A study on self regulation and resilience in the Early Years


A study on self regulation and resilience in the Early Years

Jon Stringer



The study was carried out in a reception class after the first half term of the school year. Being new to the Early Years (EYFS) I immediately identified differences from my lest year group (year 2). Initially I noticed a ‘neediness’ in the children and their lack of independence, however after further analysis I unpacked what this meant and in what parameters. I refined the issue down to self-regulation and resilience. The lack of self-regulation and resilience was a wide ranging factor that, for a small group of children in my class, was a barrier to their progress across nearly all areas of the Early learning goals (ELG). I then planned to carry out action research with my focus children in order to accelerate their progress in the ELG.

Context of the school:

The school is much larger than the average primary school in the borough of Redbridge, with three classes in each year group, however due to expansion there are four classes in Reception. Pupils from minority ethnic groups make up nearly the whole school roll. The majority of these pupils are from Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and other Asian heritages. The vast majority of pupils speak English as an additional language. The proportion of pupils eligible for additional support through pupil premium funding is broadly average.This is additional government funding for pupils known to be eligible for free school meals and those in local authority care. Around 50% of the pupils in Reception come from the schools Nursery, with the other 50% coming from other or no Nursery background.


Action research –

Action research is an approach to professional development and improved children’s learning in which teachers systematically reflect on their work and make changes in their practice. ” Undertaken by practitioners, action research involves looking at one’s own practice, or a situation involving children’s development, behavior, social interactions, learning difficulties, family involvement, or learning environments, and then reflecting and seeking support and feedback from colleagues. Patterson and Shannon (1993) describe action research as “inquiry in which practicing teachers try to understand the particular individuals, actions, policies, and events that make up their work environment in order to make professional decisions” (p. 8). Garner defines action research more specifically as a systematic, reflective, collaborative process that examines a situation for the purpose of planning, implementing, and evaluating change (Garner, 1996)

Ethnogrophy –

Mills and Morton explain that ‘If education is always risky, always unsettling, then ethnography ids the perfect method to capture its dymanism and power’ ( Mills & Morton, 2013).

Ethnography is listening, seeing and writing. It is going into a classroom as a fly on the wall and taking everything that happens as anonymously as possible.

Mills and Morton go on to explain three core principles for ethnographic research. The first is that ethnography is a tool or method for social research. As opposed to casting judgements, it is the collection of information about a setting and interactions. The second is that ethnography should sometimes be an ‘uncomfortable science’, that is to say that the ethnographer should be exposed and open to seeing everything, good and bad. The third is that ethnography requires empathy, meaning that it is important to see and understand why certain events are taking place and what factors are affecting interactions.


After reviewing my research I chose the following actions to implement in my class:

  • Engage in review conversations with focus children, throughout the course of the day
  • Hold extremely high expectations for focus children across all areas
  • Give verbal instruction, not physical support
  • Ensure that all adults working in the classroom share and carry out the same actions, with reviews of outcomes weekly.

I understood that it was important to gain continuity of actions across the classroom, this soon spread to other class teachers, dinner ladies and wider members of staff. I held formal and informal dialogue with all members of staff who had contact with the focus children to monitor the outcomes of the shared actions.


ELG 2:




ELG 17

ELG 17


I carried out my actions with 3 children who were identified as requiring input to encourage resilience and self-regulation. Out of the three of the children Child 1 made the highest rates of progress. Child 1 was working within 30-50 months in January (rated here as a 1) and made significant progress to achieve ‘Exceeding national standard’ in 5 months. By following the actions set out in my action research Child 1’s progress was accelerated by 3 months.

In contrast, Child 2 was not the focus of the planned actions. They were assessed at the same, or very similar level of development (30-50 months) and while they have made expected progress in 2 areas, they have not made accelerated rates of progress.

Other impacts were having a shared ‘vision’ of high expectations across a wide range of staff members to hold children and their potential to account, I have since noted these members of staff continuing to raise expecations and standards of self-regualtion in other children that are not involved in my study.

Similarly, holding weekly feedback meetings to discuss focus children has led to constructive dialogue between adults in the classroom. This emphasis on raising expectations of focus children, celebrating their achievements and planning for their future development has been a major factor in the focus children’s progress and has empowered classroom staff to apply the skills they have learned.


  • Planning, reviewing and celebrating children over time is crucial.
  • Holding children, as well as staff, to account to have high expectations of themselves and others is the underlining action of the research
  • Maintaining dialogue about the children to inform planning and progress allows for faster progress.


It is worth considering what resilience and self regulation mean within your setting, as well as your expectations for focus children over time. It is important to consider the expertise of staff members who may be able to support in the project. Finally it is important to consider the child and their voice in the process of developing self regulation and resilience.