Teachers as professionals in the regulatory environment: Experiences in early childhood services

Year: 2005

Author: Bown, Kathryn, Sumsion, Jennifer

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper presents the findings of a study completed for an early childhood education honours degree. The aim of the study was to explore how teachers in children’s services experience their roles as professional educators and how these experiences have been affected by the Regulation. Guided by feminist research principles, this study contributes to the growing research dialogue on early childhood teachers’ experiences with, and perceptions of, the impact of regulatory requirements on their teaching and on their perceptions of themselves as professionals. Three early childhood teachers, who work in children’s services in metropolitan Sydney, participated in this study. Using a methodological ‘coalition’, the teachers participated in ‘research conversations’ and a visual/textual enquiry process. The visual/textual enquiry process involved teachers collecting, developing and constructing seven panels using photography, artefacts, text and visual art media, to represent their ‘sense of place’ in their work environment in light of the impact of the Regulation. Themes emerging from the data were identified and considered in light of the regulatory intent for children’s services, and possible unintended adverse consequences for teachers. The themes discussed in this paper include regulatory tension, mistrust, surveillance, sacrifice, resistance, compliance, relationships, interpretation and ambiguity, and the stifling of an educational focus. The findings suggest that early childhood teachers may operate behind a metaphorical regulatory ‘fence,’ which contributes to their perceptions of ‘safety’ but impinges on their professional freedom, integrity and passion for teaching.