Empowering Early Childhood Educators to Embed Cultural Diversity into their Programs for Children Aged Birth to 2 years through access to videos. Alannah Dore

Early childhood programs need to provide children with the opportunities to develop a strong identity, feel connected and experience a sense of belonging. One crucial way is by connecting all children to their own and other cultures and languages. In addition, they should have exposure to the richness and benefits of diversity, building their own cultural competence at this formative time of rapid development. This project was created with educators and teachers of very young children in long day care services in mind, who can influence these outcomes. Educators, in particular those who are not room leaders, and often spend the most time with the children, have a right to access professional quality training. This training should aim to promote motivation, stimulate willingness, enable educators to reflect on cultural attitudes (their own and the community) and how these are impacting on children attending their programs. Additionally, educators are entitled to be supported to increase their relevant knowledge and skills. In particular, early childhood educators require support to actively incorporate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives and culturally and linguistically diverse considerations into their programs.

The motivation of dedicated early childhood educators to evolve professionally is often challenged by busy schedules. This frequently leaves them with little time for critical reflection and access to professional development (PD). A relevant practical means to support educators in developing their cultural competence became apparent over numerous observational visits to early childhood services. While tech-savvy early childhood educators frequently had minimal access to computers, most experienced maximum participation online through their smartphones. It was proposed that challenges and strengths be addressed toward increasing professional development utilising this knowledge. It was the aim of this project to reach early childhood educators who are in most contact with children, in particular those aged from birth to 3 years. This was achieved through the creation of two under seven minute videos accompanied by a guide for reflection, made available online via the AGECS website and therefore technologically accessible by educators, requiring minimal commitment of time.

The project’s journey incorporated an ever-evolving series of creative practical and professional decisions. A willingness to let go when the excitement of an idea could not be materialised was required on frequent occasions. Additionally, openness to trying out new ideas that initially may have appeared as least likely to meet the proposed outcomes was advantageous. One example was letting go of the original concept of keeping the videos to three minutes in length to ensure viewer engagement. The decision to extend the videos from the proposed three minutes to over double the length was not done lightly. Video marketing guidelines emphasise the value of shortness in today’s online viewing habits. However while a professional learning tool can be likened to selling an idea, these videos are provided in a PD context. The average PD session can be anything from 30 minutes to one day long. A decision was therefore made to include all selected key concepts informed by the Early Years Learning Framework and the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework that was difficult to achieve in a shorter timeframe.

Funding, technical expertise, professional availability, time, energy and motivation combined to produce a package that will be freely accessible to educators and teachers online. With a fellowship grant awarded by the Association of Graduates in Early Childhood Studies in 2016, the videos were created by Alannah Dore, Director of the project and videographer, animator and editor Cath Murphy. These resources offer a collection of visual, auditory and emotive bursts of original imagery, music, and interviews. Through these various modes of delivery, the videos convey both direct and indirect foundational messages: one relating to embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in practice, particularly in Victoria, and the other focusing more broadly on cultural diversity.

Note: In light of the current changes to inclusion support for long day care services (and other childcare services), with the end of the Inclusion Professional Support Program on June 30 2016 and the commencement of the new Inclusion Support Program on July 1st 2016.

https://www.dss.gov.au/our-responsibilities/families-and-children/programmes-services/early-childhood-child-care/inclusion-and-professional-support-program

Proposed Outcomes of the Fellowship Project

This project does not intend to meet the cultural competency gap in early childhood education in Australia but it does intend to be a major contributor to this process at the initial stages of cultural competency for educators.

This project will provide a starting point for cultural competency through online training open to educators/teachers/services across Australia at no or low cost

This project intends to meet professional development needs for educators/teachers who are just beginning their journey toward cultural competency

This project intends to motivate/support participants that would normally not attend any other form of training due to

  1. other priorities set by the individual or the service they are part of
  2. lack of resources i.e. planning time, service and personal funds to pursue professional development
  3. unaware of their obligations under the national regulations for early childhood services
  4. unaware of how to begin to fulfil their obligations under these regulations .
  5. lacking confidence in how to move forward

For access go to www.agecs.org.au/resources