Early Steps Towards a Sustainable Future: The Role of Qualified Early Childhood Educators

Educators play a pivotal role in integrating Education for Sustainability (EfS) practices into preschool education, facilitating the acquisition of EfS-related knowledge and skills by children, families, and society. The success of EfS depends on the competence and motivation of educators. However, early childhood educators often encounter challenges in comprehending and implementing EfS within educational practices.

In recent years, numerous studies have been conducted on EfS, with particular attention paid to the professional development needs of early childhood educators. Despite these efforts, the valuable insights gleaned from research have not always translated into improved competence among educators. A gap persists between research findings and educators’ practices of EfS. Even in countries with sustainability-focused education policies, educators may lack a sufficient grasp of EfS content.

Therefore, it is imperative for educators to engage in professional development programs aimed at effectively integrating sustainability into early childhood education. The success of EfS heavily relies on the competence and motivation of educators. Moreover, other actors in the early childhood education system should be knowledgeable and contribute to EfS.

This keynote will provide an overview of the current state of research on the professional development needs of early childhood educators in EfS implementation. Key research areas, recent findings, and emerging trends will be summarized. Additionally, current gaps between research and practice will be identified, and the challenges faced by educators will be discussed. Inspiring examples of teacher professional development programs will be showcased, and recommendations will be offered to empower and inspire educators in EfS implementation.

Dr. Tülin Güler Yıldız is a Professor of Early Childhood Education at Hacettepe University, where she also earned her doctoral degree in Child Development and Education. As a visiting scholar at prestigious institutions including the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, New York University, and the University of California-Berkeley, she conducted research on environmental education, the evaluation of self-regulation, and parental self-efficacy. She currently serves as the director of the Early Childhood Policy Research Center at Hacettepe University and contributes to shaping policies and practices in early childhood education in Turkiye.

Prof. Güler Yıldız served as the Vice-President of the World Organization for Early Childhood Education (OMEP) Turkish National Committee from 2002 to 2016, where she actively contributed to the field through international projects and research initiatives focused on Education for Sustainability (EfS). She played a key role in significant projects, such as the development of the OMEP Classroom Environment Rating Scale for Education for Sustainable Development (OCERS-ESD), a collaborative effort involving 16 countries, including Turkiye, from 2013 to 2016. One of her recent notable endeavors was leading a research project under the bilateral cooperation program between Turkiye and South Korea, aimed at raising awareness among preschool teachers about EfS and integrating EfS practices into educational programs.

Prof. Güler Yıldız’s scholarly contributions extend beyond research; she has authored numerous articles and presented at conferences on topics such as early childhood education and EfS. Her dedication to advancing knowledge in her field is further evidenced by her role in writing and editing various books, in addition to translating seminal works into Turkish. These include “Teaching and Learning in a Diverse World: Multicultural Education for Young Children” and “Tools of the Mind: The Vygotskyan Approach to Early Childhood Education”.

Prof.Dr. TÜLİN GÜLER YILDIZ | AVESİS (hacettepe.edu.tr)

Dr. Güler Yıldız (Instagram)

Selected Publications

  1. Güler Yıldız, T., Öztürk, N. İlhan İyi, T. Aşkar, N. Banko Bal, Ç. Karabekmez, S. & Höl, Ş. (2021) Education for sustainability in early childhood education: a systematic review, Environmental Education Research, 27(6), 796-820. https://doi.org/10.1080/13504622.2021.1896680
  2. Elmas, R., Öztürk, N., Kahriman Pamuk, , Ünal Çubukçuoğlu, B., Pamuk, S., Koşan, Y., Güler Yıldız, T. & Haktanır, G. (In Press). A collaboration project on education for sustainability: A qualitative evaluation of professional development program for Turkish preschool teachers. International Journal of Contemporary Educational Research.
  3. Pamuk, S., Öztürk, N., Kahriman Pamuk, D., Elmas, R., Güler Yıldız, T. Haktanır, G. (2021). A Collaboration Project on Education for Sustainability: Professional Development Needs of Turkish Preschool Teachers. Journal of Theoretical Educational Science, 14(4), 586-604. https://doi.org/10.30831/akukeg.892384
  4. Banko-Bal, C., Guler-Yildiz, T. (2021). An investigation of early childhood education teachers’ attitudes, behaviors, and views regarding the rights of the child. ICEP 15, 5 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40723-021-00083-9
  5. Yıldız, C. & Güler Yıldız, T. (2021). Exploring the relationship between creative thinking and scientific process skills of preschool children. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 39, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tsc.2021.100795
  6. Kahriman-Pamuk, D., Uzun, N.B., Güler Yıldız, T. & Haktanır, G. (2019). Reliability of Indicators Measuring Early Childhood Education for Sustainability: A Study in Turkey Using Generalizability Theory. IJEC 1, 193–206. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13158-019-00243-6