Discussion, data, and defiance

The creation of knowledge does not, of itself, lead to widespread implementation and positive impacts on health. The knowledge must be translated into changes in practice and policy for the benefits and impacts to flow to Australians.

National Health and Medical Research Council 2020

EC Researcher: ‘It won’t be useful to you, it’s more for academics or policymakers’.

Me: If you collect and analyze data you must be able to explain your work.

Researcher: Yes but your people only have Cert III.

Me: *Holding back the sadness*. If your data isn’t applicable, that’s ok, but assuming we won’t be able to penetrate it because of a perceived lack of qualifications makes you wrong on 2 counts.

Me: My people?

Researcher: You know, child care workers …

Me: Wrong on 3 counts.

Researcher: 3?

Me:

  1. We can and do regularly work with academic research. This is an evidence-based profession. We are required by law to delve deeply into legislation, standards, research and evidence, and base and review our practice on it. We are independently assessed to ensure that is exactly what we do.
  2. In our workplace alone there is 11 staff,  9 are studying a degree, 2nd degree or Masters. 2 are teachers, 2 are running research projects and 1 is writing a book.
  3. Don’t call us child care workers. That title died in 2012 when the Education and Care Services Law came into being. We are, by law, called Educators. For heavens sakes, update yourself.

In working for the Educational Leaders Association (ELA), I have met some of the finest minds of our generation, enhanced by learning, practice and a sheer bloody-minded professional determination to advocate for children.

Low pay, patchy respect, being left out of deliberations about the profession is their lot and each acts as a boundary to professional recognition and growth. The fact that they stay is a testament to their professional purpose.  They deserve respect. More so since they work in an area that has extraordinary responsibility for more than 1.2 million Australian children in the critical early years.

It is a long time since I first discovered that research and research translation is also one of the boundaries that seem to prevent Educators from being taken seriously as professionals and practice-based researchers.

In a profession that talks tirelessly about inclusion and anti-bias, the prominence paid to inclusion doesn’t seem to reach far into the Education profession when talking about very early childhood Educators.

Language is powerful. When language like ‘child care’ and ‘child care workers’ is used, it demeans our profession, our work and the professionalism of the Educators within it.

The conversation above was very real … and very, very painful. It was one of the motivators for the now daily microblog on the Educational Leaders Association Facebook page. ELA produces daily injections of evidence-based practice discussion, in accessible language, serves and supports busy Educators and Educational Leaders who simply don’t have the money for further study, unless supported, and who, because of the deep responsibility they hold for more than 1.2 million children in early childhood, need to be fully included in the evidence for practice developing within the Education profession. It must be relevant to the role and it must be accessible.

Educators are held waiting with noses pressed against the glass of the window, looking in at professional respect, professional wage rates, and an accountability system that would serve to hold them professionally accountable and require them to be professionally supported in equal measure – waiting and wondering, if very early childhood truly is so important, why are we out here and why are you in there?

Research requires an audience. If researchers want an audience, the language used must be respectful of that audience. To be translated into practice, the research must be accessible. If it not accessible, it will sit unused.  Who benefits then?

Since that conversation, I have reflected:

Why did that academic speak in the way that they did?

Why did they feel that it was qualifications that were important?

Why did they feel that qualifications trumped the desire to learn?

Why wasn’t it taken as a moment to draw very early childhood into using their research and to provide a window into a valuable topic?

When sharing that response with Educational Leaders, I saw a change.

The group of more than 130 became angry and as that passed, defiant.

They talked about how in their centres and services, they are at times used in research, by researchers, rarely thanked, even more rarely cited. They wondered why this lack of respect should come from so many researchers.

They talked about how they don’t know who to fight, and how to fight.

Together we decided we need to know more about who we are before we can lead the fight.

We are going directly to thousands of Education and Care services across the country and sourcing the input from the practitioners themselves. The 2020 National Educational Leaders Survey is coming. The Educational Leaders Association will discuss the data, the interpretation, the policy implications, and the learning. Watch that space. https://www.facebook.com/EducationalLeadersAssociation/

 

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