Early childhood educators' training and their preparedness and ability to support the language learning of infants and toddlers
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 20:08 authored by Tracy Redman
Mounting research evidence points to the significance of language learning during the first three years of life for children's later learning. Recent Australian research, however, has revealed that children under three in early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings experience limited opportunities to participate in rich language interactions. Although various studies have suggested that educators with university-level early childhood (EC) qualifications provide more effective language learning environments, little is known about the relationships between the content of educators' EC training and their sense of preparedness and ability to engage in practices that can promote language learning in infants and toddlers. This exploratory study examined (1) the extent to which educators' formal early childhood training focused on the language learning of infants and toddlers and prepared graduates to support it, and (2) whether and how educators' self-reported practices reflected those that research has identified as effective for promoting language learning in children under three. The study participants were recruited from ECEC services in metropolitan Sydney to complete an online survey. A total of 122 participants provided ratings of the extent to which the content of their EC qualification(s) (certificate III, diploma, bachelor, master) focused on and prepared them to support the language learning of infants and toddlers. About half had undertaken two or more EC qualifications. Across all qualification levels, respondents consistently reported more focus on language-related course content for the pre-school age group than on younger children. The mean scores for ratings of course content and preparedness increased with higher level qualifications, with scores being lowest for certificate III, mid-range for diploma and highest for bachelor degrees. Statistical analyses revealed a strong correlation between ratings for coursework content and ratings for preparedness. A subsample of participants (73 of the 122) provided responses to open-text questions about the practices through which they foster the language learning of children under three years of age. The thematic analysis of these responses revealed a variety of strategies that educators employ to support language learning in the infant-toddler years, although variation was seen in their articulation of practices informed by theory, and practices did not always correspond to the educators' ratings of their EC course content.