Challenges In Early Childhood Care

Patch 1
Professionalism

Professionals in the field of early childhood care (EC) face many challenges despite the fact that there is a strong basis upon which their profession is underpinned. Moreover, professionals in the field of early childhood care have various titles but whatever tittle one has in this field, a crosscutting responsibility that all of them bears is to adhere to all the professional guidelines related to early childhood care (Monk & Philipson, 2017). But first, it is important to understand the meaning of a ‘profession’. According to Jan (2013, p. 4), “established professions are built upon a shared purpose, common identity and agreement on the unique responsibilities and characteristics of their professionals, defined by the profession itself.” Thus, professionals are individuals who engage in a particular activity within a particular field with a responsibility to execute particular actions based on common guidelines of practice.

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Professionals also operate under certain legal guidelines that set their standards of practice which are also called professional ethics (Debra & Stephanie, 2016). For instance, the profession of early childhood education and care operate based on professional ethics that are established by the relevant authorities within each government or state. Ideally, these codes of ethics are meant to ensure that professionals in this field interact with children in a professional manner (Roberts-Holmes & Bradbury, 2016). On the same note, Anna (2017) argues that these codes of conducts are also meant to demystify the notion that people involved in early childhood care are just babysitters, yet the job that they do requires them to handle children in a professional manner.

Families rely upon professionals in the field of early childhood care to do much more than just ‘babysitting’ for their children. According to McKinlay et al (2018), they are expected to make intentional and conscious decisions about how to interact with the children, their colleague as well as the parents. In doing so, they are expected to follow the code of conduct/ethics, especially when faced with ethical dilemmas. Indeed, this exemplifies the need to have a good mastery of the profession’s ethical code of conduct and how they apply in practical situations (Monk & Philipson, 2017). Thus, during their training, professionals in the field of early childhood care are expected to gain and maintain skills from their program coordinators and mentors on how to maintain professionalism as they interact with their children, parents, and colleagues.

The need to handle children with high-level professionalism is the basis upon which various early childhood care professional organizations are formed. According to (Debra & Stephanie, 2016), these professional organizations work on behalf of families, children, teachers, and caregivers to establish standards of competencies within which professionals in this field must work. For instance, the UK’s Manchester City is home for the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) whose main aim is to work with families, nannies, and early childhood education professionals to ensure that children reach their full potential (Anna, 2017). Another recognizable professional association is the TACTYC Association for Professional Development in Early Years which is mainly involved with advocating for and promoting high-quality professional development for individuals in early childhood development and education. Generally, these professional bodies set the standard and define the principles of conduct among professionals in the field of early childhood education.

References

  • ANNA S. (2017) ‘Pedagogical Excellence in an Early Childhood Education Teacher – Research Summary’, Journal of Education Culture and Society, Iss 2, Pp 91-108 (2017), (2), p. 91. doi: 10.15503/jecs20171.91.108.
  • Debra H. & Stephanie T. (2016) ‘Babysitter or professional? Perceptions of professionalism narrated by Ontario early childhood educators’, International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, Vol 8, Iss 4, Pp 589-600 (2016), (4), p. 589. Available at:
  • Jan P. (2013) ‘Towards a gender neutral interpretation of professionalism in early childhood education and care (ECEC)’, Revista Española de Educación Comparada, Vol 0, Iss 21, Pp 119-144 (2013), (21), p. 119. doi: 10.5944/reec.21.2013.7617.
  • Monk, H. and Phillipson, S. (2017) ‘Early Childhood Educators’ Experiences and Perceptions of Professionalism and Professionalisation in the Asian Context’, Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 45(1), pp. 3–22.
  • McKinlay, S., Irvine, S. and Farrell, A. (2018) ‘What keeps early childhood teachers working in long day care? Tackling the crisis for Australia’s reform agenda in early childhood education and care’, Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, (2), p. 32. doi: 10.23965/AJEC.43.2.04.
  • Roberts-Holmes, G. and Bradbury, A. (2016) ‘Governance, Accountability and the Datafication of Early Years Education in England’, British Educational Research Journal, 42(4), pp. 600–613.

