Course Syllabus

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Early Childhood:

Nordic Traditions in Education and Parenting  

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Preparing for a political demonstration about early childhood in Copenhagen:

"Children Want Abundant Intimacy" - "Children Want Reasonable Staffing"

Semester & Location:

Summer 2022, Session 2 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Elective Course - 3 credits

Study Tour:

Helsinki, Finland

Major Disciplines:

Child Development, Educational Studies, Human Development




Faculty Members:

Jennifer Duncan-Bendix (current students please use the Canvas Inbox)

Program Director:

Suman Ambwani 

Program Contact: (this is not an email for your faculty but the program as a whole)

Time & Place:

*See Course Schedule below, Room Nørregade 7-A23


Description of Course

The earliest years of a child’s life play a foundational role in the opportunities, experiences, and relationships they develop as adults.  This course will investigate the key elements of how both parents and professionals contribute to children’s socialization and development – and how those practices translate into larger cultural contexts within a social welfare society. Exploration of concepts like parental leave, attachment, play, and nature, occurs through hands-on experiences in childcare settings, and interactions with parents. 

The topics for the course, as well as the assignments, will take departure in extended site visits to public family spaces, child care institutions, and interviews with parents, staff, or other relevant professionals.  Students will collect their observations in a logbook, and reflect on the core concepts as related to the readings and class discussions. 


Learning Objectives

By the end of this course, students will be able to;

  • Identify the main characteristics of a Nordic approach to childhood as it is understood within a larger international context.
  • Apply the terms and concepts discussed in class to hands-on experiences and observations from field studies, study tour visits, and practical examples.
  • Analyze how approaches to childhood, care-taking and education can be challenged from a cross-cultural perspective.
  • Creatively and critically evaluate how Nordic perspectives can be used to investigate policies, pedagogies, and cultural structures related to parenting and education in the US and abroad.
  • Engage with the course material based on diverse interdisciplinary perspectives, both individually as an active participant in the course, as well as cooperatively with peers.



Jennifer Duncan-Bendix

MA. Dagtilbuds- og Indskolings Didaktik – Early Childhood Education and Curriculum Studies (Aarhus University, 2014). BA (Early Childhood Development and Education, University of Connecticut, 2006). External Lecturer, Aarhus University (Fall 2016). Assistant Program Director, Child Development and Diversity (2014 – Present).  DIS Program Coordinator (2011-2014). Pædagog in International and Danish communities in Copenhagen (2008-2010). DIS CDD Program Assistant (2007-2008). With DIS since 2007.



Texts for this course can be found online through Canvas. Texts listed under the ‘Course Schedule’ are expected to be read prior to the specific class.

  • Gilliam, L., & Gulløv, E. (2017). Children of the welfare state: Civilising practices in schools, childcare and families. Pluto Press.
  • Heckman, J. J. (2006). Skill Formation and the Economics of Investing in Disadvantaged Children. Science, 312(5782), 1900-1902. 
  • Knudsen, K. E. (2018). Hans Christian Andersen for Children, with Children, and by children. In Forum for World Literature Studies(Vol. 10, No. 1, pp. 1-8). Richard Nie, Ed. & Pub..
  • Kragh-Müller, G. (2017). The key characteristics of Danish/Nordic child care culture Nordic social pedagogical approach to early years(pp. 3-23): Springer.
  • Kragh-Müller, G., & Isbell, R. (2017). Children’s Perspectives on Their Everyday Lives in Child Care in Two Cultures: Denmark and the United States. In Nordic Social Pedagogical Approach to Early Years(pp. 133-151). Springer, Cham.
  • Lamb, M. E., & Sternberg, K. J. (1992). Sociocultural perspectives on nonparental child care. Child care in context: Cross-cultural perspectives, 1-23.
  • Ringsmose, C., & Clausen, S. B. (2017). Comparative perspectives on early childhood : choices and values Nordic social pedagogical approach to early years(pp. 73-92): Springer.
  • Rogoff, B. (2003). The cultural nature of human development. Oxford university press.
  • Sandseter, E. B. H., & Lysklett, O. B. (2018). Outdoor education in the Nordic region. In International Handbook of Early Childhood Education(pp. 889-906). Springer, Dordrecht.
  • Wagner, J. T. (2006). An outsider’s perspective. Childhoods and early education in the Nordic countries. W: J. Einarsdottir. JT Wagner (red.), Nordic childhoods and early education, 289-306.
  • Winther-Lindqvist, D. (2017). The Role of Play in Danish Child Care, in: Nordic social pedagogical approach to early years(pp. 73-92): Springer.
  • Wilson, R. (2012). Nature and young children: Encouraging creative play and learning in natural environments (second edition).  New York, NY:  Read Chapter 1, pages 6 – 17 and Chapter 5, 55-70
  • Wyver, S., Tranter, P., Naughton, G., Little, H., Sandseter, E. B. H., & Bundy, A. (2010). Ten Ways to Restrict Children's Freedom to Play: The Problem of Surplus Safety. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 11(3), 263-277.
  • Zosh, J. N., Hopkins, E. J., Jensen, H., Liu, C., Neale, D., Hirsh-Pasek, K., ... & Whitebread, D. (2017). Learning through play: a review of the evidence. LEGO Fonden.

