CAS Economics and Pedagogy of Early Childhood Education 2020

A programme in Innovative Early Childhood and Primary Education built on the strength of international lecturers from the US, Scandinavia, and beyond. Design thinking for Education, the Digital, Visible Thinking, project work, forest schools, Lab-schools; designing and assessing educational programmes.

Scholarship Jacobs Foundation. The Jacobs Foundation offers a limited number of partial scholarships for this programme. Further information can be found here.

To register online for individual modules, click here



October 2020 - June 2021
18 ECTS credits
144 Teaching hours






+41 (0) 22 37 98 915





Registration deadline

30 September 2020
Modules can be followed individually
Applications on a rolling basis until the slots in the program are filled. Full CAS in 1 or 2 years


CHF 7200.- for the entire CAS
CHF 1500.- per module

Contribution to the SDGs

Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries


  • Build a deep understanding of the most innovative educational methods; learn to apply them in any context
  • Obtain a unique international perspective, through expert instructors from the US to Scandinavia
  • Obtain a multidisciplinary understanding of education: pedagogy, neuroscience, psychology, and economics
  • Hands-on learning with direct and interactive, deep-dive experiences
  • Learn to integrate project-based learning, constructivism and visible thinking, design thinking for education, outdoor education and forest school practices, digital learning and technology, the Reggio Emilia approach, and learning through play as promoted by the LEGO Foundation
  • Become an innovator and problem seeker-solver alongside the children
  • Build strategies for onsite training, capacity development, and investment in early childhood education
  • Acquire expertise in assessing and designing educational programs and policies for early childhood education


Professional working with children, student, and teacher; teacher and director of preschools, primary schools, and international schools; educational consultant and pedagogical coordinator; international institutions and NGOs; professional working on educational best practices, designing national and international educational programs, or training onsite teacher in developing countries; international student and professional


6 modules compulsory for the CAS - 1 module optional:

  • Children Thinking Made Visible. Video Analysis - Documentation - Constructivism
  • The Reggio Emilia approach to Education 
  • Design Thinking, Empathy and Innovation
  • The Project Approach
  • Forest Schools and Outdoor-Nature Programs
  • Digital Learning
  • The Economics of Early Childhood Education


Prof. Salvatore DI FALCO, Geneva School of Economics and Management (GSEM) and Paola TRIGARI, International Education Consultant, University of Geneva


Paola TRIGARI, University of Geneva
A programme in Innovative Early Childhood and Primary Education built on the strength of international lecturers from the US, Scandinavia, and beyond. Design thinking for Education, the Digital, Visible Thinking, project work, forest schools, Lab-schools; designing and assessing educational programmes.


4 November 2020
5 November 2020
6 November 2020


George E. Forman, Emeritus Professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, US. Former Researcher at Harvard’s Project Zero. Paola Trigari, International Educational Consultant.




Video Analysis-Documentation-Constructivism. Visible thinking and video recording.

Discussion and practice of video analysis as one of the most effective tool for designing project based curricula and comprehensive interventions and educational models.

A tool for supporting capacity development through self reflective practices; to make children’s thinking visible and engage in research; to adopt reflective practices and help children reflect on their own thinking; to understand the children’s constructive learning, and to re-launch their theories within a constructivist project oriented education.



Day 1   Video analysis to support the child's construction of knowledge 

To understand is to Invent: Defining constructivism

Reflective thinking: The contrast between reasoning and remembering 

Verbs vs Nouns: The advantages of video over photography

Ordinary Moments: Using video to find high-level thinking.

Breakout sessions - Hands-on work with selected video clips


Day 2   Making thinking visible to the learner and to others 

Seeing Intentions - The power of instant video revisiting

Drawing to Learn - The importance of representing things incorrectly

The Democratization of Documentation - Video allows for constructive debate

Breakout sessions - Drawing to learn activity in class 

Analysis of making thinking visible video 


Day 3   Your own application of video analysis and constructivism 

Thinking about children's thinking instead of achievements 

The faith to question what we know

The belief in depth over breath

Program commitment to video analysis and documentation 

Certainties regarding teaching and learning 

An issue of values, culture and training

Breakout sessions 

  • Listing and defining barriers and solutions 
  • Making our plans explicit with a look toward change


Guest Speaker

George E. Forman, Ph.D.