Patch 2
Introduction
Outdoor Playing

Psychology and child development scholars have academically explored many strategies for effective child development and the activities that a child can engage in to promote a holistic growth of the child. Considered a normal routine, child outdoor play is one of the strategies that many caregivers may not be aware of the benefits it contributes to child development. The following are some of the benefits:

Physical Benefits

According to White (2011), children who play outside are more likely to develop stronger muscles, balance and better reflexes that their counterparts who rarely play outside. These assertions are supported by Santer et al (2007) who suggest that playing outside helps children to develop better motor control due to enhanced bone density. Enhanced motor control ultimately leads to better physical capabilities such a holding pencil, using spoons/fork to eat, or even using their toothbrush every morning. Equally, according to Prescott (2008), increased physical activity as a result of frequent outdoor play contributes to a better lifestyle and can play a pivotal role in tackling poor health conditions such as obesity. Evidently, outdoor important in supporting the daily lives of the child and more importantly promoting better health. However, caregivers should also take care of the environment within which children are playing because playing with physical objects such as chains, logs or any other sharp objects may lead to physical injury.

Emotional and Social Benefits

Apart from physical benefits, research evidence reveals that outdoor playing also has emotional and social benefits to children. For instance, group outdoor playing provides an opportunity for children to build emotional connections and navigate through social relationships with their peers (Halman, 2001). As a result, they learn about cultural and social rules, develop body language and non-verbal cues, and cooperate socially among each other. Indeed, the learning and relationship that occur among children during outdoor play are translated to the community and to school. Similar remarks are made by Play England (2008) who states that outdoor learning helps children to learn important social and emotional skills such as negotiation and self-control respectively.

Cognitive Benefits

Similarly, research reveals that outdoor play has cognitive benefits for children. According to Cameron & Moss (2011), outdoor playing allows children to be free and think the way they want, thus develop ideas and imaginations, and to control their emotions. Similarly, according to White (2011), outdoor playing allows children to use their senses in exploring the world, leading to a constant use of the senses in learning. In the process, they use their senses of touch, sight, smell, and taste to connect and organize information for later reference.

Whereas outdoor playing may be of great physical, social and emotional benefits to children, Santer et al (2007) warn of serious repercussions, especially on the behavior of the child, of care is not taken to monitor the children. Ideally, this warning is based on the behaviorism theory which holds that children are more likely than not to learn certain behaviours from their environment. For instance, if the child constantly plays with peers with poor habits, the child is most likely to adopt those habits.

References

  • Cameron,C.&Moss,P.(2011) Social Pedagogy and Working with Children and Young People.London: Jessica Kingsley.
  • Halman, L. (2001). The European Values Study: A third wave Sourcebook of the 1999/2000 European Values Study Surveys. Netherlands: Evs WORC, Tilburg University
  • Play England., (2008) Design for Play: A Guide to Creating Successful Play Spaces. Nottingham: DCSF Publications.
  • Prescott, E. (2008) The Physical environment: a powerful regulator of experience, Exchange, March/April:34-7.
  • Santer, J., Griffith, C &Goodall, D (2007) Free Play in Early Childhood, Available:
  • White, J. (2011) Outdoor Provision in the Early Years, London: Sage.

Patch 3
Child Resilience

Several authors have written about personal resilience as an effective virtue that parents must raise their children with. However, Brook & Goldstein rendition of ‘raising resilient children’ strikes me with deep insights on personal resilience, what it takes to develop it in a child and what it implies when a child is said to be resilient. This patch reflects on my understanding of the parental guides proposed by (Brook & Goldstein, 2001).

First, Brooks & Goldstein (2001) defines resilience as “the ability to manage adversity without becoming overwhelmed or experiencing significant impairment.” One thing I realize from this definition is that resilience is a complex phenomenon and not as simple as I had earlier though. A possible implication of this realization is that a resilient person is one who confronts and manages stress and can live their life more profoundly even after the stressor has passed. This insight is connected to the assertions of James & Prout (2015) that resilience is one’s ability to positively adapt to past of present adversity, and that resilience serves as a buffer during difficult events. Having realized that, I wonder if professionals in the field of early child development and education understand the importance of developing a child’s resilience or to develop this trait in children. Nonetheless, this new insight will be useful in my future career as a professional child handler especially on the account that I have a better understanding of what it means.

