Professional growth reconceptualized: Early childhood staff searching for meaning

Alma Fleet*, Catherine Patterson

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    33 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper challenges traditional perspectives of professional development through a reconceptualization of early childhood professional growth. A review of the early childhood professional development literature reveals the problematic nature of the linear perspectives and deficit models of staff development prevalent in the early childhood field. In contrast to these models, the paper proposes alternative perspectives that recognize staff as empowered learners who build their working knowledge through spirals of engagement with many aspects of early childhood philosophy and practice over time. To illustrate the challenges to the dominant professional development paradigm, the paper discusses the professional development components of an Australian study of early childhood centers that began with off-site researcher-led inservice workshops and was followed by on-site staff-led discussion. The study involved approximately 75 staff members from 12 early childhood centers who participated in collaborative rethinking of approaches to planning and working with young children and their families. This approach to professional development was sustained by ongoing support of the researchers as critical friends who facilitated staff engagement through a sense of personal and professional agency. The approaches explored in this paper propose a constructivist view of professional growth that acknowledges the unique contribution of the personal professional knowledge of individuals and the importance of the orientation of individuals both to their work and to new ideas.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-14
    Number of pages14
    JournalEarly Childhood Research and Practice
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2001


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