01 SES 04 B, Research Engagement as Professional Development
Early years is an area of education identified for its importance to individuals and its contribution to society through a range of benefits from social to economic (Britto et al. 2017). However, the qualifications and professional learning of early years practitioners varies enormously with
'A wide variation of minimum academic qualifications level required to work as pre-primary teachers. Some countries do not have any specified standards or minimum requirements. In other countries, teachers are only required to hold a lower secondary qualification and undergo very brief training' (Neuman et al, 2015:10).
This variability in qualifications has implications for the quality of early years provision with clear research evidence that the quality of early years has long lasting effects on children’s outcomes (Sylva et al. 2010). Addressing teacher quality is a long-standing aim with international initiatives and policy directives (OECD, 2012). The reality is that the status of early years practitioners, low pay, workforce profile and market factors can mitigate against access to formal professional learning opportunities (Nutbrown, 2012). However, research suggests that practitioners’ ‘moral purpose’ (Fullan, 2004) in desiring the best outcomes for children motivates them to engage in practice-based initiatives (Bryan and Burstow, 2016). Capacity to implement an approach that harnesses this enthusiasm within an organisational, financial and research informed paradigm can be challenging for individual settings. This paper reports on a case study exploring facilitated Action Research (FAR) as a driver for improved outcomes and practitioner development in early years. It explores:
- Why settings choose facilitated AR as an approach to professional learning?
- What might be the advantages and disadvantages for sustainability and capacity building?
- How do teacher perceive learning and value from FAR?
- What are the implications for early years workforce from FAR?
Leading to proposals for a facilitated AR professional learning resource for settings without capacity to implement AR themselves.
Action Research is an established approach for developing educational practice (Bryan and Burstow, 2016). Its location and structure resonate with effective features of professional learning and it has the potential to support communities of learners, a key feature of capacity building for schools and nurseries (Stoll et al. 2006) and one which can be challenging given the size and resources of some settings. In this study, the term ‘facilitated AR’ (FAR) is used to recognise the difference between individual practitioners and settings undertaking AR compared with a commissioned professional learning programme with external facilitators (FAR). Three groups of early years practitioners from schools and nurseries in socio-economically deprived areas were recruited through their engagement with FAR projects. Ethical approval and informed written consent were gained (BERA, 2011). Each project ran for the equivalent of an academic year at a venue organised by participants. Data collected and thematically analysed (Miles and Huberman, 1994) included documentation from facilitated sessions, the AR projects themselves and digitally audio recorded semi- structured interviews with participants on their views about the value, sustainability and perceived advantages and disadvantages of FAR after the projects ended.
The foci of the FAR projects undertaken by early years practitioners across the three groups were very similar and included: boy’s writing, outdoor learning, early literacy, early maths and emotional resilience. At this stage initial data analysis suggests that practitioners find FAR supports sustained engagement and motivation. The link to a HEI is perceived as providing quality and credibility leading to practitioner empowerment. However, further analysis and data collection for projects that are still ongoing is due over the next term. Whilst these initial findings suggest implications for practice for those involved it would be unwise to speculate on further detail without completing the final data collection and analysis.
BERA (2011) Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research Britto P.R. et al (2017) Advancing Early Childhood Development, The Lancet, 389: 91–102 Bryan, H., and Burstow, B (2016) Leader’s views on the values of school-based research: contemporary themes and issues Professional Development in Education Fullan, M., (2004) Leading in a Culture of learning personal action guide and workbook. San Francisco. Jossey-Bass Miles, M.B., and Huberman, M.A., (1994) Qualitative Data Analysis: an expanded source book. Sage. Mitchell L. and Taylor M. (2015) A Review of International and National Surveys relevant to Early Childhood Care and Education Provision and the Teaching Workforce, France: UNESCO Neuman M., Josephson K. Chua P., (2015) A Review of the Literature: Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Personnel in Low- and Middle-Income Countries, France: UNESCO Nutbrown, C., (2012) Foundations for Quality The independent review of early education and childcare qualifications Final Report Schleicher, A.(ed.) (2012), Preparing Teachers and Developing School Leaders for the 21st Century: Lessons from around the World, OECD Publishing, Paris. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264174559-en Stoll, L., Bolam, R., McMahon, A., Wallace, M., Thomas, S., (2006) Professional Learning Communities: A review of the literature Journal Of Educational Change 7:221-258 DOI 10.1007/s10833-006-0001-8 Sylva,K., Melhuish, E., Sammons, P. Siraj-Blatchford, Taggart. B., (2010) Early childhood matters: Evidence from the effective pre-school and primary education project. London: Routledge
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
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