Early Childhood Education

About the Fast-Track Early Childhood Bachelor's Degree Program

University of Toledo's Fast Track Early Childhood Program

Influencing the Future of Ohio through Early Care and Education

 

Early Childhood Education is Important:  Even the President Thinks So!

 High quality early care and education programs “[B]enefits all industries in the state by enabling parents to work productively outside the home and attend higher education programs to update their skills.”  In addition, it “[L]ays the groundwork for Ohio’s future economic success by preparing future generations for success in school and in life, and by attracting business to Ohio’s skilled workforce” (National Economic and Law Center, 2004).

 The scientific evidence supporting the importance of high quality early care and education for young children between birth to age five is overwhelming (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000).  Scientists, economists, corporate leaders, President Barack Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Governor Ted Strickland agree that investing in quality early learning experiences is a sound investment in the future.  Every dollar a state invests in early care and education yields a 16% return to its citizens, more than double what Wall Street could boast at its best (Dickens, Sawmill, & Tebbs, 2006).  

The Impact of Quality Early Childhood Programs is Far-Reaching

 High quality care and education leads to young children who are better prepared to be academically successful and allows schools and communities to direct more money to services other than special or remedial education (Schweinhart, Montie, Xiang, Barnett, Bellfield, & Nores, 2005).  Unfortunately, Ohio ranks second from the bottom of states that offer state-supported early care and education programs (Barnett, Hustedt, Friedman, Stevenson Boyd, & Ainsworth, 2007).

Cohort Models Provide Opportunities for Collaboration, Build Community, and Support Retention

 A key feature of this program is that it will use a cohort model of instruction.  Cohort-based approaches help students get to know each other and support the retention of students (Whitebook et al., 2009).  In addition to a cohort-based approach to the project, we have intentionally built in multiple opportunities for students to work together on collaborative projects, including class activities, field-based assignments, and discussion board opportunities.  We believe that fostering collaboration will not only help students be successful in the program, but will also help our students to become better teachers.

Program Content and Structure

 The goal of this program is to improve the quality of early care and education programs that serve infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their families throughout Ohio and the United States.  While this is indeed a lofty goal, it is one to which we are committed.  We must ensure, not only that our students have a deeper understanding of how to best support children’s learning, that understanding must result in improved practice.  There is evidence to support the proposition that high-quality e-learning experiences have positive effects on reports of ECE teachers’ performance in the classroom (Downer, Kraft-Sayre, & Pianta, 2009).

 The program we have developed reflects a deep understanding about adult learning and how to best help adult learners apply what they have learned to their teaching careers.  In an effort to help students through this accelerated model we have reconfigured course content in order to best support student learning.  Instead of separate 3-credit hour courses that present knowledge in an isolated manner, we have created 9-semester hour learning modules reflective of the following format:

Sub-module

Weeks

Major Question

Focus of Study

Orientation

1-4

What do I need to know?

Content and theory

Learning More

5-8

How can I make a difference in the classroom?

Theory into practice

Integration

9-13

How do I put it all together?

Change and growth

Looking Back

14-16

What did I learn?  How does it fit with what I knew?  Where do I go next?

Reflection and goal setting

 Included in each of the learning modules is a significant focus on field-based assignments that we have created specifically to help teachers translate what they learn into what they do as early childhood teachers in the classroom. 

 Field experiences.  There is extensive evidence to suggest that field experiences enhance the quality of early childhood teacher education (Whitebook, Gomby, Belm, Sakai, & Kipnis, 2009).  However, field experiences are difficult for non-traditional students to complete and prohibit many early childhood professionals from completing a traditional bachelor degree program.  One of the key dimensions of the field experience is the ability to teach and receive high-quality performance feedback about one’s teaching (Whitebook et al., 2009).  We have integrated field-based experiences into the program in the form of job-embedded professional development.  In this program, each semester students complete 7-semester hours of field-based assignments.  Students are supervised by faculty via videotaped assignments that provide documentation of their teaching practices.  Faculty assigned to teaching the module will provide specific and detailed performance feedback for each field-based assignment.  Videotaped assignments are consistent across learning modules, permitting faculty to track changes in student performance and allowing students to learn via familiar requirements, thereby increasing their comfort and confidence levels.

Unique Features of the Program 

 This program focuses on the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that teachers must have in order to be effective teachers for children at two age ranges:  (a) infants and toddlers (birth to 3 years) and (b) preschool-aged children (3-5 years). Our curriculum scope and sequence encompasses both age ranges and yet will allow teachers to focus more heavily on one, depending on their job and professional interests. 

 Five broad strands of emphasis are integrated throughout the program.  Below please find statements characterizing those strands of emphasis along with selected research citations to demonstrate their importance to the field.

 1.                  When teachers partner with family members to support learning, young children benefit (Fantuzzo, McWayne, Perry, & Childs, 2004; Fantuzzo, Perry, & Childs, 2006).

2.                  ALL children benefit when learning environments are modified to meet their individual needs (Division of Early Childhood, 2008; National Professional Development Center on Inclusion, 2009

3.                  Child-directed learning is critical to sustained learning outcomes for young children (Bowman, Donovan, & Burns, 2001; Copple & Bredekamp, 2009)

4.                  High-quality social interactions between adults and children characterize optimal learning environments for young children (Burchinal et al., 2009; Hamre & Pianta, 2001; La Paro, Pianta, & Stuhlman, 2004; Rudasill & Rimm-Kaufman, 2009)

5.                  Teachers must use information available to them about children and curriculum to make wise decisions in support of children’s learning (Coleman & Buysse, 2008; Walker, Carta, Greenwood, & Buzhardt, 2008.

  

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Last Updated: 6/26/15