Research to define early childhood educator excellence

Friday 25 Aug 2017

New research led by Charles Sturt University (CSU) and Queensland University of Technology (QUT) will focus on the nature and context of early childhood educators' work.

Research leader Professor Frances Press in the CSU School of Teacher Education in Bathurst said the study, Exemplary early childhood educators at work: A multi-level investigation, will develop the largest database ever collected about the work of early childhood educators.

"Skilled and knowledgeable early childhood educators are the key to high quality early childhood education," Professor Press said. "But despite the importance of early childhood education being recognised by governments throughout the world, the working conditions and pay of early childhood educators remain poor.

"The work of early childhood educators is beset with myths and misconceptions. Often the work is constructed as an extension of mothering and as instinctual for the predominantly female early childhood workforce.

"In addition, the emphasis on learning through play is at odds with the more structured, teacher-led examples associated with the school classroom. As a result, the thoughtful deliberations that underpin early childhood educators' actions as they set up the environment, work with small and large groups of children, and interact with children to support their learning, may fail to be recognised as teaching."

The Exemplary Educators Study aims to dispel the myths surrounding early childhood education by identifying, highlighting and documenting the distinct and complex nature of educators' work. It will produce the largest database ever collected about the work of early childhood educators.

The study has been designed by researchers from CSU, the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and Rutgers University in the United States in partnership with eight early childhood organisations, and funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant (2016-2010).

"The three-year study is taking place in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia, the states where our partner organisations are located," Professor Press said.

"The research team will recruit and work with educators in early childhood services with the highest possible quality ratings from the Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA). Using independently gathered ratings made available to the research team by ACECQA ensures that the study focuses on understanding the delivery of high quality programs."

Professor Press said the project will

(a) identify the work, skills and knowledge of exemplary educators in each of the three mandated qualification levels: Certificate III, Diploma, and Degree; and

(b) investigate and document the organisational, professional and relational dimensions evident in high quality childcare centres and preschools with educators whose work is considered exemplary.

"The outcomes of this 3-year research study will contribute to the retention and further development, of a skilled, appropriately remunerated and valued early childhood workforce," she said.

"We hope our findings will be used to support pay equity, well targeted professional development and preservice early childhood educator preparation, and the effective management of high quality early learning environments. It might also help address the ongoing shortage of qualified educators."


Media contact: Bruce Andrews, (02) 6338 6084

Media Note:

Contact CSU Media to arrange interviews with CSU Professors Frances Press and Linda Harrison, or Associate Professor Sandie Wong.

The researchers are: Professor Frances Press, Professor Linda Harrison and Associate Professor Sandie Wong (all from CSU), Dr Megan Gibson (QUT) and Professor Sharon Ryan (Rutgers). Research partners are: the Independent Education Union (Queensland and Northern Territory Branch), the Independent Education Union (NSW/ACT Branch), Child Australia, Community Early Learning Australia, Inner West Council, the Creche and Kindergarten Association in Queensland, KU Children's Services, and United Voice.