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Quantitative research in kindergarten

In the Norwegian Research Council program UTDANNING2020 it was a strong emphasis on the desire to strengthen the quantitative research in the educational field. Professor Edvin Bru at the Center for Behavioral Research has for many years researched and published research based on quantitative studies. We asked him about what could be the benefits by strengthening the quantitative research in Norwegian kindergartens.

Norwegian day-care research has previously been dominated by qualitative research. Quantitative research in kindergarten can give negative reactions because many people associate this with quantification of constructed variables which may seem too abstract from everyday life in kindergarten. However, quantitative research has been widely used among young children in many other countries, for instance in the United States.

- Quantitative research in the kindergartens’ sector offers many opportunities and can shed light on conditions that it is not possible to bring out in the same way by using qualitative research, says Bru. - One of the main advantages is that you can look at the causality in a slightly different way than in qualitative research, where the results are more descriptive. Quantitative research provides a greater opportunity to "isolate the effects", meaning that for example, one can look at what factors are most important for learning in the first school years.
 

In the Skoleklar project we will look at the precursors for such learning, such as number and alphabet knowledge, playing skills in relation to concentration, attention and close relationships. What are the most important skills for children before they start school? Quantitative methods allow us to find out the answers.

- In general I would say that it is important that educational research in Norway, uses a wide range of research methods. The different research methods are helping to shed light on different aspects of a topic, and may contribute to increased knowledge and insight with regard to further work in kindergartens and schools, says Bru.

Can there be any negative aspects of using quantitative research strategies in kindergarten?
- Mapping of children in kindergarten is quite controversial because many people are concerned with the stigma of some children who get weaker results in the surveys. In our project, we will not be giving individual feedback to either parents or the kindergarten. The data will be used for general statistical analysis, and will not be traceable. Therefore, stigma is a not a challenge in this project. We will strive to identify tasks that might be interesting, fun and engaging for them. We have partners in the U.S. who have good experience with such testing.

Is it ethically justifiable to use research methods based on tests and questionnaires involving children and families?
- In the very start of the project, we will of course apply for en ethical commitee to ensure the privacy and ethical aspects of the project. Throughout the project, we place great emphasis on the ethical aspects and the protection of data - as we do in all our research projects at the Centre for Behavioural Research. Generally, it is an ethical principle in research that the usefulness of the results should be weighed against the potential burden. In this project, I would say that the burden for the participants will be low, and that the results will be of great value for kindergartens, children and families, says Bru.