Developing culturally responsive early childhood practice through professional development: Insights and opportunities for sustainable impact  

Sarah Verdon, Charles Sturt University, Australia (

Background: In an increasingly globalised world there is need for professionals to engage in culturally responsive practice when providing services to children and families. 

Aim: This research explores the impact of early childhood professionals attending a multidisciplinary professional development workshop upon their perceptions of their cultural responsiveness.  

Method: There were 52 participants who completed pre-workshop questionnaires and post-workshop evaluations. Of these, two participated in in-depth follow-up interviews one year later to discuss the ongoing impact of the professional development workshop upon their practice.  

Results: The pre-workshop questionnaire indicated that the major challenges for working with CALD families were cultural and language barriers, and working with interpreters. After completing the workshop, participants reported gaining knowledge about engaging in holistic practice, their personal cultural competence and the culture of families they worked with. Interviews conducted one year later revealed the workshop had an ongoing impact upon practice in four key areas: (1) knowing the family, (2) organisational structures, (3) collaborative practice, and (4) the ongoing nature of cultural competence. 

Conclusions: This research highlights the complexities of teaching cultural responsiveness, problematic issues in its conceptualisation and the efficacy of professional development workshops in developing a critical consciousness among early childhood professionals to engage in culturally responsive practice with culturally and linguistically diverse families.

Implications for children: Children speak many different languages and come from lots of different cultures. Adults can help you to learn about cultures and feel comfortable in sharing your culture too.

Implications for families: It is important that your family’s languages and culture are shared with your children and supported in the spaces they participate in. Professional development can help professionals to interact in ways that are culturally safe and inclusive.  

Implications for practitioners: It is essential that early childhood professionals support the cultural and linguistic diversity of the children they work with. Engaging in professional development can support ongoing engagement in culturally responsive practice.

Key words: professionals’ voices, workforce issues, communication, education, health, vulnerable communities, cultural and linguistic diversity, culturally responsive practice.

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: