Community Action Research
Community Action Research is the primary methodology used in the development of ELI. The action-reflection cycle of observe, reflect, act, evaluate and modify (McNiff 2006) informs the development of ELI’s programmes and ensures that plans are implemented. Unlike traditional research, it does not aim for the final answer (McNiff 2010) but provides a structure that enables the continuous evaluation and improvement of the project, both formally and informally. For ELI, this ensures that individual programmes evolve and change according to the educational needs of all the participants and the community. Involving all ELI stakeholders in the action research process supports the successful management of change and creates a learning community that works together to ‘nurture and sustain a knowledge-creating system’, based on valuing each other equally (Senge & Scharmer 2001, 240).
The Parenting365 project aimed to conduct an exploration of the experiences of children with disabilities and their parents living in an area of socio-economic disadvantage in Dublin’s Inner City and to understand the impact of the Parenting365 Programme on children with disabilities and their parents. The study also sought to directly engage the parents in informing the future development of the Parenting365 Programme. Nine parents completed a “Needs Assessment” with the researcher, including Ages and Stages Questionnaires (ASQ-3 and ASQ:SE-2) and demographic information. Seven parents also completed a semi-structured interview after engaging in the Parenting365 Programme. The needs assessment suggests that communication and personal social development were particular deficits within this cohort, however, all areas of development, as measured by the ASQ-3, may require additional support. The findings from the Parenting365 programme highlighted the positive impact of the programme for both the parent and child, supporting previous feedback captured by the ELI from parents who had previously completed the Parenting365 programme (ELI, 2022). Parents reported increased confidence in their ability to support their child and that a benefit of the programme was seeing their child thrive in social interactions. Additionally, particular benefits of the programme were stated as being the opportunities for social support amongst the parents and feelings of solidarity.
Early Developmental Outcomes of Infants from an Area of Socio-economic Disadvantage: A Comparison with National Norms
The study exploring whether infants from an area of socio-economic disadvantage differ in variables related to Child and Parent Well-being, as compared to national norms continued across 2019-20. To date, the study has 90 baseline surveys and 40 post programme surveys. The results highlight the programme’s ability to alter parental behaviour. Results showed statistically significant increases in cuddling, immunisation and use of safety equipment when parents had completed the programme. Parents’ behaviour and their understanding of child development is a crucial part of early childhood interventions. The findings of this study have important implications for policy as the findings indicate that investments in early interventions can improve conditions for socioeconomically disadvantaged children, which in turn improves social disadvantage.
ParentChild+ Follow-Up Study
An external evaluation of ParentChild+ was conducted through a follow-up study of ParentChild+ graduates from the original implementation of ParentChild+ in the Dublin Docklands. Thirteen parents and child graduates and two teachers participated. The findings indicated the continued positive impact of the ParentChild+ programme for both children and mothers. Significantly, the development of strong communication skills, socio-emotional and academic skills, and a love of learning were noted as being related to the experience of being a part of the ParentChild+. Parents stated that the ParentChild+ programme helped them to have “a little more patience and open mind about parenting” and that it was “great to have someone else coming and seeing… [the child’s]… progress”. The parents mentioned the “warm and affectionate” relationships fostered by the Home Visitors and that they were “just so brilliant” and they “really enriched our lives”. Additionally, parents also mentioned that they continued to employ the skills they learned with their “other children”. These findings support the previous evaluations (2014-2017) of the ParentChild+ programme and the baseline study completed in 2011 (Share et al., 2011).
Learnings from a Move Towards Virtual Engagement in Supporting a Community of Socio-Economic Disadvantage During COVID-19.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Home Visiting teams at the Early Learning Initiative moved their home visits to virtual visits in compliance with public health advice. In order to capture the engagement during home visits, the quality of intervention being received by families, the challenges facing families and the learnings emerging a new reflection tool was developed to be completed after each home visit across the three stands of home visiting programmes (0-2 Programme, ParentChild+ Programme, and the Home from Home Programme). Over 5000 reflections completed by Home Visitors have been collected which will be explored in 2021/22 to identify the factors that predict positive engagement with virtual delivery of visits.
ELI also carries out research to contribute to the early childhood education academic discipline. You can find journal articles, book chapters and conferences in the Research section NCI website