Action Research in Early Childhood Education
„By what are educators interrupted when working with the child?“, „How can team meetings become more appropriate?“, “ How can I develop an integrated everyday language concept with my team at the daycare center?“ or „Is the index for inclusion suitable instrument for the implementation of inclusion in the nursery? “ The bachelor’s students of the study program “Frühkindliche inclusive Bildung” were concerned with these and similar questions during the last two semesters until their graduation this year. As part-time students they were able to systematically examine their own professional practice which corresponds to the model of action research (Altricher/Posch 2007 , 13).
The Basic idea of action research is that the professional context is not taken under the microscope by outsiders, but by the professional actors themselves. While often perceived as deficiancy in other research approaches, the subjectivity is seen as an important potential because it helps to understand internal views. In addition, action researchers have background knowledge that often is hard to understand for external researchers (Breuer 2010 , 20; Mayring 2002 , 66). The aim of this research is to investigate their own field of practice and their own actions by using scientific methods.
Action research is based on a problem or a problematic situation from the student’s area of work. Starting from here, the task is to consider what additional information is necessary to better understand a problem or situation: Ulrike Breyer, one of my students, decided to analyze the causes of frequent interruptions while working with the child. For eight weeks She regularly monitored a day-care group and recorded all kinds of interruptions. It became clear that most of the interruptions were caused by the educators themselves, closely followed by interference by children. Ulrike Breyer discussed the results with the team of the daycare center. It became obvious that the research process was an important impulse for them: „The educators confirmed that they became aware for the first time through my research. They became aware about the disturbances and their effects on children’s development and educational life and experienced these disorders as stressful“ (Breyer 2014 , 13). This will now serve as an opportunity for better understanding of the team.
Another question was investigated by Julia Maier, who sets out with her institution, who attempted an inclusive approach. She interviewed parents and children and organized focus groups with the educational team. In several feedback loops Julia Maier mirrored back and evaluated results. The project has evolved even beyond the task for a module at university.
The results of the action research project by Sylvia Richter, who dealt with the unsatisfactory organization of the office in her day-care center, are similar. From this starting point she came to fundamental issues of management and nursery management. Sylvia Richter’s text „Chaos in the office – a reflection of the team? The office as a starting point of team development„, is the corresponding publication on kindergartenpaedagogik.de.
And what do the students say? The evaluation revealed that the students themselves experience a large increase in competence. This refers to content knowledge and dealing with research methods, but also to formal aspects: What it means to go through a research process from start to finish, to stay focussed on an issue for such a long period of time and to overcome doubts and uncertainties. A Student wrote: „The enormous workload that demands this module from us students was the best preparation for me and my BA thesis.“ – The intensity of work can’t be rationalized: Action research always means a high timeinvestment. Besides the profit of 20 credit points it needs lots of preperation, planning skills and motivation to pass the module. Another problem is the dual role of the student-researchers: They are the employees in their organization and at the same time they explore it. This is a great challenge!
Thus, the students must be accompanied with various forms of support. The focus lies on several feedback loops, i.e. by mail or via the learning platform. After about half of the time of the seminar, students submitted a rough draft (which was not graded) for which they received feedback from me. Admittedly, that was a lot of work for me as a teacher. But the great results are worth this investment. In contrast to other feedbacks I usually write, I received immediate response, as well, by seeing how students implemented my advice directly in their final text versions. Furthermore, it is important for the students to experience that a text needs to be revised several times before it is fully satisfying. In my opinion this is important skill for passing the BA Thesis.
In addition to this personal and interactive support, we developed a wiki on research methods. The wiki was primarily authored by the students. It is available on the learning platform. Simultaneously we created the You-Tube channel „Wilma’s Tutorials„. Here, video tutorials are provided for the first, low-threshold entry into research methods, such as the planning and implementation of focus groups.
So: Much work for students and teacher has brought a huge benefit.
Thanks to Natalie Kiesler for support in translation!
Altrichter, Herbert & Peter Posch. 2007. Lehrerinnen und Lehrer erforschen ihren Unterricht. Unterrichtsentwicklung und Unterrichtsevaluation durch Aktionsforschung. Bad Heilbrunn: Klinkhardt.
Breuer, Franz. 2010. Reflexive Grounded Theory: Eine Einführung für die Forschungspraxis. Wiesbaden: Springer.
Breyer, Ulrike. 2014. Wodurch werden die Pädagoginnen in der Arbeit mit dem Kind unterbrochen? Fulda.
Mayring, Philipp. 2002. Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse. Weinheim: Beltz.