Detailed Program of the Conference

Parallel session - H.10 Quality ECEC In Italy: Teaching and Learning In The New 0-6 System
Saturday, 05/June/2021:
4:15pm - 6:30pm

Session Chair: Cristina Stringher
Session Chair: Maria Carmen Huerta
Location: Room 2

Session Panels:
H.10. Quality Ecec In Italy: Teaching and Learning In The New 0-6 System

External Resource:


Carlo Andrea Pensavalle1, Massimo Dell'Utri1, Andrea Ligabue2, Antonella Ventura3, Roberto Furfaro4, Glauco Babini5

1Università degli Studi di Sassari, Italy; 2Università degli Studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia, Italy; 3Liceo delle Scienze Umane, M. Castelvì – Sassari, Italy; 4Istituto Tecnico Industriale G.M. Angioj – Sassari, Italy; 5Ludolabo

Game Media Literacy (GML), born as a theory in 2004, embodies in a very direct sense the characteristics introduced by Eric Zimmermann in his Manifesto for a Ludic Century, to describe media and culture as systems which are increasingly modular, customizable, and participatory.

The way we work and communicate, research and learn, socialize and romance are all intimately intertwined with complex digital information networks which, owing to their flexibility and organicity, promote a playful dynamic twist to the pursuit of an education model suitable for young students to approach complexity in a spatiotemporal perspective. Christian Swertz refers to GML as a set of educational processes specific to games, which become tools to discuss learning in games, learning about games, learning by game design, and learning from games. GML is about creating and understanding meaning, forcing us to gain the ability to see how the parts of any system of human relations fit together to create a complex whole, making use of an active playful participation and an innovative transdisciplinary way of thinking, both geared to analyze, redesign, and transform existing systems into more organized ones.

If we look at Wikipedia as an example, we can see that it is not a system made of users accessing a storehouse of expert knowledge, but it is a lively community in which the users are also experts, who together create information, while evolving the system itself to a more refined and controlled one. In this context, games are considered as machines of inputs and outputs, hybrid environments, inhabited, manipulated, and explored, which become a natural habitat for approaching complexity education. Being playful is the engine of innovation and creativity, as we play, we think about thinking and we learn to act in new ways, overcoming the passive relationship to the systems we inhabit.

How can we approach and develop these attitudes? How can we fully engage with our systems of human relations? How can we promote in our students, in a natural appealing way, the ability to recognize how and why systems are constructed, and to try to make them better? A pilot of Highschool students attending the last three-year Lyceum degree in Sassari area, Sardinia, are going to be engaged in thinking as game designers, exposed to systems of reasoning which show how the dynamical systems perspective can be applied to provide fresh insight into such complex phenomena as interpersonal behavior, social relations, attitudes, social cognition, and personal beliefs. Also, through this exposure, our goal is to measure their grasp of complexity underlying our way of communicating, learning, and behaving in the real digital world.

Outcomes from this study include monitoring learning about games, the awareness that takes place while playing games, education that takes place while designing games, and for teachers involved in the project, monitoring learning from games of new educational approaches.

Project financed by FAR UNISS 2019.


  1. Eric Zimmermann, Manifesto for a Ludic Century, 2015
  2. Christian Swertz, Game Media Literacy, Wiley Online Library, 2019


Isabel Alfano1, Alessio Ceccherelli1, Luca Fratepietro2, Marco Serra3, Andrea Volterrani1

1University of Rome Tor Vergata, Italy; 2Arci Campania; 3Mycro Working

This abstract presents the European Coopcamp project, launched in March 2020 in 5 countries: Belgium, Italy, Poland, Spain and Sweden. The project aims at proposing a training course in high schools to improve the knowledge and values of the cooperative model (mutuality, democracy, participation) and related skills (Fazzi, 2019). Very rarely, a co-operative economic model is a choice for young people. However, they are a particularly suitable target group for a business model that focuses on personal skills rather than on the availability of capital.

In a preliminary research phase, a questionnaire was administered to some of the project partner schools, based upon the experiences of previous projects and the EntreComp framework. The analysis of the results contributed to the design and implementation of a training package, taking into account three main conceptual pillars:

  1. a narrative framework on cooperative values in line with young people’s imagination;

  2. a gamified structure eliciting interest in content and training activities;

  3. the design of experiential learning activities based on problem solving, challenges and simulations, to be carried out either face-to-face or online.

