Scéalta – The Early Childhood Ireland Blog

< Back to Blog

Preparing Professionals


Tuesday 17 July 2018

Is classroom-based learning enough to prepare early childhood teachers for their professional responsibilities?


Early childhood is a time of great opportunity and tremendous vulnerability for young children. Decisions made and actions taken during early childhood, affect children’s attitudes towards, and engagement with, learning for life. Yet, there is no consensus nationally or internationally about initial early childhood teacher preparation. What level of training is required, what percentage of practitioners should have a degree and so on? These are big questions. Another big question relates to whether preparation programmes should include work experience/practicum or how much time overall should be spent in the field during training? Although considerable attention has been paid to the need for a minimum qualification level, little, if any, thought has been given to the need for, or the benefits of practicum. It is exciting therefore, to provide an overview of the findings of a research study funded by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and, undertaken by PLÉ Ireland between 2016 and 2017. This study used an online questionnaire to explore the practicum component of full-time undergraduate ECEC degree programmes in Ireland from the perspective of 13 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), 101 final year undergraduate ECEC students and 80 host settings providing practicum experiences for these students.

Findings indicate that professional practice is an integral aspect of full-time undergraduate ECEC degree programmes. While it differs from institution to institution, degree level students engage in lengthy practicum experience ranging from 540 hours to 1,000 hours over the duration of the degree. The proportion of time spent on practicum is on a par with Denmark where it represents 36% of the programme of study (Oberhuemer, 2014). It surpasses practicum experiences in England, Norway, Sweden and Iceland all of which fall between 14 and 20%.(Oberhuemer, 2014) as well a number of U.S states including California, Indiana, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island, where generally, practicum ranges from only a few to more than 100 hours (Whitebook & Austin, 2015).

The evidence suggests that classroom-based learning alone does not equip students with the knowledge, skills and competencies required to work in ECEC and, practicum is a vital aspect of preparation that enables them to bridge the theory practice divide; ‘it is hopefully where theory and practice merge for the students in a meaningful way’ (HEI response), it is an opportunity for students ‘to gain knowledge in a practical way so they can relate theory to practice’ (provider response) and while ’some specific theories in lectures don't make sense at the time and you think 'what does that have to do with anything! ‘It all makes sense then out on placement when you are able to put theory to practice’ (student response).

In common with international studies, students in the present study indicate that practicum is the most influential aspect of their training compared to classroom-based learning or coursework; ‘you learn different skills and strategies that you wouldn’t have learned by sitting in a lecture every day’. It is vital that students’ learning must extend beyond the walls of the lecture theatre, notes and text books into the ‘true life experience of dealing with the day to day aspects of a fully functioning early childhood setting’ (student). While a working group of the Early Years Education Policy Unit (2017) recommends that students should spend a minimum of 25% of their overall degree engaged in practicum, students in the PLÉ study, suggest that practicum ‘should be half the course [50%] and the other half in college, after all when we graduate we will spend all our time working directly with the children’.

It seems that settings benefit considerably from facilitating students engaging in practicum. Providers state that students are ‘very knowledgeable about Síolta and Aistear and have the skills needed to put these in place in the setting; observing, reflection, assessment, all the skills I would look for as a manager of a setting’. In addition, students often ‘bring an eagerness to the setting, a sense of progressiveness and an openness to new knowledge... [which] enlivens a desire for collective learning and expansion in the setting (provider response). Students therefore support communities of practice within settings where they are equally keen to learn from fellow practitioners. As one student notes, ‘I get the chance to implement what I have learned in college in a setting where other practitioners can support me, and I can learn from them’.

This research study leaves little doubt that practicum is the most influential aspect of ECEC students’ training, and that classroom-based learning alone is not enough to prepare early childhood teachers for their professional responsibilities. Over the coming months, many people will consider upskilling, while others with an interest in getting involved in ECEC will think about what course is best. Regardless of the level of training (Level 6, 7, 8) it is imperative that prospective students ensure that the programme includes a strong practicum component. In the absence of practicum, their learning will be conceptual and they will not gain the practical experience required to prepare them for their professional responsibilities as early childhood teachers.




