Student teachers participate in ‘virtual placements’ during COVID closures

Victoria University student teachers are looking for host families with babies, toddlers and young children for free ‘kindergarten-at-home’ sessions that take place via computer.

VU is one of the only universities in Australia offering one-on-one remote placements for its pre-service teaching students (PSTs) so they can continue gaining valuable practical experiences with children during the COVID closure of kindergartens and childcare centres.

Early education lecturer Sarah Jobson said the virtual placement is an innovative way for VU’s Bachelor of Early Childhood Education and Graduate Diploma in Early Childhood Education students to learn directly from parents of young children about the joys and challenges of having a new person in the family.

After collaborating with each child’s parents and VU mentors, the PSTs design activities over Zoom that are customised to that child’s interests and strengths.

This could include reading stories, singing or drawing together, discussing favourite toys, or going on a treasure hunt. Some parents, whose first language is not English, have requested their PST focus on English communication now that COVID has restricted opportunities to learn the language outside of home.

More host families needed

The first group of VU students started their remote placements a few weeks ago, mainly with VU staff families. The program now requires hundreds of other host families for more VU students preparing to become early childhood teachers.

The virtual sessions generally occur a few times a week, but their frequency and duration are determined by each child, said Ms Jobson.

Second-year student Phoebe Wong – who has been conducting regular sessions with Sadie, the five-year-old daughter of a VU staff member – says the program offers a valuable opportunity to experience a new form of interaction with young children and their families.

“I didn’t know how it would work, but it has been a good experience.”

“It’s challenging, but a remote delivery placement is better than not doing one at all,” Phoebe said.

VU’s early childhood teaching students are also busy designing activities and presentations to be made into publicly available Play-School-type educational videos, said Ms Jobson.

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