Professionalism of preschool teachers in cross-cultural contexts
Seminar Series 2015
Professor Marika Veisson, Head , Institute of Educational Sciences, Tallinn University, Estonia
Professor Veisson, is visiting the Children and Families Research Centre in November 2015. During this visit, she will share findings of the cross-cultural study investigating the professionalism of early childhood educators – preschool teachers and principals (equivalent of centre directors in Australia) from four European countries who are partners in this study.
In their first study (Peterson, Veisson, Hujala, Härkönen, Sandberg, Johansson, Kovacne, in press) investigated the ratings of Estonian, Finnish, Swedish and Hungarian preschool teachers and principals regarding the professionalism of preschool teachers within a cross-cultural context. According to reports commissioned by the European Commission (2011) and OECD (2012), the professionalism of preschool teachers is a key factor in ensuring the quality of early childhood education. The study is based on the contextual approach in the bio-ecological theory (Bronfenbrenner 2005) and critical ecology theory of early childhood professionalism (Urban 2010). The research question was: what are ratings of principals and teachers regarding the professionalism of preschool teachers in interaction and family involvement, the planning of education and the evaluation of children’s development, using teaching strategies and support for professional development, creating a growth environment and the development of values. Structured questionnaires were conducted, the sample consisted of teachers and principals in Estonian (174; 118), Finnish (82; 84), Swedish (117; 96) and Hungarian (111; 99) preschools. In the comparison of the results from the four countries, there were similarities between the views of Finnish and Swedish teachers and principals and between Estonian and Hungarian teachers and principals. Differences between the countries were significant and depended on the context of the individual countries. Highest mean ratings were given by Estonian and Hungarian principals and Estonian teachers to creating growth environment. Development of values was evaluated highest by Finnish principals and teachers. Swedish teachers evaluated teaching strategies highly. The statements that got the lowest evaluation rate by all interest groups were family involvement and professional development.
The purpose of the second study (Peterson, Veisson, Hujala, Sandberg, Johansson, 2014) was to investigate how leadership influences preschool teachers’ professionalism. The sub-questions of the research were the following: how preschool teachers and principals understand leadership in a preschool childcare institution; how teachers implement the curriculum of a preschool childcare institution; what kinds of leadership skills are necessary in the work of a teacher. The study included interviews with 5 – 7 preschool principals and 5 – 7 teachers per country in Estonian, Finnish and Swedish preschools. The questions for the focus group interview were based on items from a previous study, where Estonian, Finnish and Swedish preschool teachers and principals answered a structured questionnaire about the professionalism of teachers. Results of the focus group interviews were analysed using a qualitative content analysis approach. The focus group interview results show that preschool teachers and principals place more importance on pedagogical leadership and human resource management than administrative leadership.