Early Years Education Case Study

Students teaching a young child


Dr Christine Stephen, Honorary Research Fellow, Faculty of Social Sciences


Traditionally children’s perspectives on education have not been recognised, with studies focusing on policymakers’ preconceptions of education. Our research has made a difference by emphasising children’s views of what they think is engaging in education.

Our research

Stephen’s research has highlighted the important differences between adult preconceptions and children’s views on what is satisfactory and engaging. There’s often a significant gap between the thinking of those who are concerned with policy and curriculum, and the approach of practitioners working directly with children.

Our studies have also covered the use of digital technologies. Technology has increasing importance in the classroom, with tablets and digital devices being used frequently as teaching tools.

Our impact

We’ve produced research that has influenced early years education provision and practice in the UK, Ireland, Australia and the USA.

Our research has had a direct impact particularly within the areas of:

  • early years policy
  • Gaelic language learning in policy and teaching
  • teacher education

We’ve made a difference across the world. Our emphasis on understanding children’s engagement in educational experiences, has shaped the Government of South Australia’s approach to early years policies.

It has also broadened cultural thinking about children’s learning and challenged the assumptions of practitioners. Dr Stephen’s research has been widely cited in the media, including BBC Scotland. She has also acted as a keynote speaker for conferences and policy groups – informing debate among professional practitioners.

Using digital technologies is now commonplace in schools, and our research has informed policy and practice guidance for technology use in early years education in Scotland and beyond. Our research findings have impacted on the communication methods available to primary school children. For example, the National Gaelic Educational Resource Agency, funded a multimedia mobile app to help children tell their stories in Gaelic.

View further details about our research in early years education >

What next?

We continue to conduct education research that supports both national and international policies. Our recent research has focused on the themes of:

  • digital learning
  • professional leadership
  • professional learning and education