Dyer, Mary A. and Taylor, Susan M. (2011) Supporting professional identity in novice practitioners through reflective practice. In: Paper presentations of the 2010 University of Huddersfield Annual Learning and Teaching Conference. University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, pp. 21-33.

This study investigates how full-time students on the Foundation degree (FdA) in Early Years develop a professional identity as early years practitioners, including how they conceptualise and judge good practice and how they evaluate and reflect on their own performance. The overall purpose of this study is to examine how students use the reflective processes they have been taught when on work placement, and how the teaching of reflection supports the development of their individual professional vision, values and ethics.

Data were gathered from Year 1 and Year 2 students undertaking the full-time FdA Early Years, using semi-structured questions in interviews, questionnaires and focus group discussions. Good practice is conceptualised as a combination of academic knowledge, interpersonal skills and intuitive responses to individual situations. The students feel they understand the processes of reflection and are growing in confidence in their use of some of the models they have been taught. However, the data also indicate that students continue to rely on other people to confirm that their practice is competent or good, and are reluctant to use or trust their own judgements about their performance.

The results of this investigation indicate that a new pedagogic approach is required to instil in students greater acceptance of their placement experiences as vehicles for learning, and more confidence in their own abilities and authority to judge professional practice. Such an approach will support the development of the more mindful and reflective lead practitioner the early years sector and individual employers need.

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