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Professionalism and the Early Childhood Studies Graduate Carolyn Silberfeld Research to Reality Conference Woburn House 14 th March 2006
Professionalism and the Early Childhood Studies Graduate Development of ECS Degrees n Aims of the Study n Research Strategy n Research Design n Sample n Ethical Considerations n
Professionalism and the Early Childhood Studies Graduate Data Collection n Questionnaire Response n The Interviews n Data Analysis n Discussion of findings n
Development of ECS Degrees n n n better educated workforce, better equipped to provide quality experiences for children (Calder, 1999) link between quality of provision & level of education (Whitebrook et al 1990) Early Childhood Studies (ECS) degrees validated in the UK since 1993.
Issues Rapid development ECS degrees n Differences between programmes n Graduate employment for those without practice qualification n Benchmarking of ECS degrees n
Aims of Study n n To explore perceptions about the preparation of ECS graduates for employment/further study. To investigate the perceptions regarding the status of the ECS graduate.
Research Strategy n n n Flexible design to encompass qualitative and quantitative aspects. Qualitative paradigm – narrative data, perceptions Naturalism (critical realism or postpositivism) - deeper social reality, needs qualitative enquiry (Holliday, 2002).
Research Design Exploratory Case Study n n Can follow a naturalistic paradigm Allows both qualitative and quantitative data collection methods
Sample n n n ECS Degrees Network (past and present) Purposive sample to encompass range & diversity taken from those who volunteer No need for generalisation
Ethical Considerations n n n n Information to prospective sample Informed consent (informed refusal) Procedures of study Recording, storage and use of data Analysis and dissemination of data Confidentiality Anonymity as far as possible
Data Collection n n Questionnaire to identify more detail about ECS programme and background of respondent. n Semi-structured n Open and closed questions Interviews with selected sample n Loosely structured interview schedule
Questionnaire Response n n Only 3 received by given deadline Email re-sent with new deadline 19 returned (16 institutions) – 45. 7% 16 completed – all willing to participate further in study
The Interviews n n n 9 selected for telephone interview Geographical spread Range of professional backgrounds Active interviewing (Holstein & Gubrium (1999) Problems with equipment during pilot interview
Data Analysis n Questionnaires n n Matrix constructed to identify commonalities and differences Interviews n Phenomenographic analysis - identifying conceptions, looking for underlying meanings and relationship between them (Entwistle & Entwistle, 1997)
Questionnaire Analysis n Questionnaires – limited usefulness, other than to clarify diversity of programmes, statistics of students and range of graduate destinations
Graduate Destinations n n n n n PGCE – Primary/Early Years/GTP P/G – social work/law/midwifery/play therapy/speech therapy Masters/Ph. D Management/employment in EY Setting Sure Start/other EY projects EYDCP Classroom Asst. /support worker/social work asst. Lecturer HE/FE Special Needs Other – includes NGO, working/travelling abroad/librarian/mentoring
Interview Analysis n Six themes emerged from data n n n influence of the respondent’s background preparation of students status of graduates within early years ‘world’ and within wider world graduate concerns role of early years practice graduate skills
Influence of Background n n 1 - 10 years involvement in ECS Degrees Similarity in professional qualifications of 7 respondents – five teachers and two social workers but teaching and employment histories dissimilar Different reasons for involvement in ECS degree All positive about multidisciplinary and multiprofessional nature of degree programmes
Preparation of students Influenced by type of applicant and background of interviewees n n Practitioners wanting to increase knowledge & understanding Promotion prospects Entry on to professional courses Interest in widening EY field
Preparation of students n n n Preparation for life skills Preparation for graduate skills As advocates for children and families Understanding of what childhood is about – historically, socially, in a health context, not just child development Preparation for management
Teacher Training n n High % applicants wanted to do teacher training but found other options perceived early years as “a graduate type of specialism” Teachers did not always encourage graduates to go into teaching concerns regarding prescribed curriculum not thought to reflect or meet learning needs of children.
Status of Graduate n n ECS degree gave graduates higher status within the early years world In wider world status was much the same as majority of those who work with children Status related to salary Awareness that childcare workers were ‘at the bottom of the wage spectrum’
Graduate Concerns n n n Finding suitable employment without practice qualification Recognition of degree within early childhood settings Recognition of graduate skills and status of degree for employment in field of early childhood
Graduate Skills Recurring theme in all interviews – reflective & critical thinkers; confident in knowledge and understanding of ECS; good communicators “I want to make them powerful, thinking, reflective, honest……all sorts of traditional things you get from a good degree”