The increasing social demand for early childhood education institutions and services has led to a diversification of supply and type of professionals who work in this field (Becchi, 2006) and in the same time has encouraged the necessity to define appropriate and specific quality criteria (Williams, 1994). The concept of quality developed by the 80's (Singer, 1993) has gradually evolved in educational research, integrating perspectives that take into account the context, stakeholders, education social actors and values. A normative evaluation of quality, tied to standard (Clarke, 1998), has gradually switched to a formative evaluation of the supply, where the definition of quality is the result of a sharing of meanings and take part of the identity of each individual service ( Dahlberg, Moss & Pence, 1999 and 2007; Bondioli & Ferrari, 2000; Becchi, 2000). In this second branch of research, we conducted a study having as its object the construction and validation of a device for quality evaluation, the “TaQ”, in an innovative public service, non- standard, introduced in Valle d'Aosta (Italy). We also hypothesized that the adoption of these parameters in the self- evaluation (Darder & Lopez, 1994) could promote the onset of reflective process in professional development (Fabbri, MELACO & Striano, 2008) and support strategies for improving quality in the service. We worked in the context of the “Tate familiari” (family nannies), created for the needs of a mountain region, especially in areas where the presence of structures such as child care nursery is not ￼ ￼ ￼ ￼ ￼ justified because of the low number of users. The nannies at the time of the survey are 42, all women, charged for up to 4 children, in all 168 users. The service involves 2 regional co-ordinators. The TaQ device was built by an inductive approach which includes two types of sources: early childhood environment rating scales (Harms, Cryer & Clifford Reid, 1999); international charters of rights and also local, national and international guidelines for childcare services (European Commission Childcare Network, 1996). The phenomenological study, in the form of intervention-research (Ferrari, 2001), applied TaQ in the self-evaluation, followed by a questionnaire and an interview for detecting the perceived value of the instrument and the formative effects of the experience. It covered a sample of 5 nannies and 2 coordinators, in a period of 30 days. Survey results show that the use of TaQ has increased the nannies' awareness of their educational tasks. This has encouraged the elaboration of specific professional training needs and strengthened the motivation to lifelong learning. The comparison of data collected by nannies and co-ordinators has also triggered a process of formative evaluation that has guided a self-evaluation to a dynamic research and enhancement of quality of services. The discussion of results will cover the structure and composition of the TaQ device and the extent of the reflective use of this type of evaluation tools for the promotion of quality in childcare services.
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