Early Childhood Studies – a Global Perspective

Exploring the concepts on early childhood studies through the lens of people across the globe


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A New Outlook on Research

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Prior to taking the course, Building Research Competencies, my lens on research is purely in the finding out aspect about things that personally interest me – to be able to understand and find the explanation for the causation and interrelation of issues, events, and contexts. Little did I know that there are ramifications involved in research that would account for its feasibility, reliability, validity, and equity. Browsing through the chapters of Doing Early Childhood Research (Naughton, et.al., 2010) provided explanations to the components of research – from topic choice, method design, ethical considerations, to analyzing and presenting of information.

The research process is not a simplistic way of choosing a topic or framing a hypothesis, but being able to break the broad topic into sub-areas (Mac Naughton and Rolfe, 2010). Upon narrowing a topic, one has to consider the financial, timepuzzle-961800_1280 and human resources required to gather information. A big part of this is the consideration of ethical issues especially in seeking consent from potential participants. The researcher must be transparent in presenting the objectives, how the participants will take part, and how they will be given access to the findings of the research. The ethical issue of being able to communicate in a language the participants will understand the whole process of research is a primary consideration. Also, part of the process is studying carefully the equity issue of power relations when participants are given opportunities to negotiate and agree to the process on how their voice will be reflected (Grieshaber, 2010).

The method of study in relation to the objectives of the research and the nature of chosen participants can be quantitative, qualitative or a mix of both. Triangulation is an effective way of validating the data collected in a qualitative approach whether it is a method, data, theoretical or investigator. Thus, replicating a research is a viable way to validate its findings. Contrary to the common perception, where quantitative results that present statistical analysis is the only way to justify a research, it occurred to me that depending on the nature of the study, quantitative, qualitative or both can be applied.

Learning a new dimension about research, each week presented challenges although it has helped in refining and fine-tuning the research planning. The biggest realization that made me turn back to review the research plan thoroughly is the equity issue in research. It enabled me to reflect on my role as a researcher. How will I approach the process of data collection without overpowering and domineering the participants? One of the initial limitations that I considered was the capability of the participants. I then realized that if a researcher is cognizant of the social, economic, cultural, gender and age orientation, then the approaches planned for must match their predicaments. The early childhood researcher must, then, be an equal partner with participants – adults or children to co-construct the knowledge that will help in understanding or explaining the issues affecting the development of young children.

Scrutinizing the elements of the chosen research topic provides a solid foundation allowing for adjustments in time, resources and ways of collecting, analyzing and interpreting data. The results of the study whether it is a confirmation of the direction-255294_1280understanding, explanation of the cause of the phenomenon or otherwise, it is a reflective tool from which a sound decision can be made.

Discovering the complexity of research is, therefore, not a drawback in conducting research. Rather, it ensures that having a deep understanding of the process including the challenges and issues all contribute to a reliable and valid study that is equitable, relevant and an effective agent for change.

Reference

Naughton, Glenda Mac. & MacNaughton, Glenda. & Rolfe, Sharne A. & Siraj-Blatchford, Iram.  (2010).  Doing early childhood research : international perspectives on theory & practice.

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Research Around the World

Sustainability is a term that is predominantly used in development work for the past thirty years. The initial realization of environmental-awareness-679668_1280providing adequate food, proper housing, and safe water was discussed in a meeting among industrialized and developing nations. Recognizing the need to revitalize the connection between humanity and nature led to the onset of UN global institutions (UN, 2011). For twenty years, the symbiotic relationship between nature – the resources it provides and humanity was magnified by the escalating problems on poverty. Thus, the need to take care of the environment to achieve sustainability was finally conceptualized during the first UN Convention on Environment and Development in 1992.

The idea of sustainability has rippled through the early childhood education sectors in the Sub-Saharan region when the Early
Childhood Development Virtual University (ECDVU) was established in collaboration with The University of Victoria in Canada. The conception of this project was borne out from the concept of “brain drain” when many scholars who go to universities in industrialized nations do not come back to serve their community after finishing their degree. Reversing the concept to “brain-skills-835747_1280gain” to build the capacity to meet the needs of early childhood leadership and development in Africa, a comprehensive method of educating nominated individuals who would work with development initiatives in their local areas was created. Choosing participants is part of an inter-committee on early childhood development screening of participants interested in the identified early childhood goals of a country.  The program employs innovative approaches to learning. It includes face-to-face and distance learning methods including two to three-week seminars; web-based learning; video-conferencing; a “community of learners” strategy within cohort countries. As the UN (2011) indicates,

          “a key feature of the program is that the students continue to live and work in their own country while they study. The     cohort will be able to apply what they are learning directly to their daily work; this will benefit the work of their employer and will contribute to ECD capacity development within and across participating countries.

Contextualizing the concepts by investigating and applying them in their local  communities requires research studies  to understand local contexts and explore ways to promote early childhood development. One of these research was conducted in malawi-80853_1280Malawi. Based on previous finding so of research and conducting his own as well, Day (2004) reported on “A Community-driven Rural Early Childhood Development (ECD) Project, with Emphasis on Culturally and Developmentally Appropriate Exploratory Learning Concepts”.  This project explored ways on how to improve learning in poor communities when a large percentage of the population drop-out of school. Exploring the many aspects of learning by employing strategies  such as using local resources co-constructed by families and other community members, the importance of using the environment to explore concepts and co-construct knowledge with the children, as well as inclusion of the parents in the training on how to engage their children. These were corroborated by surveys to gain a better understanding of the present predicament to bring about a change to achieve sustainable early childhood development in the local community. Through this project, the community was engaged in deciding what they want for their children; teacher training was conducted through modelling, observations, and reflective practice; learning kits composed of local materials were constructed; and an early childhood development shelter was constructed to promote experiential approach to learning.

Many projects that were completed through a combination of studies through experimental work and research include “Involving Fathers in Early Childhood Care and Development” in Nigeria, “Professional Associations in Support of Child Well-namibia-344890_1280Being in Uganda: Establishment of ECD Newsletter Series’” in Uganda and “Assessing the Influence of Different Early Childhood Development Models On Pre-School Children’s School Readiness in Kenya” among many others. These studies were completed through the funding support of different organizations.  The World Bank, Unicef, CIDA, the Norwegian Educational Trust Fund, and Bernard Van Leer Foundation are just some of the organizations who have supported the ECDVU program.

The news and publications section of the website provides more details and stories of the ECDVU journey. Going through every topic of studies conducted in the Sub-Saharan Africa gives a picture of hope that development can be sustained through comprehensive research studies to identify and analyze issues and present viable solutions.

References:

Early Childhood Development Virtual University. (2005). About ECDVU in Sub-Saharan Africa. Retrieved from http://www.ecdvu.org/ssa/about.php

United Nations. (2011). The History of Sustainable Development in the United Nations. Retrieved from http://www.uncsd2012.org/history.html