All this, by using a digital tool created specifically for the project, with the function of providing teaching materials, guiding groups of students and teachers in scheduled meetings and keeping track of the training process.

The choice of this approach is due to two main reasons. On the one hand, the choice was made to stimulate students' interest by going towards their habits and imagination (Bolin 2017), betting on the meaningfulness of learning experiences (Ausubel 2000). On the other hand, it is necessary today to rethink training interventions in a media education and media construction of reality framework (Couldry, Hepp 2017). To facilitate learning, technological tools are embedded into a constructivist and collaborative logic, focusing on the quality and quantity of interactions: between students and teachers and between students themselves. In concrete terms, the digital tool consists of an online learning environment that gradually indicates the activities to be carried out, guiding teachers and students in their learning process. The online environment is not seen as a 'mere' expansion and continuation of what happens in the face-to-face context; it enhances the offline experience by guiding the educational process, just as a dashboard to refer to in order to conclude the learning path.

The project is currently in a pilot phase. Actual testing will take place in schools in the project partner countries by April 2021. So far, about 150 groups of students and 50 teachers registered in the online environment, exploring sections and functions of the digital tool.


Ausubel D. B. (2000), The acquisition and retention of knowledge: a cognitive view. Dortrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer, 2000.

Bolin G. (2017), Media generations: experience, identity and mediatised social change, Routledge London

Couldry N., Hepp A. (2017), The mediated construction of reality, Polity, Cambridge.

EntreComp: The Entrepreneurship Competence Framework,

Fazzi L. (2019), Costruire l’innovazione nelle imprese sociali e nel terzo settore, Franco Angeli, Milano.


Arianna Lazzari, Lucia Balduzzi, Martino Serapioni

Bologna University, Italy

Structural and pedagogical quality concerns have featured prominently in contemporary ECEC debates. This attention has coincided with a more general interest among researchers and policymakers in the potential of high quality ECEC to interrupt the inter-generational transmission of disadvantage by nurturing children’s learning and development as well as by fostering families’ participation (European Commission 2019;2013). Essential preconditions for this equalizing effect are that children and families from disadvantaged background – who stand to gain the most from ECEC – are given particular consideration by public authorities, which should design services that are at once accessible, available and responsive to their specific needs and potentialities (Morabito&Vandenbroeck 2013; Vandenbroeck&Lazzari 2014). Against this background, the issues of educational transitions and social inclusion became the focus of unprecedented scrutiny (OECD2017). As discontinuity and fragmentation between ECEC segments still represent a widespread feature of ECEC systems in EU Member States, multiple studies have documented the inadequacy of the way in which educational transitions are currently governed, in terms of addressing disadvantaged groups’ experiences and constraints (Balduzzi et al.2019). What has been missing so far is a body of work that consistently seeks to reach across the gap between local experiences and cross-national analyses, the micro- and macro-dimensions of early childhood provision, and building connections between local instances of policy and practice and overarching national or global frameworks.

In this perspective, the recent introduction in Italy of an integrated ECEC system from 0 to 6 years provides an ideal opportunity to push traditional boundaries and examine the way in which large-scale goals, such as the establishment of a unitary ECEC cycle on the entire national territory, are translated into local governance implementation strategies and pedagogical approaches to transitions. The preliminary findings that will be discussed during the presentation are based on a twofold research process carried out in the context of the InTrans project (Erasmus+KA3), consisting in: (i) the critical review of policy documents and pedagogical guidelines (Fairclough2003) issued by Ministry of Education (MIUR) and Emilia-Romagna Region (ERR), (ii) the thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews (Ritchie&Spencer 1994) with stakeholders involved at various levels of ECEC provision in ERR, as well as with key-decision makers and policy advocates at national level (n=12).

The key themes emerged from the analysis revealed critical implementation gaps – such as accessibility and equity of ECEC provision, especially for younger children and socially disadvantaged families – and challenges connected to multi-level governance of the integrated 0-6 system within enduring decentralised governance mechanisms. At the same time, the findings point out to possible strategies for filling out such gaps by drawing on the initiatives that are proactively being undertaken by key-stakeholders in the field, namely: (i) exchanging decentralisation with multilevel and coordinated governance, and (ii) investing in platforms for pedagogical coordination as levers of vertical (across 0-3 and 3-6 services) and horizontal (across different ECEC providers) continuity. In conclusion, the policy-advocacy and training initiatives initiated within the InTrans project to sustain the reform implementation within the context of Emilia-Romagna will be briefly outlined.


