Norland, the world-famous specialist early years higher education provider, held its annual research conference on 27 June 2023. The theme of this year’s conference was ‘The competent child’. The event also marked the launch of the Norland Educare Research Centre.

Principal Dr Janet Rose opened proceedings alongside conference organisers Viki Bennett Kane, Principal Lecturer, and Dr Alex Morfaki, Early Years Lecturer, at its Oldfield Park campus in Bath. 

The keynote address was given by Professor Elizabeth Ann Wood, Professor of Education at the University of Sheffield, on ‘Competent children: understanding agency, interests and funds of knowledge. In this interactive presentation, Professor Wood drew on research to provide insights into children’s cultural, communicative and play competences, and to consider the implications for pedagogy and curriculum and for creating positive developmental environments. 

Professor Elizabeth Wood from the University of Sheffield delivering a keynote speech at the Norland Research Conference

“It was especially impactful to hear from current students who have planned and carried out thoughtful and innovative research as part of their degree”, said Vikki Bennett Kane.

Third-year BA (Hons) Early Years Development and Learning students gave papers on their work-based project research. Joe Baker presented the findings of his study on ‘How does Bronfenbrenner’s ecological system affect twins’ abilities to be an individual?’. Verity Langdale gave a paper on her research on ‘Do children see their siblings in different ways to friends? An investigation between sibling and friend relationships in childhood’. Georgia Myers presented her research on ‘An analysis and discussion of the findings of the investigation into an Exploration of the use of Dual Language Books to Support Young Children’s Bilingualism in the Home Environment’. Francesca Kate Williams presented her research on ‘A case study that examines the sense of belonging of third culture children to their parents’ maternal language, customs, and traditions’.  

Third-year students Tippy Pullin and Early Years Lecturer Georgina Bassil joined Dr Rose Drury, Early Years Consultant and Honorary Associate at The Open University, to give a presentation reflecting on their recent study visit to Pistoia in Italy. The field trip, led by Dr Drury, immersed the students in the Pistoian approach which is underpinned by the belief that children learn as citizens

A female Norland student presenting research at the Norland Research Conference

“Dedicated to home-based early childhood education and care, these initiatives will play a crucial part in helping to fill a research gap and in raising the status and value of early years professionals supporting children in the home”, said Dr Janet Rose. 

Academic staff gave papers on their recent research. Principal Dr Janet Rose presented a paper on ‘Neuroscience and play’, which reported on the findings of a review of current literature around neuroscience and play and the new perspectives offered by the emerging field of neuroeducation. Principal Lecturer Viki Bennett Kane presented her research on ‘Practitioner reflections on their role in supporting young children’s play’. Vince McCleod, Early Years Lecturer, shared the findings from his study on ‘Early years teachers’ perceptions of the impact of drama lessons on children’s self-regulation’.  

The event concluded with the launch of the Norland Educare Research Centre and the publication of the inaugural issue of the Norland Educare Research Journal – the world’s first research journal to focus on home-based early childhood education and care. The establishment of its new research centre reflects Norland’s commitment to credible and ethical research, conducted in close collaboration with key stakeholders to transform the lives of children and their families and contribute to research evidence in the field of early childhood studies. 

Dr Janet Rose stood in front of a screen during a neuroscience lecture

“The Norland Educare Research Centre was established with the aim to support, promote, oversee, coordinate, and monitor all research undertaken within and in the name of Norland, to ensure that the institution’s vision for research is realised”, said Dr Theodora Papatheodorou.

Dr Janet Rose, Principal, said “Norland’s annual research conference offers a critical opportunity to share the work of Norland’s established and emerging early years researchers with leading experts to inspire innovative and rich discussion that sparks new ideas and perspectives. We were delighted to launch our new research centre and open access journal at this year’s event. Dedicated to home-based early childhood education and care, these initiatives will play a crucial part in helping to fill a research gap and in raising the status and value of early years professionals supporting children in the home.”

Dr Theodora Papatheodorou, Research Fellow and Manager, said: “Norland is committed to research that is relevant and appropriate to the field of early childhood care and education and professional practice, to children and their families, to relevant key stakeholders, and the wider community. The Norland Educare Research Centre was established with the aim to support, promote, oversee, coordinate, and monitor all research undertaken within and in the name of Norland, to ensure that the institution’s vision for research is realised. Norland fosters a dynamic, sustainable, inclusive and innovative culture, underpinned by credible and ethical research and enabled by establishing strong professional and research networks, and partnerships with key stakeholders.” 

Female headshot

“We hope that the conference and our new research centre and journal will help bring the voices of home-based educators and nannies to the fore and acknowledge their impact on the lives of young children and their families”, said Dr Alex Morfaki. 

Conference co-organiser and presenter Viki Bennett Kane, Principal Lecturer, said, “Taking place in June, as we embark on summer activities such as research and preparing for the academic year ahead, the conference offered Norland staff and students the opportunity to pause and reflect and investigate key issues together through the context of our recent research. It was especially impactful to hear from current students who have planned and carried out thoughtful and innovative research as part of their degree. I was really pleased to be able to share my research and to explain how it has impacted my understanding of reflection in early years practice and how this process inspired me to continue my research.”

Conference co-organiser and Early Years Lecturer, Dr Alex Morfaki, said “The Norland conference provides a good opportunity to showcase the research efforts of our students and the Norland community, and attests to our commitment to enhance understanding and knowledge of the field of home-based education and care. This area remains under researched but has a significant contribution to make in the development of the diverse early childhood education and care sector in this country and beyond. We hope that the conference and our new research centre and journal will help bring the voices of home-based educators and nannies to the fore and acknowledge their impact on the lives of young children and their families.” 

a female smiling

“I enjoyed sharing my passion and love for my work with others. I think it’s great for a few of us to talk about and demonstrate what we do as students and how we can all create a question base around a passion in the industry”, said Joe Baker, third-year student. 

Third-year undergraduate student, Joe Baker, was delighted to have the opportunity to present his work-based project research at the conference. “I was very proud to be asked to talk. Overall, my dissertation was very successful achieving a first! I enjoyed sharing my passion and love for my work with others”, he said.

“I think it’s great for a few of us to talk about and demonstrate what we do as students and how we can all create a question base around a passion in the industry”, Joe added.I enjoyed talking to people and answering their questions on what I have done, and seeing what they think about my dissertation.”

Joe and the other students of Set 44 (the 144th cohort to complete their campus-based training at Norland), will shortly embark on the final year of Norland’s training as a Newly Qualified Nanny in paid full-time employment with a family. 

For further information about research at Norland, visit norland.ac.uk/research  

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