Dundalk Institute of Technology
The DkIT Parent and Toddler (P&T) group has been developed as a practical and authentic Professional Practice opportunity for year 4 students. It is a unique module within the Early Childhood discipline in Higher Education in Ireland. It facilitates the learner’s transition from supernumerary placement student to autonomous professional.
Using an innovative community engagement approach, students are supported to develop professional skills to plan and manage an on-site P&T group and to ‘build partnerships with parents’, which is one of the six interconnected curriculum pillars of Ireland’s Early Years’ practice guide (NCCA, 2015 p.12). The unique way in which students are supported to manage the service themselves also affords them ample opportunity to move closer to the role of the autonomous professional across a range of professional practice scenarios.
The professional role of the Early Years graduate is evolving in the context of external policies, which place increased emphasis on babies and children under 3. Revising the model of students’ professional practice experience in consideration of the changing context is necessary to enable the students to create the new knowledge and develop the skills that they need in order to flourish.
The DkIT students (both current and graduate) have consistently reported considerable depth and breadth of learning from the experience yet it is recognised as being a most challenging process.
This T&L initiative aims to enrich and further expand the unique teaching and learning (T&L) opportunities of the P&T group.