Victor Gerardo Cardenas1, Cristina Stringher2, Hugo Armando Brito2, Ma Irene Silva1


Learning to learn (L2L), one of Europe’s key competencies, is increasingly central in the post-modern world. International experts define it as a survivor tool in the mutable employment landscape, or as a means of self-fulfillment and development in work and domestic life (Stringher, 2014). Citizens should be equipped with this hyper-competence, yet international comparative studies are scarce.

It seems that primary and secondary education around the world is particularly good at thwarting key components of this notion, such as creativity and curiosity, and these components are much more developed in the early years (Chernyshenko, Kankaras e Dragsnow, 2018: 80). However, the literature has devoted much less attention to the acquisition of L2L from early childhood.

In our international qualitative study, within a socio-cultural tradition, we intend to start filling in this gap. Our aim is to offer examples of practices conducive to the acquisition of L2L in early childhood. We take a theoretical stance grounded in the international literature and in order to understand how L2L is conceived of in these two preschool systems, we examine normative documents.

We analyze nine qualitative interviews to Italian and Mexican preschool teachers within the wider international study. The interview guide tapped L2L in everyday school-life, so to collect preschool teachers’ authentic responses. The methodology is a descriptive, phenomenological content analysis with a focus on teachers’ L2L conceptions, which we classified as wide/narrow according to Hounsell (1979). From our corpus, we searched for theoretical L2L categories, and reported excerpts exemplifying teachers’ L2L conceptions, functions and practices to support L2L acquisition in children aged 3-5.

Results show that teacher´s conceptions of L2L vary from wide representations to narrow/vague ones. Even if the sample is qualitative, evidence suggests that teachers with a complex L2L conception show greater quantity and quality of activities favorable to L2L development, although teachers with a narrow conception also implement L2L-conducive strategies. We interpret this as evidence that L2L is culturally bound. Teachers’ activities foster L2L in different ways: stimulating children’s curiosity, active participation and questioning or promoting their self-confidence and meaning making.

We also found high compatibility between the Mexican preschool curriculum and our theoretical L2L framework. Conversely, the Italian preschool curriculum only defines L2L in a footnote. However, the Italian interviewees do show some activities conducive to L2L, although only one in five definitions is wide. We attribute this apparent contradiction to the fact that the Italian preschool curriculum is organized around key experience fields and this didactic organization seems adequate for supporting children’s active exploration and meaning making. However, Italian preschool teachers seem unaware that their didactic practice is also supportive of L2L in early childhood.

We conclude that, provided adequate teacher training, preschool teachers could do even more to help their children thrive, keeping them curious about their surrounding world and supporting them as autonomous yet collaborative explorers with self-confidence to face uncertainty and perseverance to look for the beauty of discovery and knowledge construction.


Cristina Stringher


The key role of preschool in supporting child development, school readiness and lifelong learning is well established. Its positive long-term effects span all the areas of human development: physical, motor, cognitive and linguistic, socio-emotional and civic (OECD, 2006; Eurydice, 2009; 2014; Montie, Xiang & Schweinhart 2006; Del Boca & Pasqua, 2010; Brilli et al, 2011; Hall et al., 2011; Contini & Manini, 2007; Mashburn et al, 2009; Sachs & Ruzzi, 2005).

Yet, the mechanisms at the basis of these effects are still under-researched, particularly in Italy: national studies on preschool children’s competencies are non-existent. There are several reasons for this lack of information. Some can be ascribed to the technical difficulty of assessing child outcomes at a very young age, although there are valid and reliable tools developed for the Italian context (Coggi & Ricchiardi, 2014; Commodari, 2013; De Franchis & Usai, 2013; Kids in Places, 2014; Meazzini, 2005; Montie, Xiang & Schweinhart, 2006; Zanetti & Cavioni, 2014). Other reasons tend to discourage the debate on child outcomes assessment based on the idea that each child develops at its own pace, development is highly contextual and any attempt to assessing outcomes may freeze the moment without considering the high speed of children’s acquisitions, with the risk of labelling the child (Bondioli & Savio, 2015). Yet, the Italian curriculum includes a child competence profile at the end of preschool.

According to the Italian national curricular guidelines, preschools aim at promoting children’s development in terms of identity, autonomy, competence and citizenship (MIUR, 2012: 16-17). The preschool environment should create a plurality of occasions for the emotional and cognitive growth of each and every child. One key question is therefore how to ensure that these educational goals are met through a sensitive way of assessing children’s competence profiles.

