NAFOL profile: Åsta Birkeland

Individualization as educational ideal

Åsta BirkelandI have been a teacher in education at the preschool teacher education of Bergen University College since 1994. Earlier I worked as a preschool teacher and as an executive officer for the local authorities of Voss. I have also been in charge of a 30 credit point course called Cultural Understanding and Comparative Education which focuses on Chinese Early Childhood Education. During this course I stay in Beijing for a month.

From 2009 and until today I have taken part in the Strategic project: Kindergarten as an arena of cultural formation – studies of children`s meaning making, educational practices and conditions lead by Associate professor Elin Eriksen Ødegaard. I was employed as a PhD research fellow in September 2010 and follow the PhD program Interdisciplinary Child Research at the Norwegian Centre for Child Research (NOSEB) at NTNU. My project period is four years.

My project has the working title Individualization as educational idea(l)s – a comparative study of preschool teachers` practices. The project is a case study of two kindergartens, one in China and one in Norway. I explore how individualization is constituted in different activities in kindergarten. Through this study I want to contribute to the knowledge of how educational ideals are expressed through different actions and what preschool teachers see as their mission and the purpose of the kindergarten. I use activity theory as analytical lenses. I have taken photos/videos of different activities, and these videos are being used as a starting point of semi structure interviews with the preschool teachers. I play with the insider and outsider perspective since the preschool teachers will discuss both the material from their own kindergarten as well as material from the other kindergarten in which they will be more like outsiders.

Participating in NAFOL will strengthen my work by creating a network with other scholars and researchers within the field of teacher training. It will also contribute through mediating my own research.