At the seminar VALUE both groups of the portuguese pilot presented their training journey and commented on what was most significant to them. 

EB1 / JI S.Domingos (Santarém): 

[The training journey was] based on what we are and know, always supported by the trainers. 

[Helped us] realize that in the center is the child and understand our roles and tasks. 

We learn about educational intentionality, value the collaborative dimension, look at the professional practice of each other, as an union. 

APISAL (Lisbon): 

This new way of looking at the child has been the greatest opportunity for us to reflect on our role as facilitators of our day-to-day life. 

We have had the opportunity to reflect on everyday practices and realize that communication is important to get everyone involved. 

The opportunity to do this training helps to give impetus to changing practices. 

As an expectation of continuity, both groups highlighted: 

• Greater collaboration of families in the daily education of the children. 

• More opportunities for team dialogue. 

Defining as primary commitments: 

• Creation of space and time for dialogue among professionals; 

• Listen and value the choices of children and families; 

• Reflect on everyday practices for better professional performance – That is, what we do with children, which reflect on what they have done, we must do it too. 

At the end of the meeting each group reflected on a set of issues and the definition of four key aspects was common to both groups: 

− Cooperative and collaborative role is essential in teamwork. 

− Difficulty in creating moments of reflection and sharing between teams, was one of the constraints felt. 

− [Training contributed to] having a different view of our professional performance, always respecting each individual. 

As a final conclusion, Maria João Cardona emphasized that there are more similarities than differences between the assistants groups, stressing the need to find strategies to continue these professional development processes (who gets involved, who does what, what is done, how and for what).

In September 2018 the pilot phase of the VALUE project started. In each country (Belgium, Denmark, Portugal and Slovenia) the partners implemented the VALUE pathway in several pilot schools. In each school the whole team (teachers and assistants) is involved in a professional development pathway. Teachers and assistants reflect on their professional identity and their own pedagogical practice.  Besides, they share concrete ideas on how to improve the wellbeing and learning experience of children and families. Special attention is payed to how teachers and assistants collaborate to realize this.

In March 2019 the VALUE consortium met again in Copenhagen. During this meeting, the partners shared their experiences insofar. Some of the interesting questions we discussed: 

  • How to create a context in which each practitioner can express him/herself and explore and question his/her professional identity and practice?
  • How to create a process in which classical ideas about (the separation and/or hierarchy) of learning and care are questioned?
  • What role can parents and various practitioners play in this process to challenge the classical care and learning ideas?
  • How do the different staff profiles perceive their own professional identity (mother role vs. professional educator)?
  • If assistants have a lower qualification, are there initiatives/possibilities to participate in a qualification path?

In the next months we will continue to work with the pilot schools. From September on, the final evaluation of the pilots will start. Based on the experiences and findings, we will start with the development of policy recommendations and a training toolbox.

The aim of the VALUE initiative is to create a ‘path of continuous professional development (CPD) for all kindergarten professionals’, to improve collaboration between kindergarten teachers and kindergarten teachers’ assistants, and at the same time to recognize the diversity according to their background and experience. In this respect, the VALUE initiative aims to improve collaborative practices in order to address the needs of all children, families and communities.

In school year 2018/2019, in two kindergartens: VVZ Kekec Grosuplje and Kindergarten Krkine lučke at the Primary School Vavta vas, we (were):

• set up a path to strengthen professional dialogue between kindergarten teachers and kindergarten teachers’ assistants;

• developing a shared understanding of some of the pillars of the pedagogical process (Grosuplje: creativity in conjunction with ISSA’s principles of quality pedagogy, Vavta vas: inclusion, diversity and democratic values (one of the focus areas of ISSA’s principles of quality pedagogy));

• enhancing collaborative practices between between kindergarten teachers and kindergarten teachers’ assistants;

• reinforcing awareness of the importance of both professionals in classroom for achieving quality practice.

In both kindergartens, PLCs have been established as strong pillars for achieving a shared understanding of process quality and strengthening educators’ own role in this process.

Educational Research Institute (ERI) (Slovenian partner in the VALUE project) researchers’ main task in this process was to strengthen competences of leaders of PLCs. In Grosuplje, we formed a so-called “developmental group”, consisting of eleven leaders of PLCs (leaders were both kindergarten teachers and kindergarten teachers’ assistants), and their five mentors (management staff and kindergarten counsellors). In Vavta vas, we were supporting three leaders of one PLC. In both kindergartens, the whole staff was included in PLCs (11 PLCs in Grosuplje, 1 PLC in Vavta vas). At monthly meetings, we reflected the process in their PLCs, and supported the leaders with new or additional contents, methods and techniques for developing a common understanding of selected focus areas. By doing so, we have strengthened their competences for leading PLCs.

