The Nordic countries as a whole share a strong sociocultural theoretical premise in their early years education from a social pedagogical approach, which is emphasized in Denmark through a special focus on children’s freedom to play and have influence on their own lives (Ringsmose & Kragh-Müller, 2016). Ongoing research investigates the various practices and values that characterize education in Denmark – but students enrolled in the Child Development and Diversity (CDD) program at DIS experience them first-hand through weekly practicum visits to childcare institutions and schools. Additionally, their immersion into Danish-speaking sites requires that they rely on their direct observations in order to understand what is happening. As ‘cultural outsiders,’ students have the opportunity to observe and experience critical aspects of daily life in institutions and schools that Danes themselves may take for granted.
This project harnesses the common experiences of students enrolled in CDD (and specifically the students enrolled in the Child Development and Education core class) to investigate how their observations and interpretations of experiences in their Danish practicum sites (as well as on study tour in Finland) might contribute to a discussion about salient characteristics of both Danish and Finnish pedagogical practice from an ‘outsider’s perspective.’ The project also employs a second lens to investigate the students’ reflections on the practicum experience itself, and what they might potentially indicate about students’ reflections on their own learning while abroad.
Data for the study will be collected from student participants through pre-and post-semester surveys, weekly journal entries, as well as focus group interviews. As the study is focused specifically on the ability to access CDD practicum sites, potential Research Assistants must themselves be enrolled in the CDD program. The research assistants will be introduced to qualitative and quantitative research methods, and contribute to the project overall, including assistance in conducting and transcribing focus group interviews, performing structured observations at their practicum site, as well as participate in the initial rounds of data analysis.