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About the Project
The quality of early childhood programs plays a crucial role in improving outcomes for children. Play-based practices are considered a vital component in early childhood development as they offer opportunities for children to learn and grow. Despite this, the field is still trying to understand the role of teachers in facilitating play and their beliefs and practices related to play, as well as how to best support these practices. The study was grounded in methodology developed within the Paths 2 Play (P2P) project, using definitions from the LEGO Foundation’s white paper on play facilitation as a starting point. The study specifically looked at the training processes within aeioTU, a Reggio Emilia inspired early childhood program in Colombia, exploring how learning through play is understood, conceptualized, and practiced, and the degree to which materials support it. The aeioTU program is centered on child-led play, exploration, projects, and aesthetic expression.
The study was conducted against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and commenced during the period when children were learning from home. Later, as learning shifted to hybrid and in-person formats, the study shifted to centers. The research focused on gaining insight into the concepts and interpretations of learning through play among train the trainer teams, teachers, and caregivers. Data was collected between June and December 2021 from 55 teachers across 7 municipalities. A small study was also conducted, consisting of video observations and interviews with teachers and parents. The small study took place at two aeioTU centers in Cartagena, Colombia, where 6 teachers were followed through their professional development process. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, all data collection was carried out remotely.
This study was a collaborative effort between researchers at NIEER, researchers at Universidad de Los Andes, and the early childhood program aeioTU in Colombia. The study was funded by the Lego Foundation, award No. 126447.
Milagros Nores, Ph.D. is Co-Director of Research and Associate Research Professor and Associate Research Professor at The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University. Dr. Nores conducts research at NIEER on issues related to early childhood policy, programs, and evaluation, both nationally and globally.
Ellen Frede, Ph.D. Senior Co-Director at the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), is a developmental psychologist specializing in early childhood education. Dr. Frede oversees research, policy and programmatic improvement initiatives with an emphasis on systems development and the relationship of quality factors to child outcome in city and state pre-k programs.
Carolina Maldonado, Ph.D. is Associate Dean of the School of Education at Universidad de los Andes (Bogotá, Colombia). Her expertise is in the study of the links between the quality of early childhood education and children’s development.
Eduardo Escallón, Ph.D. is the Dean of the School of Education at Universidad de los Andes (Bogotá, Colombia). Dr. Escallón has extensive experience implementing participatory projects to promote citizenship education and professional development programs for teachers in Colombia.
Juliana Sanchez, M.Ed. is a research assistant at the School of Education, Universidad de los Andes (Bogotá, Colombia). Her master’s thesis focused on identifying and characterizing play opportunities in Colombia.
Karol Guerrero, B.A. is a research assistant at the School of Education, Universidad de los Andes (Bogotá, Colombia). She has participated in several projects related to understanding how play is implemented in early childhood classrooms.
Related NIEER Resources
Quality of care matters for babies and toddlers: Lessons from aeioTU in Colombia
Implementing aeioTU: quality improvement alongside an efficacy study—learning while growing
Reaching Thousands of Children in Low Income Communities With High-Quality ECED Services: A Journey of Perseverance and Creativity
The effects of a project and play-based early education program on medium term developmental trajectories of young children in a low-income setting.