Pre-service teacher placement in the time of COVID-19: The Remote Placement in Early Childhood at Victoria University (RPEC@VU) model
DR CAROLINE SCOTT is an early childhood lecturer at Victoria University (VU) and shares how the development of a unique remote placement model has supported VU students to continue their studies, and connect with early childhood services and families during the pandemic.
In a time of continual disruptions and restrictions due to COVID-19, early childhood education academics at Victoria University (Melbourne) have been challenged to think innovatively about professional placements for their initial teacher education students. In order to ensure that the pre-service teachers (PST) in the bachelor and graduate diploma early childhood education courses continue to develop their skills, deepen their knowledge and progress through their course, we have devised a unique model for professional placements. The Remote Placement in Early Childhood (RPEC@VU) model includes ways for our students to remotely and virtually establish relationships with children and families and to plan play and learning experiences for use in their home. With Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire having been through two Stage 3 lockdowns and then a restrictive Stage 4 lockdown, it is increasingly necessary for early childhood educators, teachers and other professionals to reach out and make themselves and their services available to families and children in new COVID safe ways. We have developed this model to respond to the equally essential objectives of offering placement experience to our students, assisting families, children and services to engage with digital technology in constructive ways (as per the ECA statement on young children and digital technologies) and helping our communities through this difficult time.
When partnering with a family, PSTs will work with a qualified early childhood teacher mentor to hold discussions with parents and carers using video conferencing software, phone calls and emails. PSTs will learn about children’s interests, learning and development and use this information to plan play experiences, which they will implement remotely, record on video for later use or support the parent or carer to implement. When partnering with a service, PSTs will be supported by their mentor to hold discussions with educators and create content. For example, they will create a story time, a movement experience or a creative experience, for the group of children that the educator works with virtually. This content will either be provided to services by a shared video link (accessible anytime) or video conferencing software to connect with the children and educators in real time.
With no end in sight to the restrictions due to COVID-19 around the Melbourne metropolitan area, universities are faced with the option of postponing traditional placements or coming up with innovative alternatives that enable PSTs to continue to progress with their studies. We acknowledge that online professional partnerships with families and children and the creation of virtual content cannot replicate exactly the experience of being present in an early childhood service. However, in these unprecedented times, our model provides students with valuable opportunities to establish relationships with families and children and provide them with support and ideas whilst in lockdown through provision of specially designed learning experiences. The RPEC@VU model allows us to support our students on their journey to becoming early childhood teachers through this challenging time and fulfils the equally important role of supporting parents and nurturing and teaching children as they navigate the extraordinary world we currently find ourselves in.
- Any families interested in accessing RPEC@VU, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Any educators or services interested in accessing RPEC@VU please email email@example.com
- For more information on the program, email firstname.lastname@example.org