- To understand how to provide instructional leadership to program staff as they implement curriculum, assessment, and instruction.
- To understand how to use reflective supervision, staff observation, and lesson plan review to support the program’s curriculum.
- To understand the importance of being a lifelong learner and staying current in the field.
What is Curriculum? What is Assessment?
"The curriculum consists of the knowledge, skills, abilities and understandings children are to acquire and the plans for the learning experiences through which those gains will occur." - Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth Through Age 8 (2009, p. 20)
Assessment includes the tools and strategies staff members use to understand if children are developing, achieving the abilities appropriate for their age, and learning new skills. In early care programs, assessment tools and strategies help staff document children's individual progress, to ensure each child is progressing toward his/her goals. Assessment also informs the curriculum, as activity plans and learning experiences are tailored to the current development and goals for each child. You can learn more about curriculum and assessment best practices by reviewing the joint position statement Where We Stand from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education (NAECS/SDE) attached at the end of the Learn section.
Children and youth attending care and education programs should have a variety of experiences that are intellectually stimulating, engaging, and fun. High-quality programs rely on a written, evidence-based, developmentally appropriate curriculum as the foundation for teacher and youth leaders to use to plan daily routines and activities. Curriculum should be appropriate for the age of the children for which the caregivers, teachers, or youth leaders are caring. Part of a T&Cs duty is to understand appropriate experiences and developmental goals for the children served in their program. And to convey and use that knowledge in their work with program staff. Your program may have chosen a particular assessment, curriculum and format for documenting children's growth and development, so look to your own program's or Service's procedures and standards around curriculum and assessment as you work with program staff.
Curriculum planning for infants, toddlers and preschoolers is often tied to teachers' observations of children (i.e., a form of assessment), which guides the development of activity plans and learning experiences that help children work toward their individual goals, and is based on their observed interests. The basis for curriculum in school-age and youth programs, however, often looks different. Ensure activities and experiences are designed and developed based on current research and curriculum; for example, activities should be conducted in the following areas: character and leadership development; education and career development; health and life skills; the arts; sports, fitness & recreation; and technology. Children and youth may directly suggest activities or projects they are interested in, and/or activities may be centered around a larger project where there is a defined goal for the group (e.g., creating a community garden, putting on a play, making a model of the human heart).
Staff will bring their own personalities, talents, and interests to their work with children and youth to enrich the curriculum. Families may be invited to share information, knowledge, and skills with the children or youth in their child's classroom. The curriculum should build on the interests of the particular children and youth in the setting. Adaptations and modifications to the chosen curriculum can be undertaken with the help of special-education support staff (e.g., early interventionist or inclusion facilitator) or by following Service specific guidelines and polices related to inclusion and working with children with special needs. The T&Cs and program manager are leaders in ensuring that staff members implement the curriculum and any assessments with fidelity. The T&C demonstrates her or his role as a leader in the area of child and youth assessment, curriculum, and instruction.
The T&Cs demonstrates instructional leadership through:
- Classroom observations (examine environmental components such as schedules, materials, routines)
- Teacher observations (using the reflective supervision cycle: pre-observation meeting, classroom observation, and post-observation meeting)
- Participation in teacher planning meetings and other team meetings
- Engagement in problem-solving meetings
- Modeling relationship-focused adult-child interactions
- Actively coaching staff when they are implementing new strategies or procedures
- Participation in professional development activities with staff
- Individualizing observation feedback based on the staff member's needs
- Enhancing staff members' knowledge and skills through on-the-job professional development
- Providing staff members with resources and information to ensure that the curriculum is appropriate considering culture, language, and ability for all children and youth
The Virtual Laboratory School is designed to help new T&Cs develop competency in these kinds of practices. T&Cs can also continue to strengthen their abilities by partnering with colleagues or seeking mentors, and developing professional relationships where they can ask for feedback and share helpful strategies and resources.
The program manager assists T&Cs by providing leadership with regard to curriculum, assessment, and instruction. The program manager secures the necessary resources (e.g., classroom and playground supplies, materials, equipment) and makes sure those resources are in excellent condition and are age-appropriate for the children and youth in the setting.
The program manager understands that together with the T&Cs, he or she makes intentional decisions to foster a warm, caring community among staff members. A strong sense of community encourages collaboration as program staff work as a team to implement the curriculum. The T&Cs and program manager share relevant information about staff members and also work collaboratively to ensure that staff provide high-quality education and care for all children and youth enrolled in the program.
Observations and Lesson Plan Reviews
T&Cs and program managers demonstrate leadership through planned participative observations in classrooms and continuous review of lesson plans. T&Cs can coach teachers through meaningful environmental and instructional changes with children and youth. A format for classroom and teacher observations may be predetermined for you by your program setting or Service. Ideally teachers or other staff who are being observed should be included in a pre-observation meeting or conference with T&Cs to discuss what will be observed and how the observation will be documented (e.g., video, audio, written notes). The observation should include the teacher's own reflections on practice. T&Cs can carefully construct questions to elicit information regarding the teacher's understanding of the curriculum. When T&Cs and program managers collaborate with the teacher around observation and planning, they acknowledge that this is a collaborative process where the teacher is an active participant in his or her own professional growth. Individual supervision (including observational data and collaborative feedback) can be a powerful way to ensure that teachers increase their knowledge and skills around their practices with children and youth.
