Research

Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Systems for Justice and Equity

This project aims to develop a multi-site, interdisciplinary programme of inquiry into the capability of early childhood systems to ensure just and equitable outcomes for all children from birth. The programme will:

● result in more comprehensive conceptualisations of the constituting elements and interrelations of competent, just, and equitable early childhood systems;

● enable shared learning with and from successful initiatives at local, regional, and country levels;

● demonstrate pathways for knowledge transfer between equitable practices and policy making.

The investigative programme considers existing inequalities within and between countries and regions. It will be coordinated by co-PI’s based in diverse geo-political regions–North and South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe.  The leadership team consists of senior researchers, policy makers with responsibility for systems development, and early childhood professionals and advocates, supported by an international advisory board.  They  bring a breadth of disciplinary and professional backgrounds, enabling transdisciplinary knowledge co-creation, and multisectoral collaboration with local actors in a global shared learning environment. 

This project is funded by the Spencer Foundation
ECRC project team: Mathias Urban (PI), Constanza Alarcon, Cristina Pacione-Zayas, Vina Adriany, Mark Nagasawa, Hasina Ebrahim, Mariana Souto-Manning, Mercedes Mayol Lassalle

Implementation of ILO policy guidelines on the promotion of decent work for ECEC personnel: Progress and prospects research

The project aims to investigate the quality and quantity of data available for monitoring the implementation of the ILO Policy Guidelines, and to assess new developments in the ECE sector and discuss to what extent the guidelines can help address emerging trends.  The research aims to analyse and report on the employment conditions of ECE personnel and member organisations’ positive contributions to the achievement of the Guidelines, and other critical challenges of the profession.

This project is funded by Education International
ECRC project lead: Mathias Urban

RECOdE

The RECOdE project focuses on the development of a framework for cultural awareness in higher education study programs for Early Childhood Education and Care. The program is co-funded by the European Union, and includes the University of Education Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany, the University of Stavanger, Norway, and the Dublin City University, Ireland, working in close collaboration to create a framework for cultural awareness, common modules at B.A. level as well as a Summer School program at M.A. level.

ECRC project lead: Mathias Urban

Exploring pathways towards a public model of early childhood education and care for Ireland

In December 2021, the Irish Government published a report from an Expert Group charged with developing a new funding model for Early Learning and Care and School-Age Childcare. The report provides 25 recommendations on how to progress the development of a new model of funding. However, a major shortcoming in the scope of the work undertaken by this group was that any new funding model must operate within the existing service delivery model (i.e. private provision).

While welcome and necessary, the report follows a pattern that has long been established in the Irish early childhood environment: policies have traditionally tended to be reactive, aiming at ‘fixing’ problems as they become evident, without clear and proactive moves towards systems change.

To address these unresolved issues, the Early Childhood Research Centre is conducting a study on the ‘development of a public model of early childhood education and care. The study will

1.   Explain and define different models of public provision of early years’ education currently available in key European countries and summarise the key features and benefits;

2.   Review the recommendations from the Expert Group to see how far they deliver upon a public early years’ model;

3.   Make recommendations to evolve the system to a best in class public early years’ service.

The research is funded by the Children’s Rights Alliance
ECRC project team: Mathias Urban (PI) and Colette Byrne (Researcher)

Pedagogies of hope: Exploring play opportunities for young children in an urban environment

The project undertook a critical, participatory investigation of play environments and play opportunities afforded for young children experiencing much restricted play opportunities in Irish urban contexts. Underpinned and informed by an ethos of Froebelian principles, their critical relevance in society in the 21st century, and the right to play as enshrined in the UNCRC, our project addressed the question ‘How is and can play be supported in ECEC settings, at home and in the community’?

It is well understood that play is a means for children to understand, find their place, manage and make meaning of their worlds. Consequently, play is a valuable resource for children, a potential counter-measure to trauma and stress. However, conditions for early childhood educators and families coming together to create supportive play environments in contexts of deprivation are critically under-researched in the Irish context.

Our study adopted a highly innovative participatory approach combining principles of participatory action research with the ‘future workshop’ methodology (Jungk) that empowers participants to take concrete steps towards change. The project has the potential to impact policy and practice across the Irish ECEC system from a dedicated Froebelian perspective.

The project is a collaboration between the DCU Early Childhood Research Centre (lead) and the Froebel Department of Primary and Early Childhood Education, Maynooth University. It has been funded by the Froebel Trust, London.

Project team: Marlene McCormack (DCU), Aishling Silke (DCU), Annette Kearns (MU), Leah O’Toole (MU), Patsy Stafford (MU), Tríona Stokes (MU), and Mathias Urban (PI, DCU)

RESYS

Resilient Early Childhood Education, Care and Development Systems (RESYS) establishes a Global South-South-North research collaboration between three centres of excellence in Cambodia, South Africa, and Ireland, to investigate the resilience of early childhood development, education, and care systems. RESYS also responds to the 2030 SDGs, specifically Goal 4.2. It addresses key priorities of A Better World. Ireland's Policy for International Development, in particular C2 Gender Equality ('Education for Girls') and C3 Reducing Humanitarian Need ('Sustaining Peace Agenda') with a specific focus on early childhood, and the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA).

