A program being run by Coledale’s Dr Cathrine Neilson-Hewett through the University of Wollongong promises to improve the quality of education our children receive.
In fact, it’s making great teachers even greater.
Cathrine has been instrumental in creating a development program for early childhood educators, which has lead to significant gains in children’s literacy and numeracy, as well as a reduction in behavioural issues.
The Early Start Research at the University of Wollongong (UOW) conducted the study in partnership with the NSW Department of Education to establish the most effective ways to improve the quality of early childhood education and care.
The trial involved special training for preschool and day care centre staff- much of which happened in remote and rural communities in outback NSW.
It was the first trial of its kind in the world, and the results have been dramatic.
Dr Cathrine is the Academic Director of the Early Years at UOW, and says the training program saw the children make huge gains in a short space of time.
“We also saw increased engagement and a desire for learning among the children, and parents reported increased vocabulary and increased use of questions and curiosity, and an increased passion for learning,” she says.
“One of the outcomes that the preschool and long day care centre educators really talked about was the significant shifts in children’s behaviours, and a real reduction in behavioural issues among children.
“These findings show that effective professional development for early childhood educators has tremendous potential to improve outcomes for children in a short time frame.”
More than 1300 children and 90 educators from 83 early childhood education and care centres took part in the trial, which was conducted over seven months.
The centres involved came from a mix of urban and regional areas and the families in the study came from across the demographic spectrum. “One of the significant outcomes for educators was an increased sense of worth,” Dr Neilsen-Hewett says.
“Beforehand, many had talked about feeling undervalued and being ready to leave the field. In the questionnaires afterwards, overwhelmingly the educators said one of the greatest benefits was to their sense of professionalism.
“They felt valued, had a renewed sense of purpose and felt the importance of their work had been validated. This is critical as staff turnover and staff instability can really undermine the effectiveness of early childhood education.”