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Final Report Summary - POET (Pedagogies of Educational Transitions)

Pedagogies of Educational Transitions, POET, has been a Marie Curie International Research Staff Exchange Scheme (IRSES) programme of staff exchange and networking between universities in five countries: Australia (Charles Sturt University, CSU); Iceland (University of Iceland, HI); New Zealand (University of Waikato, UWAI); Scotland, UK (University of Strathclyde, U-STRATH); Sweden (Mälardalen University, MDU, Coordinator University).

During the four years of the project, 2013-2016, POET IRSES programme researchers from the five participating Universities have been involved in eight Work Packages. Each of the 40 participating researchers have also been involved in existing national research projects examining pedagogies of educational transition in their own country. The POET programme, which sets up a series of reciprocal interactions, among both researchers and their research projects, has five overarching aims:

1. To facilitate the development of diverse research skills and expertise among the researchers;
2. To promote collaboration among early stage and established researchers around the topic of pedagogies of educational transition;
3. To build sustainable research collaborations between the universities that will be maintained and extended, leading to proposals for major international research projects around early years education and educational transitions;
4. To expand knowledge and understanding of the significance of educational transition for young children, their families and communities in national and international contexts; and
5. To generate knowledge transfer among and between researchers, educators, other professionals and policy-makers involved in educational transitions.

Eight work packages have been completed during the project period, four hosted by the European partners and four by the partners from Australia or New Zealand. In every work package a different concept of transitions was shared, explored and developed. Experienced and early stage researchers from the five universities built their expertise and skills together, with early stage researchers assuming new roles as the project developed over time. Strengthened international research partnerships in the area of early educational transitions have been achieved. There are a number of ongoing research and writing partnerships supported by formalized institutional agreements.

The shared work on the POET project has enhanced the knowledge triangle of education, research and innovation. During the eight work package researchers, policy makers and practitioners worked together on a chosen and relevant themes: Introduction; Mapping transition research practice; Diversity and inclusion; Indigenous approaches; Curriculum continuity; Transition journeys; Transitions as a tool for change; Into the future. Each work package covered a longer period, during which each University hosted intensive core two-week residential research exchange period, followed by longer periods of individual exchange. During the intensive periods, the focus was on the following questions:

1. What are the dominant and emerging pedagogies of educational transition?
2. What research models and approaches exist to describe and explain educational transitions?
3. How are these transitions theorised?
4. What evidence-based recommendations for national and international action (research, policy and practice) can be made as a consequence of POET?

The main results
During the lifetime of the project dominant pedagogies of early educational transitions have been contested: Much transitions work in early childhood had focused on practical challenges for children in transition and ways to facilitate a smooth journey into school, with attention paid to environments, relationships, curriculum and strategies. In challenging these approaches, the POET collaborative work developed techniques for mapping transitions research and practices, protocols for indigenous and culturally contextualised research, policy innovation and development and an increasing focus on multiple perspectives, diversity and the complexity of transitions, arriving at a new conceptualisation of transitions as tools for change. Early in the project the five universities developed a protocol to support their collaborative work and established an agreed code of ethics for transitions research. This outline was revisited in each subsequent work package to promote trust and respect among researchers; to generate a framework for sharing research that supports research development, reflection and synthesis and to ensure it continued to be relevant. The core principles focus on intellectual property, recognition of levels of contribution, ethical conduct and reporting of research, communication and the building of expertise.

Given that a main focus of Marie Curie IRSES Programmes is the building of research expertise and capacity and the sharing of European work in other countries, while creating the opportunity to learn from partner countries outwith Europe, three key results have been: firstly the achievement of a number of doctorates, and master degrees, focusing on different aspects of transitions, by early stage researchers, and research project design and implementation by experienced researchers; secondly dissemination through research conferences, the publication of journal articles and books, and thirdly the engagement of policy makers and practitioners in this field of research in each of the five project countries.

Conclusions and Potential Impact
Four years on the POET researchers have been able to deepen thinking and the knowledge base around educational transitions for young children, especially transition to school. POET has generated new understandings about the importance of inter-professional and between-sector collaboration and mutual trust. POET has challenged existing understandings and practices around diversity and inclusion. The POET researchers understand better the dominant discourses in many interpretations of early education that threaten to position small children as lacking skill and have published widely on the strengths of young children. The researchers have understood that any transition for the child is also a transition for the family, the community and the practitioners that work with them. POET has helped to consolidate transitions as a field of enquiry and through the opportunity to meet, exchange and work together the researchers have created sustainable networks for the future. In this process the involvement of practitioners and policy makers in our five countries has been important, leading to significant sharing of expertise in Australia, Sweden, Iceland, New Zealand and Scotland and a closer working relationship between researchers, practitioners and policy makers on the topic of early educational transitions.

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