A Community of Practice (CoP) is best defined as a space for individuals to interact and learn from one another in partnership with an understanding of sharing knowledge. Engaging in a CoP will allow you to not only deepen your knowledge on a subject or topic area, but it will also allow you to network and engage with colleagues and peers.
Due to the ongoing impact COVID-19 is having on the early childhood community, virtual Communities of Practice have created the opportunity for increased accessibility and practicality of professional learning. Virtual platforms offer the opportunity for learners to collaborate across states and territories through knowledge construction, building professional relationships and re-establishing a commitment to their professional practice. Engaging in any professional learning opportunity requires courage, curiosity and commitment, and the ECA Communities of Practice certainly speak to this idea!
With this in mind, ECA has designed a unique Community of Practice experience for early childhood professionals at all stages of their careers centred around deep diving into four key ideas: diverse learners, STEM, literacy and language, and play. ECA Communities of Practice are foundationally built on the idea that action research is a powerful tool for learning and quality improvement. You won’t be alone on the journey, however, as each ECA Community of Practice is actively facilitated by a member of the ECA Professional Learning team and up to 40 other learners could join you in your professional learning journey. Commonly used for improving conditions and practices in a learning environment, the action research approach involves conducting a series of inquiry cycles and is recognised as an effective form of professional learning within the early childhood sector context (Miller, 2017). This is supported by Newman et al. (2018) who add the purpose of action research is to bring about long-term, sustained and meaningful change. Action research is engaging and transformative, both for individuals and whole teams, due to its participatory nature (Newman et al., 2018). Action research has a close relationship with critical reflection. Lively cultures of critical reflection and professionalism are evident in teams who engage in action research (Newman et al., 2018). This is because action research requires current practices to be examined, debated and reviewed, with this newly created information then used to inform change.
Engaging in an ECA Community of Practice will allow you to network and engage with participants from all over Australia, building depth and complexity into your learning. By exploring new ideas and sharing resources and lived experiences in this way, you will become a valued member of a vibrant learning community. An ECA Community of Practice includes carefully curated ECA Professional Learning resources, such as ECA Learning Hub modules and webinars and ECA research-based Publications. These resources have been selected to support and expand your knowledge base on the chosen topic area.
Through your involvement in an ECA Community of Practice, you can expect to:
- engage in a number of online forums and Zoom sessions
- be constructively challenged by your peers and facilitator
- experience the opportunity to cultivate ongoing professional relationships with other learners
- be actively involved in critically reflective dialogue
- design and implement an action research project that directly relates to your context
- shift your pedagogical practices as they relate to play-based learning in early childhood
- participate in and engage with ECA Learning Hub resources that will enhance and extend your thinking
Miller, M. (2017). Action research: The benefits for early childhood educators. Belonging Early Years Journal, 6(3), 26–29. https://belongingearlyyearsjournal.partica.online/belonging-early-years-journal/vol-6-no-3/flipbook/28/
Newman, L., Leggett, N., Duffy-Fagan, M., & Higginbottom, K. (2018). Strengthening quality through critical reflection and action research. Early Childhood Australia.