Eve Kikas’ research is related to a variety of theoretical and practical issues of children’s development. The focus is on examining the individual and contextual-environmental (family socialisation, classroom processes, cultural context) factors and their interaction in the child’s development and learning. The research is driven by sociocultural and constructivist theories, benefiting from longitudinally collected data, involving several cohorts of children, their parents and teachers. To examine the importance of school context, the sample includes schools varying in size, teaching methods and geographic regions. One of the work areas of Kikas has been developing curricula and materials for school psychologists. Her research team is involved in conceptualising the role of general competencies in learning. She has published books and methodological materials, as well as educated teachers and other school personnel. One of the important areas has been developing tools for assessing these competencies. Today, the team focuses on assessing learning-to-learn, social, and self-determination competencies in primary school.
Combined child-related and contextual factors that support learning outcomes and well-being. Examples from Estonian research.
The role of child-related factors, such as knowledge, cognition, and motivation in learning outcomes has been acknowledged for a long time. The importance of a child being active/constructive during the learning process and the correspondence between the child’s existent and learned knowledge is known well. While the ever-changing world with new challenges has led to changes in school, it is important to consider that beliefs are quite resistant and abrupt changes may increase the stress levels of students, teachers, and parents. Along with new approaches, traditional teaching practices are still useful when applied in appropriate and conceptualised ways.
This speech will focus mainly on the findings from a longitudinal study that aimed to examine the development of children from kindergarten until the end of basic school (Kindergarten-School Study; 2005–2017). Researchers studied children, questioned their parents and teachers, as well as carried out classroom observations. In total, 1,105 children participated at different stages of the study. Students were from 33 schools and 53 classrooms across Estonia. During this speech, some findings will be reported that refer to the efficiency of different teaching practices, but also to the need to modify the practices in relation to the classroom context and students’ characteristics. The findings will be discussed by taking into account the Estonian cultural context that underwent major changes during the study.