The EX-PED-LAB project is above all a response to the call to generate scholarly knowledge on exploration as a methodology for early childhood education.

The EX-PED-LAB project is above all a response to the call to generate scientific knowledge on exploration as a methodology for the design of collaborative and responsive pedagogical programs to support innovation in life education. early childhood in kindergartens, kindergarten teacher training and in practice-oriented schools. research in Norway.

EX-PED-LAB is the short name for “Pedagogical Exploration and Innovation Laboratory” and refers to how the use of workshop methodology can create change and innovation in pedagogical practice in Norwegian early childhood schools and teacher training kindergartens and at universities training ECEC staff. working life.

Our workshops bring together teachers, managers, students and researchers – and sometimes artists, designers, children and families – for joint exploration and co-creation. The project adopts a whole institution of approaches where sustainability is integrated into all processes and operations. Staff and students will address the topic in curricula, frameworks and strategic institutional documents. The tasks will respond to these as well as participants’ experiences of success, tensions and concerns. These experiences are reformulated by an interdisciplinary team of local authorities, kindergarten management staff and researchers.

Interdisciplinary co-creation in early childhood education

Interdisciplinary teams will negotiate and develop nudge activities based on research and including qualities of play and exploratory engagement. Workshop activities are designed in loops, including preparatory tasks, exploration and imagination activities, conceptual thinking, co-creation of ideas and experiences, documentation and evaluation. There will always be reflexivity tasks included (e.g. oral, expressive artistic, narrative writing, questionnaires or focus group dialogues). For example, the project “Kindergarten teacher as co-researcher – innovation project to test an exploratory research design for knowledge development in the kindergarten sector”, was funded by the Regional Research Fund in 2019 (RFFVEST – 305594) and served as a pilot project in 2019-2021 (Birkeland et al., 2022; Ødegaaard et al., 2022).

The pilot program gave some ideas about the criteria for success and the pernicious tensions and problems (Ødegaard, in press). By bringing together interdisciplinary groups in participatory research, new thinking and building a future-oriented sustainable education system can be achieved in early childhood education and in teacher education (Birkeland et al., 2020; Birkeland et al., 2021; Bærheim et al., 2022; Wals, 2014).

In this context, the project for 2021-2025 focuses on acquiring a meta-perspective on workshops as a methodology. Aspects of sustainability will be reflected in the pedagogical cultures and the environment in the materials used. The project is a response to the conclusions and recommendations of the final report of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014): Shaping the future we want). The report recommended strengthening research and evaluation of local policy approaches to ESD (UN-2014).

EX-PED-LAB provides research, assessments and a toolkit on how municipalities can engage directly with local kindergarten institutions; how teachers can work with staff development through the workshop methodology; how teacher training could provide additional leverage to deliver on their sustainability commitments and strengthen cultures of exploration; and inquiry-based and change-based teaching approaches to achieve higher quality goals, both in the pedagogical and physical environments of kindergarten and teacher education.

So what do we do?

Some workshops take an academic approach to early childhood education. They involve analysis and response to work prepared by participants, which may involve observations, drawings, stories, photographs and films. Others will take a hands-on approach in which individuals use their imaginations and try out different solutions, using materials and play qualities (Guddiksen & Skovbjerg, 2020). We worked in the landscape where a new kindergarten is planned to be built, creating imaginary scenarios with natural materials on site and then discussing the risks, rules and regulations, to see what ideas to put forward in the process of building an outdoor space designed for inclusive play and exploration for children aged one to five. By creating a stage and a forum where preschool teachers and managers can play and explore with architects and researchers, new opportunities for sharing experiences and surpassing internal professional knowledge are made possible.

The EX-PED-LAB project responds to the call for scientific knowledge to inform the design and delivery of collaborative and responsive educational programs that support innovation in kindergartens, in kindergarten teacher education and in practice-oriented research in Norway. The EX-PED-LAB combines these in interdisciplinary research to facilitate new thinking and knowledge that supports a future-oriented early childhood education system. The EX-PED-LAB is a research hub in which interdisciplinary teams from the sectors of early childhood education, research, practice, administration, teacher training and design can imagine, debate, research, innovate and generate new knowledge for the development of new practices. for an immediate transformation of the kindergarten sector. The project addresses UN SDG 4 on quality education and 17 on inclusive partnerships and pursues environmental sustainability in the results.

Project Facts

Funded by Research Council Norway 2019-2025

Sustainable design in the kindergarten sector through the “Pedagogical Exploration and Innovation Laboratory” [EX-PED-LAB] – Prosjektbanken (

Project page: Sustainable design in the kindergarten sector through the ‘Laboratory for Educational Exploration and Innovation’ [EX-PED-LAB] – Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (


Birkeland, J., Baste, V. and Eriksen Ødegaard, E. (2020). Observation as a professional tool in Norwegian kindergartens and kindergarten teacher training. Relevant education, 7(1), 1789381.

Birkeland, J., Glosvik, Ø., & Aasen, W. (2021). System leadership in Nordic kindergartens. Educare – vetenskapliga skrifter(4), 114-163.

Birkeland, J., Ødegaard, EE, Glosvik, Ø., Oen, M., Rune, E., & Bjerkestrand, M. (2022). Barnehagelærer som medforsker –innovasjonsprosjekt for utprøving av et eksplorativt forskningsdesign for kunnskapsutvikling i barnehagesektor (KINDknow Note series number. HVL.

Bærheim, A., Ødegaard, EE and Næss, IJ (2022). Team reflexivity and split-mindedness in interprofessional learning. The future of education policy

Guddiksen, S., & Skovbjerg, HM (2020). Framing Play Design – A Practical Guide for Designers, Learners and Innovators. BIS editor.

Wals, AEJ (2014). Sustainability in Higher Education in the Context of the UN DESD: A Review of Learning and Institutionalization Processes. Journal of Cleaner Production, 62, 8-15.

Ødegaaard, EE, Oen, M., & Birkeland, J. (2022). Successes and Barriers to Workshop Methodology: Experiences from Educational Exploration and Innovation Laboratories (EX-PED-LAB) In C. Wallerstedt, E. Brooks, EE Ødegaard, & N. Pramling (Eds.), Research methodology on professionals in early childhood education and care — Examples of studies and theoretical elaboration Springer.

Ødegaard, EE (in press). Responding to tensions and pernicious issues in practice development research. In C. Wallerstedt, E. Brooks, EE Ødegaaard and N. Pramling (Eds.), Research methodology with early childhood education and care professionals – Examples of studies and theoretical reflections Open springer.

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© 2019. This work is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND.

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