Reform is often discussed with regard to Early Childhood Education (ECE), an area of education which can be overlooked for the impact it has on young, developing learners and which can have a variety of standards in terms of teacher qualifications.
Having worked for over 30 years in the sector in New Zealand and Australia, Carol Ruskin wanted to do something about helping to meet the highest expectations for her profession. The C&K Coolum Community Childcare Kindergarten Teacher, having built strong relationships with colleagues, gained from them a commitment to participate in a five-year Professional Development Project (PDP). The aim of the project was to consolidate their passion for their work and grow the notion of ‘we see what we know,’ with intent to ‘see more and know more’ regarding what children are doing at play.
Three-and-a-half years in, the PDP is still continuing and still making use of strong relationships built through trust and equity. Everyone has a voice in the PDP, from Directors to Assistants, but it brings uniformity to the understanding of child development. This approach also leads to authentic intellectual knowledge growth as each step is dependent on the one prior.
Tangible outcomes are used to measure success of the PDP, with the continued engagement of participants, growth of a professional thinking and practice culture and professional development. It is used for critical self-reflection and obtaining feedback, a deepening knowledge of and research into teaching theories, and to identify what children are learning. It is also involved in identifying educational language, encouraging the taking on of leadership roles, digitally documenting children’s learning and the development of three professional practice guide folios.
The development of more professional documentation has led to wider involvement and the project’s equity mindset has led to a community of learners. There has been feedback from other educators, and requests from elsewhere for Coolum’s assistance are evidence of recognised growth within the organisation.
Writing PDP documents and presenting them at educator meetings or forums has helped participants focus and develop the level of their professional writing. Requests to support fellow educators too, have led to wider connections and research. There is mentoring of students from universities, TAFEs and local high schools in order to share knowledge.
In a part of the education industry where time management is so critical, the PDP has been of great benefit for helping focus professional learning. Carol has a passion for ECE to receive greater recognition within society for what it provides and it is a motivation her colleagues share. There has been a great deal of input from parents and community to this end as well. Since Carol introduced the PDP, colleagues have undertaken to upgrade their Certificate IIIs to Diplomas of their own initiative.
“Advocating for greater social investment through professionalism and passion that supports others to embrace the importance of ECE and the impact it has on young children becoming lifelong learners is my driving force,” says Carol.
During her time teaching in New Zealand, Carol was the recipient of an AimHi Award.
Congratulations Carol on your nomination.