Empowered to impact change: Learning together through Communities of Practice

Early childhood education is a constant revolving door of new information, insightful understandings, complex perspectives and thought-provoking research. Our role as early childhood educators and teachers is to dive headfirst into this pool of information and filter the noise of overwhelming perspectives in our profession, developing our practices.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

That’s where ECA’s Community of Practice (CoP) comes in. Helping to topple the tower of noise, it is where your interest and knowledge meet sector perspectives through guided learning with the support of industry leaders and shapeshifters. Like-minded professionals hold steadfast to their beliefs and understandings in a fostered, shared learning space, whilst opening their eyes to change and perspective. An intimate, online learning environment draws together passionate professionals from all across Australia, sharing complex ideas and understandings about anything and everything early childhood.

The CoP takes you on a learning journey, establishing what you already know in order to challenge your understandings through current research. With the ability to engage in a variety of learning and course content through the ECA Learning Hub, educators are encouraged to launch into what can only be described as the most impactful meeting of professionals you will experience in a ten-week course. You will establish the knowledge of your community, discuss and challenge each other’s practices, and provide real-life, real-time insight into what you are experiencing as an early childhood professional.

Guided discussions reinforce your professional philosophy, support critical reflection of your practices and put into context the curriculum and the National Quality Framework. Whether you are just beginning your journey in early childhood or are well and truly into your career with advanced knowledge and understanding of early childhood perspectives, the CoP meets you where you are. It is an opportunity for learners and teachers to meet, share perspectives and understandings, and make sense of our role in early childhood, challenging one another in a respectful and professional environment.

The CoP provides an opportunity to take ownership of your learning, working both autonomously and interdependently through an ongoing topic of research known as the action research project. Your action research project works in line with the CoP, encouraging you to embed your learning with new insight. You will identify your chosen area of interest—whether it be educator or child-focused—before planning your means of challenging and improving practice. Your plan is informed by your prior knowledge, and knowledge gained from engaging in the ECA online community.

The action research project creates a call to action, where you will ask yourself repeatedly, ‘How can I impact change?’ Any lingering doubt will soon be quashed and you will feel your internal perspective shift from ‘How can I…?’ to ‘I will’.

‘I will challenge practice. I will impact change.’

Embedding your knowledge of critical reflection, you will combine your ideas with contemporary practices knowing that your call to action will impact your community—fellow educators, families and children.

What is it that is going to challenge the way you currently do things? Are your early childhood practices influenced by the status quo or because research speaks volumes above the rest? Your action research project is established, carried out, and reflected upon not because it’s the easiest way, but because it is the most important and impactful way of implementing and impacting change in your community. You will observe the changes and the action you are implementing, reflect on these, and work with your community to embed new, high-quality early childhood practices that are leading change for the children who need it most.

As I created, developed and reflected upon my own action research project, I was able to see a shift in my thinking and actions. I suddenly felt empowered to impact change and could see that changes were happening all around me: the way educators and teachers engaged with one another and challenged one another’s practices; how they fostered children’s learning; how children began extending their own learning; and how change could impact an entire company, not just a singular setting. Engaging in weekly online discussions with my CoP and fortnightly online meetings with our learning community, I felt as if my knowledge was being reinforced and that I was able to share all my professional understanding like never before. I was being challenged professionally and without judgement, extending my knowledge in areas that I thought I knew as much as there was to know.

So, was the Community of Practice worth it? Yes. Should you partake in your own action research project guided by an ECA Community of Practice? Absolutely. The early childhood profession will only benefit from challenging embedded practice.

ECA Recommends: The ECA Communities of Practice are 10-week online learning communities for early childhood professionals who want to elevate their learning on a specific topic. Access modules, publications and live events, and connect with like-minded professionals around the country. Find out more

Aimee Mathai

Aimee Mathai obtained an Early Childhood Teaching Degree at Maquarie University and has been working in the Early Childhood Sector for 12 years. She most recently joined a team responsible for curating specialised programs to support the development and delivery of our in house Music and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) Workshops. In developing our practices and knowledge, our STEAM team engaged in the ECA Community of Practice: STEM in Early Childhood.

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