Connecting early childhood teachers to high quality professional learning

Quick guide for early childhood teachers and leaders

A dedicated, high quality preschool program results in significant learning gains for children with research pointing to an increased score of 10-20 points on NAPLAN in Year 3 (the equivalent of 15-20 weeks of schooling) compared with children who do not attend a preschool program.


Early childhood settings are diverse and complex, often illustrating unique challenges for early childhood teachers to access high quality professional learning. Research indicates that whilst many different types of professional learning exist in early childhood settings, there are common features that early childhood teachers and leaders can engage with to further support children’s learning, development and wellbeing.

Some of the common professional learning features for teachers and leaders include:

  • Identifying a particular need prior to engaging in professional learning to consciously improve practice
  • Receiving ongoing professional learning over time
  • Having opportunities to question, assess and reflect upon their own teaching and learning
  • Applying new knowledge and skills within their own educational settings
  • Having access to an experienced teacher acting as a mentor or critical friend to discuss developing practice

Considerations for overcoming common barriers to accessing high quality professional learning

Common barriers to participation

Early childhood teachers can find it difficult to access effective professional learning due to:

  • Lack of access to casual early childhood teachers, impacting on time to commit to professional learning
  • Limited opportunities to observe teaching practice and/or receiving feedback from an expert teacher
  • Difficulty sourcing professional learning relevant to the context and/or needs of the early childhood setting
  • Staffing of the early childhood setting having different educational backgrounds to teaching, potentially impacting opportunities for targeted professional learning relevant to teaching practice
  • Casual early childhood teachers having limited access to paid non-contact teaching time.


  • How might greater communication and collaboration between early childhood settings be enabled, especially for early childhood teachers working in a single teacher service?
  • How can an effective culture of inquiry support ongoing learning, reflection and engagement with research?
  • How can professional learning opportunities balance a focus on sharing knowledge and reflection on practice with organisational requirements and compliance?
  • How might improvement in practice through professional learning contribute positively to children’s learning, development and wellbeing?

For early childhood leaders

Ideas to help connect your early childhood teachers to effective professional learning


  • Create opportunities for a ‘community of practice’ connecting early childhood teachers within and/or across early childhood settings or local school settings, focusing on a specific topic area or teaching practice.
  • Consider pairing-up teachers to enable an exchange of skills and to develop pedagogical content knowledge.
  • Consider your own professional learning in education and/or leadership and how to model approaches of shared learning experiences with teachers. This could extend to shorter forms of professional learning, for instance presentations during room and/or team meetings.
  • Consider how your professional learning could effectively influence teacher morale in their commitment to enhance children’s learning, development and wellbeing.
  • Consider establishing a learning culture in which teachers share what they have learnt from their professional learning experience as an opportunity to reflect as a team and work collaboratively to implement a continuous teaching and learning improvement process. This could include providing teachers with dedicated time to unpack a professional learning experience and their application of the related learning, within current practices.
  • Consider opportunities for shared or distributed leadership to build the capacity of teachers across the team in taking ownership of their professional learning that focuses on improving their practice.

Cost effective solutions

  • Apply for grants available through your local and state governments for projects that include a component of professional learning.
  • Organise professional learning sessions in conjunction with other local early childhood settings or schools so costs can be shared.
  • Consider a range of scheduling options for professional learning, for instance offering small group ‘on-site’ training during shift time, with casual/replacement teachers assisting where required.
  • Utilise scholarship programs and incentives, available directly through national tertiary institutions and education departments/employers.

Utilise networks, associations and services

  • Develop a collaborative network by sharing education programs and resources as well as casual early childhood teachers to expand knowledge and expertise between local educational settings
  • Encourage early childhood teachers to join professional associations or networks to build awareness of and access to opportunities for professional learning.
  • Facilitate targeted approaches for early childhood teachers to access online/blended professional learning, ensuring alignment to the context and needs of the early childhood setting and identified areas for continuous quality improvement.

Utilise setting and community opportunities

  • Combine customised in-setting sessions with ongoing support through mentoring, allowing early childhood teachers to learn at their own level, in a style that best suits their needs.
  • Consider accessing support from family or community members who have relevant, specialist knowledge and skills in education or connections with organisations more broadly.
  • Source expertise in the local community to create professional learning opportunities for teachers. Forming collaborative partnerships within the community can have the potential to create a mutual respect and a shared commitment to creating diverse learning opportunities for learners.
  • Utilise meetings and scheduled professional learning sessions as an opportunity for early childhood teachers to present in an area of expertise or invite guest speakers with specific expertise in an identified area of focus.

For early childhood teachers

Quick and easy ideas to improve access to effective professional learning

Ensure quality

Accessing resources and networks

  • Membership to professional associations is important for staying up to date with the latest news and developments, including professional learning and opportunities to build your networks with like-minded education professionals.
  • Many early childhood research groups, associations, policy bodies or government departments have email subscriptions to circulate new publications and other forms of information.
  • Participate in local hubs or interest groups either face to face or online.
  • Create opportunities to visit or invite other teachers from local early childhood settings to challenge your perceptions of teaching and reflect on your practice.

Go digital

  • Recording a targeted learning experience as reflective practice can be an effective strategy for observing and interpreting interactions from a different point of view.
  • Access webinars and online modules to support professional learning processes.

Plan to move forward

There is a range of professional learning that an early childhood teacher can undertake. Take a look at these effective forms of professional learning to consider how you might adopt them for your own context.

  • Coaching/Mentoring
  • Inquiry/Action research
  • Observation of practice and feedback
  • Online forums
  • Professional collaboration based on the assessment and planning of children’s learning and development
  • Professional networks
  • Professional reading