The most enlightening thing I read from Brooks & Goldstein (2001) is how parents, as well as caregivers, can participate in raising resilient children. First, the scholar notes that developing a child’s resilience is a psychological process that involves a shift in that child’s mind from relieving symptoms building strengths in times of adversity. These assertions corroborate with those of Jones (2009) that resilient children are able to figure out how to gain strength whey they are having trouble.

Nonetheless, the first suggestion Brooks & Goldstein (2001) makes about developing a child’s resilience is making them feel appreciated and special. The scholar argues that children who feel closer to the hearts of their caregivers know that they are loved and therefore the naturally develop strength to face daily challenges. Jones (2009) also agrees that appreciated children are more likely to develop a resilient mindset that their unappreciated mindset. This realization will change the way I relate with children especially having known that making the feel loves is an essential element of developing resilience in them.

The second technique of building resilience that I learn from Brooks & Goldstein (2001) is accepting the child as they are and realistically understanding their abilities to solve problems. A possible meaning if this realization is that caregivers should be able to psychologically evaluate their kids to know what they should expect from their children (James & Prout, 2015). This realization will change the way I approach my expectations over my children and the children I handle in my professional life as a caregiver. Henceforth, I am aware that having a thoughtful expectation over kids is an important aspect of the child’s resilience and this can help in advising them on how to live or think.

References

  • Brooks, and Goldstein (2001) Raising resilient children. London:
  • James A. Prout A. (2015). Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood: Contemporary Issues in the Sociological Study of Childhood. London: Routledge.
  • Jones P. (2009) Rethinking Childhood: Attitudes in contemporary society, London: Continuum

Patch 4
Introduction
Deconstructing Child Advocacy

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children (UNCRC) (UNICEF 2013) states that children are entitled to the right of being heard, their feelings being considered and being involved in decisions regarding their lives. When these rights are properly granted, it enhances their development and leads to better outcomes in their future lives. Child advocates play an important role in ensuring that these rights are granted to children. This patch highlights my reflection on the roles of child advocacy as learned in the module.

The most interesting thing I realize is that child advocacy is a broad concept which entails several roles and responsibilities and may require skills from various disciplines. According to Lee (2007), child advocates engage in protection of child’s rights, empowering children supporting them and representing them. A possible implication of this understanding is that child advocate is responsible for ensuring that policy-makers consider the experiences and views of children when making decisions about policies and regulations to guide child matters (Morgan, 2008). Secondly, it implies that advocates have to develop a closer relationship with the child to help facilitate the child’s involvement in decision-making. According to Scottish Executive (2001), this close relationship also enables the child to talk about things they are not free to talk about with other professionals. This insight is connected with the assertions of Lancaster & Broadbent (2003) that the advocate’s independence and the respected advocate gives to the child enables the relationship between the child and the advocate to be more on an equal footing, thereby promoting better interaction than there could be with other professionals. This new insight will be useful in my future career as a professional caregiver and in my life as a parent because it gives me a new way of approaching child advocacy by developing a closer relationship with the child.

One thing I realize now is that listening to the child is an important element of child advocacy. While the importance of child empowerment is recognized by UNCRC, Existing research (UNICEF 2013) has shown that most children feel powerless and not involved in decision making especially when these decisions affect their lives. Therefore, according to Hayden (2009), the main reason for listening to children is that their contribution can help advocates find lasting and impactful solutions to problems they face – basically, they understand their problems more than anyone else. A possible implication of this new idea is that the opportunity to be listened to and have a say on issues affecting their lives is as important to them as the opportunity to understand why some decisions about them should be made. Having realized that, I intend to develop the technique of staying closer to the children I handle, listening to them and developing a relationship of mutual understanding with them. This new insight will be useful in my future career and in my life as a parent for I now know the important nature of listening to children, especially in the line of child advocacy.

