The Educator Professional Identity project – the pilot

‘Being an Educator is more than a state of mind – it is a professional role that exists within a complex system of governance, practice standards and accountability’.

Educator studying Masters degree, working in 0-1 year old’s nursery

I was thinking about this remarkable Educator when I drove to their Centre to sit with the team, discuss the professionalisation of the sector, how that looks like in their Centre now, and how they want it to look in the future.

This nursery room Educator had considered why her professional knowledge, status and standing was not as recognised as someone with a comparable qualification in another setting, and had come to the understanding that the reasons were intrinsic to the current structure of her profession and extrinsic – held back by the external work required to move her profession along. It sounds complex. Maybe it is. She raised one other very valid point:

‘We have the National Quality Framework – why don’t people recognise that for the advance that it is? Doesn’t the progress we have made through that speak volumes on our capacity to develop even further?’

Same person

I have been working with one Centre on looking at supporting Educators to relook at the role of a professional and what that might mean to them, their practice, their careers. We started with what it might feel like to own their own profession and be at the end point – where their community, other professions and their teams all felt acknowledged and heard. In guided discussions, they had talked about what is needed for Educators to do, and what is needed for others interacting with Educators to do.

The elements of the Educator Professional Identity discussions have been discussed in previous blogs. We discussed those, how they related to their work and thinking, and in a short discussion looked at the systemic change that needs to come to make this change a reality. What is exciting about this is we are looking at building a profession from the Educator perspective.

First though, it is important to share with you one question from the discussion that I think everyone needs to hear:

Do you call yourself a professional?

A: Sometimes, usually no.

Do you refer to your role here as being part of a profession? A: No.

May I ask why?:

A: Because no one will believe us.

A group of Early Childhood Educators

That was the starting point.

After some guided discussions on professionalisation and professional identity – discussions we were underway.

  • They decided that ‘owning your identity ‘ meant that Educators themselves must recognise:
Educators must recogniseEducators discussed thisOutcomes of note from the discussionsRelated systemic changes needed
That the Educator role is clearly differentiated in law and operate within a legal frameworkThe Educators had not considered that their own professional governance was remarkably similar to the governance of other professions.This shared concept became incredibly important to each of them.Sharing information on the professions that Educators interact with will advance a better understanding of professional structures and foster cross professional understanding between practitioners.  
That would-be Educators are prepared with an intellectual basis for their practice through higher educationThis group committed to look at the units of study they shared, they shared the question – ‘What units would you have preferred and needed?’They shared the idea that course designers had to think beyond current ‘stereotypical’ Educator images and reach deeper into the potential of the role – nursery staff felt this especially – they wanted more post graduate opportunitiesEnsure all courses are in alignment with the current Educator role, reflect the diversity of the roles, and that pre degree courses consistently align with and provide entry into degree courses
That Educators have a clearly developed code of ethics which protects our children and our communityThey were concerned that ongoing learning is largely voluntary postgraduate. Ethics is a good example of this.This group committed to annual professional learning targetsAnnual professional learning targets are essential for maintenance and growth of essential professional knowledge. Required targets such as those for teaching need to be well resourced.
That regulation is a part of Educators’ professional accountability agreement with our communityThey were concerned that they were heavily regulated but that those regulations are poorly understood.  They decided to petition the regulatory unit for more and ongoing learning on accountability.Learning on accountability must be embedded in undergraduate and post graduate required learning.
  • They decided that looking at possible and future professional roles, Educators would need:
Educators needEducators discussed thisOutcomes of note from the discussionsSystemic changes they consider are needed
Professional credentials that mandate the agreed range of knowledge and skills required to do the roleEducator roles may be closely linked to education but they are also linked to health and social work.The myriad of qualification providers and courses now accepted causes concern that any change in qualification will take a long time to transition into practice and that significant levelling for current qualification will be needed.New thinking is required for designing the qualifications needed in the sector and careful attention is needed to implement them. Qualification affordability is a significant issue for the Educators consulted.
A career structure that leads Educator to positions of professional autonomy in leadership, research and practiceIt is reasonable to expect a career structure to promote excellence in the role, support retention of learned and talented Educators, and to keep those most qualified in the role, actually doing the role.They are alarmed at the number of Educators who saw the only way to pursue career opportunity was to leave the role.The myriad of employers who now offer differing levels of organisational structures need aligning to allow for portability of roles and consistency of preparation for the roles.
Tables 1 and 2: Discussions on the professionalisation of the Educator role

So what happened here?

Educators were empowered and they felt empowered and were keen to explore issues further. They felt that in-person discussions allowed them to ask questions and explore the issues raised in a way that was very appropriate to them and their setting. We will certainly keep the discussions going.

If this pilot on Educator Identity has taught us anything, it is that Educators who have a series of guided discussions on professionalisation can work them through at a high level and can take the issues and with new curiosity, explore further.

Next: Lets get together – Taking discussions about Educator Identity to groups of services

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