The impact of educational reform discourses: Emerging supports and stressors for early childhood educators

Year: 2016

Author: Armstrong, Lauren, Rivalland, Corine, Monk, Hilary

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Early childhood education has experienced significant changes to theory, policy and practice which have been prompted by economic, political and societal factors on a global scale. Similar changes have been visible within the Australian early childhood context through the establishment of the national curriculum framework entitled the Early Years Learning Framework (DEEWR, 2009), the National Quality Framework (ACECQA, 2012), as well as ongoing systemic reviews of the National Quality Framework (ACECQA, 2013), the childcare system (Australian Government Productivity Commission, 2014) and the quality of early childhood courses offered by Registered Training Organisations (Australian Skills Quality Authority, 2015). Subsequently, it has been the responsibility of educators to understand and navigate the shifting discourses accompanying this rapid sequence of changes. Research into educational change proposes that change encompasses an eight to seventeen year cyclic process (Pendergast, 2006; Pendergast et al., 2005). Yet, such an extensive time frame has not been afforded to the early childhood field. This has warranted a thorough investigation into the preparation and engagement strategies that are used by educators and how these strategies position them within the field.This presentation offers some preliminary findings from a post structural research study conducted over a twelve month period from January to December 2015. This study involved 37 early childhood educators and directors from long day care, kindergarten and school-based early learning settings across the south-eastern region of Victoria. The main aim of this study was to understand how educational reforms shape and reshape the position and engagement of early childhood educators in the field. It specifically looks at the strategies used by educators to cope and engage with educational reforms and seek to understand how professional development programs shape and reshape early childhood educators understanding of educational reforms. A Foucauldian Discourse Analysis (Willig, 2013) was used to deconstruct the data collected during the study. This presentation will introduce and discuss an innovative research approach through the use of the timeline method and FDA as a means to illuminate educators’ engagement and positioning with regards to change and reforms. Preliminary findings focusing on coping strategies indicates that while the frameworks have changed, the tensions that have been in the field for generations still persist.