Dr. Mary Moloney is a researcher, author and lecturer in Early Childhood Education and Care at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick. She has a life-long interest in young children's early education and care, as well as the professional identity, and well-being of early childhood educators, and governance within the sector. Her latest book ‘Intentional Leadership for Effective Inclusion in Early Childhood Education and Care’ which she coauthored with Eucharia McCarthy motivates educators to work towards the common goal of creating a truly inclusive culture in which all children, with or without disabilities, are supported and enabled to fully participate in every aspect of daily life and learning.

0 comments Comments

Leave a Reply

Please Log In to comment:

Behaviour(3) Playdough(1) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) risk(2) Reading Time(1) family time(1) collaboration(1) journey(1) refugees(1) communication(4) Wesco(1) purpose(1) Infection Control(1) Routines(2) Nuturing interactions(1) San Miniato(4) early life(1) animals(2) Iceland(1) Snakes(1) Snack Time(1) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(2) Thinking(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) AIM(2) childcare services(1) Mark Twain(1) Children(4) outdoor play(6) Well-Being(9) Malaguzzi(1) Social Skills(1) Culture(2) Twitter(1) Wendy Lee(3) Photographs(1) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Academic Skills(1) College(1) pablo(1) Interaction(1) Trigonometry(1) scéalta(38) Nonverbal(1) Traditions(2) babies(7) Breathing(2) Kids Own(1) youdoodle(1) Emergent Curriculum(1) overhear(1) Jillian van Turnhout(1) Sustainability(3) play therapy(1) Ceremony(1) Wonder(1) Limerick(1) Sculptures(1) COVID-19 Reopening(1) HR(1) Maynooth University(2) Childhood(1) Self-Esteem(1) Wilenski(1) Frustrations(1) Learning Journal(2) Child Care(1) Obesity(1) Awards 2018(3) Identity(5) behavioural science(1) emotional environment(2) Arlene Forster(1) Identity and Belonging(4) Liz Kerrins(1) Bereavement(2) Kerry(1) early years research(2) Cork Institute of Technology(1) National Holiday(1) First 5(1) play pod(1) Leadership(1) Maternity Leave(1) Iraq(1) play(34) Adoption(1) First 5 strategy(1) Aistear(122) ReCreate(2) continual professional development(1) School Age Childcare(1) General Data Protection Regulation(1) Inspired Practice Awards(1) role playing(1) gender stereotype(1) Performing(1) Inspections(1) Learning journals(1) Quality(4) Death(2) Inter-generational(2) Oireachtas(1) The Play and Learning in the Early Years(1) Exercise(1) Covid pandemic(1) Eritrea(1) aistear blog(3) code of ethics(1) Primary School(2) Nutrition(1) planning(1) Fee Play(1) Reflective Practice(1) Family(1) developing motor skills(1) Community involvement(1) The Jelly King(1) Visual Impairment(1) Rich Documentation(1) Mantra(1) Change(1) Buddy Bench(1) TRAP(1) Research and Professional Learning(1) Inspirational(2) Light table(1) learners(1) EM Standing(1) worries(1) Valentine's Day(3) SAC(1) NCCA(3) Our Little Seed(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(2) Recycle(1) gender bias(1) science(3) Health(2) TOY Programme(1) Mealtimes(1) play stories(2) Tuscan Approach(2) Orla Kenny(1) research(6) Glitter(2) Care-giving routines(1) Exploring and Thinking(1) Creativity(4) Arithmetic(1) Engagement(1) Window(1) ears(1) Kilkenny(1) Sweets(1) National Childcare Scheme(1) Maynooth(1) eating(1) emotions(2) Potential(1) Engineering Ireland(1) Sequins(1) Penguins(1) budget(1) Seas