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E4L
E4L

A blog post sharing reflections from a recent partnership project between Evidence for Learning and The Front Project.

Blog •4 minutes •

Evidence for Learning (E4L) and The Front Project (TFP) have partnered to help early childhood educators to access, understand and apply the latest research evidence and evidence-based practices.

Using TFP’s existing online community of practice, the Connection Hub, the pilot project looked to better understand how the Connection Hub platform could facilitate professional development (PD) through the provision of curated, evidence-based resources.

This blog provides a brief overview of the partnership project and our initial reflections from this process.

The Connection Hub is an online platform for Early Childhood Education (ECE) early-career educators, students and mentors to connect, collaborate, and seek or provide advice. Members opt into PD based on their needs and preferences. They can join sub-groups within the platform to participate in discussion board conversations with other platform members and TFP staff.

For this pilot project, the PD focused on a priority topic for ECE educators within the Connection Hub – responding to challenging behaviours in their settings. E4L leveraged existing, evidence-based resources to create bespoke PD for TFP’s Connection Hub members.

The 334 existing members of the Connection Hub had automatic access to the PD and were emailed ahead of the modules being released. Prospective members were also able to join the Connection Hub on a free trial which enabled them to participate in the PD. TFP promoted the PD to their networks on email and social media platforms.

The PD was structured as three short modules, released weekly, followed by a live ask the expert’ webinar. The modules were designed for participants to complete in approximately 20 – 30 minutes and included mixed-modal delivery of:

  • video content,
  • discussion prompts to share reflections and ideas, and 
  • templates to support the implementation of an evidence-based strategy between each module.
Each module was developed with the principles of effective PD for ECE educators in mind, including managing cognitive load by introducing new content gradually, providing educators with social support, and embedding opportunities to apply and practice strategies.

The live webinar took place two weeks after the final module was released, allowing time for participants to complete the PD and try some evidence-based strategies in their practice. The webinar was structured as a kitchen-table style Q&A. Participants could submit questions as they registered and share their reflections from the modules and own practice with the panelists – who are experienced educators.

The first module of this PD was made available to all members of the Connection Hub platform from 7 August 2023, and the live webinar was held on 5 September 2023.

Module 1 had 109 page views. There were two videos included in this module which had views of 37 and 28 respectively.

The video and page view numbers taper for module 2, and then further decline for module 3, which may be due to these modules being available for less time. The modules included a prompt to try a strategy in practice between sessions and it is possible that not implementing a strategy was then a barrier for moving onto the next session.

There were some technical issues with the platform where it was unavailable for a week, which may have impacted access and usage by educators.

The live webinar had 13 registrations and 11 attendees. A recording of the webinar has been made available and the page accessed 25 times. A survey from the webinar was made available but only completed by a small number of attendees. For the purposes of this project, we have looked only at the reach and access of modules to late September, however, these modules will continue to be available for members of The Connection Hub. We have observed that the modules have continued to be accessed, indicating that educators are working through the modules at their own pace.

Reflecting on the project, our key observations have been:

  • There is demand for PD on this topic with approximately 1 in 5 Connection Hub members accessing the first module. This is reflective of research from earlier this year which shows that supporting children’s behaviour is a priority area that Australian ECE educators are seeking support for.
  • This PD may be useful for multiple audiences. While this project was designed for early career educators, it may also be helpful to support mentors and those working with pre-service educators. Survey results indicated that the primary reason participants didn’t try an evidence-based strategy in their practice from this PD was because they are not currently working in an ECE setting. Registrations for the webinar and email requests for the recording show that many participants work in higher education.
  • Participation may have increased if promotion was more targeted, and administrative barriers minimised. The time between the promotion of this PD and the release of the first module was just over a week – short compared to other campaigns run by TFP. Targeting the intended audience may have also been beneficial. Survey feedback highlighted the opportunity for the sign-up process to be streamlined to allow participants to access the platform and PD more efficiently.
  • Consider the structure of this PD. Adding in-person or live events and the beginning and end of this PD and requesting educators to complete with a colleague (or another Connection Hub member) may support buy-in and participation through the provision of social supports.
  • Allowing greater time between the modules launching and final webinar may provide participants with more opportunities to explore each module and apply the strategies.
  • Improve the learning design features within the platform to facilitate better engagement. TFP’s plans involve enhancing the usability of the platform by streamlining the sign-up process, personalising the onboarding experience and exploring different Learning Management System platforms. TFP is also aiming to curate exclusive, engaging content for PD. A co-design process with educators may provide further insights into how members would use the platform, and the features that could support them.
  • More targeted, and earlier, promotion of the modules may have increased awareness of the PD opportunity – providing clear information about the content, audience and learning outcomes.

E4L is delighted that partners such as TFP are prioritising evidence-based PD opportunities for their networks and thank the TFP team for their partnership and collegiality throughout this project.