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Investing in and guiding the professional development of ECEC staff

Apart from salaries, municipalities and headmasters can play an important role in providing good working conditions for their staff by facilitating professional development and further training. In Latvia municipalities are responsible for funding the professional development of ECEC staff. There is no clear overview at the national level of the actual investments made by municipalities and institutions in the professional development of their staff.

Furthermore, the minimum requirement to participate in 36 hours professional development every 3 years is low compared with several OECD countries with available data (OECD, 2014a) and is possibly too little. Municipalities are also expected to organise further education courses for ECEC staff but little is known at the central level about the actual participation of staff in such courses nor about their quality.

Latvia has the benefit of an experienced ECEC workforce, but this also means that many left initial education a long time ago. In order for staff to maintain their professional quality, they need to engage in ongoing professional development (OECD, 2012). The reform of the ECEC curriculum that will follow the implementation of the competency-based curriculum in basic education (see Chapter 3) is likely to increase the need for professional development.

in addition, the evidence shows there is a need to enhance teachers’ capacities and change their attitudes to working with children with special education needs (Calite, 2010; Kasa, Liepina and Tuna, 2012; Nimante and Tubele, 2010; AC Konsultacijas, 2007). This issue is of particular importance considering the notable proportion of pre-school aged children that have not been formally diagnosed with special needs, but who have been recognised as actually needing special support in their learning, with estimates ranging from 10-20% (Kasa, Liepina and Tuna, 2012; MoES, 2015).

The key to effective professional development is identifying the right training strategies to help ECEC staff stay up to date with scientifically based methods and curriculum subject knowledge so as to be able to apply this knowledge in their work (Litjens and Taguma, 2010). It also should continue over a longer period of time with staff having regular or long-term opportunities for training (Sheridan, 2001; Urban et al., 2011). Only when learning experiences are targeted on the needs of staff and offer tangible development opportunities can professional development have favourable outcomes (Mitchell and Cubey, 2003).

Again, at the national level there is limited information available on the actual training needs of ECEC staff. The review team was informed that ECEC staff choose professional development courses based on their own preferences, rather than an assessment of their performance and identification of further professional development needs. In Latvia there is also no mandatory requirement to capture the developmental needs identified in professional development plans (MoES, 2015) that could serve as a guidance for professional development planning.

Part of the challenge would seem to lie in the fact that there are no national standards for ECEC professionals to inspire, assess and guide staff in their professional development. Instead founders or heads of ECEC institutions are required to develop their own quality criteria for the purpose of assessing the quality of the work of teachers. A unified understanding of what high-quality ECEC entails in Latvia is lacking.

The five “key areas” of the new Assessment System for Teacher Performance give an indication of the desired competences of Latvian teachers (see Chapter 1). ECEC teachers are also entitled to participate in the system and many have done so since it was introduced in 2009. It enables ECEC teachers to be recognised for their performance and obtain a supplement to their salary depending on their assessed performance level. However, the key areas fail to capture the full range of competences

ECEC staff require for their daily work. They are therefore not suitable for informing ECEC professional development.

Latvia should therefore consider developing national standards for ECEC staff, as well as ensuring that heads of ECEC institutions are adequately trained in using them to evaluate the performance of staff to help identify further learning needs. To do this, Latvia may look towards countries like England (the united Kingdom) or Portugal. England for example introduced the Early years Teacher Status (EYTS) programme in 2013 to recognise graduate-level staff who had demonstrated that they had met a set of national professional standards (Box 2.5).

Box 2.5. ECEC teacher standards - examples from England and Portugal

in England, the department for Education introduced the Early years Teacher Status (EYTS) programme in 2013, building upon the strengths of the Early years Professional Status programme launched in 2007. With this programme, teachers and trainee teachers who meet the Early years Teachers’ Standards are awarded EYTS that demonstrate that they are specialists in early childhood development. The teachers awarded EYTS are expected to be accountable for achieving the highest possible standard in their professional practice and conduct.

The eight Early Years Teachers’ Standards are as follows:

  • 1. Set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge all children.
  • 2. Promote good progress and outcomes by children.
  • 3. Demonstrate good knowledge of early learning and Early Years Foundation Stage.
  • 4. Plan education and care taking account of the needs of all children.
  • 5. Adapt education and care to respond to the strengths and needs of all children.
  • 6. Make accurate and productive use of assessment.
  • 7. Safeguard and promote the welfare of children, and provide a safe learning environment.
  • 8. Fulfil wider professional responsibilities.

In 1998, the Ministry of Education in Portugal acquired the copyright to the Effective Early Learning Project, initiated in the United Kingdom. The Desenvolvendo a Qualidade em Parcerias (DQP), the Portuguese version of this project, focuses on the implementation of a model for assessment and for quality development in pre-school institutions. It can be used in pre-school teacher training, as well as in the monitoring and review of teaching practice in kindergartens. One of the instruments of the DQP is the Adult Engagement Scale, which is used by pre-school teachers to evaluate their own practices, and to monitor the process quality of their colleagues in peer reviews. This scale assesses the effectiveness of the teaching-learning process in kindergartens, and the quality of adult intervention.

Box 2.5. ECEC teacher standards - examples from England and Portugal (Continued)

The scale focuses on the types of interactions between the practitioner and the child, and the interactions are classified into three areas:

  • Sensitivity refers to the attention paid by the practitioner to the child’s feelings and emotional well-being. Indicators for sensitivity include empathy, sincerity and authenticity. The observations focus on the way the pre-school teacher responds to the diversity of needs of the children, including conveying to the child the feeling that they are valued and accepted; listening to the child, recognising children’s need to receive attention; recognising and responding to children’s insecurities and uncertainties; treating children with loving care; and praising and supporting the child.
  • Stimulation focuses on how the adult stimulates the child’s learning and development process. The observations focus on the following actions staff initiate: proposing an activity; providing information; and supporting the development of an activity to stimulate action, reasoning or communication.
  • Autonomy is the degree of freedom that the practitioner gives to the child, to experiment, give opinions, choose activities, and to express his or her ideas. It also refers to how the adult supports conflict resolution and the establishment of rules and behavioural management. The observation of autonomy focuses on the following aspects: the degree of freedom a child has to choose an activity; the opportunities a child gets to experiment; the freedom to choose and decide how to carry out activities; the respect of staff for the work, ideas and views of the child; the opportunity for children to independently solve problems and conflicts; and the involvement of the children in the making of and compliance with rules.

The results of the engagement scale can be used to discuss, analyse and improve a practitioner’s own practice or those of a colleague in an open dialogue. Pre-school teachers are trained on the use of DQP and the Adult Engagement Scale during pre-service education and professional development, and a DQP handbook has been developed to support staff.

Sources: National College for Teaching and Leadership (2013), Teachers’ Standards (Early Years), National College for Teaching and Leadership, www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/

attachment_data/file/211646/Early_Years_Teachers__Standards.pdf; OECD (2015b), Starting Strong IV:

Monitoring Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi. org/10.1787/9789264233515-en.

 
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