In the context of early childhood education a team can be broadly defined as a group of people working together to advance their professional knowledge and skills in order to achieve an agreed-upon set of goals. This group may include teachers as well as professionals from outside agencies in an ECE setting. The New Zealand early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki, also envisages ECE teachers working in teams with parents and communities to support children as competent and confident learners.
Teamwork in ECE settings is vital as it involves everyone contributing to achieving the overall mission of their community. Effective teamwork is essential for the development of professional knowledge and skills through engagement with research and professional learning and the collaborative sharing and questioning of practice. Its emphasis on open, trusting relationships supports wellbeing among teachers, children and the wider ECE community.
The evidence on the importance of relationships in teaching and learning is unequivocal. There is a wealth of evidence on the importance of teamwork in school settings, although the body of research examining teams and teamwork in ECE settings is less comprehensive. ECE researchers have suggested that the characteristics of effective teams identified by research in school settings are also applicable to the ECE sector. These characteristics include collective learning, mutual responsibility, trusting relationships, shared and supportive leadership and having a shared vision and values.
Effective teams are built on respectful relationships. This requires everyone in the team to listen to others, appreciate divergent ideas and value others’ input. It is also important that everyone feels confident to offer alternative viewpoints and freely disclose their personal concerns and weaknesses. Other strategies such as developing shared goals, deprivatising one’s own practice, establishing supportive systems, helping teachers to see each other’s strengths, and sharing leadership contribute to the establishment and maintenance of effective teams.
Important ideas for building trustful relationships among teachers in ECE settings
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