Effective practitioners are critical to quality early childhood programs. These adults include those who work directly with young children and their families (for example, preschool teachers, childcare workers, home visitors, community health workers, child protection workers) as well as those who supervise and support these practitioners (for example, managers, trainers, mentors and coaches).
Practitioners are professionals, paraprofessionals, or volunteers who work full- or part-time in public and private settings. They are responsible for delivering services spanning early education and care, health and nutrition interventions, support for parents and families, child protection services, or a combination of these.
When they are adequately trained and supported, practitioners can have a positive impact on children and families. Practitioners’ relationships with children should be warm, responsive, and stimulating. Their relationships with parents and families should be stable, respectful, honest, and supportive. See Playful Learning and Responsive & Stimulating Caregiving.
Programs should support practitioners in both financial and non-financial ways. Financial incentives may include a bonus or raise, a travel stipend, food or housing, or a scholarship to participate in additional training opportunities. Non-financial incentives can include supportive supervision, a manageable workload, opportunities for training and career development, safe work environments, and recognition and respect from supervisors, peers, the community, and the broader system.
In-service training and ongoing professional development can improve practitioners’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes and thus influence their behavior and practices with children and families. These opportunities are critical for ensuring practitioners have up-to-date information on effective ECD practices. Examples include specialized training, coaching, and peer learning.
- Specialized training focuses on specific skills and may take place over a short period of time, such as one or two days. It may be delivered live through workshops or conferences or remotely through tutorials or manuals.
- Coaching is a collaborative process between practitioners and mentors to apply certain concepts in practice. This can be one-on-one or delivered in small groups, usually in the workplace. Coaching may use observation, demonstration, guided practice, video feedback, and self-reflection. See also Teacher Coaching.
- Peer learning is a collaborative process among practitioners, virtually or in-person, to improve their work by sharing real experiences and knowledge. Peer learning addresses what is relevant for actual situations and environments.
Supervisors and managers play an important role in empowering practitioners and creating an enabling environment for their work. Supportive supervisors are reliable, communicative role models. They invite practitioners to share their feedback and identify their own challenges and solutions. Supportive supervision may incorporate useful methods such as mobile technology for increased communication or peer support for practitioners to share and learn from each other.