Early Childhood Teacher Education: Historical Themes and Contemporary Issues

Oct. 01, 2010

Source: Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 31(4):391–405, 2010.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the author situates contemporary issues in early childhood teacher education within the historical context of the kindergarten movement in the U.S.
The author frames the discussion around two central questions that recur in contemporary pre-K expansion discourses:
(a) What constitutes a qualified teacher? (i.e., considerations pertaining to legitimization via degree program),
and (b) What is high-quality early childhood teaching? (i.e., considerations of the relationship between evaluating teaching and the changing nature of “best practices”).

Heightened awareness of historical themes in early childhood teacher education can inform early childhood teacher educators as they address contemporary issues in pre-K teacher preparation.

What Can We Learn From Kindergarten History?

The article focused in two historical themes in early childhood teacher education.
One historical theme regarding legitimization via degree program. This theme brought to light a tension between achieving status and maintaining a unique identity.
The tension raised the problem of articulating the relationship between kindergarten and the primary grades: Should early childhood teacher educators join mainstream schooling and prepare early childhood teachers to work successfully within existing schools (with their emphasis on academics and a priori evaluation) or transform them (with developmental discourses of early childhood)?

A second theme, evolving discourses of “best practices,” illuminated a tension between representations of teaching as technical practice or as contextual decision-making.
This theme raised the question: If good teaching is situated and value-laden, how do we recognize “high-quality teaching?”

An exploration of historical themes and related contemporary issues in early childhood teacher education can inform contemporary teacher educators so that they can help teachers negotiate the multiple, often contradictory discourses of schooling they encounter as they intersect early childhood and larger educational discourses.

The author concludes that teacher educators could facilitate this ideological dilemmas between maintaining a unique identity and achieving a legitimate status by moving to more explicitly and thoughtfully focusing on negotiating the tensions of contradictory discourses.
Furthermore, the author argues that a clearer articulation of what the aims of early childhood education are at this moment in history will help teacher educators envision what it means to be a good early childhood teacher.

Updated: May. 09, 2012