Making the Case for the Professional Development of Early Childhood Trainers Zoe Brown Northcentral University
Zoe Brown, EDU5000, Assignment 11, 3/23/11 Making the Case 1 Abstract Professional development (PD) in early childhood recently has been a hot topic for several reasons. Teachers trained in specialized early childhood education have been linked to the achievement of child outcomes, and quality of care. Accountability and standards based education have become a norm. The field is constantly evolving with new research, best practices, and exemplary programming. Practitioners in the field need to stay abreast of everything that is going on, but what about practitioners who serve as trainers, instructors, facilitators or instructional designers? What considerations are being made to make sure that they stay abreast of both sides of the coin – early childhood and adult development? This paper examines the preparation and PD of early childhood trainers. It also suggests recommendations to support advancement of their competencies as trainers.
Zoe Brown, EDU5000, Assignment 11, 3/23/11 Making the Case 2 Over the past decade, there has been a tremendous effort focused on the professional development (PD) of practitioners in the field of early childhood. Because of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, PD took center stage as accountability for achieving child outcomes and improving teacher qualifications increased (United States Department of Education, 2001). Crowds of practitioners flocked to national conferences offered by renowned professional organizations like the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) every year. States formulated policies to integrate cross sector PD systems and key elements of PD like funding, core knowledge, qualifications, credentials and pathways, access and outreach, and quality assurance (National Child Care Information and Technical Assistance Center, 2010). The federally funded preschool program, Head Start, mandated teacher degree requirements. Two and four year institutions faced rigorous accreditation standards to enhance their role in the preparation of competent practitioners. Relationship-based PD – mentoring, coaching, consultation and technical assistance – moved into the spotlight as a viable and effective PD intervention strategy. These efforts are commendable, despite the concerns about fragmentation of PD systems, an ambiguous definition of PD, lack of empirical research, and the ongoing debate about compensation for higher qualified teachers. PD in early childhood is huge and the early childhood community should be applauded for its desire and passion to advance the field and its practitioners. What’s missing from this picture is a stronger discourse about the preparation and PD of early childhood educators, or those who function in the role of trainers,
Zoe Brown, EDU5000, Assignment 11, 3/23/11 Making the Case 3 facilitators, and/or instructional designers. While there is little to no research examining the relationship between early childhood trainer’s preparation and effectiveness in the design and delivery of PD experiences offered by this group, there are fragmented efforts to address their competencies at national, state and local levels of early childhood PD systems. The conversation about the preparation and PD of early childhood trainers must begin with a look at the lack of a common definition of PD. A review of early childhood research by Maxwell, Field, and Clifford (2006), points out that no common definition of PD exists. The National Professional Development Center on Inclusion (NPDCI) agrees with this sentiment, and adds that a shared understanding of PD is needed across the “medley of different professional development providers” who offer a range of professional development opportunities and who vary “…widely with respect to philosophy, content, and format of learning experience” (2008, p. 2). NPDCI proposes a definition that breaks down who, what, and how of PD. Maxwell et al., on the other hand, identifies and defines three components of PD: education, training and credential. Training, which is the focus of this paper, is “…defined as the professional development experiences that take place outside the formal education system” (p. 29). Of the three components of PD, Maxwell et al. found training to be the most problematic for several reasons. It is used to describe all types of professional development from college education in early childhood, PD inside and outside of formal education systems, and more informal in-service activities. There is also a lack of research about the effects of training content, quality, and quantity.
Zoe Brown, EDU5000, Assignment 11, 3/23/11 Making the Case 4 The problematic nature of training is compounded by its wide usage throughout the early childhood community. Because of this, questions emerge about the professionals who design and deliver this training. How were they placed in their role? What preparation did they receive in order to perform in their role? What efforts have been taken to develop their competencies, and keep them abreast of changes in the fields of early childhood and adult development? The first two questions require further investigation because there is no research available to answer these questions. The writer suspects that many early childhood trainers stumbled upon their career path or were forced into their roles due to necessity within their organizations. In regards to preparation, data from a 2006 survey administered by Maxwell, Lim, and Early indicate “about 40% of Bachelor’s and Master’s degree also did not require coursework focused on adult learning and development” (p. 13). The irony is that these are the practitioners who more than likely serve as PD leaders (Winton & McCollum, 2008). The latter question can be partly answered by considering PD efforts for trainers that currently exist. There are several efforts that can be considered PD because they are intended to contribute to the development of early childhood trainer competencies. State professional development systems that (a) define trainer competencies and designations, (b) offer training/trainer approval systems mandating trainers and their trainings to meet certain requirements, (c) provide guidance documents on training design and delivery; preschool curricula training of trainer certification; and a national professional development institute offered by NAEYC are the efforts focused on in this examination.
