Figure 12. Educator and community engagement comparison “no,” part of survey question 20 26
Figure 13. Engagement frequency “now” for those who responded “no,” survey question 23 28
This report is an evaluation of Year Five (2015–2016) of the Community Early Learning and Child Care Facilitators Pilot Project. The pilot project draws on the foundation created by earlier phases of the Investigating Quality (IQ) Project, which was delivered from 2005 to 2011 with funding from the Ministry of Children and Family Development. The first phase of the project launched in 2011 in Victoria and Burnaby/Coquitlam, and in April 2014 a third project site was added in Terrace/Kitimat. The project has developed a model for professional development that includes a community pedagogical facilitator in each site who supports early childhood educators in their practice through (a) regular visits to the participating early childhood educators’ early years setting/centre, (b) facilitating monthly learning circles for all of the educators participating in the project, (c) regular communication and sharing of resources among the early childhood educators, and (d) engaging in pedagogical narrations. This year, pedagogical facilitators supported 42 educators in the project: 18 in Burnaby through four childcare centres; 14 in Victoria through five childcare centres; and 10 in Terrace/Kitimat through five childcare centres.
The findings and recommendations in this evaluation report are based on qualitative data from focus groups, interviews, written surveys, and written communications between educators and community facilitators throughout the year, including email discussions and pedagogical narrations. Based on the survey data, the vast majority of the project participants rated the project as a whole as “very useful” (n=12) to “extremely useful” (n=20) to their personal early years practice. The majority of the participants also rated the various project resources (i.e., learning circles, learning circle summaries, project readings, guest speakers, pedagogical facilitator visits, visit summaries, links to online resources and other readings, and visits to other centres or exhibits) as either “very useful” or “extremely useful” to their personal early years practice.
Two of this project’s main goals are to enhance and sustain quality in early learning and child care settings and to situate BC's promotion of quality early childhood programs within the most dynamic discourses in the contemporary international literature on quality care. Through the project, educators were supported to (re)imagine and practice quality care, through their own local and contextual factors, and to consider the influence these factors have on their early years programming. Educators were also supported in their efforts to enhance children’s learning opportunities, experiences, and outcomes in early learning and child care settings. Through the project, educators reported increased facilitative relationships with children, families, and colleagues and increased experimental and innovative relationships and practices with materials and environments. They reported an amplified attention to improving children’s holistic development, not simply through an individual developmental lens, but through seeing the child as part of a larger socio-political, historical, and cultural context. One of the avenues to enhancing children’s learning opportunities, experiences, and outcomes in early learning and child care settings that the government of British Columbia (2008b) promotes is the use of pedagogical narrations. Through this project, educators reported an increased engagement with pedagogical narrations in their practice.
A key project goal of this “made in BC” approach to promoting quality child care is to build and sustain professionalism within the early learning and child care sector so that the sector can act as a full partner in promoting BC’s economic development, now and in the future. Since the project, the majority of the educators who participated in it now engage, to some degree, in professional development activities such as reading research and theory about contemporary early years issues, reflecting on the implications of research and theory for their practice, discussing the implications of research and theory for practice with colleagues, and scheduling regular meetings with colleagues to discuss practice issues and/or pedagogical narrations. Participating educators reported that they share their pedagogical knowledge and experiences with others more now than prior to being in the project. This model of professional development (i.e., learning circles, centre visits, readings) was described as keeping educators going, invigorated, motivated, and hopeful in their practice. The need to be part of a larger, innovative ECE community was particularly important for educators in remote areas, for educators who work alone in their programs, and for those who recently graduated from ECE programs.
