Campus Kindergarten is a community managed long day care service located on a university in the western suburbs of Brisbane. The service caters for children aged from 2.5 years to kindergarten age and delivers 2 kindergarten programs. The teaching values and beliefs align closely with the philosophy of Reggio Emilia. This educational approach to early learning enables children to develop autonomy and self-confidence while recognising young children as free, active and autonomous people who are making connections with the world in which they live.
Fiona, the Education Director (Educational Leader) at Campus Kindergarten, decided to further develop her leadership skills and capability by becoming a mentor with the MECT pilot program. The mentor training supported Fiona's leadership skills and highlighted the importance of using active listening and coaching techniques with the 19 staff members employed at the service, as well as supporting 2 beginning teachers to move from provisional to full registration.
After completing the program, Fiona used the mentoring skills to support staff members in conducting professional conversations, assisted by the ORID model of questioning (Stanfield, 2000). The ORID framework supported the teachers to critically reflect and encouraged deeper thinking about practice across the service.
The service also adapted performance reviews to include Peter Drucker's (1954) SMART goals—a technique which was introduced during the mentoring training. The value of establishing clear and realistic goals, which leads to feedback, is considered essential in supporting continuous quality improvement in teaching and learning.
Prior to the first mentor network meeting, members of the regional group were asked to reflect on their own teaching philosophy, with the opportunity to discuss reflections in a collaborative professional conversation with other mentors.
Fiona explains, "I consider teaching to be a lifelong process where you learn new strategies, ideas and philosophies. Over time, my educational philosophy has developed as further research, ideas and inspirations influence me. I value an approach to early learning which enables children to develop autonomy and self-confidence."
Reflection from the provisionally registered teacher
Kate Stevenson, now a fully registered teacher and a participant in the mentoring program, found the experience to be highly beneficial. Having multiple opportunities to reflect collaboratively with an experienced educator provided guidance and direction. This enabled Kate to develop her best practice and pedagogy whilst completing the requirements for full registration.
Reflection from the Centre Director
Jessica Yu, Centre Director, states, "[t]his program has enabled staff members to build professional knowledge. We are committed to building a positive culture and learning community at Campus Kindergarten."
Fiona's professional reflection
The MECT program has provided me with the knowledge and resources to support beginning early childhood teachers. The information gained through mentoring has been very useful in building my skills and knowledge, which I have applied in my role as Education Director. It has also helped with the techniques of professional reflection, allowing me to contribute to our kindergarten's quality improvement plan.
As with gaining any new skills, it is not always easy in the beginning. Many of the skills acquired during this mentoring program require practice. The art of mentoring involves the ability to guide beginning teachers but also allows them to experience situations and strategies firsthand. This can sometimes be challenging as an experienced teacher.
The program has given me the confidence and opportunity to network and develop relationships with other teachers and mentors. This has included professional connections, sharing and contributing to professional discussions.
Fiona believes the opportunity to participate in the program has influenced the way she views the role of critical reflection and thinking. These important early childhood practices will help her to continue to develop this process with staff at the service and with other professional networks.
'Being involved in the mentoring program was professionally rewarding.' –
Case studies and mentoring studies