Third in a series about Early Childhood Education
How do we make this all work? What makes for successful Early Childhood Education programs? There are numerous approaches to these questions.
For me, the answer to these seemingly complicated questions is the same answer for successful educational programs from K-12. Parents who are shopping or educators who are planning and evaluating should consider the following general three components which provide the basic foundation that makes for successful education programs. They are: Staff, Curriculum, and Environment.
Teachers and administrators are the core staff members who make or break a successful preschool. The obvious mandatory characteristics of a good employee are dependability, punctuality, intelligence, organization, proper appearance, etc. But educators must have much more than the average employee. Preschool staffs must be well trained, well educated, and well informed about legal requirements and guidelines. With the increase in rigor and expectations, staff members from the director to the classroom to the nursery, must have the knowledge and expertise to meet the academic and social criteria demanded by the new approaches to Early Childhood Education. In addition to these cognitive skills, staff members should have the added dimensions of kind and nurturing personalities.
... in state-funded pre-K programs serving 4-year olds, requiring teachers to have a college education or degrees in ECE and mandating small class sizes and child-to-teacher ratios may not be sufficient to ensure that children are learning in classrooms. Rather, these results confirm that for young children, learning occurs via interactions, and high-quality emotional and instructional interactions are the mechanisms through which pre-K programs transmit academic, language, and social competencies to children… 1
Preschools that have staffs with academic backgrounds coupled with kind and nurturing personalities are on solid footing for assured success.
With an excellent staff in place, designing or selecting and then implementing an effective curriculum is the next component of a successful Early Childhood Education program. Preschool is the first exposure to formalized education that students receive; it is the cornerstone of the scaffolding of vertical alignment. Effective and successful Early Childhood Education programs align the Preschool curriculum with the new Kindergarten standards in a manner that engages the student cognitively and socially and implements valid and reliable assessments to evaluate students’ progress.
The Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) project in England and Wales offers strong evidence that a well-planned curriculum and pedagogy with specific learning goals, delivered by responsive educators, improves children’s intellectual and social/behavioural development. Children made more progress in centres where cognitive and social goals were complementary and viewed as equally important. In centres rated as excellent, educators and children engaged in more sustained shared thinking. Educators intentionally extended children’s thinking by working together to solve a problem, clarify a concept, expand a narrative or explore a question.2
This study enforced the concept that curriculum should be implemented in an environment that allows the children freedom and space to create and communicate as they learn.
The physical appearance and sensual atmosphere of an Early Childhood Education center is extremely important in creating an environment where students feel safe and happy. There are many wonderful websites that discuss the physical set up of successful Preschools and much research has been done to support the location of tables and chairs and activity centers, colors and smells, pillows and cots, etc. But for me, when it comes to classrooms for any age, success starts with a smile - because ..
Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you've got
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot
Wouldn’t you like to get away
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came.
Success begins in the Early Childhood Education centers and K-12 classrooms where they know their students’ names - and they are always glad they came ... Cheers!
This is the third entry by Phyllis Magold in a series of perspectives on Early Childhood Education. You may also be interested in Bottoms Up! and Here's Looking at You, Kids, her previous entries in this series.
Additional Resources & Works Cited
1. Mashburn, AJ, et al.. "Measures of Classroom Quality in Pre-Kindergarten and Children's Development of Academic, Language and Social Skills." Childhood Development. 79.3 (2008): 732-749.
2. Sylva, Kathy. Early Childhood Matters: Evidence from the Effective Pre-school and Primary Education Project. 2010.