Early Childhood Teacher Preparation: Essential Aspects for the Achievement of Social Justice

Feb. 11, 2013

Source: Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, Vol. 34, No. 1, p. 63–72, 2013.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the author has identified five essential ideas that could serve as underpinnings to support the preparation of early childhood educators:
1. Inquiry and reflection into practice are critical for continued teacher learning and development;
2. Learning and development are cultural and constructivist processes;
3. The teacher’s image of the child should be as a strong and capable participant in the culture;
4. The education of young children is a community privilege and responsibility; and
5. The purpose of early care and education is to enhance and support each child’s daily life experience and learning in the here and now, as well as preparing each child for future success.

The author presents a conceptual framework for teacher education that incorporates these underlying ideas.
She describes the way in which it is interpreted in the early childhood teacher preparation program at Mills College by a core set of principles that underlie all teaching, fieldwork and assessment.

These principles are the following:
Teaching is a moral act founded on an ethic of care.
Teaching is an act of inquiry and reflection.
Learning is a constructivist/developmental process.
The acquisition of subject matter and content knowledge is essential.
Teaching is a collegial act and requires collaboration.
Teaching is essentially a political act.

These principles help teachers enact a social justice agenda through coursework, fieldwork, and other program-wide activities.
They also enable them to expand and enhance the role of the teacher, the family, the community in the lives of children, and make visible the agency of children living their lives.

Connections and Conclusions

Every class and every placement is considered and analyzed with regard to the six principles that underlie the program.
Collaboration is encouraged and expected in multiple settings.
In each course, the connection of theory and practice is made explicit.
Some courses have more emphasis on the theoretical aspect, but students are expected to collect data that exemplify the practical aspects of those theories.

Ultimately, students are expected to articulate personal theories about their work, based on both their practice and theoretical learning.
In considering the connections between theory and practice, students learn about theories of child development, family systems, and different perspectives on how people learn.

The author argues that working from this conceptual framework helps teachers to think about how to teach toward social justice as manifested by equitable opportunities and excellent outcomes for all children.
These teachers must be committed to providing quality education in early care and education settings as they are now but also to acting as change agents for the future.

Updated: Aug. 26, 2014