Field-based early childhood student teachers – who are they and what challenges do they face?

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Full reference
Dunham, N. (2017).  Field-based early childhood student teachers – who are they and what challenges do they face? NZ International Research in Early Childhood Education Journal, Special Issue: Early Childhood Teachers and their Work, 20(2), 50-65.  Retrieved from www.childforum.com/research/nz-international-early-childhood-education-journal-2017-educators-teachers-work-issues.html 

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Original Research Paper
© ChildForum 

Field-based early childhood student teachers – who are they and what challenges do they face?

Nicola Dunham
Massey University, NZ

Abstract

In Aotearoa New Zealand, early childhood teachers practice within a contestable landscape in which their value and worth is regularly questioned. Early childhood education (ECE) is associated with discourses of women’s work, quality and career choice. The perception within such discourses being that ECE is a female dominated field, with few men entering the work force as early childhood teachers. In addition, changes in the credentialing of early childhood teachers in New Zealand is associated with issues of quality and professionalisation, which have been significantly influenced by calls for pay parity with primary school counterparts, and associated challenges in minimal qualification requirements. Finally, as a career choice, ECE is associated with rates of high attrition and poor working conditions, which impact on quality provision. This paper draws on the findings from PhD research into student academic identity. The paper specifically focuses on the student demographic and associated challenges facing students of early childhood field-based initial teacher education. Using an interpretive qualitative research design, data was collected from students, teacher educators and associate teachers involved in early childhood field-based initial teacher education. Data from open-ended surveys, focus groups and individual interviews was analysed using thematic analysis informed by the principles of grounded theory. Documentary analysis associated with the wider socio-political context of early childhood education in Aotearoa New Zealand was also undertaken. The findings highlight challenges in relation to gender, career choice and academic expectations in early childhood education. 

Key words: Field-based; early childhood; academic identity; credentials; characteristics.

 

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