This programme was the first professional mentoring program for early childhood teachers across the state of Victoria and as such was developing a culture which at that point in time was only known in the primary and secondary school sectors. This was funded by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) now known as Department of Education and Training.
The Professional Mentoring Program for Early Childhood Teachers addressed a workforce need for new or isolated early childhood teachers to access support from an experienced colleague. It offered mentees targeted support in the delivery of their programmes, along with networking opportunities. It also provided an opportunity for experienced early childhood teachers to take on leadership roles, developing and exercising their mentoring skills, as they shared their knowledge within the profession.
Mentoring in this program was about developing a reciprocal, respectful and responsive relationship between early childhood teachers to support the deepening of professional understandings, and the enhancement of practice. The program created an environment that valued and facilitated reflective practice enabling the sharing and challenging of knowledge and understandings. This environment was one where all participants, both mentors and mentees, felt empowered, as they discussed their own practice and in the process gained insight into their roles as early childhood professionals.
Funding for the mentoring program for early childhood teachers was announced in the 2010 –11 Victorian Budget and Victoria University in partnership with Deakin University successfully won the tender to deliver the program over an 18 month period, commencing in June, 2011. This time period was later extended until the end of 2014.
The program aimed to increase early childhood teachers’ access to mentoring relationships. The focus of the program was around pedagogical discussions and the issues that are raised regarding leadership in early childhood settings. The program was built upon the following outcomes:
- Ensuring that early childhood teachers new to the profession have access to regular, targeted support from experienced colleagues;
- Developing a shared understanding between the early childhood teachers and the mentor, of the nature of mentoring and what constitutes good practice in mentoring;
- Providing opportunities for experienced early childhood teachers to develop their mentoring skills, and to develop their own practice through the mentoring relationship;
- Encouraging early childhood teachers to reflect upon their pedagogical approach to learning and teaching for children from birth to five years assisting them to develop and deliver quality early childhood programs (informed by the VEYLDF and the National Quality Framework);
- Assisting early childhood teachers to understand their role in implementing the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework and Transition statements;
- Developing the skills and confidence of new and isolated early childhood teachers to deal with challenges experienced in their setting or context;
- Supporting early childhood teachers in identifying local networks with other early childhood teachers in similar settings; and
- Building the capacity of leadership within the early childhood field
Further information about Mentoring for Early Childhood Teachers and reports of the Programme can be found at: http://www.education.vic.gov.au/childhood/professionals/profdev/Pages/mentoring.aspx
Andrea Nolan, Project Director
Professor of Education (Early Childhood)
School of Education, Faculty of Arts & Education