Field Studies

Field studies for this course take place in the form of extended site visits - both to public family spaces in and around Copenhagen, as well as visits to specific childcare institutions. Students will use the site visits as opportunities to collect observations and field notes to form the basis of their assignments.  See the Course Calendar for meeting times and locations.

Guest Lecturers

At certain points in the course, guest lecturers may be invited to provide their experience and expertise on select topics being covered in class.

Study Tour

June 20-24

The study tour is an integral part of the course as we take the classroom 'on the road' and see how theories presented in the class translate to practice in the field.  Our study tour will travel to Helsinki, Finland.

Each of the visits on the study tour will focus on a different subject or theme, and preparation and participation on the study tour is considered a main assignment for the course.

While on a program study tour, DIS will provide accommodation, transportation to and from destinations, approx. 2 meals per day and entrances, guides, and visits relevant to your area of study or the destination. You will receive a more detailed itinerary prior to departure.

Travel Policies - You are required to travel with your group to the destination. If you have to deviate from the group travel plans, you need approval from the program director and the study tours office.  

Approach to Teaching

My motivation for teaching is based on my deep love for the field of early childhood, and the enthusiasm I have for translating this passion into personal learning outcomes for each student. 

I hope to set the stage for a range of topics, but also expect much of the course to be driven by students’ individual backgrounds and interests.  Classes are designed through a combination of lectures, group activities, and chances for individual reflection – but the common requirement is a sense of curiosity and flexibility.  We will experiment with various methods of teaching and learning, as well as ways for maintaining a respectful and collaborative class community.

Expectations of the Students

A basic expectation for this course is that you continually demonstrate your curiosity and openness – both towards the academic content, but also in relation to your peers and the class dynamics.  You are expected to:

  • Balance independent investigation with your contribution to group work
  • Take responsibility for the learning of the class as a whole (be prepared to contribute personally but make space for others as well)
  • Use Syllabus and Assignment Guidelines independently – find relevant information on your own initiative
  • Complete the designated readings before each class, and come prepared with any clarifying questions
  • Be willing to experiment and be creative – especially in relation to sharing ideas, or trying new things (class activities, field studies, discussions, etc.)


To be eligible for a passing grade in this class, you must complete all of the assigned work. If nothing else is mentioned, an assignment is due before midnight on the mentioned date.  Assignments are submitted via Canvas unless otherwise noted. It is your own responsibility to check if assignments are correctly uploaded. If you have any Internet - or computer trouble you are expected to contact the instructor and make arrangements for handing in the submission. 








Reading Mastery - Canvas Quizzes


Study Tour Facilitation


Final Project



Attendance (10%)

Attendance is mandatory for all scheduled classes and field studies. This grade includes presence in class, being on time, and handing in papers on time. The final attendance grade will build on the system presented below:


Points deducted out of 100

Excused late class

2 points

Unexcused late

5 points

Excused absence

10 points

Unexcused absence

15 points

Late assignments

5 points for each late day (submission will receive an F if it is more than 1 week late)

These point deductions are applied to classes, but ALSO field studies or other course-related activities.

Absence will only be excused in serious situations, but informing your faculty regarding your attendance is always necessary. Unexcused absences include traveling or an absence that has not been discussed with the faculty.  Regardless of whether lateness is excused or unexcused, it is still disruptive to the class and you miss out on relevant information.

