (pp. 34–47). Japan: Katoh Gakuen. d’Anglejan, A., & Tucker, G.  R. (1971). Academic Report: The St. Lambert Program of Home School Language Switch. The Modern Language Journal, 55, 99–101. Drisko, J., & Maschi, T. (2015). Content Analysis. Pocket Guide to Social Work Research Methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press Inc. Finnish Advisory Board on Research Ethics. (2002). Good Scientific Practice and Procedures for Handling Misconduct and Fraud in Science. Hyvä tieteellinen käytäntö ja sen loukkausten käsitteleminen. Finnish Advisory Board on Research Ethics. Retrieved from ohje_2012.pdf García, O. (2009). Bilingual Education in the 21st Century: A Global Perspective. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. Garvis, S., Harju-Luukkainen, H., & Flynn, T. (2018). A Descriptive Study of Early Childhood Education Steering Documents in Finland, Sweden and Australia around Language Immersion Programmes. Asia Pacific Journal of Research in Early Childhood Education, 12(3), 1–22.


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Genesee, F. (1987). Learning Through Two Languages: Studies of Immersion and Bilingual Education. Cambridge, MA: Newbury House. Gray, J. H., & Densten, I. L. (1998). Integrating Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis Using Latent and Manifest Variables. Quality & Quantity, 32, 419–431. Harju-Luukkainen, H. (2007). Kielikylpydidaktiikkaa kehittämässä. 3–6-­vuotiaiden kielikylpylasten kielellinen kehitys ja kielikylpydidaktiikan kehittäminen päiväkodissa [Developing Language Immersion Didactics. 3–6-Year Old Children’s Linguistic Development and the Development of Language Immersion Didactics]. Doctoral Thesis, Åbo Akademi University, Turku. Harju-Luukkainen, H. (2010). Sukellus kielikylpyyn. Perustietoa vanhemmille kielikylvystä [A Dive into Language Immersion. Basic Information About Language Immersion] (2nd ed.). Helsinki: Research Solutions. Harju-Luukkainen, H. (2013a). Vaihtelevia käytäntöjä kentällä: osittainen kielikylpy vai ruotsin-kieliseen kouluun sulauttaminen? [Different Approaches in the Field: Partial Immersion or Integration Into Swedish-Language School?] In L. Tainio & H. Harju-Luukkainen (Eds.), Kaksikielinen koulu – tulevaisuuden monikielinen Suomi. Suomen kasvatus-tieteellisen seuran julkaisuja. Kasvatusalan tutkimuksia 62 (pp. 342–365). Turku: Suomen kasvatustieteellinen seura. Harju-Luukkainen, H. (2013b). Kielikylpy Suomessa varhaiskasvatuksen kentällä – Mihin suunta tulevaisuudessa? [Language Immersion in the Field of Early Childhood Education. What Is the Direction for Future?]. Journal of Early Childhood Education Research, 2(1), 2–23. Kukk, A., Õunb, T., & Ugasteb, A. (2014). Readiness for School of Children Having Attended Language Immersion Kindergarten in the Teachers’ and Parents’ Opinions. International Journal of Early Years Education, 22(2), 156–168. Lambert, W. E., & Tucker, G. R. (1972). Bilingual Education of Children. The St Lambert Experiment. Rowley, MA: Newbury House Publishers, Inc. Laurén, Ch. (2000). Kielten taitajaksi. Kielikylpy käytännössä [Mastering a Language. Language Immersion in Practice]. Jyväskylä: Ateena. Mård, K. (2002). Språkbadsbarn kommunicerar på andraspråket. Fallstudier på daghemsnivå. Acta Wasaensia. Nr 100. Språkvetenskap 21. Universitas Wasaensis. Vasa. Miettinen, E., Kangasvieri, E., & Saarinen, T. (2013). Vaihtelevaa toteutusta ja kasvavaa kiinnos-tusta: Kielikylpyopetus ja vieraskielinen opetus kunnissa [Different Approaches and Larger Interest: Language Immersion and Foreign

