Making a difference: Authentic teaching experience
Published: Monday 16th May 2016
Early Childhood Education lecturer Clare Schaper creates an authentic learning environment for her students by conducting tutorials at preschools. "It’s one thing to read about something and teach it, it is another thing to experience it and teach it," she said.
Clare shares her ACU story.
I have been working at ACU since the introduction of the Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood and Primary) degree was first offered at the Ballarat Campus in 2008. My background and passion is in Early Childhood education, and I have been working in the early childhood field for the past 25 years. I continue to work part-time in the field as a local kindergarten teacher while I lecture here at ACU Ballarat. Some question how I do it all, where as I believe that I am fortunate to be able to do both and that it is in fact a good balance. Early childhood education has undergone a great deal of change in a very short time and continues to undergo further change. I believe that my current teaching in the early childhood field benefits not only myself (as I love to teach) but also our next generation of teachers here at ACU. It’s one thing to read about something and teach it, it is another thing to experience it and teach it.
I believe that it is important for our students to have a comprehensive understanding of theory and how this relates to practice and this is not an easy task to demonstrate or teach in the Uni teaching environment. My connections with the local early childhood community have enabled me to create some wonderful authentic hands-on learning environments for the students. The local kindergarten in which I teach is not far from the ACU campus and when the children are not attending kindergarten the students and I make the most of the learning environment and conduct some of our tutes at the kindergarten. In this environment the students are able to engage in the theory we have explored at uni through hands on application. While it is great to explore the early childhood environment it is not the same without children! In some of the units I teach I have been able to place small groups of students at local kindergartens during our tutes so that they are able to work with peers alongside an associate teacher to implement planned experiences with the children and reflect on the experience back at uni. This experience has been prior to PEP and with the support of peers it is a great introduction to PEP. It is the benefit of having a small campus and connections with the local Early Childhood Community which enable me to organise these experiences for our students.
Connections with the Early Childhood Community: Early Childhood Conference
I am an executive member of the Ballarat and District Kindergarten Teachers Association (BDKTA). Each year I assist with the organisation of an Early Childhood conference here at ACU for not only local Early Childhood professionals but also for those in the wider district. Through the connection of the BDKTA and ACU the organization of this amazing conference with well recognized key note speakers benefits so many in the ACU community as well as the Early Childhood Community. This conference offers a wide range of necessary professional development for the local and rural community but most importantly it also gives these teachers the chance to network (something we may take for granted in larger communities, but not often possible in rural communities). Our ACU students are an important resource in running the conference. In volunteering their time to help show delegates around they are able to network with the early childhood community as well as partake in some fantastic professional development.
Here on the Ballarat Campus I have worked alongside fellow colleague Dr Karen McLean and in partnership with a number of stakeholders (ACU, Playgroup Vic, Catholic Education Office, Department of Education and Training, City of Ballarat plus five local primary schools) in running an amazing Supported Playgroup Project within the five local schools. While all of the stakeholders and the wider community have benefited from this partnership, I believe it is the families, children and our students who have benefited the most. The families involved in the playgroup have formed connections with the school and wider community; they have gained valuable support and have slowly begun to feel comfortable in part of the wider school environment. Our students have formed genuine partnerships with these families over a period of time and have been able to transfer this valuable knowledge and understanding of working with families into their PEP as well as into their future careers as teachers. Having the experience of creating these partnerships with the families enables the students to consolidate what they have learnt through their lectures, tutorials and readings at Uni.
In my spare time I am also working on my PhD – my research topic is "Kindergarten Teachers responses to the Australian National Quality Framework."