Professional learning and development: trends, developments and impact in the UK since 2003

Davis, Geraldine and Payler, Jane (2016). Professional learning and development: trends, developments and impact in the UK since 2003. In: 26th EECERA (European Early Childhood Education Research Association) Conference, 2016, 31 Aug - 03 Sep 2016, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland.


We provide a critical review of UK professional learning and development (PLD) research for early childhood education and care (ECEC) since 2003. This rigorous, thematic review of UK research studies on PLD is part of the BERA TACTYC Review of Early Childhood Education, 2004-2015, building on the BERA EC SIG review (2003) and the work by Payler & Wood (2014). Research about PLD (e.g. Manni & Siraj-Blatchford 2007; Sylva et al, 2011) and its impact on the ECEC sector is examined and critically reviewed. We use thematic analysis to scrutinise the literature. The shift towards sociocultural theories (e.g. Elfer & Dearnley 2007) alongside recent influences from post-structural and critical theories (e.g. Mathers et al, 2011; Moss, 2007; Osgood, 2011) is identified. Using a systematic process of review with protocols agreed with an external reference group, we developed research questions, search terms, inclusion criteria and systems for recording processes and decisions. Aiming to better understand the current situation in the UK, we were inclusive in our search criteria, adhering to BERA (2011) ethical guidelines. Policy shifts have led to changes in ECEC professionalization including: expectations for qualifications but without associated roles, titles, salary, conditions, challenges to male roles, the importance of leadership to enable practice change to improve children's outcomes, the changing nature of practice, developments in learning communities, conceptualisations of professionalism. This paper evidences the potential for policy to enable the ECEC workforce to improve experiences and outcomes for children and families, set against the challenges faced in everyday practice.

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