Firth, Nicola C. (2014) Does the use of reflective practice enhance early years foundation degree students' personal and professional development? In: The Early Years Reflective Practice Handbook. Routledge, London, pp. 347-356. ISBN 978-0-415-52993-8

This study offers a critical examination investigating non-traditional female students studying on a Foundation Degree in Early Years programme and how the use of reflective practice enhances skills in personal and professional development. The previous Labour government developed the requirement for an Early Years Professional in every early years setting by 2015 (CWDC, 2010). This allowed those working in the early years sector to gain graduate status through means of studying a part-time foundation degree programme designed to meet the needs of working practitioners.
A theme running throughout foundation degree programmes is reflective practice however many students struggle to understand not only the concept of reflective practice but also how to practically reflect on practice. There are also many barriers that non-traditional female students have to overcome such as commitments to family (Gouthro, 2005; Vaccaro and Lovell, 2010), employment (Moss, 2006) and domestic chores (Daniels, 2010) to name a few. Daniels (2010) acknowledges that more mature women are returning to learning however their everyday lives and experiences are often misunderstood and this can create problems for female learners.
It is with this in mind that the small scale study was undertaken using the qualitative method of semi-structured interviews and included seven participants; five of whom had studied the Foundation Degree in Early Years and two who teach on a foundation degree programme. It became essential to the study that the views of those who teach on foundation degree programmes on reflective practice and personal and professional development were sought. As Boud and Walker (1998) assert, teachers themselves must have an interest in fostering reflection in order to facilitate their student’s reflective practice. The study concluded that reflective practice does enhance personal and professional development however there are many barriers to overcome if students are to gain the most out of using reflection as a tool to develop themselves and their practice.

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