Remote placement pilot trialled for VU student teachers as restrictions continue
Student teachers from Victoria University (VU) are on the lookout for host families with babies, toddlers and young children for free ‘kindergarten-at-home’ sessions that take place via computer, to help them fulfill requirements for their studies.
VU is one of the few universities in Australia offering one-on-one remote placements for its pre-service teaching students (PSTs) so they can continue gaining valuable practical experiences with children during the COVID-19 related closure of kindergartens and childcare centres.
Sarah Jobson, an early education lecturer from VU described the virtual placements as an innovative way for VU’s Bachelor of Early Childhood Education and Graduate Diploma in Early Childhood Education students to learn directly from parents of young children about the “joys and challenges” of having a new person in the family.
After learning more about each child from their parents and VU mentors, the PSTs design activities to be delivered over Zoom, customised to meet each child’s interests and strengths.
Such activities might include reading stories, singing or drawing together, discussing favourite toys, or going on a treasure hunt. Some parents, whose first language is not English, have requested their PST focus on English communication now that COVID has restricted opportunities to learn the language outside of home.
With the first group of VU students having commenced placement in the preceding weeks, mainly with VU staff families, more host families are needed to meet the demand for placement from hundreds of VU students preparing to become early childhood teachers.
The virtual sessions generally occur a few times a week, but their frequency and duration are determined by each child, Ms Jobson said.
Phoebe Wong, a second year student who has been conducting regular sessions with Sadie, the five-year-old daughter of a VU staff member – said the program offers a valuable opportunity to experience a new form of interaction with young children and their families.
“I didn’t know how it would work, but it has been a good experience,” Ms Wong said. “It’s challenging, but a remote delivery placement is better than not doing one at all,” she added.