A key element of this community-based model of professional development is the role of the community pedagogical facilitator. Participating educators described the importance of this skilled role in holding the project together, in their own growing confidence to try new things and share ideas, and in their sense of increased connection and communication with those in and beyond the project. Another key element of this model relates to time. Every project group talked about the importance of time in terms of establishing and building relationships among educators at the group, with their own centres, and in the community, as well as between educators and the pedagogical facilitator. All three groups commented on how, over time, relationship building among the participating educators impacted the level to which participants shared narrations and their feedback at the learning circles, experimented with new ideas in their centres, and talked about these new ideas with their colleagues (both in the project and not). There seems to be a pattern of professional development that begins with the educator’s sense of self and their direct work with children, followed by their engagement with others (generally their colleagues first, followed by families and then the community). The skilled role of the pedagogical facilitator was reported as integral to the support of this development over time.
Recommendations in this evaluation report include some methodological changes (i.e., online surveys, formal feedback from families, and question changes) to improve the way the evaluation can capture the impact of the project on programming and professionalism. Recommendations regarding program delivery include the ongoing experimentation with and reflection about the process, variety, and value of documentation and dialogue (i.e., in general, and pedagogical narrations specifically). It is recommended that the project continue to build on the community connections established and facilitated through this model of professional development, in particular connecting with training institutions around practicum and course work and bridging to other ECE institutional and regulating bodies. It is also recommended that the integral elements of facilitative relationships and time be recognized within this model of professional development.
Finally several recommendations are made regarding program expansion: no longer calling the project a “pilot project”, increasing resources to fund more pedagogical facilitator hours within the current sites, and increasing funding to take this professional development model to scale in BC.
This report is an evaluation of Year Five (2015–2016) of the Community Early Learning and Child Care Facilitators Pilot Project. Dr. Veronica Pacini-Ketchabaw and Dr. Alan Pence, co-directors of the Unit for Early Years Research and Development at the University of Victoria, led the project. Dr. Denise Hodgins, a research associate at the Unit, was the main evaluator of the project and is a co-author of this report.
The pilot project draws on the foundation created by earlier phases of the Investigating Quality (IQ) Project, which was delivered from 2005 to 2011 with funding from the Ministry of Children and Family Development. The IQ Project is rooted in internationally respected and tested theories and practices that differ from those often seen in North American early years practice (see, for example, Cannella, 1997; Grieshaber & Cannella, 2001; MacNaughton, 2003; MacNaughton & Hughes, 2008). These theories and practices broaden and deepen discussions of quality and open up spaces to consider local voices and contextual factors that influence quality in early years programming. The Unit has extensive experience in working with this approach, both within Canada (Ball & Pence, 2006; Pacini-Ketchabaw, 2010; Pacini-Ketchabaw, Nxumalo, Kocher, Elliot, & Sanchez, 2015) and with international partners (Dahlberg, Moss, & Pence, 1999, 2007; Moss & Pence, 1994; Pence & Benner, 2015; Pence & Marfo, 2005). Successive evaluations of the IQ Project indicate the success and promise of this approach in British Columbia (Pence & Pacini-Ketchabaw, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011; Mort & Read, 2011).
In 2011, the Ministry of Children and Family Development provided funding to build on the foundation created by the IQ Project by developing and implementing the Community Early Years and Child Care Facilitators Pilot Project. The goals of the project are to:
increase the recruitment and retention of early childhood educators in BC;
create a new community-based model for early learning and child care that links to existing community-based initiatives in the province;
build and sustain professionalism within the early learning and child care sector so that it can act as a full partner in promoting BC’s economic development, now and in the future;
enhance and sustain quality in early learning and child care settings; and
enhance children’s learning opportunities, experiences, and outcomes in early learning and child care settings.
In October 2011, the Unit launched the first phase of the pilot project on Vancouver Island (Victoria) and the Lower Mainland (Burnaby/Coquitlam). In Years 2–4, the project continued in Victoria and Burnaby. In April 2014, the Ministry of Children and Family Development provided funding to develop a third project site in Terrace/Kitimat to extend the model to northern and Indigenous communities.