References

  • Hayden, J (2009) Preparing to Scale Up: The Next Step for Embedding Early Childhood.
  • Hayden, J. (2008) five activities towards responsive advocacy: infiltrating the civil landscape. Keynote presentation at Active Citizenship: Democratic Practices in Education, International Step by Step, World Forum, Consultative Group Conference, Budapest, Hungary.
  • Lancaster, YP and Broadbent, V (2003) Listening to Young Children. Buckinghamshire: Open University Press.
  • Lee, S. (2007) The Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA): Helping People who are Unable to Make Some Decisions Themselves. London: The Mental Capacity Implementation Programme.
  • Morgan, R. (2008) Children’s Views on Advocacy. A Report by the Children’s Rights, Director for England. London: Ofsted
  • Scottish Executive (2001) Independent Advocacy: A Guide for Commissioners. Norwich: The stationery Office.
  • UNICEF (2013) United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child,

Patch 5
Child Education and Early Childhood Care
Introduction

Evidently, there exists a distinction between education and early childhood care (ECC) in the United Kingdom (UK). However, while not aiming to exhaust the forms of relationship that exists, this patch aims to support the idea of both national and international perspective, the two sectors are related.

In the relationship between ECC and education though, education emerges to be the most dominant partner and ECC only exists to ensure that the child is ready for the education system (UNICEF, 2013). Therefore, ECC must be aligned with the education system to ensure that children successfully prepared for future schooling. Moreover, the relationship can be expressed in the form that ECC prepares the child to get ready for compulsory education – when its time comes.

However, from time immemorial, the term ‘readiness’ has been controversial and has sparked debate among scholars and parents alike. While one pact construes it as readiness for learning, others view it as readiness for school (Taguma & Litjens, 2012), each parties basing their arguments on reasons that are not subject for discussion herein. However, regardless of whether it is readiness for school or readiness for learning, the role of ECC in preparing the child for future compulsory education has been fixed on specific standards (i.e. prepared to write, read and conform to classroom procedures), and the primary aim of ECC is to enable children to meet those standards (Langston, 2014).

In some countries though, there is an opposite relationship between ECC and education characterized by antagonizing practitioners, and significantly different services offered within the ECC and education system. According to Hughes (2005), some countries’ ECC systems are characterized by practitioners who strive to differentiate themselves and their services from what they perceive as a didactic approach to education practiced in the education system. A good example that highlights the tense relationship between ECC and education is in the case of Norway, as written by Moser (2007:52) that:

“The development of kindergarten within Norwegian society was accompanied by both an implicit and an explicit struggle against the traditions associated with the school. Mainly this conflict has been – and still is – based on different perspectives on learning and development, children and childhood and, accordingly, different value systems. It has been claimed that the kindergarten and the primary school are founded on different philosophies, organizational models and pedagogical practices and the transition from one to another needs special attention”

Further evidence from the Norwegian education policies reveals that there is a clear distinction between kindergarten and primary school and that both systems of education give different approaches to a child’s development. as captioned below, the Norwegian (2006) Kindergarten Act states that:

“...kindergartens shall nurture children’s curiosity, creativity and desire to learn and offer challenges based on the children’s interests, knowledge, and skill [and]…shall lay a sound foundation for the children’s development, lifelong learning and active participation in a democratic society [and] shall provide children with opportunities for play, self-expression, and meaningful experiences and activities in safe, yet challenging surroundings”

Therefore, I have identified two major forms of relationship that exists between ECC and compulsory education, one being that ECC prepares children in readiness for compulsory education while the other is that both ECC has a clear distinction in practice and that both are different pedagogical institutions. It is important for professional caregivers to understand these relationships because they are useful in defining the scope of their professions.

