Detailed Program of the Conference

Parallel sessions - A.11.2 Learning from contemporary complexities. Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Education and Care in times of (post) pandemic
Saturday, 05/June/2021:
1:00pm - 3:15pm

Session Chair: Susanna Margherita Mantovani
Session Chair: Giulia Pastori
Location: Room 2

Session Panels:
A.11. Learning from contemporary complexities. Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Education and Care in times of (post) pandemic

External Resource:


Lucia Balduzzi, Arianna lazzari

University of Bologna, Italy

On 23 February 2020, LD no. 6 of the Italian Council of Ministers ordered the closure of all education institutions, including all ECEC facilities, in the red zones areas of severe Covid-19 outbreaks. Nationwide closure of the ECEC services was formally mandated on 4 March 2020 by DPCM. On March 6, the Note of the Ministry of Education n. 278 prescribed the transfer of all instructional, administrative and socio-educational and caring activities to remote and online platform for the duration of the emergency. Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, the ECEC system in Italy has experienced a series of unprecedented challenges: providing continuity of educational relationships with children and families during the lockdown (March-May 2020), re-opening 0-3 and 3-6 provision after the easing of the restrictions (June-August 2020) and redesigning educational practices within ECEC institutions to strike a balance between pedagogical vision and the strict sanitary protocols imposed (from September 2020 onward). A series of working documents focusing on the pedagogical dimension of remote education were issued by the Commission for the Integrated System established under the auspices Ministry of Education. Of particular relevance were the ‘Guidelines on building Educational Ties in Remote Learning Environments’ and the Steering document for the re-opening of early childhood education services and schools. In order to re-define ECEC services’ pedagogical project and educational proposals, professional development initiatives and consultations processes were undertook at local level especially by those administrations which are responsible for managing 0-6 municipal provision. In this context, pedagogical guidance and training initiatives were carried out in order to support practitioners in the process of re-arranging space, time and grouping strategies, as well as to sustain their reflection on educational methodologies and proposals starting from the needs of children and families approaching ECEC in this novel situation. This paper reports on the findings of a professional development initiative jointly designed by UNIBO Department of Education and the Pedagogical Coordination Service of Rimini Municipality. The in-service training pathway involved approximately 250 educators and teachers working in municipal and private-NFP publicly subsidised settings operating in Rimini province. The data analysed derive from educators’ and teachers’ responses to open ended questionnaires (n=98) launched during online training webinars conducted by the researchers. The discussion of findings will shed light on the main challenges faced by ECEC practitioners during the reopening of services and on how these were faced by redirecting the pedagogical intentionality of education and care practice beyond health restrictions. A particular attention will be dedicated to the in-depth analysis of the main themes emerged, which are related to the observation of children’s interactions within small groups, to the re-thinking of pedagogical documentation as a ‘bridge’ to sustain the relationships with families and to the re-shaping of parents’ participation within ECEC settings. In the concluding section, the implications for opening new avenues of pedagogical experimentation and qualification of ECEC practices beyond the crisis will be outlined with specific reference to the potentialities disclosed by the reform on the 0-6 integrated system.


Claudia Polo

MIUR (Italia)

I have been working in the Italian education sector for more than 25 years. Previously a Philosophy and History teacher, I am currently a school principal in a Northern Italy town. This multiple experience has allowed me to work side by side with students and teachers alike, in a constant way through time.

In my capacity as a teacher and then as a principal, I have been able to observe closely distinctive ways of teaching, diverse usages of communication skills, and different relationship models, as well as their critical points.

From the Nineties, education has been changing a lot. Yet, the most radical transformation took place with the outbreak of global pandemic in 2020.

In pre-Covid 19 era, education was one of the major agencies of socialisation. In schools, students lived most part of their days. There teachers, students, administrative and technical auxiliary staff, school principal, as well as local authorities, solidarity and voluntary associations, all performed rituals of everyday interaction.

With the education disruption and restrictions imposed to the social fabric of the institutes, the very core of the school autonomy, born in the late Nineties, is being questioned.

The adoption of the distance learning made some students, not only in Italy, a fragile category. Digital gap and social differences came into sight. In the virtual space of the digital school, new frustrations, insecurities and fears arise, beside fragmentation of social life. Transmission of knowledge reconfigures itself as a new front stage, whereas student socialisation flow back into back stage, channeled through social networks, such as instant messaging or the Internet used during on-line lessons.

Both the crisis of the school autonomy and the emergence of new frailties put some sociological and philosophical issues back at the centre: the interaction between vertical and horizontal dimensions in social stratification; the relationship between subject of knowledge and ethical subject. What is, then, the new scenery for the education? In this paper, using participant observation and qualitative interviews, I will try to answer this question.


