Diversifying early years professional learning: one size no longer fits all

Carter, Margaret Anne, and Fewster, Caroline (2013) Diversifying early years professional learning: one size no longer fits all. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 38 (1). 73. pp. 73-80.

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Controversy and contradiction surround the structure, content, and delivery mode of effective professional development (PD) for early year's teachers. Long held traditions of generic and short term solution PD courses are reaching their used by dates and being replaced by customized programs relevant to participants, the learning of which is reflected as new practices, processes and strategies in work settings. If the implementation of new ways of being and doing are successful in terms of student outcome, then the participant's attitude to the PD is positive and their commitment to their new and revised practices are ongoing. These PD courses concentrate on systematic efforts that go beyond session content and focus on building participants capacity by contextualizing their learning's with action research projects within work contexts. Participants paradigm, practices and commitment to change are influenced by positive changes in student outcomes. These changes then influence their perception of the worth of the PD (Guskey, 2000; 2002).

In 2008, the Bond University team, lead by Dr Margaret Anne Carter and Assistant Professor Caroline Fewster, provided action research driven PD to 2,205 early childhood practitioners in the area of 'guiding children's behaviour'. This PD program was funded by Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaCSIA), administered by Professional Support Co-ordinator Queensland (PSCQ) and Workforce Council and designed and delivered by Bond University.

This PD was delivered state wide across 13 metropolitans, regional and remote areas of Queensland. The duration was 2 years and involved Children service staff in rural, remote and metropolitan areas of Queensland. Course duration ranged from one, two and three hour sessions; one, two and three full days. Participants committed themselves to the implementation of action research projects, transferring learning's from PD sessions, specific to their identified needs and circumstances, back into their work place. They then monitored, evaluated and reflected upon student learning outcomes. Significant change in participant's attitudes occurred primarily after evidence was gathered of growth and development in student learning. Improvements in student behaviour influenced changes in paradigm, practices, processes and strategies – new instructional methods, revised environmental systems and structures, new materials in social behaviour curriculum.

Each PD course represented specific phases with researchers customizing the content to participant needs. Participants capacity in relation to guiding children's behaviour, was build on and upon with each course and expanded on with service specific action research projects. Issues requiring attention were identified and intervention plans were formulated in the PD sessions. Plans were implemented, adjusted, monitored, evaluated, and reviewed prior to engaging in follow up PD. Researchers worked as mentors - virtual and face to face - supporting participants engage in collaborative action research cycles with colleagues in their service. This mentoring was directed toward supporting staff reflect on the construction and application of knowledge developed through their action research cycles. The researchers linked professional knowledge with academic knowledge, thus ensuring the ongoing nature of systematic action research cycles. Participants perceived the success of the PD and the implementation of new or revised systems, processes and strategies with changes in student learning outcomes. When there was evidence of student growth, development and progress, participants deepened their commitment to new ways of being and doing. Their paradigm shift then became more aligned with the paradigm shift taught in the PD sessions. The PD sessions were then identified as relevant and beneficial due to student learning outcomes.

The action research projects were evaluated by the researchers in terms of building staff capacity at six and twelve month's intervals. Findings indicated a positive sense of staff empowerment, with changes implemented during the PD courses continuing and in many cases being extended upon back in the work context of participants. This was due to the fact that the knowledge and skills of inquiry developed by staff in the initial action research cycles resulting in positive student outcomes was sustained by staff.

The Bond Team project demonstrated the positive effects of action research driven PD leading to significant changes in practices in relation to guiding children's behaviour. Participants connected learning's in their PD sessions, with environmental and instructional changes implemented via action research cycles, resulting in positive student outcomes. It was not the PD per se, but the successful implementation of the PD learning's that changed paradigms, resulting in new and revised practices and processes within work settings (Guskey, 2002).

Item ID: 23517
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1836-9391
Date Deposited: 29 Apr 2013 00:40
FoR Codes: 13 EDUCATION > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130313 Teacher Education and Professional Development of Educators @ 100%
SEO Codes: 93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9305 Education and Training Systems > 930501 Education and Training Systems Policies and Development @ 60%
93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9302 Teaching and Instruction > 930202 Teacher and Instructor Development @ 40%
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