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Language Teaching in Municipalities in Finland]. In L. Tainio & H. Harju-­ Luukkainen (Eds.), Kaksikielinen koulu – tulevaisuuden monikielinen Suomi. Kasvatusalan tutkimuksia; Nro 62 (pp. 71–90). Turku: Suomen kasvatustieteellinen seura. National Core Curriculum for Early Childhood Education and Care. (2016). Grunderna för planen för småbarnspedagogik 2016. Helsingfors: Finnish National Board of Education. National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). (2017). Varhaiskasvatus 2016 [Early Childhood Education in 2016. Statistical Report]. Tilastoraportti 29/2017. Retrieved from 135183/Tr29_17_vuositilasto.pdf?sequence=5&isAllowed=y Østern, A.-L. (2002). Språkglädje och språklig medvetenhet. Lekar och övningar för en- och flerspråkiga barn. Dokumentation från Pedagogiska Fakulteten vid Åbo Akademi. Nr 2/2002. Åbo Akademi. Pelletier, J.  (1998). A Comparison of Children’s Understanding of School in Regular English Language and French Immersion Kindergartens. Language Review, 55(2), 239–259. Savijärvi, M. (2011). Yhteisestä toiminnasta yhteiseen kieleen. Keskustelunanalyyttinen tutkimus toisen kielen oppimisesta kielikylpypäiväkodin arkitilanteissa [From Joint Action to Shared Language. A Discourse Analytical Study on Second Language Learning in the Everyday Settings of a Language Immersion Kindergarten]. Doctoral Thesis, University of Helsinki, Helsinki. Retrieved from Snow, M. A. (1990). Instructional Methodology in Immersion Foreign Language Education. In A. M. Padilla, H. H. Fairchild, & C. M. Valades (Eds.), Foreign Language Education: Issues and Strategies (pp. 156–171). Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications. Statistics Finland. (2017). Muuttoliike [Migration]. Helsinki: Statistics Finland. Retrieved from Statistics Finland. (2018). Official Statistics of Finland (OSF): Population Structure [e-Publication]. Helsinki, Finland: Statistics Finland. Swain, M. (1999). Integrating Language and Content Teaching Through Collaborative Tasks. In C. Ward & W. Renandya (Eds.), Language Teaching: New Insights for the Language Teacher. RELC Anthology, Series 40 (pp. 125–147). Singapore: SEAMEO, cop. Swain, M., & Lapkin, S. (2000). Task-Based Second Language Learning: The Use of the Fist Language. Language Teaching Research, 4(3), 251–274.


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Vesterbacka, S. (1990). Om kanadensiskt språkbad och språkbadsprojektet i Vasa. In Ch. Laurén & S.  Vesterbacka. Vaasan kielikylpykoulu. Vaasan korkeakoulun julkaisuja nro 1. Vaasa. Weber, R. (1990). Basic Content Analysis (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

8 Children Under the Age of Three in Norwegian Childcare: Searching for Qualities Ellen Os and Leif Hernes

Introduction The Nordic countries have a lot in common, due partly to shared languages, history and traditions, even if there are differences (Hännikäinen & Lipponen, 2017). As a region, we share some cultural and societal features, and when it comes to childcare, we share the Nordic kindergarten model. This implies that research in one Nordic country could be relevant to other Nordic countries as well. This chapter presents part of the background, methods and results from a Norwegian research project called Searching for Qualities, which explores the quality of Norwegian Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) for toddlers.1

 In this chapter, “toddler age” refers to children between one and three years.


E. Os (*) • L. Hernes Department of Early Childhood Education, Oslo Metropolitan University, Oslo, Norway e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 S. Garvis et al. (eds.), Nordic Families, Children and Early Childhood Education, Studies in Childhood and Youth,



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Based on research findings that show children benefit from participation in ECEC (see e.g. Burchinal, Vandergrift, Pianta, & Mashburn, 2010; Li, Farkas, Duncan, Burchinal, & Vandell, 2013), the European Union (EU) has aimed to make ECEC available and affordable for all children, including toddlers (European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2016). Norway is one of the seven European countries that guarantees a legal right to ECEC from toddler age, along with the other Nordic countries: Sweden, Denmark and Finland (European Commission/EACEA/ Eurydice, 2016). In Norway, the right to access ECEC for all children has contributed to a rapid increase in enrolment of children under three years of age during a relatively short period. The number of toddlers in ECEC has more than doubled since 2000 (SSB, 2001, 2018). Today, 82.5% of Norwegian children under the age of three attend ECEC, and most of them attend on a full-time basis (SSB, 2018). Currently, more than one-­ third of children in Norwegian ECEC are under the age of three. According to Statistics Norway (SSB, 2017), the increase of one-year-­ olds shows a particularly distinct change in the ECEC’s demography. It is reasonable to question whether ECEC institutions can meet the challenges of securing safe environments for all children, including very young ones, where they can experience well-being, friendship and play, as prescribed by the Norwegian Framework Plan for Kindergartens (Utdanningsdirektoratet, 2017, pp. 7–11). For years, the curriculum for Norwegian teachers who were training to work in ECEC has been criticised for insufficiently emphasising knowledge about children under three years of age (BLU-Følgegruppa-for-barnehagelærerutdanning, 2015; NOKUT, 2010; Vist, 2014). The expected benefits of enrolment of children in ECEC from a very young age do not depend solely on access. The quality of the provision must be taken into consideration as well. Both Nordic and international studies show that high-quality ECEC enhances children’s well-being, as well as their cognitive, social and emotional development (Brandlistuen et  al., 2015; Burchinal, Roberts, Nabors, & Bryant, 1996; Burchinal et al., 2010; Li et al., 2013; Persson, 2015; Skalická, Belsky, Stenseng, & Wichstrøm, 2015a, 2015b). Furthermore, international research shows that vulnerable children (e.g., children with special needs, from low-­ income families, etc.) seem to be more vulnerable to low-quality

