Preparing for professional learning
Early childhood intervention (ECI) services are offered by governmental and non-governmental organisations in home and community settings, to promote the health and wellbeing, learning and development, resilience, and social inclusion of 0–6-year-old pēpi, tamariki and their whānau. Positive outcomes of these supports are lifelong in terms of education, employment, independent living, and quality of life. Coaching - a non-clinical, change-supporting, conversational practice - is one of the ways ECI professionals work with whānau and other members of the early childhood intervention team. However, historically, opportunities for professional learning in coaching have been limited.
Professional Practice Facilitator Helen Mataiti undertook doctoral research to understand the integration of coaching approaches by ECI professionals, to support improvements in professional learning. Helen interviewed 15 ECI professionals to find out how they were learning about coaching. One main finding showed that professionals were prepared for learning about coaching across five key areas. These were professional background, the learning context, understanding the relevance of coaching, interest in and motivation to learn, and knowledge of coaching.
Helen’s data analysis found ECI professionals had a wealth of professional and life experiences, qualifications, and had previously engaged in practice changes and professional learning opportunities. Their learning contexts predominantly offered structured induction and professional development, informal learning through ongoing conversations with other professionals, or opportunities for newly learned theoretical ideas to be applied in practice during organised field placements. Most research participants also talked about being part of a wider context of change, from direct and expert-led ECI practices to those that were facilitative, ecologically driven, and whānau-centred.
From their own professional insights, many participants believed that coaching could improve professional - whānau interactions and help steer away from a reliance on the ECI professional. Coaching was seen as a way of strengthening relationships and fostering empowerment and interdependence, by focusing on self-determined goals and the strengths and resources of whānau, and others supporting pēpi and tamariki in their home and community environments.
Helen’s findings highlight that in workplace environments where there are constant changes in practice, preparedness for learning can positively influence the effectiveness of professional learning. Supportive policy and practice structures, appropriate learning design and technologies, time to engage in professional learning, and opportunities for professional collaboration and reflection are also required.