Teaching for Tomorrow – G8 Education’s quality push for early childhood teachers
Australia’s ongoing challenges with meeting the requirements for early childhood teachers (ECTs) in a variety of program types are well documented.
The Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) has this year extended an existing transitional measure which recognises those holding registered/accredited primary school teaching qualifications as early childhood teachers (ECTs) with the ACECQA Board noting the “ongoing workforce pressures and challenges” in relation to the attraction and retention of ECTs, particularly for those services operating in rural and remote locations in a number of states and territories across the country.
Recently The Sector spoke with Julie Madgwick, G8’s Head of Early Learning and Education, and Jane Dunstan, G8 Practice Development Manager, about the organisations approach to retaining ECTs within the Group, and ensuring their professional development needs are met.
Teaching for Tomorrow – the origins
It was in 2018, Ms Dunstan said, that the Group began to delve more deeply into understanding the landscape of teacher registration in the multiple States and Territories in which G8 operates.
This understanding, she said, gave the Group a “significant opportunity” to support teachers with professional development offerings which would boost their pedagogy, while at the same time supporting them to fulfil the required hours of professional development needed in order to maintain their registration.
Within this opportunity was also the chance to support the teachers, and leverage on the scale of the Group, by bringing the teaching cohort together.
Knowing that the professional development offering would need the support of a quality provider in this space, G8 reached out to the Semann and Slattery team because of “their reputation and focus on the teaching role within the early childhood sector.”
Also important in this space, said Ms Madgwick, was building on opportunities for critical reflection about practice, and the ways in which existing practice impacted on the work undertaken with children.
“The key focus here” she explained, “is to have teachers who really understand, not only how they themselves tick, but to also be able to apply this reflection with the children they’re working with, in their rooms and their environments… we want our ECTs to have a personalised framework of ongoing reflection to operate under.”
Grouping learners in this space is a crucial element, she noted, with ongoing coursework, face to face sessions, and a collaborative learning group.
What this means Ms Madgwick said, is that throughout the year, teachers are involved in peer to peer learning, sharing insights into their own practice and supporting their colleagues.
In addition to the meetings and the peer to peer learning, the cohort is inspired by, and works with, Gillian Rodd’s Leadership in Early Childhood Education.
When asked about the connections between Teaching for Tomorrow and the recently announced scholarship program G8 is putting forward, Ms Dunstan noted the role of the scholarship program in honouring the Diploma qualified team members who have “made the commitment to the early childhood sector as a career.”
Once educators become qualified ECTs an “ongoing opportunity” exists for the group. In some ways, Ms Dunstan added, G8 felt a responsibility to continue to develop and build the capabilities of the team because “the more we grow and learn, the better we do for children.”
This notion of supporting educators, at all levels of their career, was the basis on which the “Teaching for Tomorrow” framework was built.
Ms Dunstan went on to explain the five domains of the framework – pedagogy, learning, thinking, practice and self. Within these domains, she noted, lies the opportunity to understand where an educator currently fits, from a practice and a pedagogical perspective, and begin to explore their pedagogy.
Just as education and care services consider areas for improvement to embed in their Quality Improvement Plan, the Teaching for Tomorrow framework focuses on the continuous improvement of the individual.
Within the five domains, there are three levels to work through, across or around, Ms Dunstan said. An educators’ trajectory may be to go from one end of a level to the other. A holistic and interdependent framework supports them in their growth, pitched at the bachelor qualified level so educators can continue that deep dive into their pedagogy, which Ms Dunstan said is “a lovely continuation of what the bachelor scholarship students would be learning.”
Points of innovation
Reflecting on the origins of the program, Ms Madgwick said when she first came into her role, she toured the country, speaking with team members, who unanimously said they wanted opportunities to gather and have professional development, and also have the time to discuss practice.
“The feedback from teachers” she added “is that it is a gift, being able to speak with another teaching professional and have a guided conversation with the professional development wrapped around it.”
Removing the isolation factor faced by teachers is another consideration, with Ms Madgwick noting that in some cases ECTs may be the only one with a Bachelor qualification in their centre. As a result, she said “there’s just them, and they don’t have the opportunity to engage in those really high-level conversations about practice with anybody else, so that’s a perfect opportunity.”
“That’s why” she added “workplace groups, where participants gather together in local groups to continue the conversation which is really important as a support group. And as more people come on, and as the bachelor scholarships ramps up, we’ll have more people who are able to have those discussions at a higher level. So, it’s kind of a beautiful pathway.”
Evaluating the program
When asked about the success of the program, Ms Dunstan noted feedback from the participants, which stated that, aside from “a lot of comments in relation to challenging existing points of view” or the ability to explore different concepts, notions and practices, was a fundamental shift in teachers’ pedagogical perspectives.
Aside from seeing a rise in ‘professional curiosity’ across the cohort, the other piece of feedback Ms Dunstan and Ms Madgwick most commonly receive reinforces the value of collaboration with peers.
“The peer to peer learning is gold because it’s all very well for somebody to come and tell you what you have to do, but when you’re living that learning alongside another person, you can have that professional discussion. That’s where the real learning happens” Ms Madgwick noted.
Furthering the learning
To progress the learning from Teaching for Tomorrow, senior ECTs within G8 are working in a mentoring capacity. Practice partners are currently in two states, Ms Madgwick said, with the group hoping to have them in all states moving forward.
Practice partners are all ECTs, and mentor teachers through the registration or accreditation process in Victoria and New South Wales. As participants in “Teaching for Tomorrow” they have experienced the same things as their colleagues, and as such they are able to have discussions about practice, and support ECTs coming into the centre.
In NSW, G8 is also working with NESA for the experienced ECTs to get some training for them to be accredited mentors for the Groups registered teachers, with the aim of having staff members who are able to support people through the registration process.
Our practice partner, New South Wales, Angie Day, has been asked to work with NESA about why she’s been so successful in getting people through the process. This forms part of the broader push within the company to build on the efforts and standout practices visible across the organisation.
New teachers coming into G8, and new centre managers, are asking how they can get involved with Teaching for Tomorrow, which, Ms Dunstan says, “speaks to the popularity, impact, and certainly the reputation of the program.”
Echoing this positive feedback, Ms Madgwick said some ECTs have shared with her the transformative impacts of the program, saying “it’s actually saved me because now I understand why I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing.”
To learn more about the opportunities on offer within the G8 Education team, please see here.