Suas(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(2) CPD(1) Story(1) Vietnam(1) Childcare(3) pets(1) ERASMUS+(3) Sustainable(1) Teamwork(1) Titles(1) Valerie Gaynor(1) Lego(2) meals(3) curiosity(3) Annual Conference 2019(1) Super Shed Stories(2) interacting(2) under 3's(3) Craft(1) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) bloom app(1) stories(3) Dr. Emer Ring(1) Maths Week Ireland(1) Mathematicians(1) Leargas(1) Montessori(3) Technology(3) linc(1) Online(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) Party(1) Celebrations(4) National Pyjama Day(1) European Project(1) life long learning(1) COVID-19(5) toddlers(3) Thank you(1) Motor neuron disease(1) story time(2) parents(6) Learning Stories(9) man up(1) Line-ups(1) COVID-19 crisis(1) CIT(1) Albert Einstein(1) mushrooms(1) Pobal sector profile(1) Snacks(1) phone apps(1) trust(4) Universal Design Guidelines(1) ECEC(2) Mud kitchens(1) Fantasy play(1) Fabric(1) Document Learning(1) christmas(9) Mount Everest(1) Diversity(1) blog(35) Qualifications(1) Graduation(1) Games(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) dining experiences(1) Cognitive development(1) Intention(1) Maths Week(1) National Awards 2019(1) respect(5) NAEYC(1) Maths(5) Inter-generational learning(2) reading(5) Italy(1) Confident(1) Home Corner(1) Event Guide(1) Degree(1) Names(1) children development(1) Your place(1) Irish(1) GDPR(1) Storytelling(6) National Awards 2018(2) Supernanny(1) Policy(2) Communicating(1) Department of Education and Skills(1) Educator of the Year Award(3) Certificate(1) Learning Story(1) routine(2) dogs(1) Sessional service(1) Design(1) Flowers(1) Little Buddies(1) Xbox(1) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) child-centred approach(1) Touch(1) Investment(2) Children's Voice(1) Children's Research Network(1) Engineers Week(2) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) Learning Story Awards(2) supportive environments(2) Aistear Siolta in Action(1) Children and families(1) Digital Devices(1) Map(1) grandchild(1) ELC(1) preschool settings(1) Children's Rights(3) Reopening Childcare(1) Early Years Educators(3) bonds(1) Self Help Skills(1) Smiles(1) curriculum(5) Deirdre Rogers(1) documentation(4) St. Patrick's Day(1) Spiders(1) UN(1) racism(1) Christmas Creativity(2) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) Santa(2) Early Childhood Care and Education(2) Síolta(118) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) Music(3) Stress(2) Sociodramatic play(1) Plastic(1) Leaders in Practice(1) UNCRC(2) Afghanistan(1) United Nations(1) Exclusion(1) Traffic Lights(1) Book Club(2) conversations(1) Communications(1) Mixed age groups(2) Meet the Members(1) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) Upcycling(1) RTE Investigates(1) Yoga(1) Challenges(1) Magic(1) Scéalta Book Review(1) Vertical grouping(1) Grief(1) show and tell(1) maternity health(1) Awards(2) code of professional responsibility(1) social media(1) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Digital(1) imotion(1) Facebook(1) Giraffe(2) Brain(1) Administrative Burden(1) Loss(1) Reggio(1) Queues(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) Whole Group(1) Early Years(1) Meal time(1) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) Care routines(1) art of the relationship(1) environments(1) Family wall(1) Workplace Relations(3) Employee(1) Confidence(1) Participation(2) transitions(10) RIE philosphy(1) Sleep(1) Norway(2) Advocacy(1) Scents(1) risk assessment(1) First 5 transitions for children award(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) University(1) awards 2020(1) Budget 2020(1) social