The environment is a critical part of instruction (so critical that often the environment is called the third teacher). The environment includes not just furniture, materials, and equipment but also teacher-child interactions. There are a number of environment rating scales used in early care and education and youth programs. There have also been extensive studies conducted on teacher-child interactions and the impact adult-child interactions have on children's outcomes. A number of studies found the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) to be a valid measure of teacher-child interaction quality. These environmental assessments are often required for child-care centers, Head Start, and pre-K programs to complete as part of state quality rating and improvement systems evaluations. T&Cs and program managers should become very familiar with the observational tools their setting has selected. Training is critical in order to be a keen observer of teachers and children.
Written lesson plans are another way to engage teachers in discussing their practice. Again, the setting you work in may have a particular format for written plans. T&Cs and program managers will want to sit in on planning meetings and review plans to examine fidelity to the curriculum. T&Cs and program managers must first be well-versed in their program's curriculum processes to assess how well staff members are utilizing the materials or content, and enacting your program's curriculum procedures. Learning to use a written curriculum and create well-developed lesson plans is a process that takes time and guidance. T&Cs should be prepared to provide constructive feedback and suggestions to staff as they develop their lesson plans. Activities should be meaningful and build on the interests of the children and youth. Plans for infants, toddlers and preschoolers should include developmental information and how the planned experiences and interactions support development. Primary-age children and older youth can join with peers and teachers to plan ongoing project work (e.g., creation of a science lab, create costumes and food for a medieval festival, etc.). As T&Cs review new staff members' activity plans, they should remember to ask reflective questions, like the ones listed below. These will help T&Cs gauge staff members' understanding of the curriculum processes in their settings, and offer insight about where to tailor support.
- Where did you get your ideas for your activity plans this week?
- How do you think these plans will help individual children meet their goals?
- What are you hoping the school-age youth will gain from this experience?
- Do you think any modifications might be necessary to ensure all children can engage in this idea?
- What resources might you need to make this plan successful?
- Are there ways you could involve families in this activity?
Watch the video below to hear T&Cs and program managers describe how they conduct productive observations and guide direct care staff to create intentional lesson plans.
An important part of T&Cs' and program manager's work is staying current with the field of early care and education and youth development. Joining a professional organization (e.g., National Association for the Education of Young Children, Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children, the National After School Association) is an excellent way to receive timely information about what is new in the field. Subscribing to practitioner journals (Teaching Young Children, Exchange) provides short articles that can be shared with staff during a meeting. Websites that contain evidence-based information can be bookmarked.
T&Cs and program managers also need to be evaluated and provided with professional development. Look for a mentor, book group, social groups that have people in similar jobs where you can share ideas and learn news about the field. You will be a better leader for your staff and families when you make sure to attend to your own professional growth.
There are many resources available for T&Cs and program managers to assist staff in implementing curriculum and building positive relationships with children and youth. The websites below contain resources that may be helpful to coaches as they support teacher-child interactions. Review some of the free resources and bookmark these websites. You may find some new ideas to share with the teachers you coach or supervise.
Teaching Young Children – Selected Past Articles - http://www.naeyc.org/tyc/pastissues
T&Cs and program managers indirectly support the teaching-learning cycle. Although they are not directly teaching children, their commitment to high-quality learning experiences for all children and youth engages staff members to examine their work.
Leaders support teachers in their work with children, youth and families by engaging in reflective supervision. Review the Apply Section handout titled Essentials for Supervisors: Knowledge and Skills Needed for Reflective Supervision. Think about what knowledge and skills you currently have to engage in reflective supervision. What would you like to learn about this process? Reach out to trusted colleague or mentor in your role to seek guidance on how you can further refine your skill set.
|Fidelity||When teachers use instructional materials and deliver the curriculum content in the same way that they were designed to be used and delivered|
|Reflective supervision||A process of examining with someone else, the thoughts, feelings, actions, and reactions in the course of working closely with young children and their families (Eggbeer, Mann, & Seibel, 2007)|
American Institute for Research (2014). What to Look for in a High Quality Preschool. Retrieved from http://www.air.org/resource/what-look-high-quality-preschool
Copple, C. & Bredekamp, S. (Eds.) (2009). Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth Through Age 8 (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Heffron, M. C., & Murch, T. (2010). Reflective Supervision and Leadership in Infant and Early Childhood Programs. Washington, DC: Zero to Three.
National Center for Quality After School Programs. Retrieved from http://www.sedl.org/afterschool/resources/curriculum.html