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­ rovisions but benefit more from high-quality provisions compared to p other children (Brandlistuen et  al., 2015; Deynoot-Schaub & RiksenWalraven, 2006; McCartney, Dearing, Taylor, & Bub, 2007; Skalická et al., 2015a). Similar research shows that even if the effects of childcare are modest, they are recognised as important (Burchinal, Kainz, & Cai, 2011; Gregoriadis, Grammatikopoulos, & Zachopoulou, 2018; Phillips, McCartney, & Sussman, 2008). In the current situation where nearly all Nordic children attend ECEC from an early age, the quality of the offer no longer affects a small part of the population and has consequences for total cohorts of children, their families and society, in the present and the future (cf. Persson, 2015; Utdanningsdirektoratet, 2017, p. 8). However, knowledge about the quality of Nordic toddler ECEC is restricted (Bjørnestad et  al., 2012; OECD, 2015, p.  96). Therefore, the OECD (2015) has recommended that Norway initiate large studies to explore the quality of its ECEC system. The current chapter presents results from the recent Norwegian research project called Searching for Qualities. Relations, play and learning.2 The project spanned five years and ended in 2018. The primary aim of Searching for Qualities was to generate research-based knowledge about quality in care, relationships, play and learning for children under the age of three in Norwegian ECEC.  The main focus was on global quality (involving both structures and processes), well-being, relationships and content, especially regarding aesthetic activities. The project was conducted in cooperation with researchers from Oslo Metropolitan University, The Arctic University of Norway, University of Stavanger and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. To our knowledge, this is the most extensive project to explore the quality of ECEC for children under the age of three ever conducted in Norway. This chapter focuses on qualities interpreted from an adult perspective without losing the focus on children’s voices. The methods that we chose underpin this approach. Finally, we will present some of the results of our research that will affect the daily lives of children in the Norwegian/Nordic k­ indergarten context. Information about the focus of the research and the methods will be presented later in this chapter.  In Norwegian: Blikk for Barn – kvalitet i barnehagen for barn under 3 år. Lek-læring-estetikk-relasjoner.



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 uality in Toddler Care: Structures, Q Interactions and Content The quality of ECEC is an elusive phenomenon that includes a range of aspects from structural to processual. In ECEC daily life, these aspects manifest in various ways and are intertwined in complex ways (Sanders & Howes, 2013; Slot, Leseman, Verhagen, & Mulder, 2015). Quality is not an objective phenomenon. What is recognised as quality is situated in cultural and societal values and ideologies (Garvis, Sheridan, Williams, & Mellgren, 2018; Hujala, Fonsén, & Elo, 2012; Ishimine & Tayler, 2014; Slot, Cadima, Salminen, Pastori, & Lerkkanen, 2016). In addition, different stakeholders have divergent opinions of what contributes to high-quality care (Ceglowski & Bacigalupa, 2002; Katz, 1993). Despite the elusiveness of the concept, emphasis on quality in ECEC is extensive (see e.g., Gregoriadis et al., 2018; Ishimine, Tayler, & Bennett, 2010; OECD, 2006, 2012; Taguma, Litjens, & Makowiecki, 2013), and there is consensus that some aspects of ECEC are essential. The structural and process qualities are especially important for young children in ECEC (Bjørnestad et al., 2012; Dalli et al., 2011). Structural quality manifests through teachers’ education, ratio, group size, organisation, space and provided materials, which might influence the processual aspects of quality, such as interactions and content (Manning, Garvis, Fleming, & Wong, 2017; Pianta et  al., 2005). Structural aspects are expected to work indirectly through their effect on processual quality, even if these connections are not always found in the research (cf. Slot et al., 2015). Processual quality seems to have a direct effect on children (see Barros et al., 2016; Sanders & Howes, 2013; Slot et al., 2015). In toddler care, interactions with teachers are seen as a key contributor to children’s feelings of security and belonging, as well as children’s peer relations, exploration, play, development and learning (La Paro, Williamson, & Hatfield, 2014; Mortensen & Barnett, 2015; Os, 2013). International research finds that the quality of ECEC is at a low-to-­ moderate level (La Paro et al., 2014; Thomason & La Paro, 2009). For toddlers, the quality seems to be lower compared to the quality of provisions for pre-schoolers (Fenech, Sweller, & Harrison, 2010; Helmerhorst,

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Riksen-Walraven, Deynoot-Schaub, & Fukkink, 2015; Karemaker, Mathers, & Singler, 2012; Slot et  al., 2016; Vermeer, van IJzendoorn, Cárcamo, & Harrison, 2016). In terms of the core aspect of quality in toddler care, interaction, research indicates that higher quality is related to emotional aspects compared to educational aspects (Helmerhorst et al., 2015; La Paro et al., 2014; Salminen et al., 2012; Slot et al., 2016).

