Comparative Analysis Of Two Youth Work Settings: Frontyard And Youth Project

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Context and Purpose

A successful teacher not only teaches, but also motivates (Bean-Mellinger 2018). Therefore, as a future early childhood educator, it is important for me to know and understand the vital skills required in practice in order to deliver effective guidance to young learners. As the AITSL (2018) rightly outlined, the very first domain for the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers is to gain professional knowledge. Then, based on this knowledge, one can practise and engage as an educational professional. With that in mind, I embark on a self-reflective discussion to assess my skills and knowledge as an early childhood educator and to gain a structured understanding of my potential growth areas in this field. Reflections are an essential part of educators’ professional development and remain fundamental to their lifelong learning (Aizan et al 2014). 

Theories Guiding the Reflection

Reflections are a process and also a product at the same time (Yancey 1998). Similar views were propagated by another theorist – Schön (1983, 1987), who provided a framework whereby professionals can learn best by constructing and reconstructing their professional experiences. He called these reflection-in-action (gaining knowledge while in practice) and reflection-on-action (gaining knowledge by critiquing/analysing one’s own actions/behaviours). I believe that an educator is no exception to such reflective growth. For example, there is certain knowledge about effective teaching that I possess currently as an aspiring educator, but these might be readjusted or reconstructed based on my actual experiences in the practice.

There are also many models of reflection, some of which were widely used in reflective practices, such as those proposed by theorists Gibbs (1988) and Kolb (1984). While Kolb’s model, called ‘experiential learning’, comprises a simpler four stage process (concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualisation and active experimentation), Gibbs’ slightly more elaborate six-stage framework provides a basis to examine the experiences (describing the experience, feelings about the experience, evaluating the experience, analysing it, concluding on the knowledge gained and putting knowledge into action). Both these frameworks are essentially built on Schön’s theories of reflection-in-action (doing stage) and reflection-on-action (discovering stage). I think this is also the best approach that I can adopt in future as a practising teaching professional – I would need to build on current knowledge constantly based on real experiences and design my strategies accordingly. It will be a continuous process of learning and relearning to strengthen the ties between knowledge, skills and practice, as mentioned in the AITSL (2018). Even as I prepare myself as an educator, my reflections-in-action inform that apart from having the relevant degrees, I need to have good communication skills, patience in handling children, passion for teaching and a respect for diversity. However, when I participate in projects with peers and emulate teaching in real life-like situations, I understand my shortcomings in communication and also in identifying potentials for external partnership (families, other occupational therapists, etc.). So, these form my reflections-on-action. The reflections in this document are a combination of these two and are presented with Gibbs’ reflective cycle in mind.

Situation Description

I opted to earn a degree in early childhood education as I had always wanted to be a teacher, out of my passion for teaching and love for children. In every situation that involved children in my personal life (family gatherings or walk in the neighbourhood), I have always found children being fond of me. They love my company, I do not have to force any conversation with them and mutual appreciations generally flow. I even role-played being a teacher to my young siblings in the family many times. So when my father (who is a lawyer) wanted me to study law, I revolted. I asserted taking up this course. During my vocation as an early childhood educator, I have constructed lesson plans, brainstormed pedagogies with peers, emulated practice in early childhood contexts, assessed my own and others’ teaching performances, innovated strategies for teaching Aboriginal students, and many more challenging tasks pertaining to early childhood teaching.

My Feelings

In the initial days of the course, I was very happy and content, thinking that I had been smart and efficient in handling most tasks. However, gradually the challenges unfolded with more practical exposure into the real early childhood classroom situations. There were moments of frustration and anguish and the course seemed an uphill task, but soon after I felt determined to overcome the challenges, which went beyond a mere love for teaching and children. In Australia, early childhood teachers are required to possess “a strong understanding of the intent of the EYLF and the complexity with which each child encounters the intended outcomes through their own learning and the learning of others” (Harcourt & Jones 2016, p 84). 

Evaluation

My experiences as an aspiring early childhood educator are a mixture of good and bad. While I fared really well in handling interpersonal relationships, cultural diversity and conflicts, and also planned and executed the curriculum satisfactorily, my skills were lacking in integrating student families effectively and using other occupational therapists appropriately. I also needed to improve more on my communication skills, although I could fairly achieve responsive engagement and could build positive, respectful relationships with the children.

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