Research found peer support essential to success in early childhood education

TRU professor develops a province-wide peer-mentoring network for early childhood educators

Based on her research findings, Dr. Laura Doan created a province-wide network to connect early childhood educators with local peer support groups to curb the high turnover rates of the job. 

Doan reported that up to 50 per cent of all early childhood educators leave the job within the first five years, reducing access to safe and affordable childcare.

The platform, which you can check out here, hosts a myriad of services including online forums, focus groups, reflective writings, and more. It also is the connector for the 17 peer support groups currently ongoing in the province, which are making a difference.

Chelsea Hann, an ECE in Prince George, was almost burnt out of the profession before connecting with Doan’s project. 

“This project was what kept me from leaving. I was really disillusioned and frustrated. I felt very isolated, and I would think ‘I can’t do this,’” she said. 

However, through the project, she connected with another early childhood educator in her community, someone with decades of experience in the field. The pair met several times over a few months, and it was during those meetings they built a safe space to discuss challenges.

“We could come together and mutually support one another. I would say we built a friendship, but it was more than that. It was a confidential space, and there was no judgement, just acceptance,” Hann said.

Her mentor, Cari Rawling, agreed. 

“I think there are a lot of ECEs who feel isolated in their practice, and this helped alleviate that. I really hope that we see each other as a vast network of support people with a common goal of supporting children and families in our communities,” said Rawling.

Doan’s research was supported by a $650,000 grant from the Ministry for Children and Family Development through the Westcoast Child Care Resource Centre. The funding was part of the three-year, $153 million Early Learning and Child Care agreement between the Government of Canada and the Province of B.C.

The project, which ran from summer 2019 to spring 2020, left Doan feeling appreciative for the communities coming together, and knowledge being shared.

“There are many, many educators who have years of experience and they represent such a wealth of knowledge. They have all this knowledge, and they shared it with us, but they hadn’t shared it before because they had not been asked,” said Doan.

Doan’s recommendation to the province is to continue to ask those in the field what they need to be resilient and to find ways to ensure they are supported through access to mentoring and professional development.