George E. Forman is Emeritus Professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and President of Videatives, Inc. George has written books that extend the theory of Jean Piaget to early childhood education: The Child’s Construction of Knowledge and Constructive Play. He was president of the Jean Piaget Society from 1983 to 1985. George has also published books in the areas of early cognitive development and the educational value of digital media for young children. He worked for four years on Harvard’s Project Zero early symbolization project as head of block play research. Since 1986, George has worked with the city of Reggio Emilia, Italy, to bring their educational philosophy to prominence in the United States by producing three documentary videos and coediting three editions of The Hundred Languages of Children (C. Edwards, L. Gandini, and G. Forman). He coinvented The Gravity Wall, a patented reconfigurable rollway found in over 300 children’s museums worldwide. He has designed new media formats that layer computer graphics and digital video as hyperlinks under text. Upon retirement in 2003, he cofounded Videatives, Inc., to distribute these new digital formats to early childhood professionals.


2 December 2020
3 December 2020
4 December 2020


Tiziana Filippini, Pedagogical Coordinator, Reggio Children; Diego Adame, Initiatives Lead, Learning through Play in Early Childhood, LEGO Foundation, Denmark.




Building Brain Architecture through Play (Diego adame, LEGO Foundation) - Day 1

During this interactive and hands-on course we will discuss the importance of play for children’s holistic development. We will start by exploring the science of early childhood and the importance of building core skills through play. Then we will reflect on research and approaches from the LEGO Foundation and its global academic partners on the benefits of play and effective approaches to facilitate play activities with young children.

The Reggio Emilia approach to Education and Progettazione (Tiziana Filippini, Reggio Children)- Day 2-3

We will focus on the concept of Progettazione, an organic and flexible approach in designing the learning experiences. We will delve into the strategies for observing, documenting, and listening closely to the processes of children’s inquiry; reflecting on observations to sustain and re-ignite the children’s interest; planning meaningful provocations that enable children to test their theories as related to their inquiry. We will explore the role of the teachers as researchers. 


Program Day 1

  • Part 1: Brain Architecture

Through a playful approach we will reflect on the role of genetics and experiences to build children’s brain. In small groups we will consider the role that adults (parents, caregivers, teachers) have in supporting children’s development by promoting positive interactions, providing a supportive environment and reducing sources of toxic stress. 

  • Part 2: Learning through play

Introduction to learning through play and the existence evidence of the benefits of play for children’s development. 

We will spend time learning through play and reflecting on the skills that children can develop when engaged in play activities

  • Part 3: Play Facilitation

We will review the evidence on the role of adults when facilitating play experiences for children. As a group we will define the main characteristics of meaningful play facilitation and the barriers that educators face.

  • Part 4: Let’s practice

In groups, you will be required to design and facilitate play experiences that would have a positive impact on children’s development 


27 January 2021
28 January 2021
29 January 2021


Peter Worth, Stanford University, CA, US; Devon Young, design school’s K12 Lab, Stanford University, CA, US




Innovators, problem seekers, thinkers and doers.

Design Thinking is a methodology to affect change in teams and organizations and foster a culture of innovation. It is an iterative process used to solve the world's toughest challenges. This module will explore design thinking by actively engaging participants. Using a deep-dive process the participants are immersed as a team into the design thinking process through a situation leading to problem seeking, problem solving and idea creation. With an explicit focus on equity, participants will take on a local challenge centered on advancing equity within the educational community. They will engage in the stages of design which involves how to: empathize with a user, define the challenge facing the user, ideate solutions, prototype ideas and test a solution to a local or global challenge. This module will explore how educators and students can experience learning that stretches them beyond their comfort zone to develop new skills and mindsets. Participants will leave this module with a deep understanding of how design can be used to create equitable outcomes for more students; with the tools to use design within their own context to solve challenges facing education; with a new mindset for advocacy in education.



Day 1   An Introduction to Design Thinking Process and Mindsets

Will introduce the basic methods and processes of design thinking with a rapid cycle challenge. Participants then complete a two-day immersive challenge to develop skill in the phases of design thinking: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test.

Day 2   Day Long Challenge

Will offer an intermediate deep-dive into the methods and processes of design thinking with an immersive challenge. Participants will engage in fieldwork to identify needs and then design solutions for users and test their prototypes to gain feedback.

Day 3   Organizational Implementation

Will deepen design thinking methods for participants to use and apply upon a personal challenge either on a professional subject or their organization. Each individual will structure a plan for managing design implementation and conduct an initial empathy interview with a stakeholder as a first step on the sprint. Participants will leave with prototype of how to apply design within their own context and how to engage others in the process of using design thinking to solve the tough challenges facing education within their communities.


