Exploring Supervision as a Means to Building Communities of Practice in the Early Years Profession



Rafaelle Monteiro and Aoife Prendergast are excited to report on the progress of their research that looks at professional supervision and how the practice in this area can be improved and developed to build Communities of Practice for the early years profession in Ireland.


In the last decade, intense public and political scrutiny has been placed on Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) professionals in Ireland, as policies and frameworks had been developed in order to guide and support professionals from this area (CECDE, 2006). However, several issues from professionals in the ECEC sector have raised problems in relation to their professional recognition, identity, level of qualification, salary, among other aspects. These concerns led professionals to leave the career or to not being sufficiently motivated to work (Moloney, 2010; Moloney & Pope, 2013).
Supervision of staff is considered an opportunity for them to discuss any issues, identify solutions and to improve their performance (EYFS, 2017). It has been shown to be an important and positive tool in early years, nevertheless differences in the way how supervision effectiveness is seen by professionals and in how it is offered to them are still noticeable (Soni, 2013; Soni, 2019). Additionally, Communities of Practice (CoP) can be used as a valuable analytical and theoretical tool to explore supervision in professional early years, as they are good opportunities to build and share knowledge by exploring “new insights without becoming fools or stuck in some dead end (...) along with a deep respect for the particularity of experience” (Wenger, 1998, p. 214).
Together with the supervisor of this research, Aoife Prendergast, we are excited to underpin the development of a possible framework that could guide a consistent standard of professional supervision as a means to building CoP for the early years profession in Ireland. As the work progresses, we expect to understand and describe in detail the current context of ECEC professionals in Ireland in relation to the main obstacles, opportunities and usability issues faced by early years professionals in current supervision processes, and their opinion about what could improve the supervision process within their professional setting.
We are hoping to have early years professionals and academic staff engaged in a collaborative process of critical reflection to interrogate practice and to make connections to relevant theoretical frameworks that draw on a multidisciplinary approach. We are positive that this work can significantly impact on pedagogy in contemporary ECEC in relation to the concept of the supervision process, the expectations in current professional ECEC practice in Ireland, and in its potential to enhance learning in Irish ECEC professionals. So, our work will be responding to the changing needs of the ECEC sector in Ireland and identifying solutions to gaps within early years supervisory practice.
We are looking forward to sharing this research at BECERA 2021. It will be an exciting opportunity to exchange ideas and see how it can benefit ECEC practitioners and managers, in order to improve their professional routine. We believe that by supporting professionals’ lives we are also supporting children and families’ lives.


To learn more about this project, join BECERA Conference Symposium 2 (16th February), 3.30 - 5.00pm.
Rafaelle Monteiro is currently working as a Postgraduate Researcher at the Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT, Ireland), in the Department of Applied Social Sciences, focused on Early Childhood Education and Care. With a Master in Rehabilitation Sciences focused on Children and Youth’s participation, and a background in paediatric Occupational Therapy, she has professional experience in clinical, hospital, research and lecturing in child and youth’s health, assessment and intervention of child development, early intervention and neonatology. You can contact her on LinkedIn
Aoife Prendergast is a Lecturer and Programme Leader in the Department of Social Sciences at Limerick Institute of Technology. She has undertaken a diverse breadth of work with a variety of client groups and settings. Aoife has substantial lecturing and training experience in both the UK and Ireland in a variety of roles including National Training Projects Co-ordinator and Community Health Co-ordinator for NHS Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, UK. She has successfully created and managed numerous innovative training and development projects in public health within diverse communities in both the UK and Ireland. In addition, Aoife was selected as Secretary General and Irish representative for FESET (European Social Education Training) 2016 -2020 and as Secretary for the Irish Association of Social Care Educators (IASCE) 2015-2020.

 - Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education (2006). Síolta, The National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education. Dublin: Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education.
 - Early Years Foundation Stage (2017). Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage- Setting the Standards for Learning, Development and Care for Children from Birth to Five. London: Department for Education.
 - Moloney, M. (2010). Professional identity in early childhood care and education: perspectives of pre school and infant teachers. Irish Educational Studies, Vol. 29(2), 167-187. DOI:
 - Moloney, M. & Pope, J. (2013): Where to now for early childhood care and education (ECCE) graduates? A study of the experiences of Irish BA ECCE degree graduates. Education 3-13: International Journal of Primary, Elementary and Early Years Education, DOI:10.1080/03004279.2013.782327.
 - Soni, A. (2013). Group supervision: supporting practitioners in their work with children and families in Children’s Centres. Early Years, 33:2, 146-160. DOI: 10.1080/09575146.2013.777695.
 - Soni, A. (2019). Opportunities for Development: The Practice of Supervision in Early Years’ Provision in England. International Journal of Early Years Education, 27:1, 52-67, DOI: 10.1080/09669760.2018.1444586.
 - Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: learning, meaning, and identity. New York: Cambridge University Press.


You are here Exploring Supervision as a Means to Building Communities of Practice in the Early Years Profession