Early Years Initial Teacher Training (EYITT) Enrichment Activity: A 2-day Intense International Educational Visit to Sweden

Sutherland, Helen [Co-creator] and Kimhag, Kia [Co-creator]

Impact Summary

These trips provided opportunities to explore alternative international perspectives and pedagogical approaches to enhance the teaching and learning experience. It creates opportunities for students to explore and reflect upon another country’s educational system, curriculum, provision, and context in relation to their own. Challenging their own pedagogical perspectives, knowledge and understanding of education through the process of reflection to encourage change and improve provision and practice in light of new learning. The 2-day Intense International Educational Visit model provides a context for students’ comparative reflection through lecturers on the host country’s educational system and curriculum. Early years settings selected for their unique or different perspective on provision and lecturers supporting student engagement within the reflective process through pinpointing key areas as aspects for reflection creating a reflective discourse with opportunities for questioning. This helps to broaden and deepen student reflection challenging their thinking and perspectives of what they are observing. Evaluative feedback has highlighted the impact of this experience on students’ personal pedagogical approaches to practice, transforming their views and thinking as they observed and reflected upon practice re-evaluating their personal views and own education connected to how they would like to work with children in the nursery setting.

Key Achievements

  1. Impact on practice students’ personal pedagogical approaches to practice, transforming their views and thinking as they observe and reflect upon practice re-evaluating personal views and professional practice.
  2. Enhanced and facilitated colleagues practice, research, and continuous professional development as they explored different methodologies of early years teaching and learning from a different perspective.
  3. Knowledge exchange through presentation of paper at EECERA conference on: How can students develop reflective learning and practice during a short visit to view another country’s educational system? (Sutherland and Kimhag, 2015)
  4. Collaboration in the development and use of the framework for a model of practice for short international visits. Paper in the process of being written with colleague from Högskolan i Gävle.
  5. Led to the participation and collaborative writing of the successful EU bid application - ETEIP Project (2019-2021 [2022]) Education and Teaching in Early Years from Internationals Perspectives. ERASMUS +, Key Action 2, School Education Strategic Partners

Key Aims

The initial enrichment activity to Sweden was to provide students who were unable to participate in the ERASMUS mobility experience with the opportunity to experience internationalisation and learn from another country’s educational provision and practice. The visits aimed to: 1. Develop students’ knowledge and understanding of pre-school/early years’ educational system and curriculum outside their own country. 2. Develop a deeper level of reflective/critical thinking within the students 3. Broaden the students’ experiences and widen their perspectives of pre-school provision and practice. 4. Enable students unable to engage in an international experience to be part of some form of internationalisation and learn from this experience. 5. Provide an alternative intensive international educational experience for students working in a multi-cultural settings and society. 6. Provide students with the opportunity to explore each other's pre-school /early years’ provision. The model then developed the following aims: 1. To ensure that the quality and value of the visits is maintained. 2. To develop a deeper level of thinking, criticality and learning for the students. 3. To facilitate the choice of appropriate settings for the visit. 4. To provide an awareness of the host countries educational system and pre-school/early years curriculum.


A reflective collaborative approach developing knowledge co-production through the three core elements of the Intense International Educational Visit model; lectures on the educational system and curriculum, choice of setting and supporting students' reflections providing the foundations for the model interlinking to challenge and impact upon the students’ concepts of educational practice. It forms the structure underpinning the model ‘scaffolding’ the students learning experience through lecturer facilitation providing contextualisation for the reflective process (Vygotsky, 1995). This generates opportunities for critical and professional thinking through discussion and questioning, challenging assumptions and perspectives offering new ideas and alternative approaches to practice and educational thinking. (Boud, Keogh and Walker, 2013, Pollard and Tann, 1994). Evaluative feedback, obtained after each visit, consisted of qualitative and quantitative data gathering via questionnaires. The feedback was analysed using an adapted version of construct categories for coding (Robson, 2002) reviewing the impact and value of the experience in relation to the impact, learning, and practice of the students. To date this has proven to have had a significant impact upon the students learning and practice (Sutherland and Kimhag, 2015).

Key Outcomes

Students - Through the evaluative feedback students identified 3 key outcomes: the experience and reflective opportunities the visit provided to make comparisons, develop, and reflect upon their own knowledge and understanding of early year’s provision and practice. The impact this had in changing their thinking, perspectives they reflected upon, discussed, and the created discourse and dialogue with their peers, setting teachers, visiting lecturers and host lecturers. The changes that they have then made to their provision and practice, disseminating their experiences, and learning to other practitioners through presentations, booklets, sharing photos, and discussed their reflections and experiences. This has been influential in how they have made changes to their settings practices and in the development/carrying out of new tasks. Colleagues - I have always invited encouraged other colleagues to engage in internationalisation through participating within these enrichment activities and attendance the Comenius Association meetings. I have secured EU funding for colleague involvement through the International Office. Engagement with international perspectives and pedagogical approaches has led to colleagues engaging in contributing to knowledge transfer and the reflective discourse with the students. A colleague who participated on one of these trips, came again the next year as part of her doctoral research. Collaborative meetings were set up for her to exchange knowledge, share different pedagogical approaches and practice creating an effective dialogue with the early years educational team at Högskolan i Gävle. Grant Application - This enrichment activity has led to the development of a model for these educational visits providing the foundations for the ETEIP Projects grant application.

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