Author: Helen Hedges and Debora Lee
Institution: University of Auckland, New Zealand
Full reference: Hedges, H. and Lee, D. (2010) ‘I understood the complexity within diversity’: preparation for partnership with families in early childhood settings’, Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 38: 4, 257 — 272
This paper reports on the experiences of students in a teacher education program in Auckland, New Zealand in 2008, who undertook a community placement in order to interact with children and families outside their normal range of teaching practice experience. The study evaluates the changes that occurred in the students’ beliefs and understandings about families and partnerships. Changes in student learning are discussed under three themes: (1) beliefs about partnerships; (2) notions of complexities within diversity; and (3) developing relationships with diverse families. The paper argues that the change in placement setting prompted student reflection in relation to these themes and shifts in beliefs, towards more authentic and complex understandings of partnership. The researchers conclude that a community placement is a successful method by which student teachers can step safely outside their comfort zone, learn about diverse families, and reflect and build on their professional knowledge in ways that may have a long-term impact on their future teaching.
The project was a qualitative study, investigating the question: What are student perceptions of the value of a community placement in preparing them to engage with diverse children and families in their professional role as a teacher? Thirteen, third-year student teachers participated in the research, writing reflective journals and taking part in three focus groups with one of the researchers. Data were coded initially according to the expected learning outcomes of the placement then with respect to themes arrived at through the initial analysis and a review of the literature on partnerships with families.