FILIORUM – Centre for Research in Early Education and Care has three focus areas within the research: play, communication and belonging.
The centre promotes multidisciplinary and multi-methodological research with a variety of perspectives. The research is realized through three phases: Exploration, Development and Implementation.
Through exploration, strengths and limitations within existing learning processes and practices in ECEC are highlighted. Qualitative and quantitative approaches, including observation, interviews and questionnaires are used. Participants include children, employees and owners of ECEC institutions, as well as parents and employees in the support system.
Based on research, new approaches and different resources are developed for ECEC in close cooperation with both the practice field and students. The work in this phase forms the basis of FILIORUM's resource bank.
In close cooperation with ECEC institutions and their owners, we explore how tools, resources and different approaches can be implemented in real life. This is done in different ways, for example through large randomised controlled trials (RCT). In addition, the researchers use various qualitative strategies to study, develop and implement new pedagogical approaches and more reflection-oriented tools. This means that a smaller number of ECEC institutions are studied through observation and in-depth interviews in various forms of research communities. It is a goal to involve ECEC staff and students.
Through research that provide new knowledge, the goal is that all children will experience a sense of belonging, social participation and interaction i ECEC settings. Belonging is one of three research areas for FILIORUM - Centre for Research in Early Education and Care.
The Framework plan for kindergartens describes belonging as a fundamental, human need in the same way as care and security. Children should experience a sense of safety, belonging and well-being in ECEC settings.
Societies are increasingly multicultural, and ECEC institutions reflects this. Belonging is a very relevant and important topic in diverse ECEC. There is a clear need for more knowledge about children's belonging regardless of their background.
Belonging is a fundamental need
– We have studied the processes of belonging in ECEC settings, both interaction between the children and between the staff and children, as well as parents, says Marit Alvestad, Professor at the Institute of Early Childhood Education at the University of Stavanger.
Research points to various challenges when it comes to inclusive pedagogical practice. More research is needed on how belonging is exercised in ECEC institution's everyday practices.
–Through projects together with kindergartens and early childhood education programs at universities, we contribute to develop belonging in a broad sense. The goal is to ensure that all children get a good start in life. Belonging is fundamental for children in terms of their well-being, play, exploration and learning in everyday life, explains Alvestad.
Large Nordic research project on belonging
The research project «Politics of belonging» is a central part of the work. The overarching research question is: "How do the politics of belonging emerge in the intersection between the macro-level politics and the daily lives of educators, other professionals, children, and parents in different educational settings?"
The research study «Politics of belonging» is a collaboration between several researchers in Norway, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands, supported by NordForsk and led by Professor Eva Johansson.The study sheds light on the views, interpretations and experiences of children, ECEC employees and parents when it comes to community and belonging.
The role play has in children's lives and the many possibilities of play in diverse ECEC settings is a strong research focus for FILIORUM – Centre for Research in Early Education and Care. Together with belonging and communication, play is one of the prioritized research areas for the centre.
– Play is an infinitely large topic that we should never stop researching because it is so incredibly important for children. We also believe that there is an even greater potential for staff to help facilitate play in different ways, especially in diverse ECEC settings, says Ingunn Størksen, Professor at the Norwegian Centre for Learning Environment and Behavioural Research in Education.
ECEC institutions most important task is to meet children's need for care and play, as well as promote learning and formation as a basis for versatile development. Play has a central place in ECEC settings, and it is absolutely necessary that staff have a good knowledge of play, the importance of play and how they can facilitate everyday life so that all children have the opportunity to participate in play.
– We need more knowledge about how children develop basic skills through play in ECEC settings, Størksen adds.
Furthermore, more knowledge is needed about how play can contribute to children's joy, motivation, creativity, and problem solving that in turn can help create a foundation for lifelong learning.
– Play and flow have many common characteristics, and both are associated with joy for life and good mental health. There is a need to study these phenomena more closely in an ECEC context," explains Størksen.
It is also necessary with more research on what can motivate ECEC employees to become more involved in children's play and exploration.
FILIORUM projects form the basis for research on play
GoBaN ("Good kindergartens for children in Norway" (2016-2019) showed that quality in kindergarten is closely related to children's opportunities for play. It is not only the activities and equipment for play that are important, but also the way staff interact with children in play.
In the Stavangerprosjektet (2007-2018) the researchers found that there were close links between children's skills in play and language skills. The project also showed that motor skills and mathematical skills are linked to children's play.
The project Lekbasert læring explored how play-based approaches can promote language, mathematical skills and self-regulation in older kindergarten children, and what effect this has on learning in school.
Within research on Sustained Shared Thinking, which two PhD-students in FILIORUM is working on, it is not just about conducting play-based activities. The sustained dialogue and thinking facilitated by the staff is almost more important than the actual content of the activity. Children's participation is heavily emphasized, and the staff challenges the children to continue thinking and exploration on topics the children address in the activities.
Central to FILIORUMs research is to promote work with communication, both between children and between children and ECEC employees. FILIORUMs third research area is Communication.
Communication is important in all work within ECEC, whether it is communication between children and ECEC personnel, between the children, between employees, or between the ECEC institution and the parents.
The kindergarten is more diverse today than just a few years ago. Children speak multiple languages, have different cultural backgrounds and are at different functionality levels.
– When talking about language, it is language in a broad sense, not just the spoken language. Mathematics can be one way of communicating, and the use of body language is another. Communication affects all disciplines in diverse ECEC, says Elin Reikerås, Centre Leader at FILIORUM and professor at the Department of Early Childhood Education at the University of Stavanger.
Communication at different levels
We wish to explore what communication looks like at different levels in ECEC. Children's language development and language learning in ECEC settings are a central theme in this work. For example, the staff's knowledge of their role as linguistic models is central to children's language development, says Reikerås.
The VEBB project («Books and apps: Development of Assessment Tools for E-books for Children") looked at how digital picture book apps are used in conversational reading in ECEC settings. Another research project, Stavangerprosjektet, explored children's language skills at different ages, as well as what mathematical skills, social competence and motor skills the children possess, while the performing arts project "Scenekunst for alle små" explores emotional and aesthetic processes.
ECEC institutions are a holistic learning arena and in FILIORUM we put great emphasis on communication in the context of play and belonging. Communication is central to children feeling a sense of belonging and being part of a group, and play is a form of communication. Everything is connected," concludes Reikerås.