Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Volume 40, No. 1, 2014, p. 3-19
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The purpose of this article was to explore dimensions of preschool teachers’ competence from a student perspective.
The participants were 810 students enrolled in early childhood teacher education at 15 Swedish universities.
The majority of students were completing their final year in the teacher education programme, and 92% were female.
The findings revealed that students’ definitions of preschool teacher competence were composed of six different dimensions: a general pedagogical competence, specific content competence, distinct teacher competence, play competence, competence of child perspective, and collaborative and social competence.
In this study, the dimension of general pedagogical competence consists of the educational task of working as a preschool teacher, for example, dealing with tasks such as planning learning activities, maintaining order and documenting children’s learning.
The dimension of general pedagogical competence was rated fairly low by three of the five cluster groups, indicating that the students only to a limited degree experience that they develop these skills during their educational programme.
The dimension of specific content competence can be interpreted in terms of the deepened and specific content knowledge that is required of preschool teachers in the revised preschool curriculum, which involves a greater emphasis on literacy, mathematics, science and technology. This dimension of teacher competence received the lowest overall ratings, implying that students have basic knowledge neither about science and technology nor of how young children learn science and technology. Students’ knowledge and the quality of the early childhood teacher education are to a large extent dependent on the lecturers at the universities. The preschool teacher educational programmes are dependent on the resources the university provides.
The dimension of distinct teacher competence comprises competencies that can be characterised as a combination of individual competencies that preschool teachers need to acquire in order to become professionals.
The questions regarding play competence and competence in the child’s perspective were grouped into two separate factors which show that students also rate these questions in distinct ways. The play competence dimension was rated relatively low by the students, implying that the preschool teacher education have not, according to the students, developed their competencies in supporting or challenging children’s play.
The results of this study show general competence concerning the cultural and societal dimensions of the task of the current and future preschool teacher, as well as more specific competencies related to the teacher–child interaction.
This study has put forward the dimensions of preschool teacher competence as perceived by students in teacher education programmes in Sweden. Nationally, the results indicate which conceptual areas of teacher education programmes are incorporated by students in their views of teacher competence, and which areas might need more focus during their training. Thus, the results are of interest to lecturers in higher education institutions providing preschool teacher education.
These are important aspects of teacher competence that are needed by preschool teachers in Sweden in order to work accordingly to the curriculum for the preschool.
Another concern that has arisen from the results of this study based on the cluster analysis is that there seem to be some students, who had low or very low ratings on all dimension of teacher competence, indicating that they only to a limited extent believe that they obtained dimensions of teacher competence during their training. Thus, reflecting upon the dimension of preschool teacher competence, the students also co-construct and develop the concept. The higher education institutions have an important task in giving the students not only a good theoretical base but also time and experience to reflect upon the competencies needed of an early childhood teacher in a Swedish preschool context.
This study was conducted within the context of preschool teacher education in Sweden.
This study contributes to the ambition of seeking out a ‘red thread’ of common understanding of what constitutes early years’ teacher competence.