KidsMatter: a professional learning initiative in Early Childhood

Year: 2018

Author: Highfield, Kate

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

KidsMatter is a mental health initiative, KidsMatter Early Childhood has been running since 2009. This initiative was developed in collaboration with Beyondblue, the Australian Psychological Society and Early Childhood Australia. This presentation reports on findings of a research based review that explored participating educator’s experiences with online professional learning in the realm of wellbeing. In this study, 182 educators completed surveys and 24 educators participated in a phone interview.
There is a noteworthy absence of studies that explore early childhood educator professional learning in relation to the areas of children’s mental health and children’s social and emotional learning. The Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (ECMHC) programs have most traction and have been investigated by a range of researchers including Perry and Linas (2012), Perry, Allen, Brennan and Bradley (2010), Allen and Green (2012) and Gilliam, Maupin and Reys, (2016). However, many of these studies are a broad overview and do not explore aspects of online professional learning that can be beneficial in such programs. Another United States based professional learning program that has been investigated is Reaching Educators and Children (REACH) (Conners-Burrow et al. 2017, p. 187). However, this initiative is limited in scale based on the coaching requirements.
The current study, exploring KidsMatter Early Childhood, indicated that online professional learning had significant potential for professional learning in the realm of wellbeing. Here, early childhood educators indicated that this initiative enabled them to address a broad range of wellbeing concerns in their context. Online learning was particularly beneficial, with findings indicating that the accessible nature of online tools, specifically videos and parent resource sheets, facilitated broad sectorial engagement. Further, staff for whom English is a second language, staff working in low socio-economic regions, and those in rural and remote contexts found the online modalities beneficial. The multimodal resources (and the ability to engage and re-engage) provided support for educators to engage with mental health and well-being resources and build capacity in this area.