Teaching Early Childhood Education: Students Through Interactive Scenario-Based Course Design

Feb. 01, 2012

Source: Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, Vol. 33, Issue 1, p. 73–84, 2012.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article presents a brief overview of scenario-based instruction in Child, Family and Community online course.

Scenario-Based Instruction
One of the key elements of scenario-based instruction is the integration of authentic activities relative to the field of study.
In order for scenario-based online courses to be maximally effective, both the learners and instructors must overcome several sets of challenges.
When implemented at the course level, learners are immersed in one or more scenario-related roles throughout the course in which they address various dilemmas and issues related to the role.

Course Design
The development of the online course presented here was part of a larger project to integrate scenario-based instruction into teacher education courses in a department of early childhood education at a large midwestern university.
The designers of this course sought to promote higher order learning and encourage students to apply theory in addressing the types of issues faced by professionals in the early childhood education field.
The course is typically administered fully online through the university’s course management system (Blackboard).
In the course, students examine the dynamics of family life, family challenges, and family stresses, including their impact on child development.


The results show that student and faculty feedback, as well as student learning outcomes, have revealed that the scenario and case-based aspects of the course design have been useful and helpful in achieving the course goals.
Instructors reported that there was a noticeable difference between the students who participated in the scenario-based classes versus the students that participated in the traditional format of the course in terms of the depth and breadth of their work.

Students stated that they enjoyed the course design and found the navigation of the course to be intuitive and engaging.
The students that participated in the scenario-based courses delivered projects and papers that were more complex, broader in scope, and indicated a more solid foundation in the course learning objectives.
Students also reported high learning outcomes in their self-evaluations of their learning.
By making the course content and design more meaningful and relevant to the students, the course learning outcomes and goals were achieved in a creative, engaging, and powerful manner.

The authors also sought to make the course highly accessible to a wide range of students and instructors who had varying comfort levels with virtual environments.
A highly iterative approach was necessary for writing several of the scenarios to try to determine the optimal balance of scaffolding and ill-structured problems while simultaneously considering plausibility and authenticity.
These characteristics also helped facilitate decision-making related to whether the students would work independently or in groups, what the time frame should be for completing each module, how students’ work would be assessed, and what types of feedback the students would receive from the instructor and from each other.

Working through this type of systematic process can help other instructors plan and develop a scenario-based course that is engaging to the learners and effectively simulates the types of authentic contexts that are likely to engage the students in their respective professional practice.

Updated: Jul. 30, 2014