As in the IQ Project, participating educators in the project attend monthly learning circles. At the learning circles, educators discuss practice in relation to the BC Early Learning Framework (Government of British Columbia, 2008a), ensuring the ongoing implementation of this important document in BC early years settings (see Government of British Columbia, 2008a, 2008b; Pacini-Ketchabaw, Hoyland, & Handley, 2009). At the learning circles and in their centres, the educators explore the framework’s perspectives as well as other emerging innovative early years theories and practices. An important avenue for these explorations is the process of reflection, dialogue, and action called pedagogical narration (Government of British Columbia, 2008b).
A key feature of this pilot project is the creation of the community pedagogical facilitator position. Pedagogical facilitators are responsible for helping to create and sustain quality programs in the participating early learning and child care programs by:
organizing monthly learning circle meetings (i.e., set the agenda, email educators, organize guest speakers, organize educators to share pedagogical narrations, provide resources for discussion at the meeting);
facilitating monthly learning circle meetings;
providing summaries of the learning circle meetings to the participating educators;
visiting the centres weekly;
providing feedback to educators about the weekly visit observations and discussions;
providing resources (e.g., articles, video links) to educators based on their current investigations, interests, and need; and
participating in their own ongoing pedagogical development (e.g., attend and participate in community pedagogical facilitator monthly meetings, attend and participate in available conferences, research innovative theory and methodologies related to ECE practice).
The community pedagogical facilitators in this project play a role similar to that of pedagogistas in the centres of Reggio Emilia, Italy. Immersing themselves in the centres, they support the educators' efforts to engage with children and families in innovative, critically reflective practice, and they extend the practice of the educators and the children by introducing new ideas, materials, and media (see Dahlberg et al., 1999, 2007; Rinaldi, 2006). The ongoing visits of the pedagogical facilitators provide for a richer, deeper exploration of the perspectives that were introduced in the IQ Project (for an overview of these see Pence & Pacini-Ketchabaw, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011; Mort & Read, 2011) and also create stronger links between participating educators at the community level (for evaluations see Pacini-Ketchabaw, Benner, & Pence, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015). Since 2012, the facilitators have experimented with diverse strategies to engage participating educators in the project activities. These strategies continue to emerge in response to educators’ feedback and observations of the project activities.
Since 2005, the IQ Project (2005–2011) and the Community Facilitators Project (2011–current) has fostered a “made in BC” approach to promoting quality child care. This approach has been incorporated into university-level curriculum and into additional outreach, research, and communications activities pursued by project staff and directors. Two books have been published from the project (Pacini-Ketchabaw, 2010; Pacini-Ketchabaw et al., 2015) as well as numerous book chapters (e.g., Pacini-Ketchabaw, Kocher, Sanchez, & Chan, 2009) and articles. This work is generating interest and engagement from educators and communities across BC, promoting new approaches to quality child care in BC and the continued implementation of the BC Early Learning Framework (ELF). It has also generated interest outside of BC, recently referenced in Ontario’s new Kindergarten Program (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2016).
In all three of the project sites, Victoria, Burnaby, and Terrace/Kitimat, educators who were involved in the project in the previous year were invited to continue as participants. This was the first year community pedagogical facilitators in each site did not have to actively recruit new programs and educators, because everyone previously involved wanted to continue with the project. In previous years, recruitment occurred through connections with local early years training facilities and local child care resource and referral programs. As word of the project spread, interested educators began to contact the community pedagogical facilitators about participating. Some have joined the project mid-year, attending learning circle meetings while they wait for space for full participation (i.e., learning circles and weekly visits).
This year’s participating educators were provided with the current year’s written information about the project (Appendix A). Educators who agreed to participate in the centres signed a consent form (Appendix B) and a confidentiality agreement (Appendix C).
Educators in the participating centres provided families with an information letter about the project (Appendix D). Families were invited to discuss the project with the project co-directors. Parents who agreed to have their child participate in the project activities signed a consent form (Appendix E) and a permission form (Appendix F) if they were willing to have photographs and videotapes made of their child and if they were willing to have this documentation shared in project activities (e.g., in pedagogical narrations shared at learning circles).
