Illuminating dimensions of Identity in Social Innovation– Expounding the functions of Supervisory Models in Irish Early Childhood Practice Education Placements

Prendergast, Aoife (2021) Illuminating dimensions of Identity in Social Innovation– Expounding the functions of Supervisory Models in Irish Early Childhood Practice Education Placements.


"Despite major changes and milestones in the early childhood education profession in the past decade, there is a compelling interest in professional identity in early childhood education. However, there is a paucity of com prehensive research about the very issue, particularly about how identities are nurtured and progress from the student professional to the fully-fledged early childhood education professional. Indeed, there is no research focus ing on the complexity and challenging professional identity of the early years educator.

This research aims to articulate and examine the potential of an effective pilot supervisory model in early childhood education practice education placements in Ireland. Since the early 1990s, significant efforts have been introduced in the Irish Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) sector in order to improve and professionalise services provided to children under 7 years old and their families, as well as supporting professionals and stu dents in this area (CECDE, 2006). However, the current regulatory Irish context governs professionals to possess a certain level of knowledge and skills to work in this sector, and the development of frameworks, such as Síolta and Aistear, has guided ECCE professionals (CECDE, 2006; Molo ney & Pope, 2015). However, recent research has clearly demonstrated that early childhood professionals experience significant challenges in re lation to their professional recognition, identity, level of qualification, and salary (Moloney, 2010; Moloney & Pope, 2015). Interestingly, there is little regard for the utilisation of professional supervision to address these fundamental challenges for early childhood professionals in practice, often disregarding formative practice education placements for students as emerging early years professionals.

Further exploration of the emerging professional identity will provide us with a clearer understanding of this dynamic role in contemporary Irish early childhood education practice. The scope of definitions and interpreta tions of professional identity in the extant literature are contested (Dobrow & Higgins, 2005; Sutherland & Markauskaite, 2012). Professional identity can be defined as one’s self as perceived in relation to a profession and to one’s membership of it. Professional identity is created through one’s be liefs and attitudes, values, motives and experiences through which individ uals define themselves, in their current or anticipated professional life (Bridges, Macklin, & Trede, 2012; Johnson, Cowin, Wilson, & Young, 2012; Sutherland & Markauskaite, 2012; Schwartz et al., 2011). Similarly, other definitions are offered in which professional identity relies on the process of socialisation (Ibarra, 1999; Schein, 1978). Professional identity creates a psychological attachment between an individual professional and its value of early childhood education as a profession in its one right.

The complex layers of identity highlight the ever-evolving nature of inter sectionality and extremity in modern early childhood education practice. The conflicting and interwoven demands have impacted on the already stretched and struggling profession. Currently, the contemporary profes sionalization discourse which has remained ongoing for decades encom passes many of the challenges faced by early years educators on an ongo ing basis. This includes the complexities of power, terminology and ambi guity ensures the struggle for early years educators in transformation for their own emancipatory practice and the pursuit of social justice."

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