Raising the Educational Requirements for Teachers in Infant Toddler Classrooms: Implications for Institutions of Higher Education

Apr. 15, 2010

Source: Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, Volume 31, Issue 2
(April 2010), pages 146 – 158.

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Repeated calls have recently arisen for increasing the educational level of early childhood teachers in all early care and education settings including classrooms for infants and toddlers. Since the majority of teachers in early child settings do not have a college degree, higher educational expectations could place a strain on early childhood teacher preparation programs.

Implications of increasing educational expectations of teachers for the higher education institutions that prepare early childhood educators are presented.
The purpose of this article is to examine potential challenges to the institutions of
higher education that offer early childhood teacher education programs as the enrollment of early childhood students increases.

Challenges for Institutions of Higher Education

The first major challenge for institutions of higher education is the availability of early childhood programs at colleges and universities that focus on the youngest age group. Only 29% of the institutions of higher education in the United States offer an early childhood teacher preparation program that focuses on children 4 years and younger (Early & Winton, 2001).

Challenges for Potential Students
Once the appropriate infant toddler–focused teacher education programs are in place, institutions of higher education will face a second major set of challenges in addressing the needs of incoming students. Potential students interested in college degrees focused on the youngest children will likely be nontraditional students who are typically in the workplace already and juggling family demands at the same time as enrolling in college courses (Ackerman, 2004a, 2005; Early & Winton, 2001).

Once enrolled in school, employed students have found that a variety of course delivery systems including off-campus or work-site settings facilitated their success in school. Early childhood students at community colleges were more likely to complete their certificates or associate degrees when they took courses in a variety of formats including online classes (Gosney & Norris, 2006).

Therefore, the online educational environment is explored as a possible solution to meeting some of the challenges.


The challenges raised in this article will require a systems approach to providing solutions. Recommendations are offered for policy makers, institutions of higher education, teacher education programs, and faculty. Examples for some of the recommendations are presented.

Policy makers should
• Support early childhood teacher education programs with permanent funding increases to hire additional faculty and support positions (Early & Winton, 2001; Maxwell et al., 2006).

• Continue to expand support for scholarships for early childhood classroom teachers interested in pursuing college degrees (Ackerman 2004a; Lobman & Ryan).

Teacher Education Programs should
• Develop new bachelor’s degree programs with a strong emphasis on educating teachers to work effectively with infants and toddlers.

• Identify, recruit, and prepare early childhood professionals to become full-time faculty members in order to decrease reliance on adjunct faculty (Lobman & Ryan, 2008; Maxwell et al.).
Ackerman, D. J. (2004a). States’ efforts in improving the qualifications of early care and education teachers. Educational Policy, 18, 311–337. 

Ackerman, D. J. (2005). Getting teachers from here to there: Examining issues related to an early care and education teacher policy. Early Childhood Research & Practice, 7(1). http:ecrp.uiuc.edu/v7n1/ackerman.html.  

Early, D. M., & Winton, P. J. (2001). Preparing the workforce: Early childhood teacher preparation at 2- and 4-year institutions of higher education. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 16, 285–306.

Gosney, S., & Norris, D. J. (2006). Scholars for Excellence in Child Care program evaluation progress report. Stillwater, OK: Oklahoma State University.

Lobman, C., & Ryan, S. (2008). Creating an effective system of teacher preparation and professional development: Conversations with stakeholders. Educational Policy, 22, 515–540.

Maxwell, K. L., Lim, C.-I, & Early, D. M. (2006). Early childhood teacher preparation programs in the United States: National report. Chapel Hill, NC: the University of North Carolina, FPG Child Development Institute.

Updated: Aug. 31, 2010