- Reflect on what it means to implement meaningful curriculum and assessment as you manage your classroom.
- Identify key elements of developmentally appropriate practice and reflect on how these elements contribute to program management.
- Understand the importance of being a life-long learner with regards to working with preschool children and their families, and identify ways you can pursue your own professional development.
Two of the most basic and at the same time significant questions preschool professionals need to consider are: "What should preschoolers in my care know?" and "How do we know if preschool children are developing well and learning what we want them to know?" Spend a few seconds thinking about how you would respond to each of these two questions.
You may have indicated that the "what" question refers to the curriculum, or in other words the experiences and activities you plan and use in your daily interactions with preschool children, and the "how" question refers to the assessment, or in other words the ways in which you find out about preschoolers' development and progress over time.
Meaningful Experiences for Preschool Children and Families
Preschool children attending child-care programs should have a variety of experiences that are developmentally appropriate, intellectually stimulating, engaging, and fun. High-quality programs rely on a written, evidence-based curriculum as the foundation for preschool teachers to use to plan daily experiences and activities. Your program may have chosen a particular curriculum, assessment, and format for documenting children's growth and development. The curriculum, assessment, and program evaluation your center uses directly impact how you as a preschool teacher manage your classroom.
As a preschool professional, you bring your own personality, talents, and interests in your work with young children to enrich the curriculum. The curriculum should build upon the interests, experiences, and backgrounds of the preschoolers in your setting. Families should be invited to share information, knowledge, and skills with you in their child's classroom. Adaptations and modifications to the chosen curriculum can be undertaken with the help of special education support staff or with the help of your training and curriculum specialist (e.g., early interventionist or inclusion facilitator). You should refer to your Service-specific policies for guidance when making adaptations and modifications. Your program T&C and managers will support you in promoting high-quality developmentally appropriate practices for all preschool children in your care.
When defining developmentally appropriate practices, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC, 2009) highlights the following:
- Meeting children where they are in their development and supporting them in reaching achievable and at the same time challenging goals to promote their progress and interests
- Using practices that are appropriate to children's age and responsive to the social and cultural contexts in which children live
- Ensuring that goals and experiences are based on knowledge and research-based evidence-not assumptions-about how children learn and develop
What are Indicators of Effective Curriculum?
Your goal should be to implement experiences and activities that are carefully planned, engaging, developmentally appropriate, challenging, and culturally and linguistically responsive. You should aim for growth and positive outcomes for all preschool children in your care. In doing that, you should learn the following indicators of effective curriculum as stated by 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) (2009):
- Preschool children in your classroom and program are active and engaged.
- Your goals for preschoolers are clear and shared by all (yourself, families, any related professionals or support personnel, your T&C or supervisor).
- Your curriculum is evidence-based. In other words, it is based on research-oriented knowledge about best practices in the field of early childhood education.
- Your experiences and activities are meaningful and intentional, and involve preschool children's engagement with and exploration of their environment.
- Your experiences and activities build on preschool children's prior learning and experiences.
- Your curriculum is comprehensive and addresses young children's multiple developmental domains.
What are Indicators of Effective Assessment?
Gathering information about the development of preschool children in your care helps you make informed decisions about their growth and helps you identify needs or concerns that may require further attention. Your goal should be to carry out assessment practices that are ethical, developmentally appropriate, and culturally sensitive. Meaning your assessment practices are based on a thorough knowledge of child development, they help children see themselves as capable and competent learners, and they respect and acknowledge children's and families' varied cultural experiences. The assessment practices you implement play an essential role as you manage your classroom. You should use assessment information to support growth and positive outcomes for all preschool children in your care. In doing that, you should familiarize yourself with the following indicators of effective assessment practices as stated by 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) (2009):
- Your assessments are developmentally appropriate and culturally and linguistically sensitive for preschool children in your care.
- Families know about and are invited to be part of the assessment process.
- Assessment information and evidence is gathered from realistic settings and situations that reflect preschoolers' actual performance within daily experiences.
- What you assess is developmentally and educationally significant for each child.
- Your assessments include multiple sources of evidence about a preschooler's performance gathered over time.
- The evidence you gather from assessments is used to better understand preschool children and improve their development and learning.
- Your assessment practices are ethical and responsible. For example, assessment instruments or screening tools are appropriately used based upon their design and purpose. Assessment evidence is collected in realistic and multiple ways, and decisions regarding a child are not based on a single observation or assessment tool. In addition, children are not publicly compared to one another, rather they, and their families, are encouraged to reflect on the child's own growth over time.
