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Why? How? What?… Researchers in Early Years settings


Tuesday 30 August 2016

This week EECERA (European Early Childhood Research Association) rolls into town. This is a huge event which will see close to one thousand people passionate about early childhood arrive in Dublin. For the next few days we will discuss, debate and support research and learning about Early Childhood Care and Education. Inspiring stuff indeed.

The Theme for this EECERA conference is Happiness, Relationships, Emotion and Deep Level Learning. This Conference theme resonates with us in Ireland as Aistear has, at its core, a belief that happiness, relationships and emotions are absolutely fundamental to deep level learning.

Research matters…at times it can seem academic and distanced from practice. But each of us is a researcher in practice. I will be presenting a paper about the newly established research circle in Cork. This is one of a number of practitioner research groups that Early Childhood Ireland are delighted to be involved in. There’s a nationwide group focused on outdoor play, there’s a group based in Kildare and the Cork group. It’s all about peer sharing and support. The practitioners involved share their thoughts, ideas, challenges and leave with new ideas and inspirations to try in their practice. These are reflected on and discussed again in the next gathering.

And let’s not forget that children are born researchers. When we see the baby on the floor grabbing for his toes…we are seeing a researcher in action…what is this thing waving in front of me, if I touch it what will happen, if I pull it what will happen? That’s research!


Children question things, they want to know, they need to know. Recently I was paying for parking. A little boy and his mam were nearby. I heard him asking her why was I putting money in the machine. She shushed him. I told him what I was doing and showed him the ticket I received to place on the dash. He smiled with satisfaction…his research question was answered!

Any one of us who observe children will see how they figure out the world…they look, they listen, they ask questions and they try things out. And if that doesn’t work, they try again, and again. And sometimes they might rethink and give up, to try something new. And often they keep trying until they get the answer. Alison Gopnik, who is one of the Keynote Speakers at EECERA says ‘Babies and young children are perpetually exploring and experimenting, testing out new theories and changing old theories when they learn something new.’ Just as any researcher, in any field, does.


So let us always remember our children as researchers, let’s provide the environment where they can explore, think and figure things out. Let’s foster and encourage curiosity. Let’s enable them to be happy, deep thinkers. And match their research with our research. For that is the way forward!

How do you make your room a place where children can experiment, question and explore? How do you encourage curiosity? How can we document our ongoing reflections, research and findings about how children develop and learn, simply and effectively?

We would love to hear your ideas and thoughts!

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