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Project activity

Narrative play and learning (NEPL) project was carried out in 2015-2017 in four different
countries: Lithuania, Finland, Poland and United Kingdom. Lithuanian University of Educational
Sciences coordinated the project.

Narrative environments, play and learning have been the research object of scientific team since
1990’s. New scientific evidence about the importance of early years comes from the fresh brain
research (Shonkoff, 2001; Greenspan & Shanker, 2004, Mustard, 2010). The World Bank has
recommended investment to early education in 2005 based on available evidence. The earlier
projects of our team have produced some methodological recommendations. On this base, the
following objectives were set for the project:

  1.  To develop culturally relevant narrative play and learning environments in each country (classroom/school) as a result of new narrative pedagogy.
  2. To develop evaluation practices of narrative play and learning practices in classrooms (recording and evaluating play interactions, relation between co- and self-regulation, use of ICT – technology, etc.).
  3. To develop NEPL guidelines for dissemination and further training of ECEC professionals in all participating countries.

The project aimed at professional development of the ECEC and elementary school teachers
working with young children. A team of pedagogues and university researchers in each country
were developing effective narrative play practices enhancing the creation of common playworlds
of adults and children in early childhood education or elementary school classrooms. Common
experiences and best practices were shared in each of the participating countries during joined
training weeks. These best practices have been compiled into a NEPL guidelines.

Participants
Participating organisations were three universities (LUES, Lithuania; UKW, Poland; UH, Finland),
which have a common research interest in early education based on play pedagogy. There were
three ECEC institutions (Kaivoksela (FIN), Gintarelis (LT), Vanessa Nursery (UK)), that value pretend
play, take children as active learners and are eager to create child-friendly learning environment.
Finally, one school in Poland (Zespol Szkol nr. 19) was brave enough to challenge old teaching rules
and start implement our Narrative play and learning method. This school use active inclusion of
gifted, socially excluded and children with special needs.

Activities
I phase - at the beginning of the project international scientific team in collaboration prepared
training material for initial teaching/learning and training activities and for the implementation of
the first narrative project.
II phase - the teaching/learning and training activities (5 days) was implemented in each country:
Finland, Poland, Lithuania, United Kingdom. After each teaching/learning and training session
international scientific team together with the teachers-practitioners reflected and prepared
recommendations for the next narrative play project in a new country.
III phase - as a result of teaching/learning and training activities in spring 2017, international
scientific team in collaboration and following recommendations of practitioners prepared a
package - NELP guidelines for new ECEC teachers. This material was presented during
dissemination seminars to the new teachers in each country (Finland, Poland, Lithuania, United
Kingdom).

Methodology - a preliminary methodology how tales and stories are transformed to children’s
imaginary learning environments was published in Hakkarainen & Bredikyte (2013). The
methodology was enhanced and elaborated. Videotaping was used for collecting data at different
sites. The scientific team was elaborating evaluation methods.

Results - child development and learning were enhanced while using child friendly learning
approach. Methodological awareness and professional competences of teachers grew. Guideline
documents were produced in four languages for the dissemination of the methods developed.

Benefits - we can offer concrete methods for solving the big challenge of many educational
systems: school transition. The two main tasks were fulfilled by narrative play pedagogy in
preschool age: narrative environments for play and learning (NEPL) developed the quality of
preschool play from simple elementary forms to most advanced ones; and by doing so NEPL
utilized play as a tool of overcoming crisis of development and constructing transitory activity
system between play and school learning. In other words, NEPL can prepare the child for transition
to school, support child's development and enhance learning results.

Presentation about the NEPL project.