I’m a searcher. I’m always looking for new ways to do things, and just about the time that I think I have it all together, a child comes into my world that changes my mind.
– Bev Bos, 1934-2016, Preschool Director and International Speaker
Today’s message is thanks to Jennifer J. Chen, Early Childhood Education Department Chair at Kean University and one of our Exchange Leaders.
There is no single definition or approach to professional growth in theory or in practice. It is multidimensional and dynamic in nature and context. I define professional growth as the process of developing and refining one’s professional craft through continuous learning, involving acquiring new knowledge, skills, and appropriate dispositions to thrive and contribute effectively to the profession, whether in teaching, leading a center, or another way.
Early childhood educators can grow professionally through formal teacher education, professional development, on-the-job training, teaching experiences and more. However, all these means may prove fruitless if they do not target what Vygotsky called the zone of proximal development. That is, the target of learning should surpass what one already achieves or can achieve with some challenge so that professional growth can occur and flourish.
Reflecting on my nearly two decades as an early childhood teacher educator, one equation becomes apparent: professional growth = proactivity + intentionality + reflection. Collectively, these three elements open doors to opportunities and challenges where I can nurture and experience my own professional growth.
- Proactivity entails deliberately seeking opportunities (rather than merely wishing or waiting for them) that challenge my current thinking, understanding, and approach. Researching and writing about an innovative idea is an example.
- Equally important is intentionality, deliberately discovering new knowledge and skills to sharpen my own understanding of critical topics so I may contribute to the profession, through teaching and research.
- Finally, reflection involves proactively and intentionally considering what I have learned and how it advances my professional work.
Together, proactivity, intentionality, and reflection fuel my professional growth. I hope it’s the same for you!