Guest Speakers

Peter Worth, Stanford University d. school

Peter Worth is an educator and learning designer working at the intersection of design thinking, school leadership, professional learning, and school culture change. As a member of the Stanford University design school’s team, and former co-director of the School Retool professional learning fellowship—a project of the Stanford’s K12 Lab—he helps school leaders apply human-centered design to build an equitable school culture to prepare all students for post-secondary education, career, and civic life. Now based in Northern Ireland, Peter consults with a range of clients on primary, post-primary, and tertiary education. A career educator, Peter has been director of learning design and senior instructional designer for a professional learning ed-tech company, a senior research associate on assessment and standards with an educational research organization, and a public school teacher in Los Angeles County. Peter holds a Master’s degree in education (Learning, Design, & Technology) from Stanford University and a Bachelor’s degree in theater arts from UC Santa Cruz. 


Devon Young, Stanford University d. school

Devon Young is the Program Manager and Learning Experience Designer for the K12 Lab Network at the Stanford, where she leads the international Shadow a Student Challenge and delivers innovative professional development to educators through Discover Design Thinking workshops. Devon began her career in education as an AmeriCorps VISTA, working at a non-profit that matches low-income middle school students in workplace-based apprenticeships. It was during this experience that Devon was able to see the power of inspiring students through hands-on, experiential learning, and realized the need to engage with educators to catalyze change in schools. Devon feels lucky to work with the K12 Lab Network where every day she is surrounded by educators striving to improve the world around them for their students. Devon holds a Bachelor's degree in International Studies from the University of San Francisco. 


17 March 2021
18 March 2021
19 March 2021


Markos Zangas-Tsakiris, Consultant-Trainer at Inside-out Nature, Denmark.




Forest schools and outdoor learning. The Scandinavian tradition of using nature and outdoor environment as a learning resource. Full immersion in the outdoors; active hands-on learning experiences in a natural environment that promotes self-esteem, co-operation, and risk-taking. Built on the children’s natural instinct to explore the world through active and physical interactions. Built on the need to take risks: the foundation of learning, confidence and autonomy.

An interactive hands-on course to equip the participants

  • With the tools to transform a school’s outdoor environment into a "nature classroom".
  • With the skills to implement effective outdoor education.

Participants will have the opportunity to learn through an outdoor experience in a urban forest.



Day 1.   Forest and Nature School Pedagogy

Day 2.   A day in a Urban Forest: immersive experience in Forest and Outdoor Schools   


Day 3.   Starting or Upgrading a Forest and Nature School program


Guest Speaker

The course will be conducted by the following expert lead facilitator and outdoor trainer: 

Markos Zangas-Tsakiris

Markos is a consultant-trainer at Inside-Out Nature, leading Danish Forest & Nature School training and consultancy organization. He holds a BSc in Economics from the University of La Verne, California, an MA in Environment from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and a Diploma in Education for Sustainable Development from the University of the Aegean, Greece. He has worked in outdoor and environmental education with the Greek Bear Sanctuary, Organization Earth, and Planet Agents. He runs the Forest and Nature school program at Paichnidagogeio preschool and elementary school in Athens, Greece, where he coordinates the Primary School and nature program for all ages. Since 2004 he has worked in environmental education with a number of NGO's and as a kayak instructor, taking children on outdoor adventures. Markos is passionate about the outdoors, he is more passionate about offering children opportunities to be outdoors and he is even more passionate about inspiring and "equipping" pedagogues to use the outdoors as a learning environment.


24 February 2021
25 February 2021
26 February 2021


Paola Trigari, International Educational Consultant




Socio-constructivist Project Approach: a teaching method in which children gain knowledge and skills by working in groups for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to engaging and complex questions, problems, or challenges.

Authentic learning building on the children natural curiosity, disposition to discover, enabling them to question, connect and problem-solve and to become active participants and shapers of their worlds. 


Guest Speaker

Paola Trigari, International Educational Consultant; GSEM, University of Geneva.

Paola Trigari is an international educational consultant on Project Based Education, Constructivism, Social-Constructivism, and the Reggio Emilia-inspired educational philosophy.

Paola holds seminars and consulting appointments throughout the U.S., e.g. New York, New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois; and in Europe, e.g. Switzerland and Spain.

She consults for preschools to primary and secondary schools, and collaborates with universities and pedagogical institutions. She is the co-director of a new post-graduate program in Early Childhood and Primary Education at the University of Geneva, Switzerland.

