Effective early childhood programmes are developmentally appropriate and meet the diverse needs of the whole child. Learning experiences provide each child with opportunities to achieve his/her potential in all areas of growth. Achieving success is the result of extensive curriculum planning, training, and successful implementation of best practices.
Understanding and embracing the goals of each early childhood programme, with teachers and administrators participating in professional development, assures that programme goals can be carried out effectively. Parents should have opportunities to be integral parts of their child’s educational experience.
Many experts in early childhood, disagree with programmes that have a greater emphasis on academics. Child-centred early childhood classroom programmes provide constructivist, experiential, and play-based learning to meet the developmental and academic needs of children.
The basis for planning learning centre activities is inherently based on the developmental and academic skills that are part of the required curriculum in each classroom. Using a centre-based model doesn’t change what children should learn. The difference lies in how they will learn it.
A centre-based programme provides great opportunities for constructivist, experiential learning with numerous occasions for children to learn through play. Importantly, this programme is a moderate transition from a teacher-directed programme, including well-planned activities and opportunities for rich, independent learning. A balance of teacher-selected and child-selected activities in learning centres, all related to curriculum goals and objectives, is important.
Assessment that is developmentally appropriate and authentic is a critical component of the early childhood programme. In a centre-based classroom, effective assessment should inform planning and instruction, including the development of appropriate learning centre activities aligned with curriculum content and developmental skills. A wide variety of authentic assessment tools are available, and should be studied and used based on programme expectations.
As teachers move to implement differences in programme delivery (child-centred), classroom organisation and management (learning centres) and assessment, it’s important to have systems in place to promote collaboration and sharing. With expectations for teachers to try something new, it must be built into the centre’s culture and organisation, provide the means for teachers to meet and share ideas, successes and challenges. Innovation without teacher teams, which have a focus on collaboration, is less likely to be successful.
The next step is effective teacher evaluation – which elements must be present in effective early childhood teaching – and evidencing effective instruction. Factors impacting teacher performance include evaluations done by administrators, mentor programmes, peer coaching, self-assessment, professional development and collaboration.
The development of teachers as leaders is key to elevating teacher performance. Administrators provide leadership and guidance, but it is essential for teachers, too, to act as leaders. Shared responsibility for programme and teaching excellence yields great improvements in teaching and thus in children’s learning.
Whatever we do in our early childhood classrooms, we must make all of our decisions based upon what is best for children. How can we best provide a learning environment where each child can thrive, learn, explore and develop to his or her fullest capabilities? When we get that right, we know we are serving young children well.
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