International exchange programme gives early years students opportunities for reflective learning

Early years student with children

Helen Sutherland, Senior Lecturer at Kingston University and Kim Kimhag from the University of Gävle, Sweden have developed an exciting exchange programme to provide early years teacher trainees the opportunity to experience another country’s educational system. Helen Sutherland explains, “This model provides early years teacher trainees with the opportunity to experience early years provision in a range of settings and learn more about the educational system of the country they are visiting. It is especially beneficial to mature students who are unable to take advantage of the ERASMUS exchange programme.”

Helen and Kim recently presented a paper on this model at the European Early Childhood Education Research Association Conference (EECERA) at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. The paper was entitled, ‘How can students develop reflective learning and practice during a short visit to view another country’s educational system?’

The research aims to find out patterns of change in students practice and learning, demonstrate the value of the model developed and impact of model on students’ practice. This model developed over six years consists of setting visits, lectures and reflection – reflective learning journals and discussions with home and host lecturers. The model is unique and innovative in the way that it uses reflection to support deeper level learning and develop student’s professional thinking. The outcome and impact of using this model has challenged and developed the students’ pedagogical understanding, thinking, perspectives and practice of early years’ provision; with students demonstrating that they have reflected and evaluated their own philosophies, beliefs and practices.