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R. Čepić1, S. Tatalović Vorkapić1, Z. Šimunić2

1University of Rijeka, Faculty of Teacher Education (CROATIA)
2Kindergarten "Lastavica", Krk (CROATIA)
This paper is based on the contemporary understanding of the profession and professional development of preschool teachers, which implies professional dedication to one’s own learning, autonomy, responsibility, dynamic understanding of learning, reflective thinking, cooperation and connection with the social community. Achieving professional autonomy is a very important (possibly even the most important) component of the new vision of the teaching profession, but also with the intention of fostering innovation and strengthening the professionalism of the teaching profession. The readiness to engage in professional development would encourage or permanently motivate preschool teachers to take part in self-regulated professional development.

Professional development of preschool teachers is understood as a process during which the teacher establishes and maintains the highest level of professional qualification (s)he is capable of achieving and the readiness for professional development as a tendency to intrinsically or extrinsically differentiate different activities for the purpose of professional training and development. Considering the gap of research related to the topic of potential relationship between preschool teachers’ perceived sense of autonomy and willingness to participate in professional development, the aim of this paper is to find answers to the following questions: Identify the main incentives and obstacles in the professional development of preschool teachers and the contribution of professional development to their professional autonomy and responsibility; Is there a significant relationship between the perception of the degree and importance of autonomy and their readiness to engage in professional development?; Can the perception of the degree of autonomy in work and the importance of autonomy in work predict the readiness of preschool teachers to engage in professional development?.

79 preschool teachers employed in six public preschools of the Primorje-Gorski Kotar County participated in this research. Data was collected using a structured questionnaire that included an adapted Scale of Readiness for Professional Development. Descriptive analysis of the results showed that preschool teachers assessed with relatively high values the degree and importance of autonomy in their work. Correlation analyses point to significant positive correlations between External motivation for development and Negation of the importance of development for the quality of teaching, and between the Awareness of the importance of development for the teaching profession, Staying updated on latest achievements, and Self-initiatives for development. The results of the linear regression analysis showed that the degree of autonomy in work is a significant predictor of external motivation for development, staying updated on latest achievements, and self-initiative for development, while the importance of autonomy in work has proved to be a significant predictor of staying updated on latest achievements. Even though this is the preliminary research study, it was the first one and the findings provide significant implications for preschool teachers’ training and development programs for professional autonomy and responsibility.