Throughout the process, researchers from ERI put a lot of emphasis on formative monitoring of educators’ own professional development. All involved staff developed their own professional reflective diaries (portfolios), in which they documented and reflected their professional development.

Based on the experiences in both pilot kindergartens, we found out that the key conditions for the creation of the path of continuous professional development of kindergarten professionals are the following:

• strong support from the leadership of the kindergarten and their direct involvement in the PLC(s);

• developed guidelines for working in a PLC based on a participatory approach;

• regular monthly meetings of PLCs;

• competent and confident leaders of PLCs;

• internal mentoring of the leaders of PLCs;

• external support for PLCs leaders (Vavta vas) and developmental group (Grosuplje).

The school year 2019/2020 we will begin with an in-depth evaluation of the work that, in addition to other activities carried out within the VALUE initiative, will contribute to the creation of a Training toolbox ‘Working and learning together in a diverse team’, and to create a publication with inspiring practices and policy recommendations.

Instead of a conclusion, two statements of the involved educators:

 “As a kindergarten teacher’s assistant and as a PLC leader, I have grown personally and professionally. I’m more certain of my actions.”

“Thank you for new knowledge and new methods of thinking, especially for the in-depth thinking.”


ERI-Slovenia_pilot-Vavta-vas

As part of the project VALUE – Valuing Diversity in Care and Education, co-financed by the Erasmus + Program of the European Commission, the Aga Khan Portugal Foundation, in partnership with the School of Education of Santarém, held the Seminar “Building Collaborative Educational Teams” on May 11, at the Olivais Sul Children’s Center (CIOS).

The event included several moments for sharing experiences and acquired knowledge, ending at the Berardo Collection Museum with a cultural activity conducted by Elisa Marques, around two exhibitions: the temporary exhibition “FAUNA” by André Romão, and “THE WAITING – MOMENT SINGULAR “, an exhibition resulting from the work of a group of teachers and their students of Almeida Garrett Schools Grouping, within the framework of the course “Curatorship for Children – From Childhood to All”.

The VALUE project explores and creates possible links between professional development and adapted pathways that lead to the qualification of low-skilled professionals in the context of education and child care. It is an innovative approach, in which participants learn to reflect, to negotiate and to value diversity valuing their own diversity.

In Portugal, AKF and the School of Education of Santarém provided the training of assistants from two educational contexts: APISAL – Associação Pró-Infância de Santo António de Lisboa, and EB / JI S. Domingos in Santarém.

In May 2018 the VALUE partners met in Ghent. The partners shared their knowledge, experiences and methodologies on professional development for ECEC professionals with each other. Educational Research Institute (Slovenia) shared their experience with building professional learning communities of schools: how to build these communities in a sustainable way? Aga Khan Foundation Portugal presented their approach of professional development: how to do this in a participatory way in which higher and lower educated practitioners can experience a safe learning environment? Danish School of Education (Denmark) talked about the VIDA project: how to create a co-creative process in which professionals learn and work together to tackle social inequalities?  The Belgian partners (VBJK, Erasmus University College and Karel De Grote University College) explained the WANDA method, a co-reflection method to critical analyse practices from different perspectives. Besides we’ve paid a visit to Hippo’s Hof (pre-primary school) and were inspired by the strong collaboration between teachers and childcare practitioners.

Based on this valuable exchange, we discussed the shared framework of the professional development pathways to be developed and implemented in the different countries involved.

From 26 until 28 February 2018 the VALUE partners met in the beautiful Ismaili Centre in Lisbon. Training and research centres from Portugal, Denmark, Slovenia and Belgium will focus during 3 years on the collaboration between all ECEC practitioners (core and assisting practitioners) involved in the care and learning process of young children. A central question is how to value the divers background and experience of ECEC practitioners in a context of diversity.

Next to discussions on the situation of ECEC (Early Childhood Education and Care) and ECEC assistants in each country and the working plan, we’ve visited the Centro Infantil Olivais Sul (childcare centre and pre-primary school). We’ve been inspired by the participatory approach of the children and the team!