Assessment and evaluation in datafied early childhood education (VADA)

The importance of data in monitoring, steering, and making decisions concerning the everyday life of people has increased. The aim of the VADA project is to produce knowledge concerning this phenomenon, datafication, and its consequences in the everyday practices of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC). Data does not only describe children but also has consequences on their lives. The aim of this research project is to study empirically the data preschools amass on ECEC practices and on children, and to examine what kinds of influences it has for the everyday practices in ECEC centres and preschools. The knowledge produced in this project will be used for designing socially sustainable ways of assessing and evaluating ECEC.

Project consists of four interrelated parts where Finnish assessment practices are examined from the following perspectives:

1. Local assessment practices in Finland

In the first part of the project, we delve into the heterogeneous evaluation practices of ECEC in Finnish municipalities with the help of a national survey. We construct and validate a quantitative measurement instrument to examine the structure of evaluation in ECEC. By using multilevel latent profile analysis, we examine whether evaluation practices are more likely to be formed in municipal or centre level. The study enriches current understanding on evaluation of ECEC by shedding light on its multidimensional structure. Responsible researcher: Maiju Paananen

2. Historical development of local assessment regimes

In the current educational policy discourse evaluation and assessment are considered self-evident parts of educational improvement. This sub-study examines how this understanding has been mobilized and shaped in the Finnish ECEC policy discourse and which are the underlying rationalities enabling the current understanding contributing to the intensification of datafication. By using Finnish ECEC curricula and policy documents since 2003 as data and employing a poststructuralist genealogical methodology, document analysis focuses on incidents of mobilization, transformation and disappearance of rationalities, conceptualizations and ideas of evaluation and assessment. Responsible researcher: Anna Siippainen

3. Consequences of different kinds of local assessment regimes (for children, educators and ECEC)

This work package studies the effects and consequences of various assessment tools up close. Taking advantage from the results of the WP1 survey and contacts in the ECEC field, this sub-project delves into particular cases that involve new and emerging assessment tools and technologies. The data is mostly based on interviews with ECEC staff, local administration and private actors and enterprises offering assessment and evaluation services. A detailed analysis of the cases provides insight into how networks between different actors are formed and what gets produces in these varying assemblages of assessment. Responsible researchers: Antti Paakkari & Anna Siippainen

4. Mechanisms through which assessment regimes turn into consequences

This part of the project is a doctoral thesis which examines how governing through data intertwines with economic assessment in everyday life of ECEC. The focus is to study the kinds of tools used to generate and interpret data and how this data is utilized for assessment and governing purposes on a preschool level. The study delves into the multi-layered governance system in ECEC by using ethnographic methods, such as preschool director’s autoethnographic diary, document data and interviews. Responsible researcher: Hanna Toivonen

The project welcomes students and researchers interested in doing their Master’s & Doctoral Theses as part of the project. Please contact responsible researchers of the project.

The project is funded by Emil Aaltonen Foundation (2021–2023).


Leader of the project:

Dr. Maiju Paananen


Dr. Antti Paakkari

Dr. Anna Siippainen

M. Ed. Hanna Toivonen

M. Ed. Eerika Länsmans


Collaboration partners:

Professor Sue Grieshaber (La Trobe University, Australia)

Professor Maarit Alasuutari (University of Jyväskylä)

Professor Jaakko Kauko (Tampere University)

Associate professor Nelli Piattoeva (Tampere University)

Finnish Education Evaluation Centre (Karvi)

Ministry of Education and Culture (OKM)

Educational technologies and the privatization of public education