Nordic Research Nordic research addresses questions related to both structural and processual qualities in ECEC, and especially the relationships between these aspects. Parallel to the process of increased enrolment of toddlers in Nordic ECEC, there has been a tendency towards larger kindergartens and groups, combined with flexible grouping of the children. There is a concern that these structural changes might contribute to reduced quality in ECEC (Alvestad et al., 2014; Kragh-Müller & Ringsmose, 2015; Pramling Samuelsson, Williams, & Sheridan, 2015; Vassenden, Thygesen, Bayer, Alvestad, & Abrahamsen, 2011; Williams, Sheridan, & Pramling Samuelsson, 2016). Research shows that larger kindergartens and groups, as well as the flexible organisation of groups, involve a complexity that is demanding and time-consuming (cf. Bråten, Hovdenak, Haakestad, & Sønsterudbråten, 2015; Vassenden et al., 2011). As a consequence, more time is used to organise the day and secure children’s safety and health, and less time is left for pedagogical work with the children (Alvestad et  al., 2014; Kjørholt & Seland, 2012; Kragh-Müller & Ringsmose, 2015; Pramling Samuelsson, Williams, & Sheridan, 2015; Seland, 2009). Furthermore, the organisation of space where several groups share interest centres might lead to reduced access to materials for play and learning, either because of distance or because the centres might be occupied by other groups (Alvestad et  al., 2014; Kjørholt & Seland, 2012; Kragh-­ Müller & Ringsmose, 2015; Seland, 2009). Interactions between caregivers and children are fundamental to high-­ quality toddler care. Consequently, Norwegian toddler-care research has seen a wave of qualitative small-scaled studies that focus on such interactions (Bjørnestad et  al., 2012). The results illuminate opportunities in


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teacher–child interactions, as well as in interactions between toddler peers (Alvestad, 2010; Greve, 2009; Løkken, 1990, 2004; Ødegaard, 2006), and participation and exploration (Eide, 2008; Os & Eide, 2013; Rossholt, 2012; Ødegaard, 2011). Due to the recent demographic and structural changes in Norwegian ECEC, the representativeness of these results for toddlers in current ECEC can be questioned. A recent study indicates that the quality in caregivers’ sensitivity, facilitation of language and exploration during meals in toddler groups is low (Klette, Drugli, & Aandahl, 2016). Os (2013) finds that caregiver support for relationships between toddler peers varies between groups. A Finnish study that uses the CLASS measurement to explore quality in teacher–child interactions finds similar tendencies. The quality is reported to be moderate for both emotional and educational aspects, even if the educational dimensions have lower scores compared to emotional quality (Pakarinen et al., 2010; Salminen et al., 2012). In large kindergartens and groups, staff have less time for individual children. This affects the quality of interactions and children’s feeling of security, which is connected to well-being, sense of belonging, exploration, development and learning (Alvestad et al., 2014; Kragh-Müller & Ringsmose, 2015). Klette and Killén (2018)3 report that there is not enough staff present to take care of one-year-olds who are in distress while being separated from their mothers. While the shifting relationships with many children and caregivers in large and flexible groups are particularly problematic for the youngest (Alvestad et al., 2014; Kragh-­ Müller & Ringsmose, 2015), large-scale Norwegian studies find that these factors seem to affect children aged four and five years as well. Large groups (25–40 children) are associated with language difficulties (Brandlistuen et al., 2015). In flexible groups and large groups (>15), less closeness is found between children and teachers. This is associated with more teacher–child conflicts and more behavioural problems in the first grade, while greater closeness predicted less teacher–child conflicts and behavioural problems (Skalická et al., 2015a, 2015b). A review of Nordic research concerning toddlers in ECEC shows that studies rarely focus on content (Bjørnestad et  al., 2012). However,  Information of size of the centres and the groups is not included in the article.


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Swedish and Finnish research addresses this more often than Norwegian studies with emphasis on language and mathematics (Bjørnestad et al., 2012). In Norwegian toddler-care research, there seems to be a reluctance to focus on content beyond the themes of relationships and socio-­ emotional learning (cf. Bjørnestad et al., 2012). This might be connected to the controversy between play and learning where learning has been seen as a threat against the highly esteemed Nordic ECEC model (cf. OECD, 2006, pp. 138–140). The social pedagogy approach characterised by child-centeredness focuses on children’s self-initiated play and activities, while social learning seems to be under increasing pressure. Even if combined with aspects from the Nordic model, the emphasis on academic learning and language increases (Einarsdottir, Purola, Johansson, Broström, & Emilson, 2015; Jonsson & Williams, 2013; Karila, 2012; Vallberg Roth, 2014; Østrem et al., 2009). However, increased consciousness on children’s learning is not necessarily a contradiction to the Nordic tradition even if it might be challenging to incorporate learning aspects in a child-centred model (Pramling Samuelsson & Asplund Carlsson, 2008; Pramling Samuelsson & Sheridan, 2010). It is possible that the Nordic child-centred approach has some weaknesses. Even if children in Swedish ECEC seem to enjoy a great degree of freedom and are involved in interactions with their teachers and peers, teachers are less active in promoting and supporting children’s learning (Pramling Samuelsson & Sheridan, 2010). Pramling Samuelsson and Sheridan (2010) suggest that more teacher activity and facilitation of learning should be possible without hindering children’s participation. Jonsson (2011) finds that Swedish teachers, working with children under the age of three, use didactics of the present moment. This means that learning situations, to a large degree, arise in the flow of everyday situations and activities, which are unplanned and based on children’s activities, interests and initiatives. However, the child-centeredness appears to be less conspicuous when teachers are observed in interactions with ­children (Jonsson & Williams, 2013). Jonsson (2013, pp. 93–94) concludes that didactics of the present moment run the risk of fragmentation and should be elaborated to include planning that emphasises children’s


