In the Nation's Interest
Business Champions for the Advancement of Early Childhood Education Spotlight: Teaching Strategies
Teaching Strategies is a Business Champion for CED's Early Childhood Education initiative, which collaborates with business leaders and education experts to increase the quality, access, and affordability of early learning opportunities for all children across the country.
Below are some of their thoughts on the importance of early childhood education.
1. Why does early childhood education matter?
According to research, the years from birth through age 8 offer a critically important window for development and learning, during which the foundational architecture of the brain is being developed. Yet the current educational systems across American schools that are designed to meet the needs during these early years are often disconnected. Early childhood education experts say that creating a high-quality learning environment, complete with alignment and connection across the prenatal to 3rd grade continuum, offers us the greatest chance to improve outcomes for all young children, particularly our youngest and most vulnerable learners.
2. Why are the role and quality of teachers so important to early childhood education?
Just as in the parent-child relationship, the quality of the teacher-child relationship can support or limit a child’s development and learning. Supportive, high-quality relationships with teachers and caregivers can help children overcome the challenges associated with living in high-risk circumstances and in particular, help those children whose early relationships with family members may not have been positive ones.
At Teaching Strategies, we believe that all learning takes place within the context of relationships, and that relationships are at the heart of all good teaching. The better a teacher knows each child in her classroom, the better she can care for them and teach them. For young children, the relationship they have with their teachers has the power to dramatically influence so many things: who they want to be, how to trust, how to love, how to be empathetic, how to enjoy a good book and find the fun in mathematics, and how to become curious, confident, engaged learners. That’s the true power of high-quality early childhood education, and that’s the power of great teaching.
3. How does Teaching Strategies help ensure a high-quality early educational experience for children?
Our company’s mission has been the same for 40 years, ever since we were founded: we partner with early childhood educators by providing innovative, effective resources that empower and inspire them as they teach and care for our youngest learners during the critical, formative years from birth through third grade. We are committed to advancing the field of early childhood education through high-quality, integrated resources, responsive, ongoing support, and research-based, research-proven solutions that enable every early childhood educator to open doors to lifelong learning.
We focus on four areas of program implementation—and research has shown that these four pillars of program quality, when well-established, lead to dramatic results. These areas are:
- Curriculum: having engaging curriculum that inspires creativity, curiosity and critical thinking in children and their teachers;
- Assessment: having an assessment system that truly informs the teaching and learning in the classroom, one that builds relationships and guides program improvement;
- Family Connections: having strong, supportive, respectful relationships between home and school creates more opportunities for young children to grow and thrive;
- Professional Development: having ongoing professional development and support so that teachers know how to implement the program’s curriculum and assessment with fidelity, with learning opportunities that address the strengths, needs and interests of each teacher
Our solutions—our curriculum, assessment, family connection materials, and professional development—are what drive high-quality early childhood programs and strengthen relationships. Our products, services, and solutions define what high quality should look like in an early childhood classroom. And part of the reason why is because so many of us are former early childhood educators ourselves. We truly are “of the field, by the field, for the field.” Our developers have been early childhood teachers, caregivers, directors – and they create the resources that they wish they’d had when they were in the classroom! It’s what helps us to plan our products and services to address the day-to-day realities of today’s educator – we’ve been there, and we know what’s going to make their days easier, their work more streamlined. We incorporate the latest research into a truly unique approach to teaching and learning that is both practical and cutting-edge. We harness the power of technology, not for the sake of using technology, but for creating efficiencies that give teachers back precious time to spend with children.
4. How can we ensure that we have the best quality teachers for early education?
At Teaching Strategies, we believe (and human development research and theory backs us up!) that all learning takes place within the context of relationships. Relationships are at the heart of all good teaching; they are the very pulse of high-quality programs. So in order to improve the quality of teaching, we need to provide teachers with tools that help to support and nurture those relationships with the children in their classrooms.
In order to build strong relationships with children, teachers need to know them well. You cannot have a caring, nurturing relationship with someone who doesn’t know you well. So teachers need to understand each child’s individual strengths, interests, areas for growth, needs, and abilities. Not just label them with a misbehavior, but understand the development, the need behind that behavior. That’s exactly what our assessment system, GOLD® is designed to do. It is the number one purpose of our assessment system. Not to simply report on data, but to support the relationships between teachers and children. When done right, the kind of assessment that GOLD® supports is truly invisible to the child – it happens on an ongoing, regular basis in the context of everyday activities. When done right, the child has no idea they are being assessed.
And there’s a fantastic added benefit. As teachers use GOLD®, they learn more about child development. They learn the appropriate expectations for children’s behavior. They see a path for development, even for children who may be falling behind expectations for their age. When we talk about our assessment system being strengths based, what we mean is that teacher’s focus is on what the child CAN do, rather than on what he or she can’t do. This helps teachers see all children in a positive light.
And once teachers understand who a child is within the context of all areas of development and learning, she is better able to care for and teach them. But she needs the tools to do it well, to individualize her teaching and caregiving practices to meet the needs of each child in her classroom. The Creative Curriculum® supports teachers to do just that.
Engaging curriculum that offers hands-on, project-based investigations that foster creativity, curiosity, and critical thinking in children and their teachers—that’s what improves program and teacher quality and strengthens relationships. Curriculum that can easily be individualized to the strengths, needs, and interests of each child while inspiring a love of learning; curriculum that embraces families as partners in early care and education; curriculum that tells teachers not only how to create a welcoming physical environment in their classrooms and teach skills in literacy and mathematics, but also guides them to create a warm, caring classroom community and how to explicitly teach critical social and emotional skills. All of this is what improves program and teacher quality and strengthens relationships, and that’s what programs get from The Creative Curriculum®!
5. Teaching Strategies has some compelling reasons for both the private and public sector to get involved in early education. What are some pieces of research or stories you’d like to highlight?
We’ve really seen that our approach moves the needle for teachers and for children. An independent, two-year impact study found evidence that The Creative Curriculum® for Preschool is effective in helping children achieve positive outcomes. Another report revealed that children in classrooms using The Creative Curriculum and GOLD® together had greater growth and higher positive outcomes across five areas of development and learning: social-emotional, language, cognition, literacy, and math. Our solutions aren’t just research-based, they’re also research-proven to be effective, and it’s that proof of effectiveness that leads us to believe that early education is something that’s worth paying attention to and becoming involved with for both the private and public sector. We’ve also seen that programs who implement The Creative Curriculum® are finding that children are more engaged through the opportunities for hands-on learning and exploration that our approach provides. A recent article about programs in Jamestown, New York highlights this.
Spotlights reflect the views of the individual and/or company and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of CED.