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Gill Goodliff

Page history last edited by sceptrept 11 years, 2 months ago

Developing a questioning approach: the experiences of some students following a Foundation Degree in Early Years at the Open University

Carrie Cable, Gill Goodliff, Linda Miller, Practice Based Professional Learning Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, The Open University


The government in England has committed to the reform of the children’s workforce through ‘a transformational reform agenda designed to improve life chances for all and reduce inequalities in our society’ (DfES, 2006:2).  This agenda acknowledges that increasing the skills and competence of the workforce is critical to its success. This route to a more professional workforce includes the development of an Early Years Sector–Endorsed Foundation Degree as a progression route to a new role of Early Years Professional. As a major open and distance-learning provider The Open University is in a unique position to respond to the above agenda in providing flexible and accessible progression routes leading to Higher Education work related qualifications for early years practitioners which reflect employer needs.


This paper provides a brief overview of policy developments leading to the creation of a new workforce qualification and role. The paper describes the tensions and challenges involved in developing distance-learning courses which support students in becoming reflective practitioners whilst meeting external requirements and the needs of employers. The approach taken to enable students to reflect on their practice and develop the ability to research their own practice with children in their settings in two work-based learning courses in the Open University Foundation Degree in Early Years is discussed. The paper draws on findings from two research projects, one funded by the Practice Based Professional Learning Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning based at the Open University.


In the first study the final written assignments from 60 students on the first work based learning course were analysed. Student responses suggest that their study offered possibilities for critical reflection and developing professionalism. We tracked these students through to the completion of the Foundation Degree in Early Years and in the second study student, employers’ and tutors’ perceptions of the impact of work based learning on practice were explored through responses to a questionnaire and interviews with students, tutors and employers. Our analysis of these responses indicate that researching their own practice provided students with the opportunity to consider the perspectives of others and especially the children they work with and to embed reflection into their ongoing practice and professionalism. This paper, therefore, connects to a number of the five interconnected themes for the conference.


Key words: distance learning, professionalism, reflective practice, early years



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