Rethinking infant placements in teacher education programs

Year: 2017

Author: Schneider, Karen, van Vuuren, Kartrina

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Professional experience placements are a core component of initial teacher education programs; providing pre-service teachers with the opportunity to integrate theory and practice, transform knowledge and shift from student to teacher identities. Mentors have a significant influence, not only on the placement experience, but also on pre-service teachers' future career choices and developing teacher identities. Many universities in Australia are now offering courses with dual qualifications in early childhood and primary teaching, posing challenges in relation to ensuring pre-service teachers are adequately prepared to work with children in both primary schools and early childhood education and care settings. In some states, including Victoria, completion of a placement with children in the birth to two years age group is a requirement for registration as an early childhood teacher. This particular placement often attracts resistance from pre-service teachers, who may indicate a preference for older age groups and/or question the likelihood of a future career with infants. This study will address a gap in educational research by seeking both mentor and pre-service teacher perspectives on infant placements in Victoria. Educators employed in infant programs and pre-service teachers enrolled in early childhood degrees with dual qualifications will be surveyed about their experiences of infant placements. Professional dialogue, the impact of the pre-service teacher and whether the placement contributed to the students' 'teacher identities' will be investigated. Of particular interest are the tensions, real or perceived, between diploma qualified mentors and undergraduate degree pre-service teachers. The authors suggest the current political climate offers an opportunity for initial teacher education programs to rethink infant placements and actively support both mentors and pre-service teachers for maximum impact.