Paola worked as pedagogical director and program director of the Reggio inspired Inquiry based International Italian School in San Francisco (La Scuola of SF).

Paola holds a MSc in economics from UPF (Barcelona) with a final thesis on the Returns to Education. She has an International background: native of Italy, grew up in Turin (Italy), Paris (France) and Sâo Paulo (Brazil). She then lived and worked in London (UK), San Francisco, Barcelona and New York. Italian native speaker, Paola is fluent in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.


An interactive course providing concrete strategies to ensure the children inquiry-based thinking, the peer’s social construction of knowledge and the children’s long term engagement. Each strategy is discussed through videos of actual examples of long term investigations from European and American project based and socio-constructivist preschools and primary schools.



5 May 2021
6 May 2021
7 May 2021





Constructing Digital Learning Environments in Early childhood and Primary Education 


Early learners have significant—and highly untapped—potential for understanding abstract concepts and reasoning in sophisticated ways. Research has shown that technology offers powerful support for conceptual science learning in the early grades. During the first two days of the workshop we will use the National Science Foundation-funded Sensing Science through Modeling Matter (Grant No. DRL-1621299) dynamic apps and technology-enriched activities that use models and probes to help kindergarten students develop an understanding of the states of matter and phase changes. During the morning of the third day, you will introduce these apps and activities to kindergarten students so you can investigate the student learning first hand. The final afternoon will be filled with other possible early childhood digital learning environments designed at the Concord Consortium (


Day One: 

(3 Apps and activities on day one of the workshop to help kindergarteners understand states of matter based on microscopic particle modeling. Participants work through each app as students.)


  • The Thermoscope reframes temperature as the speed of particles, rather that the common misconception that temperature increases by adding more hot "stuff." The interface design (with and without the probe hardware) makes it easy for the children to explore different materials. You can help the children understand that the displays are microscopic views of what is happening inside the material.  
  • The Land of Bump is an animated story that introduces the motion of particles related to temperature and energy transfer in an accessible, interactive way. The fancifully illustrated story includes pauses that allow users to predict what will happen next. 
  • Particle Patty is a playful video animation that demonstrates the role of particle motion in solids, liquids, and gases. Particle interaction and the arrangements of particles within different states of matter are represented clearly for users of all ages.


Day Two: 

(3 Apps and activities on day two of the workshop. Participants work through each app as students further understand states of matter based on microscopic particle modeling and phase changes.)


  • Get ready to play with the submicroscopic world! The Particle Modeler is a playground for experimenting with the building blocks of matter. Drag particles around, then see how they move.
  • The Flying Zippies is a whimsical online story designed to teach about particles changing states when the ambient air is heated. The particles are represented as a set of circus performers called the Zippies. 
  • The Thermonator (aka: The Matter Maker) is an engaging and educational app designed to help children see their own theories about how states of matter change from solids to liquids to gases. Using Thermonator to change the speed, bounce and attraction of small particles, children create different patterns of particle interactions to express their current understanding of how this micro-world works.  


Day Three:


  • Morning:

Local kindergarteners use the activities with the workshop participants. Both the participants and the students should be paired. The number of students would depend on the number of workshop participants.


  • Afternoon:

Investigating other Digital Learning tools and science options designed at the Concord Consortium ( 


Guest Speakers


Carolyn Staudt, Senior Scientist, The Concord Consortium, US. 

Carolyn Staudt is a curriculum and professional development designer who infuses technology into collaborative inquiry-based projects. She has worked extensively on the educational uses of probes and models, allowing students to collect real-time data with sensors and probes attached to mobile devices. More recently, Carolyn recently has become passionate about working and promoting early childhood science. She has directed and managed over 15 National Science Foundation-funded projects since 1996 that include assisting teachers in the implementation of technology into the classroom curriculum, teacher and student utilization of digital interfaces and software, design of platforms for customizable activities, and manipulation of software up to, and including, scripting. After teaching 20 years, high school and college Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics, Carolyn was the 1990 Christa McAuliffe Fellow and the Fairlawn, Ohio, Citizen of the Year in 1991.


Nathan Kimball, Curriculum Developer, The Concord Consortium, US. 

