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ACQUISITION OF PROFESSIONAL TEACHING SKILLS IN REAL EDUCATIONAL ENVIRONMENTS. THE EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION-CDP CENTRE FOR TEACHERS-UNIVERSITY NETWORK (RIECU)

The Early Childhood Education-Centre for Teachers-University Network (RIECU) began in 2008/09 by a project to improve teaching quality. Since then, it has been continued this line of work, whose main task is to improve relations between initial and continuing education of teaching staff. This network believes that the acquisition of professional skills will improve considerably if the links between real educational settings and university classrooms are intensified.

Three formative agencies participate in the RIECU network:
(1) Schools for Early Childhood Education;
(2) Continuing Professional Development Centre for Teachers (CEP) and
(3) Faculty of Education at the University of Cordoba (Spain). Its interest focuses on learning, developing and reflecting on the Project Approach (PA)’s method in classrooms for children from 3 to 6 years old.

The main objectives of this experiment are:
a) to consolidate a network of inter-institutional collaboration between responsible people for initial and continuing training of teachers;
b) to establish professional quality referents for university students;
c) to promote the mastery of professional skills by students of Education;
d) to initiate an action-research process that allows teachers transfer knowledge acquired in real educational situations.

In addition to an innovation inter-institutional experience, RIECU is conceived as an action-research process embodied in a qualitative perspective of educational research. We aim to think about educational action to analyse the benefits of the methodology of PA. It has made an approach to the natural educational context in 24 classrooms for two months and has been adopted research roles as observers-participants (university students and teachers).

In the academic year 2012/13, people participating in RIECU were:
(1) 4 university professors of the Department of Education;
(2) 24 university students in Undergraduate Early Childhood Education;
(3) 1 adviser from the CEP; (4) 24 Early Childhood Education teachers who are experts in the PA method; and
(4) 485 children from 3 to 6 years old.

Participants have been organized in a partnership structure with three levels:
level 1) coordination team;
level 2) innovation teams of each centre
level 3) innovation assembly.

The results confirm that, for student teachers acquire professional teaching skills, is necessary to insert them in real educational contexts. The selection of these contexts, based on criteria of excellence and educational innovation, is one of the fundamental strengths of the RIECU network, since it ensures that our students are socialised in a quality teaching model. The teachers that are part of the RIECU network have practical experience and a conception of education that makes them positive role models for teacher training undergraduates.