THE ROLE OF TRAINEESHIPS IN HOW THE ACQUISITION OF PROFESSIONAL COMPETENCES IS PERCEIVED BY FUTURE TEACHERS IN EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
The initial education of teachers constitutes a stage of great significance and influence regarding the professional career setting and future teaching development. Once completed the academic studies, a professional traineeship (Prácticum) marks an important test on the students way to their future integration into the working world. This test determines the students' expectations about the function of a teacher and its own professional capabilities in front of an audience. In this research we evaluated how future teachers in Early Childhood Education perceive their professional competence. Our objective was to verify if traineeships in schools in the last period of the studies leads to the perception of a higher command of professional skills. On the basis of these professional competences we quantified the progress perceived by our students during their traineeships regarding their skills, abilities, attitudes and capabilities. These competences are: the capability to relate theory and practice, the mastery of social skills to create an appropriate classroom atmosphere or the ability to collaborate with the school community and environment, amongst others. All students in the 4th year of the Early Childhood Education Degree at the University of Córdoba (N = 92) participated in the study. The students answered a questionnaire composed of n 10 items, with a Likert scale of five points, before and after their traineeships (pre-test – post-test). An internal consistency analysis was conducted using Cronbrach's Alpha; resulting high (α = .86). The results showed an increase in all competences studied, which was also statistically significant in eight of them (p < .05).
The main conclusions were:
(1) the usefulness of the students' traineeships in schools to achieve better personal and professional competences;
(2) the need to enhance the role of trainees concerning suggestions for improvement of the educational centres;
(3) the expedience to promote among the students of Early Childhood Education an adequate competence in the processes of interaction and communication in the prior segment (children 0-3 years).