Diversifying early years professional learning-one size no longer fits all
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Controversy and contradiction surround the structure, content, and delivery mode of effective professional development (PD) for early years teachers. Long-held traditions of generic and short-term solution PD courses are being replaced by customised programs relevant to participants, the learning from which is reflected as new practices, processes and strategies in work settings. If the implementation of new ways of being and doing are successful in terms of student outcome, then the participants' attitude to the PD is positive and their commitment to their new and revised practices are ongoing. These PD courses concentrate on systematic efforts that go beyond session content and focus on building participants' capacity by contextualising their learnings with action research projects within work contexts. Participants' practices and commitment to change are influenced by positive changes in student outcomes. These changes then influence their perception of the worth of the PD (Guskey, 2000; 2002). In 2008, the Bond University team, led by Dr Margaret Anne Carter and Assistant Professor Caroline Fewster, provided action research-driven PD to 2,205 early childhood practitioners in the area of 'guiding children's behaviour'. This PD program, funded by Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaCSIA), was administered by Professional Support Co-ordinator Queensland (PSCQ) and Workforce Council, and designed and delivered by the Bond University team. This PD was delivered statewide across 13 metropolitan, regional and remote areas of Queensland. Course duration ranged from one-,two-and three-hour sessions; and one, two and three full days. Participants committed themselves to the implementation of action research projects, transferring learnings from PD sessions specific to their own needs and circumstances into their workplace. Significant change in participants' attitudes occurred primarily after evidence was gathered of growth and development in student learning. Improvements in student behaviour influenced changes in paradigm, practices, processes and strategies-new instructional methods, revised environmental systems and structures, new materials in social behaviour curriculum. It was not the PD per se, but the successful implementation of the PD learnings that changed paradigms, resulting in new and revised practices and processes within work settings (Guskey, 2002).
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