Preparing Early Childhood Educators for Global Education: The Implications of Prior Learning

Nov. 10, 2010

Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 33, Issue 4, pages 421 – 436. (November 2010)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article investigates the prior learning of pre-service early childhood education students in the area of global education, a new curriculum initiative in Australian schools.
This investigation of prior learning of early childhood education pre-service students is framed by the development of a new Australian national early childhood curriculum framework that incorporates aspects of the Australian global education movement.

This article addressed to the following key research question: what prior learnings do early childhood educators utilise to consider global education?

Research method
In 2008, a cohort of 65 teacher education students entering the Bachelor of Early Childhood at the University of Western Sydney (UWS) responded to a survey on global education during their orientation programme. The 65 Bachelor of Early Childhood students were at the commencement of their undergraduate study. Many of the participants gained entry to the Bachelor of Education through completion of Tafe diplomas and Advanced Diplomas of Children's Services. Completion of these Tafe diplomas articulated into Bachelor of Education EC courses.
The students were provided with a definition of global education and a short introduction to global education materials (Global Perspectives 2002). The survey had been designed to provide specific data about prior learning about global education (Horsley, Newell, and Stubbs 2005).
The 65 early childhood education pre-service teachers represented diversity in their own cultural backgrounds, with vastly different cultural and social heritages.
The survey responses were subjected to content analysis.

Data analysis

The results showed that the responses of early childhood pre-service students almost mirrored the knowledge and skills developed in the global perspectives document, the core of the global education curriculum.
Furthermore, the results and analysis of the survey indicated that there were commonalities in the thinking of the 65 participants. In early childhood the terminology and discourse underpinning the global education curriculum is not commonly used. Specific language such as tolerance, cooperation, and sharing, is a discourse more commonly used in early childhood practice. These are the terms used by the pre-service teachers as they respond to the survey.

Unlike primary and secondary teachers who describe university courses and specific content as reflecting global education; early childhood educators describe global education knowledge and perspectives as representing social processes related to working with young children. This contrast of discourse in relation to the terminology of global education between primary, secondary and tertiary pre-service teachers is most marked.
At the same time it is possible to identify gaps in the wider knowledge of other aspects of global education. Early childhood educators, lacking university discipline study are not able to identify background content knowledge in the areas of social change and globalisation. Compared to primary and secondary pre-service teachers they are less likely to identify content in the areas of human rights, social justice and peace building. However, they are much more likely to report on social processes that enshrine and promote tolerance of social and cultural diversity through their teaching.

Conclusion and Implications

The authors conclude that pre-service early childhood teachers have understandings and knowledge of global education. Elements of diversity, tolerance, cooperation, communication and sustainability are common components in early childhood classrooms and reflect the underlying philosophies of early childhood educators, often pre-empted by their prior knowledge or personal disposition regarding their view of tolerance and social and cultural diversity.

The article suggests implications for global education professional learning programmes. Global education discourse and terminology need to be developed in relation to the discourse underpinning early childhood education community of practice.
Furthermore, global education professional learning for early childhood educators needs to be targeted at specific gaps in content knowledge.

Horsley, M. , Newell, S. and Stubbs, B. (2005) The prior knowledge of global education of pre-service teacher education students. Citizenship, Social and Economics Education 6:3 , pp. 137-155.

Global Education: Teacher resources supporting the integration of a global perspective across the curriculum. — n.d. declaration,25979.html.

Updated: Apr. 17, 2011