Students attend international conference

March, 2022

Instructors often must be resourceful in times of great change and take advantage of new learning opportunities.

That’s exactly what Christine Kiewra, assistant professor of practice of child, youth & family studies did when the World Forum on Early Childhood Education moved its yearly international conference online after the COVID-19 pandemic had delayed the 2020 event.

The forum brings together several countries from across the globe to promote an on-going global exchange of ideas on the delivery of quality services for young children in diverse settings.

Eager to have University of Nebraska-Lincoln students take advantage of the online conference, Kiewra applied for a Pedagogic Innovation Grant through Center for Transformative Teaching which allowed her to register fifteen UNL students for the two-week conference and have a virtual guest speaker.

“Kirsten Haugen, a world forum expert based in Oregon was able to Zoom into the class,” Kiewra said. “She shared her past experience with the world forum and what it is like as she was a part of the planning and could further explain details.”

Once students had a grasp of what the conference would entail, they attended numerous sessions over ten days, learning about early childhood education from teachers, parents, program directors, and government officials in large and small groups.

“The opportunity provided glimpses into a variety of early care and education classrooms, hearing firsthand from teachers and directors who administer the programs, and actually viewing what young children’s and family's lives are like,” Kiewra said. “I hoped that the experience would open my student’s eyes to the richness of experiences they can plan for themselves once they become teachers. I was blown away by the impact.”

As part of the Pedagogic Innovation Grant process, Kiewra surveyed attending students before and after the conference to see what they had learned and if their thoughts on early childhood education had changed.

“I collected evidence of student perceptions of their ability to plan curriculum that supports diverse populations and close achievement gaps for the children they will teach,” Kiewra said. “My goals were to provide students with opportunities for learning, growth, and resource sharing.”

One student response from the post-conference survey stated “I found myself releasing my biases. Before this event I had beliefs that many countries were not as developed as the U.S. I was proven wrong. I was able to see that students learn in so many ways that other countries aren't used to.”

To Kiewra, one student summed up the experience perfectly stating “There was a resounding message that played through the World Forum Foundation tour of togetherness, happiness, being resourceful and finding ways to better education for all young learners. Also, inclusion and equity for all.”

“I don’t have a ton of experience myself with international work, but when I attended my first forum, I had some of the same reactions as the students,” Kiewra said. “That was huge to see the students react the way they did.”

Following the conference, students created presentations showcasing what they learned from the conference.

Overall, Kiewra was very pleased with how the project turned out and hopes to broaden the impact of student’s learning by inviting colleagues and others to the student cumulative presentations.

"I am so grateful to have the funding to do this because I wouldn't be able to do it without it,” Kiewra said.

The Center for Transformative Teaching has given out dozens of grants to over 50 faculty members and seven students totaling over $150,000 in the past four years. To find out more about the grants offered through the CTT, visit the grant webpage.