Preschool practices in Sweden, Portugal, and the United States

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Early Childhood Research Quarterly

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Coelho, V., Aström, F., Nesbitt, K., Sjöman, M., Farran, D., Björck-Äkesson, E., Christopher, C., Granlund, M., Almqvist, L., Grande, C., & Pinto, A. (2021).  Preschool practices in Sweden, Portugal, and the United States.  Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 55, 79-96.


Across countries, there are important differences related to the goals, organization, and educational philosophies of care provided to young children prior to formal schooling. Those differences are likely reflected in the classroom practices and teacher-child interactions within a country’s early childhood education and care (ECEC) classrooms. This study aims to evaluate the within-country relevance of two classroom observation measures primarily based on a behavioral count approach focused on teacher and child behaviors; and to examine preschool practices in Sweden, Portugal, and the U.S., as they reflect each country’s ECEC goals, organization, and educational philosophies. Participants are 78 preschool settings in Sweden, 42 in Portugal, and 168 in the U.S. Results show that the measures targeted culturally-relevant behaviors and provided inter-rater reliability for the behavior count variables in the three countries. Future collaborations may address additional culturally-specific variables. The behavioral descriptions yielded by combining behavioral counts of the measures are analyzed by researchers from the relevant country for insights to the country’s values related to early childhood as well as current debates regarding care for children. Measures that provide comprehensive descriptions of classroom settings and apply minimal external or comparative value judgments on the behaviors observed are of practical utility for collaborative international work.