Pedagogical staff at early childhood education and care centres have better knowledge and can impart it better when they have previously undergone continuing professional development (CPD) in science. The children also benefit, as their enjoyment of learning and their interest in science increase measurably. Moreover, the new research shows that science education offerings have a positive effect on the children’s language abilities.
The findings of the two studies, EASI Science (Early Steps Into Science) and EASI Science-L (Early Steps Into Science and Literacy), which investigated the effects of CPD in early science on early childhood professionals and children, are now available. In the EASI Science study, which was conducted between 2013 and 2017, the participating educational researchers found that science CPD improved both the content knowledge and the pedagogical content knowledge of early childhood professionals. Moreover, those professionals who had undergone CPD had greater motivation and interest than professionals in a comparison group without CPD. This also had an effect on the children: Their enjoyment of learning, their interest in science, and their confidence in their own ability improved measurably.
Conducted during the same period, the parallel study, EASI Science-L, found that science education had a positive effect on children’s language abilities. The researchers investigated the way in which early childhood professionals implemented learning units in science and the quality of the linguistic stimulation that they demonstrated in the process. Clear differences were found between professionals who had undergone CPD and those who had not: Pedagogical staff who had participated in CPD implemented more linguistically stimulating learning opportunities for the children. The children’s language abilities were greatest when their educators had previously attended a combined science and language CPD workshop provided by the “Haus der kleinen Forscher” (Little Scientists’ House) Foundation.
The “Haus der kleinen Forscher” Foundation provides scientifically grounded and practice-oriented CPD in the domains of science, technology, computer science, and mathematics. It supports pedagogical staff at early childhood education and care centres and primary schools in facilitating children’s exploration, inquiry, and learning in a qualified way. Michael Fritz, Chairman of the Executive Board of the “Haus der kleinen Forscher” Foundation, is pleased about the new research findings: “The studies confirm that the “Haus der kleinen Forscher” is on the right track. We contribute to ensuring that children have a greater enjoyment of science and are more self-confident in this domain. The fact that inquiry-based learning is well suited for language education is particularly gratifying. We are really proud of these findings! We see them as an incentive to continue to steadily improve our offerings.”
Hardly any research has been conducted to date on the concrete outcomes of science CPD offerings. With the measurement instruments that the researchers developed in the framework of the two studies, it is now possible to systematically measure whether science CPD for early childhood professionals has an effect and what effects it has. Moreover, statements can be made on the effect of CPD on children’s science and academic language competencies. On the basis of the insights thus obtained, qualification measures for early childhood professionals can be evaluated and improved. The researchers behind the two studies thus entered uncharted scientific territory and have made an important contribution to quality development in early childhood education and care centres.
Publication of the full final reports of the studies is scheduled for summer 2018 in the Foundation’s scientific series.
A detailed presentation of the findings of the studies can be found here:
About the Studies
The study Early Steps Into Science (EASI Science) was conducted by Prof. Dr Mirjam Steffensky (Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education, IPN, Kiel), Prof. Dr Yvonne Anders (Freie Universität Berlin), Prof. Dr Ilonca Hardy (Goethe University Frankfurt), and Prof. Dr Miriam Leuchter (University of Koblenz-Landau). It was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the “Haus der kleinen Forscher” Foundation. The study was based on a sample of 358 early childhood professionals and 282 children from 102 early childhood education and care centres throughout Germany.
The study Early Steps Into Science and Literacy (EASI Science-L) was conducted by Prof. Dr Astrid Rank (University of Regensburg), Prof. Dr Anja Wildemann (University of Koblenz-Landau), Prof. Dr Andreas Hartinger (University of Augsburg), and Prof. Dr Sabina Pauen (University of Heidelberg). It was funded by the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung, the Siemens Stiftung, and the “Haus der kleinen Forscher” Foundation. The study was based on a sample of 58 early childhood professionals and 222 children from 58 early childhood education and care centres in Southern Germany.
The Baden-Württemberg Stiftung advocates a vital Baden-Württemberg with a high quality of life. It helps pave the way for top-class research, many kinds of educational measures and projects to strengthen a responsible society. The Baden-Württemberg Stiftung is one of the major foundations in Germany. It is the only foundation which invests exclusively and without partisanship in the future of Baden-Württemberg, and thus in the future of its citizens.
„Haus der kleinen Forscher“ Foundation
The non-profit “Haus der kleinen Forscher” Foundation is committed to improving early education in the domains of science, technology, computer science, and mathematics with the aim of strengthening children for the future and enabling them to act in a sustainable way. Together with its local network partners, the Foundation provides a nationwide professional development programme that supports pedagogical staff at early childhood education and care centres and primary schools in facilitating the exploration, inquiry, and learning of children between the ages of three and ten. The “Haus der kleinen Forscher” Foundation improves educational opportunities in the domains of science, technology, computer science, and mathematics, and professionalises pedagogical staff for this purpose. The partners of the Foundation are the Helmholtz Association, the Siemens Stiftung, the Dietmar Hopp Stiftung, and the Deutsche Telekom Stiftung. The Foundation is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).