science(1) Mo Scéal(1) Covid19 crisis(1) Child mental health(1) Trick or treat(1) Laugh(1) june29(1) Jenga(1) Role play(1) Arts(1) Thanks(1) keep in touch(1) Research Seminar(1) outdoor space(3) lockdown(1) Budget 2019(2) DCYA(4) Painting(1) structure(1) The Lullaby Book(1) Easter(1) GoToMeeting app(1) learning bias(1) Environment(2) apps for children(1) experience(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) Wrapping paper(1) dining(1) Appreciation(1) E.coli(1) Scéalta Blog(99) Frosty the Snowman(1) Early Childhood Ireland(3) Academics(1) Pobal(1) science week(2) Book Review(1) educating(1) educarer(1) Weather(1) Magnavacchi(1) Favouritism(1) Hand Hygiene(2) Infectious diseases(1) Winter(1) UD(1) conference(1) Laughter(1) education(2) Access and Inclusion Model(2) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) Engineering(3) annual conference(1) iOS(1) risky play(2) Patterns(1) listening(1) ECEC Setting(2) MECPI(1) Buddies(1) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) Performance Management(1) Interests(1) memories(1) Growing up Outdoors(1) Magda Gerber(1) Leprechauns(1) Empathy(1) Impact(1) National Early Childhood Research Conference(1) Shoes(1) Horizon 2020(1) Feeding(1) Gratitude(1) Celebrate(1) development(8) ICBN(1) Builders(1) friendships(1) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) Mental Health(3) Learning Stories Award(3) Affordability(1) Study Trip(1) Opportunities(1) Elders(1) dublin(2) Love(2) Margy Whalley(1) Workplace well-being(1) Halloween(2) CCTV(1) AsIAm(2) Ariana Pucci(1) Time Out(1) preschool(4) Funding(1) Autism(4) early childhood educator(2) relationships(17) Inspired Practice Award(5) Recycling(2) Cork(1) Decisions(1) Together Old and Young Programme(1) play pods(1) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) Reggio Emilia(1) movement behaviours(1) Competent(1) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) Running(1) Masterclass(2) healthy eating policies(1) Consent(1) Educators(2) Training(2) books(4) Budget 2018(1) Independence(1) Inclusion(3) IGL(1) learning(19) Self-regulation(1) Japan(1) Staff Motivation(1) Blocks(1) child-centric(1) Playschool(1) Rituals(1) Mindfulness(2) Maria Montessori(1) Visitors(1) Pre-School Services(1) Awards 2019(1) keezy(1) Creative(1) Time(1) Imagination(3) Treasure(1) Mayo(1) Decision Making(1) food(1) primary education(1) Trade union(1) Prexit(1) community(5) Graduate(1) Exit interview(1) Pen green(1) Síolta QAP(1) New Appointments(1) Universal Design(2) Exploring(1) DES Inspection(1) Sport(1) Belonging(3) Workforce(1) Syria(1) Building Resilience(1) feisty(1) research submissions(1) Interactions(2) Shapes(1) Through the looking glass(1) Settling in(4) Biting(1) Pedagogical leaders(1) Reggio Children Network(1) Early Learning and Care(1) STEM(3) reopening ireland(1) value(1) SPICE Framework(1) INTO(1) listen(1) Youtube Series(1) Trade Unions(1) early years learning(1) Research Conference 2019(1) Socioemotional development(1) Special Needs Assistants(1) Art(6) Drawing(2) EECERA 2016(1) Body Language(1) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) Professionalisation(5) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) Equality(1) Plants(1) Treasure Chest(1) Effect of Lockdown(1) outdoors(3) Positivity(1) Summer(1) Anxiety(2) Dance(1) MA(1) Awards Night(1) Siolta blog(8) Pedagogy(1) staying connected(1) Relaxation(1) baby room(1) ECCE(7) PIP(1) Gardening(1) Support(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) Capable(1) Human Resources(1)


Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine