Source: Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 36(2), p. 100–123, 2015
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study aimed to examine the process through which three student caregivers learned to develop relationships with a key infant in the context of an infant practicum course.
A qualitative multicase study approach was employed, which took place in an infant room of a university-affiliated early care and education center in a large urban area in the U.S.
The center serves as a practicum site primarily for early childhood preservice master’s degree students. The Infant Development and Practice course was specifically designed to provide hands-on opportunities for students to integrate theory and practice.
The weekly seminar provides opportunities for students to connect theory and practice. During the seminar, student caregivers can share their observations, concerns, and experiences, and to read and discuss articles related to infant development, and working with families.
The participants were three caregiver–infant dyads. These dyads included three students caregivers and three infants, who were in the age range of 11 to 13 months.
Data were collected through videotaped observations and caregiver reflection notebooks.
The results revealed that the power and value of relationships were an essential context for learning about infant development, infant care and education, and preparation of infant professionals.
The integration of a theory-practice seminar, the support of exemplary head caregivers, and regular hands-on experience with infants for a full semester, enabled the participants to demonstrate meaningful changes in their ways of understanding, teaching, and learning from infants in child care.
As they developed reciprocal responsiveness with their key infants, the students shared that they experienced emotional rewards and intimate connections, and gained confidence in understanding and caring for infants.
The results also highlight the importance of parent–caregiver relationships. The authors found that the caregivers benefitted from having opportunities to get to know their key infants’ families. The participants noted that doing the home visit helped them gain new insight into family interaction styles, and better interpret the infants’ behavior in the classroom through the lens of how the child was accustomed to being cared for at home. This increased awareness helped the students to feel more comfortable with their key infants.
The authors conclude that the knowledge and skills that students gain from a relationship-focused infant practicum help early childhood professionals develop skills attributed to high-quality teachers.
These results underscore the need for well-constructed and supervised infant practica for students across disciplines who are preparing for work with infants.