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intentions, as well as consciousness related to the discourse between the child- and teacher-centred didactic. There is a lack of knowledge about the content delivered in toddler ECEC. Studies that focus on subjects in ECEC mostly address how subjects are mediated or views of learning (Broström et al., 2015; Jonsson, 2016; Jonsson, Williams, & Pramling Samuelsson, 2017). Less focus is given to the what and why of content, which along with how, where, who and when are basic questions in didactics (Gundem, 1983). The reason for addressing how might be related to the controversy between play versus learning, and between free choices versus structured activities in Nordic ECEC. Focusing on mediating methods might be a way to create a line of demarcation between learning processes in ECEC and schools (Pramling Samuelsson & Asplund Carlsson, 2008). However, the necessity of focusing on objects of learning, as well as teaching methods, has been underlined (Pramling Samuelsson & Asplund Carlsson, 2008). Art, culture and creativity are among the learning areas prescribed by the Norwegian Framework Plan as content in ECEC (Utdanningsdirektoratet, 2017). However, emphasis on aesthetic subjects seems to have decreased in Norwegian ECEC (Østrem et al., 2009). Norwegian research finds that frequent offers of creative and physical activities in ECEC seem to reduce symptoms of language-related difficulties for all five-year-old children and particularly vulnerable boys. Meanwhile, there seems to be a connection between rare offers of these activities and sadness and dejection for all boys in the sample (Brandlistuen et al., 2015). Furthermore, a Danish research review shows that aesthetic activities, such as dance, positively affect cognitive and social development, as well as children’s self-esteem (Christoffersen, Højen-Sørensen, & Laugesen, 2014). Pramling Samuelsson, Asplund Carlsson, Olsson, Pramling, and Wallerstedt (2009) argue that it is not enough to arrange for children’s experiences of arts or use arts as means for other ends, which is seen as domain-extrinsic learning. Rather, teachers should focus on knowledge inside aesthetic subjects and contribute to children’s ­identification of domain-intrinsic particularities, such as concepts and distinctions.

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Searching for Qualities: A Complex Matter Searching for Qualities aims to contribute to knowledge about the quality of care, relationships, play and learning for children under the age of three in different group compositions. In terms of the learning areas, aesthetic learning was of special interest in the project. Furthermore, Searching for Qualities aims to identify the views of staff and parents regarding experiences with toddler ECEC.  As we have tried to show, quality in ECEC is a complex phenomenon and different aspects are intertwined and interact with each other. Therefore, Searching for Qualities uses the plural form of the concept to acknowledge the complexity and polyphony of the phenomenon, which was also strong inside the research group. In order to explore and analyse the complexity of quality, researchers with different professional backgrounds were part of the research group. The researchers represented specialities connected to pedagogic science, social science and science of art in drama, dance, music and visual art. Expertise in ECEC research was well represented, and several members of the research group have education and practice as teachers in ECEC. The composition of the research group represented a triangulation that gives opportunities for different theoretical and methodical approaches that are intended to challenge each other. According to Ishimine and Tayler (2014), quality in ECEC is far too complex to be explored with a single method. As a composite project, Searching for Qualities uses several methods to study quality in toddler ECEC, including smaller qualitative and larger quantitative sub-projects, which aim to capture different aspects of quality.4 Even if the research theme is shared, the sub-projects are partly independent in their ­theoretical and methodical approaches. This chapter provides a brief overview of the methods (see Winger, Gulpinar, & Hernes, 2016, for further elaboration of reasons for methodological choices). Detailed information about the methods, participants, procedures, analytic  In this chapter, the core sub-projects participating in Searching for Qualities are included (see the appendix for an overview). In addition, Searching for Qualities consisted of PhD projects, master projects and associated projects conducted by colleagues. These are not presented in the current chapter. 4


