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Educational Reform: the discourses that shape and reshape the positioning and engagement of early childhood professionals in long day care settings in Victoria, Australia

posted on 2023-05-25, 14:07 authored by Lauren ArmstrongLauren Armstrong

Change is at the centre of the early childhood education field. Significant changes and policy reforms lead to a shift in thinking, moving from traditional to more contemporary approaches to theory and practice, which has been at the forefront of the early childhood field, both nationally and internationally. The aim of this post-structural study was to explore how educational reform discourses shape and reshape the positioning and engagement of early childhood professionals working in the long day care sector in Victoria, Australia. This dissertation provides an overview of the Australian early childhood context, its evolution through the introduction of policy reform initiatives, and the subsequent impact on the Victorian context. More specifically, it utilises the introduction of the curriculum and quality reform documents as an illustration of how early childhood professionals engage with the pace of reform. It explores the underpinning processes of change and educational reform; with an emphasis on the Educational Change Model (Pendergast et al., 2005; Pendergast, 2006) and the ADKAR Organisational Change Model (Hiatt, 2006). This qualitative study spanned a one-year timeframe, and was situated within the south-east, north-east and eastern regions of Victoria, Australia. The purpose of this sample selection was to investigate how early childhood professionals in this area engaged with the reform discourses that came with the simultaneous introduction of state and national curriculum frameworks in 2009 (DEEWR, 2009; DEECD & VCAA, 2009). In particular, this study investigated whether links were present between early childhood professionals’ responses to change, and their perceptions of how well they felt prepared by their pre-service teacher education and their ongoing professional development strategies to engage in change.

Eleven early childhood professionals, including six educators (some studying or qualified as teachers), one co-educator, one director and three centre coordinators participated in this study. Research methods included qualitative, semi-structured interviews with participants, and utilised an interactive version of the timeline method (Bedi & Redman, 2006; McKenna & Todd, 1997; Sobell, Sobell, Leo, & Cancilla, 1988) to list any professional development opportunities during and after the initial implementation of the 2009 reforms. This research design facilitated detailed and focused discussions regarding the participants’ experiences of policy reform. Data was analysed using Foucauldian Discourse Analysis (Arribas-Ayllon & Walkerdine, 2017; Willig, 2013), and encompassed Michel Foucault’s concepts of discourse, power and knowledge (1972.

1980), and key concepts from the change literature. By framing the data in this way, it was possible to see the enmeshed discourses present within the field, and the way that they influenced the subject positions and discursive practices of participants as they attempted to engage in change. Data analysis revealed a range of strategies developed by these participants while navigating change which related to learning and institutional practices. A number of subject positions occupied by these participants were brought to the fore. These subject positions were shaped by specific discourses and their associated discursive practices. Furthermore, the application and analyses of the participants’ interactive timelines and key change models (Hiatt, 2006; Pendergast et al., 2005; Pendergast, 2006) to the study illustrated the participants’ positioning within the change process. The findings from this study provide an understanding about the positioning, engagement and coping strategies of early childhood professionals in the Victorian long day care sector in relation to early childhood reform. This new knowledge will contribute to policy development, reform implementation and institutional practices for the purpose of future reforms in an ever-changing field.





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