References

  • Langston, A (2014). Facilitating Children's Learning In The Eyfs: Supporting Learning in the EYFS. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.
  • Moser, T. (2007) ‘The experience of Norway’, M. Woodhead and P. Moss (eds.) Early Childhood and Primary Education: Transitions in the Lives of Young Children (Early Childhood in Focus 2). Milton Keynes: The Open University.
  • Ministry of Education and Research (Norway) (2006) Norwegian Framework Plan for the content and tasks of kindergartens (English translation). Oslo: Ministry of Education and Research.
  • Taguma,M&Litjens, I (2012). Quality Matters in Early Childhood. London: OECD.
  • UNICEF (2013). Why Early Childhood Development? London: Unicef in Action.

Patch 6
A Critique of Baseline Assessment
Introduction

The debate over baseline assessment and its appropriateness for children has been going on for a long time. When children are admitted into their reception year, they bring along various skills, capabilities, and experiences which are further developed when they are subjected to more learning within the school system (Lucas & Claxton, 2010). Thus, would a teacher want to know how far the children have gone in acquiring information and knowledge for developing those skills and experiences, or whether they have started gaining skills that will help them become good in mathematics?

Basically, According to Harris (1986), baseline assessment is an activity in pedagogy which is conducted to children when they first enter a New Year group in school or when they enter a new academic setting. It involves the assessment of the child’s potential and capabilities and is also sometimes termed as an ‘on-entry assessment’ (Fromberg, 2002).

Whereas most people would agree that there is need to assess children when they start school, critiques of baseline assessment argue that the problem is not with the activity of baseline assessment, but the procedure and the setup for the assessment. For instance, Clausen et al (2015) claim that the externally administered assessments interfere with the internal assessments done by teachers because first, it takes a longer duration than a teacher could take internally performing the assessment. For example, it is estimated that external assessors can take more than seven days to assess a class of 30 pupils, yet this time could be spent in examining the interests and capabilities of each child (Beardsley & Harnett, 2012).

Critiques of baseline assessment also argue that the UK government’s version of baseline assessment is not tailored and focused to meet provide benefits to the children. Instead, it majorly aims to measure accountability and the value delivered by the school in the period between reception and the end of 6th grade (Lucas & Claxton, 2010). Moreover, Fromberg, (2002) complains that instead of being based on a broader profile, it only provides a single score which does not consider the multi-dimensional nature of early childhood education. In fact, according to Harris (1986), the external assessment primarily focuses on language and communication, mathematics and literacy, and not all the areas covered in the early childhood education and foundation.

Therefore, a special appeal goes to the government, and particularly to the department of education, to consider the scope and nature of external baseline assessment in the UK early childcare and education institutions. Whereas baseline assessment is important and justifiable within the UK’s early childhood education and foundation system, it would be much batter is serious considerations are made regarding how the government scheme is delivered so that it does not interfere with the internal assessment done by teachers to an extent that it loses its value. Understanding the idea that a comprehensive assessment is better and creates more value for time and resources can contribute to the development of a better design of the government’s assessment scheme that gives priority to both the teachers and children within the system.

References

  • Beardsley, G &Harnett, P (2012) Exploring Play in the Primary Classroom, London: Routledge
  • Clausen, S., Guimaraes, S., Howe, S &Cottle, M. (2015) 'Assessment of Young Children on Entry to School: Informative, Formative or Performative?',
  • Fromberg, D. P. (2002). Play and meaning in early childhood education. Boston: Allyn& Bacon.
  • Lucas, B., & G. Claxton, (2010) New kinds of smart: how the science of learnable intelligence is changing education. Maidenhead, England: Open University Press.

Patch 7

In this patch, I reflect on my experience as a leader and mentor and leader of 1st and 2nd-year students throughout the term. I will highlight some of the issues I addressed with the mentees, and explain my view of why it is important to develop mentoring skills as a professional in the early childhood profession.