E. Os and L. Hernes

approaches and results can be found in publications from the sub-projects.5

Methods The quantitative part of Searching for Qualities consisted of two parts: surveys and observational studies. The surveys were administered to nationwide samples of lead teachers working with toddlers in ECEC and parents, focusing on their experiences of structural, relational and content in toddler care. Overall, 398 teachers and 1183 parents answered the surveys. The observational part of the quantitative research aimed to measure the global and interactional qualities in toddler groups using international measurements.6 Global quality includes both structural and processual quality. The Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale-Revised Edition (ITERS-R; Harms, Cryer, & Clifford, 2006), which is one of the most extensively used measurements in toddler ECEC in an international context (Vermeer et  al., 2016), was used to measure global quality. ITERS-R is designed for use in groups with children aged six weeks to 30 months and covers a wide range of themes, such as the physical environment, routines, language, activities, interactions and structure. ITERS-R was administered in 206 ECEC groups including toddlers.7 For an in-depth exploration of interactional quality, the Dutch tool Caregiver Interaction Profile scales (CIP; Helmerhorst et  al., 2014) was used. CIP is designed to explore individual caregivers’ interactional skills in groups with children from zero to four years. It consists of six s­ ub-­scales, which include sensitive responsiveness, respect for autonomy, structuring and limit-setting, verbal communication, developmental stimulation and fostering positive peer interactions. The first three are regarded as basic aspects in ECEC interactions, and the last three are considered educa See also  This part of the project was conducted in cooperation with the Norwegian project Better Provision for Norway’s Children in ECEC (BePro). 7  For further information about the measurement, participants, procedures and sampling process, see Bjørnestad and Os (2018). 5 6

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tional aspects. Each sub-scale was rated using video-­recordings from four everyday situations: free play, meals, diapering and transitions. CIP is specially developed to measure interactional quality in group care, and the rating takes in to consideration whether the caregivers are able to distribute their attention and care between the children in the group. The interactions between 158 caregivers in toddler groups were also measured with CIP.8 The qualitative research used both ethnographic methods and artistic and art-based methods. The sub-project “Young children’s everyday life in ECEC—participation, belonging and dignity” used micro-­ ethnographic methods (cf. Wolcott, 2008) to explore the everyday life of toddlers and how they experience quality of life and well-being in six ECEC classrooms with different ways of organising groupings, as well as different locations of centres with varying sizes. The strategies used during the field work include sitting down to observe daily routines, relationships and activities in particular rooms, as well as walking along (Kusenbach, 2003; Winger & Eide, 2015), which involves following a guiding child as she/he moves around the institution to explore what happens in various places/rooms (Os, 2007; Os & Eide, 2013). The project also included focus interviews with parents and conversations, both formal and informal, with staff. The project consisted of four researchers who conducted a team/collaborative ethnography (cf. Creese, Bhatt, Bhojani, & Martin, 2008; May & Pattillo-McCoy, 2000).9 The qualitative sub-project called “With eye for wandering—ethnography on foot with the youngest children” used micro-ethnography to explore how toddlers’ wandering and movement could illuminate children’s well-being in ECEC.  The study uses the concept of first-foot-­ experiences to show how children’s wanderings and movements are expressions of engagement in interactions with materials and their sociocultural reality. During the field work, the researchers used the method of

 For further information about the measurement, participants, procedures and sampling process, see Os and Bjørnestad (in progress) and Bjørnestad et al. (accepted for publication). 9  For further information about this sub-project, see Eide, Winger, Dahle, and Wolf (2017) and Eide, Winger, Wolf, and Dahle (2017). 8


E. Os and L. Hernes

walking alongside to include themselves in the context of the wandering, and thus, to come closer to the children’s experiences.10 Searching for Qualities also includes in-depth qualitative analyses of data that are generated using ITERS-R and CIP.  The analyses of the results from the ITERS-R items, called Peer interaction (Os & Bjørnestad, 2016) and Music and movement (Vist & Os, 2019), are both an elaboration of the ITERS-R results and a critical discussion of scale. Another article (Kjørholt & Os, 2019) addresses the results related to materials and props, which were measured in several ITERS-R items. An in-depth analysis has also been conducted on joint attention between caregivers and children in groups where caregivers are given high or low scores on the CIP scales (Os, 2019). Two projects have focused specifically on aesthetic subjects and processes in ECEC and aim to define and contribute to the understanding of the term aesthetic learning. One of the projects searched for an understanding of the term through methodical experimentation. Furthermore, the project explored if the method The Aesthetic Interview (Vist, 2018) could be adapted to explore toddlers’ aesthetic, social and emotional processes of learning. The Aesthetic Interview consisted of aesthetic meetings with one to three toddlers. The conversation mainly took place within aesthetic, especially musical, and nonverbal media. In these meetings, the children were given the opportunity to communicate who they are, what they feel and what they can do. Emotional accessibility, consciousness, understanding, reflection, empathy, expressivity, regulation and interaction were elements that created accessibility for the toddlers (Vist, 2016, 2019). In the second project, two researchers who are also artists presented a performance for groups of toddlers to investigate the ideas of aesthetic learning. Through this artistic research method (Borgdorff, 2007; Lesage, 2009), the children were allowed to involve themselves in the performance activities if they chose to do so. The performance act, which is a research method in and on art and children (Borgdorff, 2007), revealed the aesthetic process where experiences were created and lived with the children. In this act, the interaction with the children provided a first-­  For further information about this sub-project, see (Myrstad & Sverdrup, 2016, 2019).