Full participation in the project includes educators(a) receiving support from the community pedagogical facilitator through centre visits, connections to resources, and regular communication; and (b) attending monthly learning circle meetings. As the project grows in popularity, some educators also participate by attending learning circle meetings only, because the community pedagogical facilitator cannot accommodate any more visits without an increase in the amount of hours she is paid to work. At all three locations, practicum students also participated in the project, some attending learning circles and others working with educators and community facilitators in some of the participating centres.
In total, 42 educators fully participated in the project, 18 in Burnaby, 14 in Victoria (including two students), and 10 in Terrace/Kitimat. An additional 11 educators participated in the project by only attending learning circles.
In Victoria, one community pedagogical facilitator supported five centres that fully participated in the project:
Two provincially funded family and child drop-in programs for children aged birth to five (StrongStart), running five days a week for approximately 4 hours. On any given day, approximately 25–32 children and families attend each program, though the total enrolment is over 400. The educator who leads both of these programs participated. One undergraduate student from UVic’s School of Child and Youth Care did her practicum with this educator and the community pedagogical facilitator in the project.
A privately owned licensed group child care, enrolling up to 25 infant toddlers (full and part time). Seven educators participated.
A privately owned licensed group child care, enrolling eight children aged 3–5 years. Two educators participated.
Eleven educators from the broader community also participated by attending the monthly learning circle meetings. (Four other educators who are no longer directly involved in the project have asked to remain on the email list and continue to receive learning circle summaries and readings from the community facilitator.) A graduate student from UVic’s School of Child and Youth Care fully participated in this project through a directed study course. Thus a total of 25 participants were fully involved in the project in Victoria.
In Burnaby, one community pedagogical facilitator supported four centres that fully participated in the project. These four centres are part of a large child care society that offers numerous programs for children from infancy through school age:
Three licensed non-profit group child care centres for children aged 3–5, enrolling 25 children each. All four educators from each program participated in the project.
One infant/toddler centre enrolling approximately 16 children. All four educators from this program participated in the project.
In Burnaby, 16 educators fully participated in the project. Two of the society’s three program directors also participated by attending the monthly learning circle meetings, for a total of 18 project participants.
In Terrace/Kitimat, two community pedagogical facilitators shared the position and supported five centres that participated fully in the project, four in Terrace and one in Kitimat:
A licensed nonprofit infant/toddler child care centre enrolling 24 children in three different classrooms with eight spaces in each. Of the 10 educators who work in this program, four participated in the project. Two of these educators provided mentorship to Northwest Community College practicum students from the early learning and care program.
A privately owned licensed family child care centre enrolling 8 children (infants through school-age after-school care). The one educator in this program participated in the project.
A privately owned licensed multi-aged child care centre enrolling 20 children (toddler through school aged). One of the educators in this program was involved in the project. She also provided mentorship to a Northwest Community College practicum student from the early learning and care program.
A licensed nonprofit preschool for children aged 2–5 years enrolling 60 children (4 classes of 15 children each). Of the two educators in this program, one participated in the project.
A federally funded off-reserve preschool program for Indigenous children (Aboriginal Head Start). The program runs a preschool model morning program for 4- to 5-year-olds and afternoon program for 2- to 3-year-olds. Each class has approximately 15 children. Three educators participated in the project. One of these educators also served as a mentor to Northwest Community College practicum students from the early learning and care program.
In Terrace/Kitimat, 7 practicum students were involved with educators associated with the project at different times through the year. Some students attended some learning circles, but no student participated in the project fully from October through June. A total of 10 educators fully participated in the project.
Across the three project sites, the primary activities were (a) monthly learning circles, (b) weekly visits to centres by the community pedagogical facilitators, (c) ongoing communication between the participating educators and facilitators, and (d) engaging with pedagogical narrations. There are differences in how the pedagogical facilitators supported these activities within their communities. The facilitator approaches have been adapted from year to year (and continue to be adapted) to meet the needs of the participants.