Early childhood teacher education: Examining the perceptions of graduates of three preservice programs.
Author(s)MacMillan-Harkins, Mary Jane.
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AbstractProfessional child care has become an increasingly integral part of life for Canadian families with young children. Because child care teachers have been identified as a key indicator of the quality of child care provided to young children, it is important to explore the issue of how best to prepare early childhood professionals. The purpose of the study was to examine the nature of the relationship between early childhood teacher preservice preparation and teaching practices. The significance of the study related to the value placed on experienced preschool teachers' perceptions of their preservice teacher preparation and its impact on their present teaching practices.
The design of the study was based on an ecological framework and the methodology involved a qualitative case study. Data was collected from 6 preschool teachers through structured interviews, naturalistic observations, informal interviews, and teaching artifacts. These 6 preschool teachers had from 2 to 6 years of teaching experience in a day care centre. Two of the participants graduated from a 4-year baccalaureate degree program in early childhood education; two participants completed a 2-year competency-based teacher education program; and the final two graduated from a 1-year thematic early childhood teacher training program.
In the analysis of the study five themes were identified among the preschool teachers' perceptions of the preservice teacher education program: understanding the nature of the child, integration of theory and practice, the nature of the classroom teaching, practicum experiences, and the overall atmosphere. Their present teaching practices were explored under the following headings: teacher-initiated small group activities, routines, and teacher-child interactions.
There were no definitive interpretations, as the preschool teachers' perceptions were complex and, at times, dependent on many other variables. The results of the study supported and recognized the complex issues involved in preparing early childhood professionals for the care and education of young children. The richness of the teachers' perceptions and the identified conceptualizations of the findings added to the existing knowledge and supported other research findings about the relationship between teacher preparation and teaching practices. Implications of the study are delineated as well as suggestions for further research. This approach invites the reader to use the discussions in the dissertation in a heuristic manner for further inquiry into early childhood teacher education and the role of the preschool teacher in the day care environment.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Dalhousie University (Canada), 1997.