Early Care and Education Matters: A Conceptual Model for Early Childhood Teacher Preparation Integrating the Key Constructs of Knowledge, Reflection, and Practice

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Feb. 10, 2013

Source: Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, Volume 34, Issue 1, p. 46–62, 2013
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this article is to describe promising practices from a Child and Family Development (CFD) Program within the College of Education at a large, urban university.
The authors' goal in this paper is to detail their attempts to build a core curriculum and program of study that supports the development of knowledgeable, skilled, and passionate early childhood educators.

Method
The authors used qualitative data from student reflections and course syllabi and quantitative data on the experiences and perceptions of graduating students.
They propose a conceptual model that is built around three key constructs: knowledge, reflection, and practice and describe their approach to preparing early childhood educators.

Discussion

The department’s emphasis on intervention and prevention prepares students with hands-on experiences through community-based learning.
This program reflects the model that is built around three key constructs: knowledge, reflection, and practice.

First, the faculty’s expertise reflects this nested model, as they have expertise in the areas of social-emotional development, family dynamics, administration and public policy, early childhood teacher education, cultural and linguistic diversity, prevention and intervention, violence prevention, and school bullying.
To ensure a focus on student performance, the CFD faculty have:
(a) aligned students’ coursework and field experiences with standards,
(b) designed key assessments that measure students’ performance,
(c) collected and aggregated data on key assessments, and
(d) analyzed the data on student performance to improve program instruction.
The CFD Department has improved its system for evaluating student performance in the last year by including teacher performance evaluations.
The summative evaluations measure students’ effectiveness in guiding children’s learning but also provide their students with support for it at the same time.


Second, as part of their program of study, students majoring in Child and Family Development are required to have internships.
Furthermore, the authors partner with various organizations, including schools, to include in their courses placements such as at a school district program for expectant and parenting teens and a health center that provides screening, assessment and follow-up services to young children.
Students may also work with teachers, counselors, and families on violence-prevention programs addressing bullying, anger management and social problem-solving skills, and the influence of domestic violence on children.
With students placed in a variety of community settings, they have helped facilitate system-change as training and protocol procedures are discussed among staff from different agencies.
The internships provide them with practical field experience and allow them to apply theoretical knowledge in real-world settings.
Students expressed a high degree of satisfaction with this program, and the satisfaction level increased from one year to the next.
Exit data from seniors graduating in 2011 and 2012 indicate that they were highly satisfied with their field experiences.

Third, the students use reflection as a means to acknowledge their own positionality and their own process of socialization so that they can discern how this impacts the children and families that they work with or will be working with in the future.

Conclusion

The authors conclude that the course assignments, assessments and field experiences are designed to support national standards for preparing early childhood professionals and the curriculum provides students with knowledge of best practices to work with young children and families in the community
They believe that this model provides the foundation for quality teaching and learning in both university and ECE classrooms.

The CFD program has worked towards creating a stronger, more coherent model for early childhood teacher education.
In this model, field experiences are closely integrated with coursework, faculty pedagogies link theory and practice, and faculty and field experience supervisors build close mentoring relationships with preservice teachers to model good teaching.
A rigorous program of study combined with high levels of support, such as that offered in the CFD program, will help to strengthen the effectiveness of ECE teacher graduates, and as such the ECE profession as a whole.

Updated: Jul. 05, 2015
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