Early childhood education: a reflection

Dr. Linda S.D. Croglia provides a brief reflection on early childhood education and the importance of enhancing teaching and learning

Effective early childhood programs are developmentally appropriate and meet the diverse needs of the whole child. Learning experiences provide each child with opportunities to achieve their potential in all areas of growth. Achieving success is the result of extensive curriculum planning, training, and successful implementation of best practices.

Understanding and embracing the goals of each early childhood program, with teachers and administrators participating in professional development, ensures that program goals can be carried out effectively. Parents should have opportunities to be integral parts of their child’s educational experience.

Many experts in early childhood disagree with programs that have a greater emphasis on academics. Child-centered early childhood classroom programs provide constructivist, experiential, and play based learning to meet the developmental and academic needs of children.

Learning center activities are inherently based on the developmental and academic skills that are part of the required curriculum in each classroom. Using a center-based model doesn’t change what children should learn. The difference lies in how they will learn it.

Parents should have opportunities to be integral parts of their child’s educational experience 

A center-based program provides great opportunities for constructivist, experiential learning with numerous occasions for children to learn through play. Importantly, this program is a moderate transition to a teacher directed program, including well-planned activities and opportunities for rich independent learning. A balance of teacher selected and child-selected activities in learning centers, all related to curriculum goals and objectives, is important.

Assessment that is developmentally appropriate and authentic is a critical component of the early childhood program. In a center-based classroom, effective assessment should inform planning and instruction, including the development of appropriate learning center activities aligned with curriculum content and developmental skills. 

As teachers move to implement differences in program delivery (child-centered), classroom organization and management (learning centers) and assessment, it’s important to have systems in place to promote collaboration and sharing. 

The next step is effective teacher evaluation – what elements must be present in effective early childhood teaching and providing effective instruction. Factors impacting teacher performance include evaluations done by administrators, mentor programs, peer coaching, self-assessment, professional development, and collaboration. 

Assessment that is developmentally appropriate and authentic is a critical component of the early childhood program 

The development of teachers as leaders is key to elevating teacher performance. Administrators provide leadership and guidance, but it is essential for teachers too to act as leaders. Shared responsibility for program and teaching excellence yields great improvements in teaching and thus in children’s learning.

Whatever we do in our early childhood classrooms, we must make all of our decisions based upon what is best for children. How can we best provide a learning environment where each child can thrive, learn, explore and develop to his or her fullest capabilities?  When we get that right, we know we are serving young children well.

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