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Living with uncertainty : transition from university student to early childhood professional

Publication Date
  • 130102 Early Childhood Education (Excl. Maori)
  • Early Childhood Teacher Education
  • Transitions
  • Communication
  • Education


Transitions are inevitable, and are part of a continuous process of invention and exploration that is often linked to disequilibrium and dissonance (Stacey, 1992). Beginning professionals are often frustrated with the uncertainty and realities of their profession. This paper reports on a case study that aimed to identify early childhood education students’ transition issues and to enhance their transition from the final semester of study into professional practice. Forty-two Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood) students were surveyed, via an online questionnaire, in the final weeks of their final semester to gain an understanding of their expectations as they prepared to make the transition from student to professional. The project aimed to develop a framework for supporting the transition journey for these students as they found a place within the field to develop and construct identities that align with the community in which they are socially situated. Taking into consideration the demands of first year professionals, communication and support was via online engagement. Three phases of transition (Bridges, 2003) were identified. As students left university to transition into professional practice, they experienced feelings of insecurity, and a sense of loss and uncertainty. Also, during this first stage, they perceived personal and professional attributes as interchangeable. In the second phase, graduates struggled with their new identities, and searched for answers to their insecurities. Some searched for answers from their university peers; others sought out peer mentoring and professional development opportunities in their sites. In the third stage, graduates were able to separate personal and professional qualities, and could begin to look back on their transition experiences in a more reflective way. Findings from this work have informed the provision of learning opportunities, experiences and approaches which have been strategically embedded in the final year units of study at university.

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