Participation (15%)

You are expected to complete the required readings prior to each class, and to engage in class and group discussions. Active participation also includes showing interest and a well-prepared attitude towards the subject and a respectful attitude towards the class environment, peers and faculty. To achieve a high participation grade (and to accommodate both introvert and extrovert students) you will have to contribute to class discussions often, both in class and through Canvas.

In class contributions:

  • Active and verbal participation in class discussions, group work and field studies.
  • Engagement during field studies and site visits; asking good questions and paying attention (also when it becomes hard, everyone is tired and things feel slow).
  • Being attentive towards supporting the flow of the class
  • Sharing connections and ideas during group work (in an individual dialogue/smaller setting)
  • Active support and facilitation of other students’ contributions (listening skills, open-minded, and supportive)

Canvas discussions:

  • Uploading reflections or comments on Canvas – including related articles or materials you find elsewhere
  • Actively commenting on peer uploads or other contributions

Reading Mastery - Canvas quizzes (25%)

Before class each day, you are required to complete a reading comprehension quiz through canvas, based on the assigned readings for class that day.  The quiz is targeted to help you outline your understanding of readings and core concepts, and you have the ability to re-take the quiz as many times as necessary to reach a total of approximately 90% correct.  Once you reach 90%, the quiz for the next class will be 'unlocked'.  Your score from each quiz is totaled into the final grade for this assignment as a whole. 

Study Tour Facilitation (25%)


Due:  On study tour, the morning of the visit

The aim of this assignment is to help you prepare yourself and your fellow students for the experiences planned on the study tour.  You will work in groups to research an assigned visit and make connections to the course in advance. 

  • Description of the visit
  • Connections to the course content
  • Discussion questions

While ON tour, you will introduce the visit, as well as run a discussion session afterwards.  Each group will be responsible for presenting the synopsis, and each group member must participate equally.  The grade for this assignment will be based on a combination of the depth of the synopsis, as well as the professionalism of the presentation and discussion on tour.

Final Project (25%)

The final assignment for this course will summarize your thoughts and findings from your academic exploration into a self-chosen topic or theme.  It can be done individually or in groups, and will summarize your chosen theme, the data you have collected during site visits, as well as a brief data analysis and connection to academic sources. 



We all have a collective responsibility to avoid the spread of COVID-19 at DIS.  Please monitor yourself carefully for symptoms of COVID-19 (dry cough, high temperature, breathing difficulties, sore throat, headache, muscle pain).  If you experience any of these symptoms, please stay at home and inform your instructor that you won’t be in class or at a field study – this will count as an excused absence.  Do keep up with your coursework and join activities via distance learning, if you are able to.  If you are too sick to do work, please reach out to the DIS Care team at for medical support and coordinate with faculty about how you can make up missed class time. 

Academic Honesty: Plagiarism and Violating the Rules of an Assignment

DIS expects that students abide by the highest standards of intellectual honesty in all academic work. DIS assumes that all students do their own work and credit all work or thought taken from others. Academic dishonesty will result in a final course grade of “F” and can result in dismissal. The students’ home universities will be notified. DIS reserves the right to request that written student assignments be turned in electronic form for submission to plagiarism detection software. See the Academic Handbook for more information, or ask your instructor if you have questions.

Policy on late assignments

Late assignments will be accepted, but your grade will be reduced by half a grade for each day that it is late. 

Use of laptops or phones in class

Computers and smartphones are allowed in class PURELY for class related activities. Other uses such as Facebook, emails or internet use that is not class related will have a negative impact on your participation grade. Texting/SMS'ing etc. during class will have a negative impact on your participation grade.  You are also expected to keep phones away during field studies, study tour visits, or social events. Make sure you have other ways to take notes.


Please note that you must respect confidentiality at each of our site visits, so it is forbidden to put names of institutions, children, parents or staff in assignments or on the internet. In order to take photos of children (please note U.N. Conventions on Children’s Rights), staff members or parents, students must ask for permission from the institution and must confirm with course instructors. The use of photos for anything must be confirmed by faculty or leader of the site visit.

Academic Regulations  

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:


DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -

Course Summary:

Date Details Due