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Early childhood educators need some quiet time

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Infant-toddler educators can improve their skills through reflecting with peers on pedagogical practices.

Dr Gloria Quiñones, an expert in early childhood education at Monash University led a study where she and her fellow researchers, Dr Liang Li and Dr Avis Ridgway, gathered video observations of educators’ one-on-one interactions with infants and toddlers and ran collaborative forums for educators to review and improve their pedagogical practices.

Participants included six educators who worked in three long day centres, who were paired for dialogue on their practices.

According to Dr Quiñones and fellow researchers, video-assisted self-reflection enabled collaborative learning amongst the participants, and video-clips of professional practice were a powerful and engaging method for educators to develop a sense of agency.

The collaborative forums aimed to help educators voice their motivations and provided an 'affective space' where educators could interrogate their 'strengths and contradictions.'

When thinking collectively, the educators were able to reflect on their emotions and aspirations for the education of infants and toddlers. The deeper reflections achieved in the collaborative forum group were only ever achieved by being with others.

These reflections gave all participants a deeper understanding of the relationship between their own motivation, infant pedagogy and their professional practices.

Toddler educator Sophie said “I think critical reflection is everything! … it is what the parents are thinking, what is happening from a day-to-day basis and actually looking at it and going ‘Okay, what could I do in that situation?’ or ‘what could I have done to change the outcome?’”

In the forum discussion, participants reflected on one issue in particular: how important it was to be at the child’s level by sitting down or having one-on-one interactions.

Infant educator Peta said, “… it brings comfort if they can get closer to us instead of being up here, over the top of everybody.”

Jane, another of the participants, said, “I found that I was reflecting more on how I was spending my time, how my co-educators were spending their time and were they getting down to the children’s level.”

One infant educator displayed a transformation in her professional practices, moving from a focus on daily routines to a focus on interacting and spending more time with children.

Previously, she would “change their nappy, give them the bottle and put them to sleep. It was happening throughout the day and there was no time to interact with the children, to spend some time with them. So, now I slowdown.”

These transformations became possible when educators engaged in deep critical refection.

After the first forum, one of the educators emailed the researcher to say that it was a ‘healthy space’ for discussion. Dr Quiñones was glad of this, saying it reflected the project’s underlying ethos: “to unravel educators’ professional practices rather than criticize or judge their practices.”

“Early childhood educators spend so much time ‘doing’ – this research demonstrated the importance of reflection in ensuring the growth of these workers professionally,” She said.

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