7 Ways to Boost Your Professional Knowledge

7 Ways to Boost Your Professional Knowledge

Boosting your professional knowledge doesn't need to be hard work, or to require countless hours hunched over a thick research book or sitting in a conference centre. There are so many ways that you can continually work to grow your knowledge and evolve your practice.

Every day, in our work as educators, we draw on our professional knowledge to help us make decisions, problem solve, document learning, and interact with children, families and colleagues. It's vital that we see our professional knowledge as something ever-changing. It's not enough to complete our qualification and think "well that's it, I know how to do this work", we need to continually challenge ourselves. But that's not always easy either.

There's no denying that the early childhood sector is facing some challenging times: staff shortages, high staff turnover, burnout - just to name a few. As a result of that, it can be difficult for many educators - and often services - to invest either the time or the money, in attending training sessions or conferences. Add to that the overall climate of the last two years, where face to face events have taken a large hit due to the pandemic and ongoing restrictions.

But, as we've noted before on this blog, professional learning isn't just attending conferences. There are many ways that educators can boost their professional knowledge, and we're going to explore 7 of them.

1/ Reading Blogs

The Oxford dictionary defines "Blog" as: a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style. You are reading one right now. There are blogs on anything and everything. This requires a little discernment, of course. Not everything that you read on the internet should be taken as gospel, however many great blogs link to valuable research and concepts which can further your reflection and also often set you on a path of finding out more.

Recommendations: Teacher Tom's Blog, Alfie Kohn's Blog, and obviously - ours!

2/ Listening to Podcasts

Podcasts are a particularly great option if you are an auditory learner. You might like to stick a podcast on while driving to work, or heading out for an afternoon walk, or cleaning the house. Podcasts are a great way to get bite sized information - again, giving you ideas to reflect on and perhaps encouraging you to do further research to understand a concept better.

Recommendations: KU's  Provoking Minds, Child Care Bar and Grill, That Early Childhood Nerd

3/ Watch a Video

The internet has done some amazing things for our learning opportunities - at the touch of a button, we have countless hours of video available to us. This can be both wonderful and daunting. Watching a video is great for understanding how an idea or concept works in practice - there are some great videos that demonstrate concepts that can spark further reflection, for example one I came across recently was The Still Face Experiment by Dr Edward Tronick.

Recommendations: Ted.com, and of course You Tube (but be wary of falling down the rabbit hole!)

4/ Read a Book

There are an amazing number of books out there that can grow your professional knowledge - supporting you to think deeply on a topic and to consider how it impacts your own practice. There are books that are far more academic and research heavy, and others that are a lighter and more practical read with images included. You need to find what works for you. We also encourage putting sticky notes on your pages, or taking notes of things that you might want to come back to or try out in your practice. Also - consider stepping outside early childhood books at times and broaden your thinking.

Recommendations: Peter Grays "Free to Learn", Teacher Tom's First Book.

5/ Get a mentor

You may find someone within your service, or even just your local area, or you may hire someone to be your professional mentor. A mentor is someone who can guide you, inspire you, motivate you. They are someone that you can observe and listen to and learn from. You want to find someone that you can ask questions - lots of questions - to help you grow your knowledge.

Recommendations: Look first within your workplace or local community, Inspired EC offer mentoring opportunities also

6/ Get Social

There are some great online networks and groups for connecting with other early childhood professionals. If you are a Facebook user, there are some groups that you may find really helpful, while others might not be the place for you. You need to be discerning. Instagram also provides a window into other services, other practices and other ideas. Use any social media wisely of course, and remember that what we see online isn't always the whole picture. Getting social doesn't just mean online though. Join local groups or networks to meet up and discuss challenges, ideas and inspiration. Connect with new people when you do attend training and conferences.

Recommendations: Follow Sprout on Social Media of course!

7/ Attend training or conferences

As we noted earlier, face to face professional learning opportunities have been slim pickings over the last two years as a result of pandemic restrictions, but there is hope that 2022 will see the return of many events. Being in the same room as other people, engaging in a collective learning experience can create a unique buzz, unlike anything else. It's vital though that when you leave the event and return to your workplace, you take time to think about what you've learned and how it can impact your practice.

Recommendations: This will depend on your location, so we always recommend a quick google search or contacting your favourite training provider to see what they have coming up in 2022

Boosting your professional knowledge doesn't need to be hard work, or to require countless hours hunched over a thick research book or sitting in a conference centre. There are so many ways that you can continually work to grow your knowledge and evolve your practice. A bonus one - Sprout's Learn and Grow Feature. It supports ongoing development of educators practice in relation to the NQF or EYLF with curated micro-learning.

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