M. Foucault, L’ordre du discours, Gallimard Editions, Paris 1971 (1994)

M. Foucault, Dicourse and Truth. The Problematization of Parrhesia, Northwestern University Press, Evanston 1985

E. Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Doubleday, New York 1959

E. Goffman, Forms of Talk, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia 1981

D. Goleman, P. M. Senge, The Triple Focus. A New Approach to Education, More Than Sound Productions, Florence (Ma) 2014



University of Milan Bicocca, Italy

In the last months, ECEC practitioners in all European countries have been facing the challenge of continuing their educational work despite the constraints and limitations imposed by the pandemic crisis. Under the pressure of health security during and after lockdown family life, children’s daily experience and professional practices have dramatically changed (OECD, 2020). New rules have been set and different educational strategies have been invented and enacted. More reflection and discussion are required to provide practitioners with adequate support to respond to the “social health” emergencies generated by the pandemic – especially regarding prevention/support actions for disadvantaged families and children (educational poverty, migration, economic/environmental disadvantage, disabilities, special needs).

This paper discusses the need for an “interdisciplinary-based” professional language and culture of the ECEC educators, rethinking their expertise by discussing how the emergency COVID-19 has changed their educational responsibilities and, as a consequence, the need for new competences and richer professional development. Responding to emergencies implies intercepting in children and families signals of fragilities as they first appear in the daily life of ECEC settings through community-work based on stronger networks with other professionals and services (OECD, 2019), in primis the network of free choice paediatricians.

This has been revealed as crucial at a time when new health regulations are giving rise to new challenges at the ECEC level that we should not ignore. When designing educational practices and settings, especially during the current post-pandemic phase, we cannot assume safety, health, education, and wellbeing to be separate goals. Rather, they are shared responsibilities that require solid networking and interdisciplinary work at the community level as well as new-professionalization for the ECEC’s educators. On the other hand, a more direct and first-hand knowledge of children’s life and behaviour in ECEC settings can be a precious enrichment to evaluate their health and well being for health professionals.

The post-pandemic crisis highlights the need to invest locally in the professional development of ECEC educators as key figures - ‘tutors in resilience’ (Cyrulnik and Malaguti 2005) – and of paediatricians and other professionals assuming that social health includes the physical but also the psychological health of children and the whole community. This means rethinking both the way we organize CPD (continuing-professional development) and the content of it. There is the urgent need to provide new interdisciplinary training for all professionals working with children and families.

In the presentation, we will use insights from the preliminary finding from a family survey about children’s experiences during the COVID-19 lockdown (Mantovani, Bove, Ferri, Manzoni et. al. 2021), which was administered through the paediatric network SICuPP (Italian Society of Primary Care Pediatricians – Lombardy) in Northern Italy as a starting point to reflect on these issues. This study is itself the outcome of promising collaboration with a network of paediatricians in a region of Italy severely hit by the COVID-19 crisis. We claim it as a first step in the direction that we are advocating.


Thomas Moser

University of Stavanger, Norway

In Norway, kindergartens (institutions for children from 1-5 years) were only closed for a short period from 12.3.-20.4.2020. The strategy of the Norwegian government has been to reopen as soon as possible and, in the further process, to keep all kindergartens and schools open. One important argument was (and is) that vulnerable children should recover in a good and safe environment and avoid extra strains that the pandemic can cause in vulnerable families. But, of course, there were (and are) also economical and general educational arguments for that.

For the reopening, infection control guidelines were developed to help kindergartens and schools to handle the corona situation. The purpose of the guidelines was to help to adapt the infection control measures adjusted to the local infection situation and, by that, prevent kindergartens and schools from being closed; the measures followed a “traffic light model” with green, yellow and red levels.

This led to massive changes in the organization of everyday life and the educational activities in the kindergartens, which the institutions managed in different ways and with varying success. We are currently collecting and analysing initial practical experiences, but also systematic evaluations and research-based evaluations of the consequences for the restrictive framework for kindergartens. Different from expected, the consequences were far from exclusively negative.

One aspect that is repeatedly highlighted was the children's ability to adapt and cope with the partly quite restrictive guidelines and feeling and doing well under the rules that would otherwise have been considered as rather not child friendly or contrary to prevailing pedagogical values. The regulations seemingly could strengthen inclusion, reduced opportunities to choose playmates and activities contributed to stable and transparent social relations between children. Furthermore, the staff reported that they had a higher presence among the children and that the relationships with the children became closer and that they were more confident that each child has been seen and followed up in a desirable way.

In this contribution, I will, based on available knowledge, reflect on, and discuss possible consequences with particular emphasis on the positive experiences and what consequences they have for policy formulation and pedagogical practice.


Maura Tripi

Dipartimento di Scienze della Formazione - Università degli Studi di Catania, Italy

The concept of “educational poverty”, developed and spread in the scientific and political agenda in Italy, is considered within the idea of a multidimensional poverty. Investing in education in a productive way of thinking is the economical basis of human capital theory. On the contrary, the most recent approaches underline the opportunities, the freedom and the capabilities of human beings. The international intense debate could suggest that “educational poverty” is a multi-sided concept, with its own risks and opportunities. How to examine an “educationally poor” context, catching the opportunities and avoiding the risks? In my paper, I introduce to the specific micro-context of the public daycare services of Palermo and I argue that collecting and analysing alternative counter-narratives around them, highlighting their democratic and social value in the local community, can be considered a way to reformulate the politics of representation of the “educationally poor” context, but also of the ECEC services.