‘Struggling to connect’ – early childhood international pre-service teachers striving for meaning to understand their role

Year: 2016

Author: Rouse, Elizabeth, Joseph, Dawn

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The reforms to the early childhood sector in Australia that have been brought about with the introduction of the National Quality Framework have created a context that recognises the importance of degree qualified teachers in quality early childhood programs. This has resulted in an increased demand for a qualified workforce and ‘early childhood teacher’ included on the skilled occupation list for migration purposes. As a consequence, increasing numbers of international students are enrolling in Australian universities in early childhood teaching degrees. However, for many of these students understanding early childhood education pedagogies and approaches is a new way of viewing teaching and learning that is different from their own cultural perspective. Many of these students struggle to understand the teaching and learning that is occurring when children are engaged in play, when curriculum is emerging in response to child initiated approaches and that children have freedom to choose the learning experiences. In order to support these students to make better connections, a series of hands-on workshops were provided to a group of early childhood Master of Teaching students at a Metropolitan University in Victoria during 2015 and 2016. These workshops included engagement in play experiences, video analysis, modelling of teacher practice and the introduction of songs, stories and finger plays. The workshops occurred in the first semester of the two year course to support the preparation for the required teaching practicums. The students participated in a survey at the end of their first year, and again at the end of their final teaching practicum, midway through their second year. The surveys sought to discover the effectiveness of the workshops in preparing the students for practicum and in supporting them to connect with teaching in the early childhood context. This paper forms part of a larger project Improving work placement for international students, their mentors and other stakeholders. We drew on survey data, anecdotal feedback and reflections by the workshop facilitator using Interpretative phenomenological analysis to code the data. The findings show that whilst the workshops were structured to support students to connect theory and pedagogical thinking that underpins early childhood education, these students struggled to make the connections and understand their role as teachers in early childhood settings.