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.”