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hand indication of how children live their aesthetic processes. It was through the physical interaction, that is, the performing act, that the researchers took part in and shared the physical meeting the children had with the aesthetic experience (Gulpinar & Hernes, 2018; Schön, 1982). Focus groups with staff, fellow artists and art pedagogues were conducted in order to complement the information gathered through these aesthetic processes and to further define the term aesthetic learning.

Participants The participants in the different projects were groups of children under the age of three. Some of the groups were same-age groups (e.g., one– three years) and some were mixed-age groups (e.g., one–six years). The sample included both small and stable groups (traditional in Norwegian toddler care), as well as larger and flexible groups (a changing grouping of children and caregivers). Some groups participated both in the quantitative and qualitative parts of the project, while other groups participated in either the quantitative or the qualitative part of the study.

Procedures The data was generated between autumn 2013 and spring 2016. The data generation was conducted concurrently in all the sub-projects, which means the different parts of the project were equal when it came to defining the study (cf. Leech & Onwuegbuzie, 2009).

Results The findings in Searching for Qualities indicate that Norwegian toddler care has some challenges related to high-quality offers for very young children. Even if there are great variations between groups, this chapter will call attention to some general tendencies across institutions. Three


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central aspects of quality will be emphasised when presenting the results: relationships, content and structure.

Relational and Content Qualities Both the quantitative and qualitative parts of Searching for Qualities focused on the core aspect of quality in toddler care, which is interaction between staff and children. The quantitative part of the project measured different aspects of staff interactions with children in four everyday situations using CIP. The total CIP score indicates that interactional quality in Norwegian toddler groups is at a moderate level (Bjørnestad et  al., accepted for publication; Os & Bjørnestad, in progress). However, there are variations between the basic aspects of interactions compared to the educational aspects. The quality of basic interaction, which is defined as sensitive responsiveness, respect for autonomy, structure and limit-setting, has a higher score (from moderate to adequate) compared to the educational aspect. Verbal communication is at a moderate level. Developmental stimulation and fostering positive peer interactions are both at an inadequate level. These results are in accordance with studies conducted by Helmerhorst et al. (2015), which used CIP scales to explore interactional quality in Dutch ECEC. The tendencies are also well-known in a wider international context. For example, staff are generally friendly and warm, but quality decreases when it comes to talking with the children, inspiring them, supporting exploration and learning and supporting peer relations (Helmerhorst et al., 2015; La Paro et al., 2014; Salminen et al., 2012; Slot et al., 2016; Williams, Mastergeorge, & Ontai, 2010). However, it is worth noting that sensitivity in our sample obtained the lowest score of the basic aspects. The reason for the moderate quality in interaction might be that CIP measures staff interactions with groups of children, while interactions with toddlers are generally based on theories that emphasise interactions between individual children and staff (cf. Ahnert, Pinquart, & Lamb, 2006; Degotardi, 2017). This should also be considered in connection with the extremely low scores on fostering peer relations between toddlers (Os, 2019; Os & Bjørnestad, in progress). However,

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Eide, Winger, Dahle, and Wolf (2017) report that teachers believed they emphasised closeness, care and consideration for individual children’s needs during their interactions with toddlers. Even if the researchers witnessed a great deal of sensitive interactions, they also acknowledged that sometimes there was simply a shortage of laps for children to sit on. Both the quantitative and qualitative results in Searching for Qualities showed that there are considerable differences between groups in terms of interactional quality (Eide, Winger, Wolf, & Dahle, 2017; Myrstad & Sverdrup, 2016; Os, 2019; Os & Bjørnestad, in progress; Sverdrup & Myrstad, 2017). The results of an in-depth study on interactions during meals show that when caregivers have high CIP scores, they tend to show a high degree of engagement, follow-up on children’s initiatives, take initiative themselves and aim to engage toddlers in interactions (Os, 2019). In contrast to groups where the caregivers have low CIP scores, toddlers are active in interactions and the interactions can be characterised as group-related joint attention. In these interactions, a variety of themes emerge that illustrate the connection between teacher–child interactions and content in toddler care. Moreover, Myrstad and Sverdrup (2013) find variations between groups in their study on toddlers’ wanderings in ECEC. In two kindergartens, both of which had flexible grouping, children’s wanderings seem to lead to different experiences for the children depending on how the staff dealt with their wandering. In one kindergarten, the caregivers followed the children around the centre, which provided a secure base for the child’s exploration and allowed the caregiver to share the toddler’s experiences. In the other centre, the children were allowed to drift around on their own from place to place. The staff only involved themselves when conflict erupted between toddlers. An unexpected finding in Searching for Qualities was that toddlers’ accessibility to materials and toys was restricted (Bjørnestad & Os, 2018; Eide, Winger, Dahle, & Wolf, 2017; Eide, Winger, Wolf, & Dahle, 2017; Vist & Os, 2019). The sub-scale activity in ITERS-R, which strongly emphasises materials, was the one of two sub-scales with the lowest scores in ITERS-R.  Studies in the UK that measure quality using ITERS-R