One thing I realize is that mentoring creates an opportunity for mentees to learn and develop various skills of practice that otherwise they would not acquire in an effective manner if they were not mentored. For example, during my time as a mentor, I scheduled regular meetings with the mentees to discuss a range of professional issues that affected their way of practice. We had meetings three times a week (i.e. Monday, Wednesday and Friday) and every session was meant to address different issues. For example, Monday sessions were meant for role modelling, whereby I gave the mentees various insights on how I ‘made it’ in the profession. Wednesday sessions were meant for coaching, where I exposed the mentees to new practice and skills that I felt were important for their future careers. Finally, Friday sessions were meant for support and encouragement. I used this session to give a listening ear to the mentees, explain some of the unwritten rules of practice, congratulate their effort and acknowledge their efforts too. Broadly, these sessions were important in taking a holistic approach in developing a competent, valued and confident workforce that has the ability to deliver quality services within a dynamic environment of professional practice.

During the mentorship sessions, it became clearer to me that the sessions were not only important to the mentees but also to me as a professional in the early childhood profession. For instance, I noticed that there were important aspects of practice that I also learned as I engaged with the trainees. Hence, it was clearer to me that developing monitoring skills had three major purposes. First, it forms a strong foundation for professional development because as I engage with the mentees, I also learn from them. Secondly, creates an enabling environment to develop my leadership skills, and thirdly, it enables the development of teamwork skills as there is a constant coordination between the mentor and the mentee.

Lastly, I realized that mentorship roles are characterised by various challenges and opportunities. For instance, it was difficult to keep all the mentees engaged and committed to the program because each of them had different motivations towards the program. However, I addressed this challenge by giving them tasks and developing activities that needed active participation. Another challenge emerged in dealing with the mentees’ inexperience. It took me longer sessions to teach them some skills. To address this challenge, sometimes I had to re-teach all the skills taught in the previous session. Nonetheless, some of the opportunities encountered during the sessions include an opportunity to develop higher levels of professions skills, transfer knowledge, and to improve the mentee’s qualifications.

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Patch 8

In the past few weeks, I have gained much knowledge and understanding of professional conduct and advocacy involved in early childhood years. As part of the requirement for a successful completion of this module, this patchwork required me to develop patches of approximately 500 words every week to gain helpful feedback on my ability to achieve the course’s learning objectives. I was also required to interact and engage with other students to discuss their work and learn from them. Indeed, this patchwork has created an opportunity for me to evaluate and improve on some of the issues I have addressed in each of the patches. I believe I have achieved much progress throughout the module and this has been demonstrated in each patchwork that I have done.

A major factor that has helped me develop each patch is to recollect all the things I have learned throughout the module and evaluate what they mean, their implications on my degree course and how I might find them useful in my future career. This activity was significantly related to the assertions by McKenzie (2001) that patchwork gives students an opportunity to take control of their learning activities and making sense of them in regards to how they might apply in practical situations. Therefore, the patchwork was a major enabler for me to be in control of my learning activities experiences throughout the module.

Being aware of the expected learning outcomes was also a major boost to my learning throughout the module. According to Rust (2000), developing suitable learning outcomes motivates students to be keen and objective in their learning, enabling them to focus on important learning points while spending more time learning the most important skills targeted by the course. Thus, with the help of the module’s learning objectives, I was able to maintain track and gain useful knowledge of professionalism and advocacy. I was motivated to learn from colleagues and think critically while trying to understand the practical applications of every learning point I gained.

Patch seven was the climax of the whole assignment. I found it enjoyable writing the patch because it was a reflection of the knowledge I gained practically interacting with kids in a work setting. While writing the patch, I was surprised to realize how I had gained a lot from the placement, and how easy it was to learn within a work environment. Nonetheless, while writing patch 7, I was able to recollect that parents and caregivers have a key role to play in encouraging kids to physically active.

Writing several reflections on professionalism and advocacy in early years has enabled me to gain so much knowledge on child care and education. An interesting insight I gained from all the reflections is that the work of professionals in early child care is made much easier when they create a connection with the kids and their parents. However, I have also learned that as a professional child caregiver, I need to develop a culture of learning new ideas from the experience and interaction with kids.

References

  • McKenzie, J (2001) Changing Education: A Sociology of Education Since 1944, Prentice Hall, London.
  • Rust, C (2002) The impact of assessment on student learning, Active Learning in Higher Education, 3, 2,145–58.

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