Nathan Kimball has worked for over 30 years in the field of educational technology, developing software tools and curricula for science discovery and learning for students in kindergarten through college. For the past seven years, he has the delightful experience of interacting with early childhood students to learn their ability to perceive and reason with the unseen world of the particles that comprise matter. He has a science background in both physical and earth science. His two special research interests are the role of experimentation, data collection, and dialog in scientific sense-making, and the effective design, context, and interpretation of computer simulations in educational settings with emphasis currently on early elementary students. Mr. Kimball champions new technology and has developed and tested designs for the gesture-based control of the simulations. New endeavors will explore perspective, orientation, and collaboration using augmented reality systems.


2 June 2021
3 June 2021
4 June 2021


Maria Ortega-Hesles, Ed.D. (Harvard University), World Bank consultant and DIA Institute M&E Director; Monica Yudron, Ed.D. Director of Programs & Strategy, Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard University.





We provide the tools to design and to effectively measure interventions: any education program needs a sound technical design as well as a good monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) plan.This course will equip participants with the basic tools to design education programs at the school, regional or state level, and to create a MEL plan that can be incorporated into their common activities. The participants will put in practice the tools learned using a case study others.

We analyze selected interventions around the world, focusing on a number of early childhood interventions in the United States, Latin and Central America. For example discussion of Professor James J. Heckman's, Nobel Prize, and his team from Chicago work. We address potential inequality in familial and educational environments of young children; also discuss projects involving the famous Abecedarian and Perry Preschool Projects, as well as many others. We will cover the impact on Cognitive and non-cognitive Skills. The focus is on a deep understanding of interventions in early childhood education; discussing the current evidence on returns to investments in education, and its impact on the importance of early childhood education, versus higher education, for a variety of adult incomes.



Maria Ortega-Hesles, Ed.D. (Harvard University), World Bank consultant and DIA Institute M&E Director


Design, Monitoring and Evaluation of Education Programs (June 2, 3, 2021)


Is the design of the program adequate? Is the program being implemented as planned? Are we seeing the intended results? How can the program be improved? All of them are common questions that practitioners ask themselves at different moments and the reason why any education program, regardless of its magnitude and objective, needs a sound technical design as well as a good monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) plan. 

This practical course will equip participants with the basic tools to design education programs at the school, regional or state level and to create a MEL plan that can be incorporated into their common activities. The participants will put in practice the tools learned using a case study. In addition, the concepts covered in the course will help participants to learn how to interpret the results other studies to learn from best practices. The main objectives of the courses include: understand the principles for the design, monitoring and evaluation of an education program; recognize the importance of evaluation for accountability and program improvement; comprehend the difference between types of evaluation; develop tools (i.e. needs assessment, theory of change, MEL plan) that can be adapted into their practice.



  • Day 1 :  How do we design an education program?

Learn the relevance of designing programs based on a needs-assessment and theory of change. Develop and discuss the causal tree and theory of change for the case study.   


Topics: diagnostic of needs, components of the causal tree and the theory of change, difference between monitoring and evaluation, construction of indicators, selection and piloting of instruments.


  • Day 2 : How to monitor and evaluate an education program?

Identify the tools for program monitoring. Define what, how and how many to evaluate. Draft a basic MEL plan for the case study.


Topics: fidelity of implementation, types of evaluations (processes, impact, cost-efficiency), sample size, data collection, selection or creation of instruments, contingency plan, interpretation of results, evidence-based learning. 



Pietro Biroli, assistant professor of Economics, University of Zurich 

Returns to investments in early childhood: an economic perspective


These two lectures will present a review of the economic literature estimating the returns to investment in early childhood. The first lecture will provide a general framework for understanding the costs and the benefits of investing time and money in the enrichment of the first years of a child's life. The second lecture will critically discuss the current evidence on the returns to such investments, both in terms of parenting choices within the family, and public investment in early childhood education. 



Giacomo De Giorgi, Professor of Economics, IEE/GSEM, University of Geneva

Selected Evidence on Early Childhood Interventions


Several countries around the world have experimented with educational interventions target to early childhood and beyond. We will go through the journey of some influential educational policies around the world.





A program in Innovative Early Childhood and Primary Education built on the strength of international lecturers from the US, Scandinavia, and beyond. Design thinking for Education, the Digital, Visible Thinking, project work, forest schools, Lab-schools; designing and assessing educational programs.

Admission criteria

  • A university degree or equivalent
  • At least 3 years of professional experience
  • English basic

Contribution to the SDGs

Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries

Les termes utilisés pour désigner des personnes sont pris au sens générique; ils ont à la fois la valeur d'un masculin et d'un féminin.