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(Karemaker et al., 2012; Melhuish & Gardiner, 2017), Portugal (Barros & Aguiar, 2010) and the Netherlands (Helmerhorst et  al., 2015) also find that the sub-scale activities are among the lowest scoring sub-scales. The low standard deviation in the Norwegian sample indicates a low degree of variation between the groups (Bjørnestad & Os, 2018). However, Eide, Winger, Wolf, and Dahle (2017) find considerable differences between access to material in groups with traditional organisation compared to groups with open and flexible grouping. In traditional groups, appropriate material for toddlers was placed on open shelves, which were located in the rooms where the children spent their days. The toddlers were able to, and had permission to, pick up toys and bring them around the classroom. In the flexible groups, there were often wellequipped rooms designed for special activities, such as art, pretend play, reading, physical activities and so on. However, the material in these rooms was not always appropriate for toddlers, and the children were not allowed to bring the materials with them to other rooms. In addition, these rooms were often inaccessible for the toddlers either because they were too far away or because they were occupied by other groups—or simply because they were locked. These findings correspond with findings in another Norwegian study (Seland, 2009). Since the former Framework Plan for Kindergarten was implemented in 2006, there has been a decreased focus on the aesthetic subjects in kindergartens (Gulbrandsen & Eliassen, 2013; Østrem et  al., 2009; Winsvold & Gulbrandsen, 2009). These findings are fortified in Searching for Qualities. In surveys, lead teachers expressed that aesthetic subjects are an important part of the content in toddler care, but they rarely find enough time for these activities (Gulpinar & Hernes, 2018). The surveys show that aesthetic activities tend to emerge as a part of the everyday flow of shifting activities and often spontaneously. This is also related to the concept of didactics of the present moment (Jonsson, 2011, 2013) where every corner of the classroom becomes a centre of interest for the children and the teacher has the opportunity to involve themselves in the activities of the students. The teachers expressed that in order to prepare and accomplish aesthetic meetings with children, the staff require competence in the given subject as well as competence with children under the age of three. The

8  Children Under the Age of Three in Norwegian Childcare… 


results from the survey showed that organising, reporting and documenting take time away from the pedagogical work with the children; thus, there is a need for more hands in order to give children opportunities to encounter aesthetic and other subjects (Os et al., 2019). In general, there seems to be a feeling of shortcoming when it comes to the teachers’ urge to fulfil their obligations as prescribed in the framework plan (Utdanningsdirektoratet, 2017). The same tendency was found in a Finnish study. Although ECEC teachers considered documentation to be a useful pedagogical tool, they experienced lack of time as the greatest obstacle for carrying out documentation as part of their daily work (Rintakorpi, 2016). Children have been observed through the eye of the camera throughout the day (walking alongside) to see what they actually do as they move around on their own. Some children actively use their wandering as sources for acknowledgement and learning (Myrstad & Sverdrup, 2019). Other children do not seem to be occupied with anything. They walk, stop, do a small action and then continue walking. They do not really play with the other children, strangely, they are not invited in. It seems that these children have certain places where they like to stop by, stay for a while and continue their travels (Myrstad & Sverdrup, 2016; Sverdrup & Myrstad, 2017). Lost opportunities occur when staff are absent from situations that emerge during the kindergarten day. During our research, we observed possibilities for action, play, being together, creativity, reflection and creating interest, but these were lost because the teachers were not present. We also saw engaged adults that observed, lived alongside the children, experienced the same situations and acted upon the stimuli that revealed itself to them; however, these situations were too rare (Eide, Winger, & Wolf, 2019; Gulpinar & Hernes, 2016; Myrstad & Sverdrup, 2016; Os, 2019; Sverdrup & Myrstad, 2017).

Structural Qualities As stated above, the structural aspects of quality are important because they are connected to processual quality, even if the connections are not always found in the research. Searching for Qualities found considerable


E. Os and L. Hernes

differences in structural conditions in the sample, as well as a relationship between structural and processual aspects. The group sizes varied from six to 56 children (Bjørnestad & Os, 2018). Larger groups often had and needed a more flexible organisation, meaning that the group was divided into smaller groups during the day, and several groups shared interest centres. Data from the qualitative part of Searching for Qualities indicated that larger kindergartens and flexible groups had considerable logistical challenges. Since material and interest centres, and sometimes dining rooms, were shared between several groups, joint planning was necessary to ensure a smooth flow between all the groups throughout the day (Eide et al., 2019). The daily schedules were rigid, and divergence from the schedule had considerable consequences. Therefore, routines and activities were ruled by time with few opportunities to adapt the schedule to children’s needs, interests and activities—contrary to what was observed in traditional groups in smaller kindergartens. The children often had to wait in line before entering certain areas or break up at certain times. Large, flexible groups (≥19 children) scored significantly lower on the programme structure sub-scale using the ITERS-R compared to smaller, stable groups (