EYDP and the Summer Training in Iasi (Romania)

Article written by Alan Bruce and Imelda Graham

Over many years, ULS has had a specific interest in and engagement with innovative educational initiatives regarding early childhood learning and education. Early childhood is perhaps the time we learn most, and most rapidly. It is also traditionally overlooked as a source of real creativity and potential for pedagogical innovation. In the ULS experience, there are many challenges to early childhood learning caused by external factors: war, conflict, forced migration, poverty, social exclusion and the stereotypical assumptions about the sector. One of our more recent projects is working to address some of these issues.

The Early Years Digital Portfolio project (EYDP) is being developed through the European Union’s Erasmus + programme. The aim of the EYDP project is to create a more effective and transparent communication pattern among childhood education and care systems and families, with the purpose of documenting, evaluating and assessing the progress of each child according to a holistic view of the child’s development and learning. The project, therefore, intends to innovate and support the transformation of early childhood educational institutions and the qualification of their professionals, towards a more digital education future.

In addition to ULS in Ireland, project partners come from Italy (Pixel Association; Istituto Comprensivo Sestini), Romania (EuroEd Foundation), Portugal (Agrupamento de Escolas Miguel Torga Bragança; Centro Social Santa Clara). The Lead Partner is Istituto Politecnico de Bragança (Portugal). The project website is: https://eydigifolio.ipb.pt/project-description.php

In July 2023, ULS arranged for a very excited group of early years’ educators to meet in Dublin Airport to fly to Iasi in north-eastern Romania. The purpose of the trip was to spend the week studying, along with their European colleagues, “Pedagogical Documentation on Children’s Learning: Creating Digital Portfolios”.

The project had started some months earlier, with initial surveys and research on the status of pedagogical documentation from an Irish perspective. Following analysis of the primary research findings, work began on the Handbook, with a draft being developed, and then explored through the study trip in Iasi. The Irish group was involved in lots of learning, debate, discussion on areas related to pedagogical documentation, networking with their new European colleagues, and a little sightseeing! The programme for the week was developed by the IPB Institute in Braganca, led by Dr. Cristina Mesquita, an expert on this topic.

The topics covered during the week were:

  • Participatory Pedagogies in Childhood Education
  • Child Holistic approaches
  • Practical aspects of documentation (How, when, and where to document?)
  • The observation of children’s action: instruments and processes
  • Creating Children Portfolios

ULS has interest in innovative educational initiatives regarding early childhood learning an education

What our Participants said:

The week of training was extremely beneficial and allowed for reflection on not only my own practice, but also about how it compares to other jurisdictions. I found that we have a lot of commonalities as well as differences in how we approach both documentation and curriculum. For example, in Portugal the documentation in the Modern School Movement approach is entirely led by the children and focuses on democracy as central to the approach while in Romania, there is mandatory implementation of curriculum, resulting in a more academic approach. I was inspired when it was acknowledged that in Ireland, we are not hindered by past approaches and attitudes in that our own framework, Aistear is not only progressive but an excellent example of international best practice.

I really enjoyed every minute of this trip to Iasi… Andrei for his wonderful tour guiding and for Anca the president of EuroEd for her hospitality. I look forward to passing the finished product to my own colleagues in my service…

I especially enjoyed listening to our European colleagues with their daily practices…and would love the opportunity to travel to their settings to see and learn from them…experience first-hand their practice, as we experienced in EuroEd. Christina and Louis were so good, explained things so well ..made us explore our own practices, and thankfully, translated very well…

I found the content of the course to be interesting, some of it nothing I had not already heard ( level 8 ) or am already doing in my practice, however what I found of particular interest to me was children’s genuine participation, in learning experiences and in documentation and what this can look like, by realising what this is for each child we will then be able to truly see the child in his or her agency. Applying this to a digital platform would be wonderful, being able to add to the child’s story over the course of the year or two or indeed throughout their time in a service would be phenomenal… and what a story this would be for parents!!”

Thanks again for the amazing opportunity in being part of the EYDP in Iasi, it was such a great experience and a very insightful week. The study week helped me to reflect on my own practice and focus on my approach to documenting children’s learning from a portfolio aspect. The trip gave me scope to reflect and develop my practice so that going forward I am consciously aware and mindful in providing a holistic approach to promote children’s learning and participation, giving children the autonomy to be active agents and the importance of facilitating children to share their learning journey with their families and communities.

I feel that the training course and handbook will help support Early Year Educators to be confident in navigating through the documentation process of creating digital portfolios with the understanding and knowledge we are capturing true reflections of children’s learning journeys.

When looking at digital portfolios. it is exciting to envisage how we will have the tools to create a wonderful journey of learning and development that will be unique and individual to each child. I am looking forward to the online training and to moving forward with this project. Capturing our image of the child in the most positive and responsive way possible


Expected Project results

  • Development of a digital handbook aimed at kindergarten educators to provide them with the pedagogical basis and framework for construction of documentation processes on children’s learning and performance.
  • Creation of an online training package that will provide practical training on pedagogical documentation and assessment
  • Production of a Digital Portfolio Management System (DPMS) for uploading digital documents related to children’s documentation and assessment

Early years services in Ireland will be able to benefit from these results, to use the Handbook and complete the Online Training Programme. There will be Irish seminars/workshops in 2024/5 to present the outcomes. The ULS coordinator and expert on the EYDP project is Imelda Graham.