The solution adopted during the experimentation of the Italian Preschool Self-Evalutation Report Format (PSERF) relies on teachers’ perceptions of children’s competencies. In this contribution, the aim is to present evidence on this approach and to show the psychometric properties of a scale developed from the curricular competence profile of children. The scale, consisting of 28 items, was included in a wider questionnaire and it has been administered to 18265 teachers participating in the PSERF experimentation in May-June 2019 nationwide. Teachers were asked to rate their classroom’s competences on a 4-point scale, ranging from all or almost all children to none or almost none. The analyses include construct validity and a factorial solution.

Initial results show that the scale has very high internal consistency (Cronbach’s Alpha = .951) and that three factors explain > 58% of variance. Factors loadings indicate that the first factor includes socio-emotional and cognitive items and could thus be termed holistic development. The scale therefore seems to constitute a good proxy of child outcomes, since teachers’ perceptions seem consistent.

Concluding, this approach to child outcomes perception of teachers seems useful especially when there is no possibility to observe children’s development individually in preschool settings.


Ilaria Pietropoli

Università di Trento, Italy

Previous research has underlined the importance of parental involvement and childcare quality on children’s skills development. However, it is not clear how much these investments matter for skills enhancement and if they have an interactive relationship. By means of new Irish data, this paper we aim at better understand the role the quality of both home learning environment and the early childhood education system on children’s cognitive and non-cognitive development. Our preliminary results are based on linear regression analysis (OLS).


Maria Carmen Huerta1,2, Cristina Stringher1

1INVALSI; 2Imperial College, United Kingdom

Literature on quality in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) attributes a key role to ECEC leaders in developing quality at center level (Bertam et al, 2016; Douglas, 2019; Melhuish et al, 2006; Sim et al, 2019; Siraj-Blatchford and Manni, 2007). ECEC leaders may support children’s outcomes by promoting improvement in the teaching-learning cycle (Sim et al, 2019). They may set shared and measurable goals, support training and teachers’ professional development and may facilitate teachers’ data use to improve quality (Schildkamp & Poortman, 2015). Despite these quite remarkable contributions to ECEC quality, the role of leadership in ECEC centers is still under-researched (Douglass, 2019), particularly in Italy (Stringher & Gallerani, 2012).

The aim of this study is shed light on the characteristics of leadership roles within the Italian preschool landscape, characterized by mainly two types of leaders: directors operating within State preschools and coordinators in other public and private preschools with equal state status. We concentrate on the latter and perform a descriptive and exploratory analysis of their profile, including main activities.

We use data from the preschool questionnaire administered within the 2018-2020 experimentation of the INVALSI PSERF and we specifically analyze data of the second part of such questionnaire (19 questions), dedicated to preschool leaders of municipal and private settings. Scope of this section was to collect information on personal and professional characteristics of non-State preschool leaders, together with their leadership style.

In the period May-June 2019, the questionnaire has been administered online to a statistical sample of Italian preschools (N 397) and to another sample of self-candidate schools to the PSERF experimentation (N1100), for a total of 1497 questionnaires collected. However, given that the questions concerning leadership were reserved only to non-State preschools, we filtered answers to the second part of the questionnaire, as State leaders were not asked to fill in the questionnaire for institutional reasons. We consider this selection to be a convenience sample (N 517) of Italian preschool leaders in private and municipal settings. We performed descriptive statistics on this data and cross-tabulated leaders’ responses by their main demographics.

Results show that non-State preschool leaders are predominantly females (94%), aged 50 on average, with a total of 10 years of experience in that role. Almost 55% hold an ISCED 3 or 4 degree, and only approximately 45% hold an ISCED 5 degree or higher, though these percentages vary according to leaders’ age (the younger being better educated). According to their responses, responsibilities of coordinators are mainly concentrated on: 1) keeping contacts with local stakeholders, such as social services and municipal authorities (67% of interviewees selected this option); 2) liaising with parents (58% of coordinators); 3) defining procedures for the observation of child developmental outcomes (almost 51%) or setting behavioural rules for children (almost 51%).

We discuss implications of these findings for policy in light of the TALIS 2013 survey, particularly considering the concept of “instructional leadership” and “educational leadership” and respondents’ demographics. We address study limitations to be considered in future studies of this kind.