Strengthening the evidence base in early childhood education: Is there a role for a Citizen’s Science approach?

Year: 2016

Author: Sumsion, Jennifer, Lu, Jinjin (Helen)

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

As is evident from the Productivity Commission 2016 Inquiry into the National Education Evidence base, there is general consensus about the importance of continuing to strengthen the evidence base underpinning education policy and practice. There is less consensus, however, about how to do so; and, indeed, some concerns about intended and unintended effects. In this presentation, we briefly survey the diversity of types of endeavours undertaken in the Australian context to strength the early childhood education evidence base and gesture towards a possible typology.In the remainder of the presentation we turn to an approach that in our experience, is rarely, if ever, mentioned in relation to early childhood education research, although it has captured the public imagination in several other research spheres. What is colloquially referred to as the ‘Citizen Science’ approach is typically utilised in science projects and scientific research studies. The initial idea of using this approach was to call for the public as volunteers to be actively involved in scientific research. However, today, the term 'Citizen Science' has achieved a wider importance. It has been used to describe “a range of ideas, from a philosophy of public engagement in scientific discourse to the work of scientists driven by a social conscience" (Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 2016). Although the use of this idea has expanded into the social sciences, only a limited number of studies using a Citizen’s Science approach appear to have been conducted in the field of education in Australia. Is there scope for a broader interpretation of a Citizen’s Science approach to be employed as an innovative additional means of strengthening the early childhood education evidence base? We speculate about possibilities and outline some limitations.