I bumped into a colleague last week: ‘Are you going to the AJEC Research Symposium in February next year again?’ she asked me. ‘Yes, for sure. I just heard our abstracts were accepted …’ I answered. ‘Oh yeah? I was thinking of going’, she replied, ‘but is it any good?’ In short, yes it is.
In early childhood education research, there are very few spaces where we can meet, share what we are doing, where we got funding, who we are working with, and how we are doing it. Practitioner conferences are really rewarding (and I always find, very humbling—early childhood practice is amazing), but it’s different to be in a space where early childhood specific research—and researchers—are the focus. We draw on diverse methods, we research everything—from what’s happening with the workforce, the pre-schoolers, the infants, the policy and politics of our sector, to everything else in between. And we need somewhere where we can talk about these things with each other, in person.
The great thing about the AJEC Research Symposium is that it’s big enough for there to be variety, but it is still small enough to be able to catch up with ‘so-and-so’ from Queensland whom you haven’t seen since they moved, for example. Or, you’re going to stand in line for the gluten free chocolate goodies behind Professor so-and-so from Victoria, whose presentation you loved, and ask the question you didn’t want everyone to hear (whether that’s because you still don’t believe you are as clever as you actually are, or, because you don’t want all and sundry to hear your good idea—we are a little bit competitive! OK, maybe that’s just me). But it’s also where you’ll be reminded that so-and-so from Tasmania also looks at children’s early literacy, and maybe you can make plans to apply together for money to do a collaborative study. And it’s also where you’ll catch up on what’s happened in the project you learnt about last year (hello ‘Early Childhood Educators’ Well-being Project’).
Last year I attended an excellent session on applying for the ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher’s Award and have been trying to implement some of the recommendations. So it’s not all about the research that’s already been done, but also involves thinking about where you might go and who might fund a project or research you’re working on. Plus, you never know what jobs are about to come up at certain universities … Maybe you’ve been thinking about as a sea or tree change, and the people you meet at the symposium could get the inside information on what the university is like, or what they might be likely to want in a candidate. Fabulous PhD students attend—lots of exciting projects to hear about, and new names to watch out for in future issues of AJEC. There are also non-academic researchers who attend—from unions, government departments, early childhood education service providers and peak bodies. And they’re all there to think and hear about the research that documents, shapes and challenges our sector—so come and be part of it!