You should work with your T&Cs and managers to ensure that assessment practices are developmentally appropriate for the preschool children in your care. Your program administration will ensure that you have the necessary resources (e.g., classroom or playground supplies, materials, equipment) and supports (e.g., observational feedback on your practices, additional resources) to promote these experiences and offer children and their families high-quality care and education.
Considering your Own Professional Development
In order to be knowledgeable about best practices in the field of early childhood education, you must stay current with the field. Joining a professional organization (e.g., NAEYC and the Division for Early Childhood) is an excellent way to receive timely information about what is new in the field. Web sites that contain evidence-based information can be bookmarked. Attending local or state conferences is another way to learn about evidence-based practices and keep current on new information.
Your T&C can be a great resource and mentor in your professional development. She or he can answer questions or address concerns you may have, conduct observations of your work with preschool children and give you constructive feedback, assist you with further or specific training, help you access resources like books, articles, or videos, and support your overall professional growth. You may also consider looking for a mentor, book group, or groups on social media where you can share ideas and news about the early childhood field. You will be a better teacher and advocate for the children and families in your care when you attend to your own professional development.
In your daily work as a preschool professional, engage in the following practices with children, families, and colleagues:
- Get to know the children and families in your care. Plan for bias-free experiences, materials, and assessment. Treat each child and family member with respect, and acknowledge and honor individual differences in gender, cultural background, family income, abilities, or family composition.
- Provide a variety of developmentally appropriate choices and experiences for preschool children in your care.
- Have developmentally appropriate expectations about children's behaviors.
- Ensure the curriculum goals are the basis for planning experiences and activities for preschool children.
- Review curriculum goals with colleagues or your supervisors and make sure that you offer opportunities for each child to achieve those goals. During this process, make sure to invite families' input.
- Act in a responsible, reliable, and dependable manner. Be at work on time, be prepared, and communicate clearly with children, families, colleagues and supervisors.
- Support practices that are ethical, responsible, and developmentally appropriate and speak out when they are not. Familiarize yourself with your program's or service's regulations, standards, and expectations for high-quality practices. Remember to always look to your T&C for guidance on difficult situations.
- Develop and cultivate a collaborative spirit and work with colleagues. Ask a more experienced preschool teacher questions about his or her practice or offer ideas to a colleague who may be newer than you and may need assistance.
After reviewing the article, Preschool Curriculum Decision Making: Dimensions to Consider at http://nieer.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/12.pdf (a condensed version and summary is at: http://nieer.org/policy-issue/policy-brief-preschool-curriculum-decision-making-dimensions-to-consider), use the handout Curriculum: Decision-Making. Take some time to reflect on the checklist provided. Then, share and discuss your responses with a trainer, coach, or supervisor.
Use the resources in this section to learn more about planning meaningful experiences and activities for preschoolers in your care. The first handout, Meaningful Assessment, provides a resource from the National Association for the Education of Young Children on how to align curriculum, assessment, and program evaluation. The second handout, Mentoring for Program Improvement, provides a resource you can use as you reflect on your own professional development.
|Curriculum||The “knowledge, skills, abilities and understandings children are to acquire and the plans for the learning experiences through which those gains will occur” (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009, p. 20)|
|Developmentally appropriate practice||An approach to teaching grounded in the research on how young children develop and learn and in what is known about effective early education. Its framework is designed to promote young children's optimal learning and development (NAEYC, 2009)|
Bruno, H. E., & Copeland, T. (2012). Managing Legal Risks in Early Childhood Programs. New York: Teachers College Press.
Copple, C.,& Bredekamp, S. (Eds.) (2009). Developmentally appropriate practice for programs serving children ages birth through 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 C hildhood Programs. Washington, DC: Zero to Three.
National Association for the Education of Young Children (2011). Code of Ethical Conduct and Statement of Commitment. Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/image/public_policy/Ethics%20Position%20Statement2011_09202013update.pdf
National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2009).Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8. Retrieved from http://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/positions/PSDAP.pdf
National Association for the Education of Young Children and National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education. (2003). Early Childhood Curriculum, Assessment, and Program Evaluation: Building an effective, accountable system in programs for children birth through age 8. Position Statement with Expanded Resources. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/positions/CAPEexpand.pdf
National Association for the Education of Young Children and National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education. (2009). Where We Stand on Curriculum, Assessment, and Program Evaluation. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/positions/StandCurrAss.pdf