Developing early childhood advocates: the role of undergraduate teacher education programs in New South Wales
The early childhood education sector in Australia is currently the focus of significant government policy reviews. Early childhood teachers are well positioned to actively participate in such policy development processes by advocating for the rights and best interests of young children at this political or systems level. However, the undertaking of systems advocacy is complicated by multiple constructions of professionalism that can hinder teachers to view advocacy as a core professional
... ibility. This study investigated undergraduate early childhood teacher education programs as constructors of teacher professionalism that support or promote the practice of systems advocacy.Semi-structured interviews were conducted with seven academics who convened units with advocacy content within programs in New South Wales. The study found that advocacy, particularly systems advocacy, is incorporated to a varied and generally limited extent. Participants utilised different approaches to develop an advocacy disposition in their students, some by encouraging students to reflect on their values and beliefs and others by developing critical thinking skills. These findings can be attributed to multiple constructions of professionalism - from accreditation bodies, pre-service teachers, and the participating academics - that present opportunities and constraints to the inclusion of advocacy in teacher education programs. This study offers a theoretical framework for the development of an advocacy disposition using the constructions of teacher professionalism. This framework could be used in undergraduate programs to strengthen critical thinking skills that may enable teachers' development as advocates for children, families and the early childhood profession.