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This study explored the influence of a 12-hour professional learning community for family child care providers in an urban Midwest city on the participants’ beliefs and practices. A secondary purpose was to explore the potential of the professional learning community as a format for professional development of family child care providers. Data for this study were collected in multiple ways including participant journals, field notes, recordings of learning community sessions, and collected artifacts from learning community provocations. For this group of family child care providers, the learning community was a useful format for professional development. The learning community influenced growth in participants’ use of developmentally appropriate practices, as well as increasing the providers’ reflection skills and awareness of their practices.
Results showed that the family child care providers who participated in the learning community placed high importance on developmentally appropriate beliefs in their programs when they started in the learning community. The providers placed fairly little importance on developmentally inappropriate beliefs at the beginning of the learning community, and these beliefs remained stable throughout. From the beginning to the end of the learning community, providers reported increasing their use of developmentally appropriate practice and engaging in fewer developmentally inappropriate practices.
One of the main strengths of the learning community design was the implementation of spiral engagement with concepts that this format of professional development allowed. As such, there was a thread of continuity present in all interactions and exploration of content that allowed the group to travel back and forth in the investigation of ideas and the translation of ideas to practice. Other strengths of the learning community were the small group size, the focus on constructivism and a desire for everyone to benefit from the work, the value placed on provider knowledge and expertise, and the diversity in age, experience, and education of the participants in the group.
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