As a professor of early childhood education for Ivy Tech Community College, I am keenly interested in ensuring that early educators obtain quality training when working with children ages birth to five. I am in the field on a daily basis visiting early education programs in communities throughout Indiana, which has allowed me to see that the quality of a program depends on the quality of its educators. Quality provided to children and their families is directly linked to the educational training educators have and continue to receive.
Training should be based on developmentally appropriate practices and standards of quality care all CDA® holders and educators can follow. One example of these standards are those provided in the Council for Professional Recognition’s Eight CDA Subject Areas:
1. Planning a safe, healthy learning environment
2. Advancing children’s physical and intellectual competence
3. Supporting social and emotional development and positive guidance
4. Building productive relationships with families
5. Managing an effective program
6. Maintaining a commitment to professionalism
7. Observing and recording children’s behavior
8. Understanding principles of child development and learning
Quality early childhood educational training is available in a variety of formats:
It is important for early educators, who are also students to have rich, educational experiences, based on a variety of texts, media, and current research. I also think it’s essential to have at least some of their education take place in a face-to-face classes, with other students. The interaction, sharing of ideas, direct contact with the instructor, and networking that is possible in this context is extremely valuable.
If students choose to take online courses, it is important that the coursework is in-depth, research-based, and closely monitored by an instructor. Assessments are best if they are not all multiple choice and not all self-graded. The instructor should have frequent opportunities to see the students’ work submitted in their own words, that reflects their understanding of the topics being covered. This makes it possible for more individualized support, feedback, and meaningful remediation, if necessary.
Another important aspect of a quality online course would be opportunities for frequent communication and interaction with the instructor. This could be by email, text messaging, phone, or a message board.
Bonus tip – My personal favorite is the opportunity for live, online voice chat sessions at least once a week with the students in the class. This creates more of a learning community for all and gives students a chance to share ideas, brainstorm, and discuss course topics in more detail with the instructor.
It isn’t possible for an instructor to convey all of the nuances of appropriate practices through lecture notes and other online documents. Discussions and conversations about specific situations and experiences usually provide a richer understanding. Make sure you classes engage in two-way communications.
Ilike to think that it is not only the instructor that has information to share, but also every student in the class. Each brings with him or her a variety of experiences with young children, families, and early childhood programs. It is important to respect and validate these as something worth sharing and from which to learn. I will be the first to say I learn something valuable from every course I teach. Quality training for early childhood educators is critical if we are to move toward our goal of making a difference for young children and families, and moving our profession forward at the same time. By encouraging our early educators to seek and acquire quality training, we can help to make sure we are living up to the standards and expectations the field needs to further professionalize the careers of professionals working with young children.