Zoe Brown, EDU5000, Assignment 11, 3/23/11 Making the Case 5 State PD networks have been dutifully writing core knowledge and competencies for early childhood practitioners, specifically the adults who work directly with children for a number of years. The National Child Care Information and Technical Assistance Center (NCCIC, 2010) tracks state professional development systems including which states have defined core competencies. What they found was that several states – Georgia, Arkansas, Florida, New York, and Ohio – went beyond the practitioner core knowledge, but created core knowledge and competencies for early childhood trainers and/or guidance documents to (a) encourage individual professional growth, (b) drive PD efforts for trainers, and (c) aid them in the design and development of training. In addition to early childhood trainer competencies, 29 states have training and trainer approval systems that promote standards based training linked to core knowledge, career lattices, and adult learning principles (NCCIC, 2010). Having trainers meet certain requirements and possess certain qualifications adds a layer of accountability and responsibility on the part of early childhood trainers to be better prepared for their roles. Preschool curricula trainer certifications and guidance documents are another effort to boost the competencies of trainers. The preschool curriculum HighScope certifies trainers through a training of trainers program. These individuals have to complete several professional development activities including: (a) a curriculum course, (b) 35 days of study, (c) mentoring, training and practicing using the curriculum, (d) observing and providing feedback to teachers, and (e) maintaining a journal of their experiences (HighScope, 2011). There is also a recertification
Zoe Brown, EDU5000, Assignment 11, 3/23/11 Making the Case 6 process that they have to undergo every three years. The Creative Curriculum, another popular curriculum, addresses the professional development of professionals who coach and mentor teachers by offering them The Coach’s Guide to the Creative Curriculum for Preschool: A Step by Step Resource for Individualizing Professional Development (Teaching Strategies, 2011). They consider the guide a training of sorts that will help coaches provide “direction, encouragement, and guidance as they learn to implement the Creative Curriculum” (p.3). Lastly, it is important to note another PD effort. NAEYC has conducted the National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development for a number of years. It is brings together a variety of practitioners who provide PD and preparation of practitioners in the field to focus on issues relevant for the early childhood workforce. “The goal of the institute is to deepen participants’ understanding of the expanding early childhood knowledge base, develop skills that improve professional preparation and practice, and sharpen their ability to use effective, active learning approaches for adults” (NAEYC, 2011, p. 2). The initial effort that the early childhood community has made toward the preparation and professional development of early childhood trainers is, again, commendable; however, it needs to advance a level. There is a need for more research not just about the effect of PD on practitioners, but the effect of PD on early childhood trainers. Early childhood trainers would benefit from a standard certification that balances early childhood content knowledge with adult learning principles and sound training design and delivery practices. Formal preparation of
Zoe Brown, EDU5000, Assignment 11, 3/23/11 Making the Case 7 early childhood practitioners, particularly in bachelor and master degree programs should include courses on adult learners. Early childhood trainers must become motivated to take responsibility for developing their competencies by developing individual PD plans, and seeking resources perhaps outside the field that contribute to developing trainer competencies.
Zoe Brown, EDU5000, Assignment 11, 3/23/11 Making the Case 8 ReferencesHighScope. (2011). Trainer certification requirements. Retrieved from http://www.highscope.org/Content.asp?ContentId=36Maxwell, K.L., Field, C.C., & Clifford, R.M. (2005). Defining and measuring professional development in early childhood research. In M. Zaslow & I. Martinez-Beck (Eds.), Critical issues in early childhood professional development (pp. 21-44). Baltimore, MD: Brookes.Maxwell, K.L., Lim, C-I., & Early, D.M. (2006). Early childhood teacher preparation programs in the United States: National report. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina, FPG Child Development Institute. Retrieved from http://nakaliconsulting.net/Documents/national_report%20ECE%20teacher%20pr ep.pdfNational Association for the Education of Young Children. (2011). National institute for early childhood professional development. Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/institute/National Child Care Information and Technical Assistance Center. (2010). Elements of a professional development system for early care and education: A simplified framework and definitions. Retrieved from http://nccic.acf.hhs.gov/pubs/goodstart/pd_section2b.html
Zoe Brown, EDU5000, Assignment 11, 3/23/11 Making the Case 9National Child Care Information and Technical Assistance Center. (2010). Professional development system trainer and/or training approval systems. Retrieved from http://nccic.acf.hhs.gov/pubs/goodstart/pd_section2b.htmlNational Child Care Information and Technical Assistance Center. (2010). State core knowledge and/or competencies. Retrieved from http://nccic.acf.hhs.gov/pubs/goodstart/corekc.htmlNational Professional Development Center on Inclusion. (2008). What do we mean by professional development in the early childhood field? Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina, FPG Child Development Institute. Retrieved from http://community.fpg.unc.edu/resources/articles/files/NPDCI- ProfessionalDevelopment-03-04-08.pdfTeaching Strategies. (2011). The coach’s guide to the creative curriculum for preschool. Retrieved from http://www.teachingstrategies.com/page/coachsguide.cfmUnited States Department of Education. (2001). No child left behind act of 2001. (Public Law 101-107). Retrieved from http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/esea02/index.htmlWinton, P.J., & McCollum, J.A., (2008). Preparing and supporting high quality early childhood practitioners: Issues and evidence. In P.J. Winton, J.A. McCollum, & C. Catlett (Eds.), Practical approaches to early childhood professional development: Evidence, strategies, and resources (pp. 1-12). Washington, DC: Zero to Three.