The settling-in phase in day-care centres for children and parents with limited knowledge of the local language

09.2023 - 12.2025
Diversity, Institutions, Interaction, Migration, Acquisition

International and Swiss studies alike have shown that early language promotion in the context of pre-school settings has a positive impact on a child’s scholastic success. In view of the current state of research and the various challenges facing professionals in early education, however, many questions remain unanswered and further research findings are needed. One question addresses the transition from the family to pre-school settings like day care centres. Reports from the field reveal that the settling-in phase poses greater problems to children and parents who lack competence in the local language, and that interactions with these parents are more difficult.

This project therefore aims to generate new knowledge for key actors in politics, administration, education and practice. Taking current challenges as a starting point, the focus is placed on the following questions:

  1. How do day care leaders design the settling-in phase for children and parents who are not fluent in the local language?
  2. What linguistic practices and pedagogical settings support children and parents during the settling-in phase?

The project applies the methodology of ethnographic case studies to investigate the settling-in phase. Participant observations of this phase are conducted during field visits to the participating day care centres and short interviews are held with the day care staff responsible for helping the children adapt and who either apply the day care centre’s established strategy or react to the circumstances given; the researchers also speak to parents not fluent in the local language. Day care centres that have different strategies for the settling-in phase will be chosen for the case studies. In addition to the ethnographic observations, document analyses (explicative and structuring content analysis according to Mayring and under consideration of an economic-systemic perspective) are carried out, as are follow-up visits a few months after the initial observation.

Purpose – Expected results

Project findings will be transferred into practice via practical materials, brochures with good-practice case studies, and professional development offerings. To realise this knowledge transfer, it is important that day care centres organise training sessions with their staff to develop and optimise their strategies with the aim of better meeting the needs of children and parents who are not yet fluent in the local language. For this reason, the project plans to make affordable training programmes available. In addition, key persons such as pedagogical or day care centre directors should also receive training that equips them with the necessary knowledge for initiating relevant strategy developments in their centres.

The practical material to be designed includes a brochure containing case studies of successful settling-in phases that address the multilingualism of children and parents. These anonymised studies will serve as “good practice” examples. To transfer knowledge, podcasts, Instagram posts and thematic events (online, cross-regional) for day care professionals and decision-makers will also be used.