 Funded by Irish Research Council
ECRC project lead: Mathias Urban
Partners: University of South Africa and SeeBeyondBorders (Cambodia)
 

Exploring Nordic approaches to early childhood education and care

The Early Childhood Research Centre at Dublin City University (DCU ECRC) and the FILIORUM-The Centre for Research in Early Childhood Education and Care at the University of Stavanger have been awarded the prestigious project by the Nordic Council of Ministers for Education and Research. The purpose of the study is to shed light on the values and principles that have guided the evaluation and assessment of the quality of early childhood education and care in the Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden. The research project undertakes a systematic investigation into the development over time, and the current practice of evaluation in the Nordic countries. Furthermore, the study explores whether there is a coherent view on evaluating and assessing the quality of early childhood education and care that can be described as specifically ‘Nordic’, and how this links to the quality and development of early childhood education and care, its pedagogical practices and to the wellbeing, development and learning of children.

ECRC project lead: Mathias Urban
ECRC researcher: Jennifer Guevara

TOY to Share, Play to Care impact evaluation

TOY to Share, Play to Care is a learning project that provides practice-based evidence for the development and implementation of inclusive, community-based and -embedded services for young children and their families. The impact evaluation focused on what making a difference mean looks like in specific contexts.

ECRC project lead: Mathias Urban
Researchers: Gillian Lake, Geraldine French, Fiona Giblin, Thérèse Farrell

Froebelian Principles in the 21st Century: Play environments and play opportunities for young children experiencing stress

This study proposes a critical, participatory investigation of play environments and play opportunities afforded for young children experiencing stressful situations in Irish ECEC, home and community contexts. Underpinned and informed by an ethos of Froebelian principles, their critical relevance in society in the 21st century, and the right to play as enshrined in the UNCRC, this project addresses the question ‘How is and can play be supported in ECEC settings, at home and in the community for children experiencing disadvantage and stress in their life situations’? The premise for the study is that many children in present-day Ireland are experiencing high levels of disadvantage for multiple reasons, including homelessness, poverty and migration. This study adopts a highly innovative participatory approach combining principles of participatory action research with the ‘future workshop’ methodology (Jungk) that will empower participants to take concrete steps towards change.

ECRC project lead: Mathias Urban
ECRC researchers: Marlene McCormack, Aishling Silke

The design, development and delivery of bilingual oral narrative programme "Tell-a-Tale | Inis Scéal" to support language development in linguistically diverse junior infant classrooms

Doctoral thesis. Tell-a-Tale | Inis Scéal is a specially developed and piloted bilingual English-Irish oral narrative programme with an overarching aim to support oral narrative retell in the junior infant classrooms. It is underpinned by sociocultural and interactionist views of language acquisition (Bruner, 1983; Vygotsky, 1978). The programme seeks to provide an opportunity for English Language Learners, in particular, to develop oral language skills in the initial years of primary schooling. The integrated English-Irish narrative pedagogy derives from the recently introduced Primary Language Curriculum and a gap in the literature pertaining to adopting this approach in Irish classroom settings. The study explores teacher professional development experiences, perceived pupil responses to the programme and insights on the English-Irish narrative pedagogy approach.

ECRC researcher: Aoife Merrins

Let’s Talk about STEM: Language Supports for Girls’ Early Science Engagement

Funded by Science Foundation Ireland through the Discover Programme (2018), this interdisciplinary project by a team of researchers at the IoE and CASTeL partners with educators, parents, and children to consider the role of language and how we talk about science in motivating and encouraging girls’ science engagement in early childhood education.

ECRC project Lead: Sinead McNally

Governance in Early Childhood Education and Care: the case of Argentina

Postdoctoral project. The project examines the Early Childhood Education and Care system in Argentina, looking to understand the strategies of governance across different layers (individual, institutional, inter-institutional), and different levels of government (national, provincial, local).

ECRC researcher: Jennifer Guevara

Early childhood development, education and care with and for rural populations and contexts in Colombia

Doctoral thesis. This investigation seeks to understand early childhood development, education and care in rural contexts through a case study in Colombia. The national early childhood policy framework De cero a siempre provides a comprehensive early childhood programme. However, challenges remain in rural diverse territories given their cultural patterns, knowledges, needs, understandings about childhood, ways of social organization, among others. Considering this complex scenario, this research enquires into: What are the characteristics of early childhood development, education and care in rural contexts of Colombia? How do rural peasant communities conceive and experience early childhood development, education and care?

ECRC researcher: Diana Gómez Muñoz

Early childhood development(s), education and care from a scenario of peace building

This investigation is framed by current public policies assuring the rights of young children in Colombia (De Cero a Siempre and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child) and the final agreement for the termination of the conflict and the construction of a stable and lasting peace. This doctoral project takes up the debate around the rights of children, public policies, language and culture in order to (re)conceptualize early childhood development(s), education, and care grounded in the social realities and assumptions -knowledge(s), practices and values- of children, families, and communities towards peace building.

ECRC researcher: Germán Camilo Zárate Pinto