Program Development and Evaluation
Program Development and Evaluation
Early Childhood Education focuses on the education, language, culture, development and care of young children. As a profession, Early Childhood Education has emerged as one of the major vehicles for child-advocacy in the provision of accessible, high-quality child care and pre-school education. Child care, in this society of increasingly busy working couples, is an important service in the community. Whether it is called child care, kindergarten, preschool, a developmental learning center, a child development center, or one of many other names, they are all providing the important service of caring for our precious children.
The increased demand for early childhood education services is partly due to the increased recognition of the crucial importance of experiences during the earliest years of life. Children’s experiences during early childhood not only influence their later functioning in school but can have effects throughout life. For example, current research demonstrates the early and lasting effects of children’s environments and experiences on brain development and cognition (Chugani, Phelps, & Mazziotta, 1987).
Positive, supportive relationships, important during the earliest years of life, appear essential not only for cognitive development but also for healthy emotional development and social attachment (Stern, 1985). The preschool years are an optimum time for development of fundamental motor skills, language development (Dyson & Genishi, 1993), and other key foundational aspects of development that have lifelong implications. In Australia, early childhood educational programs cover a 0-8 years age range.
In the state of New South Wales, Kindergarten is the first year of compulsory schooling thus it is governed by the NSW Department of Education and Training and the curriculum content governed by the NSW Board of studies. Child care, on the other hand refers to the care of infants (ages 0-5) by other people during specific periods when the parents are at work. With this set-up, different programming methods are employed. The difference between child care and kindergarten is that kindergarten is an educational experience while child care tends to be care giving so that both parents can work.
Good child care programs offer experienced, well-educated teachers who promote children’s cognitive and social development. Kindergarten programs, on the other hand, have set programming standards that are based on the curriculum content governed by the NSW Board of studies. However, in the light that infants and up to kindergarten age belong to the early childhood category, it is best that programming should be the same. It should be able to provide the necessary resources to ensure that every student is offered a high-quality learning environment that prepares a child for further schooling.
The purpose of this paper is to present the basis that programming for all early childhood educational programs in NSW should, for the most part, be the same regardless of the setting in which the program exists. Main Body Programming is the process of setting an order and time for planned events or activities. It is the designing, scheduling, or planning of a program. In a formal education setting, syllabus is prepared to outline the set of activities or programs.
In NSW schools, teaching and learning programs and the assessing and reporting of student achievement relate directly to the learning outcomes and curriculum content provided in the NSW Board of Studies K-6 syllabuses. As clearly stated in the K-6, programming for kindergarten falls under this curriculum. These syllabuses are grouped into six key learning areas (KLAs). Creative and Practical Arts English Human Society and Its Environment Mathematics Personal Development, Health and Physical Education Science and Technology (Retrived Aug.
31,2006 from http://www. curriculumsupport. education. nsw. gov. au/primary/index. htm) The Board of Studies develops a syllabus for each of the learning areas. Along with a defined aim, each syllabus has a set of objectives and outcomes, expressed in terms of knowledge and understandings, skills, values and attitudes. On the other hand, mostly day care in NSW are managed by community organizations, local councils or private operators. These day care and other children’s services are licensed by the Department of Community Services.
NSW Department of Education and Training employs an early childhood trained teacher and a teacher’s aide in each preschool class. Teachers plan an educational program, which nurtures each child’s self esteem, well being and development. The preschool or day care program is designed to stimulate children’s thinking, communicating, investigating, exploring and problem solving skills. Children are encouraged to join in physical activities and to develop good health and safety habits.
The program includes play based activities that help children learn how to interact positively with other children and to recognize and accept their own feelings and those of others. The program also supports the development of early language, literacy and numerical skills. In terms of child upbringing however, it is always advocated that child care is inherently inferior to parental care. However, independent studies suggest that good child care for non-infants is not harmful.
In some cases, good child care can provide different experiences than parental care does, especially when children reach two and are ready to interact with other children. A study appearing in Child Development in July/August 2003 found that the amount of time spent in child care before four-and-a-half tended to correspond with the child’s tendency to be less likely to get along with others, to be disobedient, and to be aggressive, although still within the normal. On the other hand, bad child care puts the children at physical, emotional and attachment risk.
As a matter of social policy, child care should also be regulated by the government so as to ensure quality early childhood education. A good early childhood education program should instruct children in different skill areas that they would need in further schooling. Such skill areas include learning to read, to do math, to progress in science, and to understand the world and how it works. Through early childhood education programs, children are able to become familiar with books, words, language use, numbers and problem solving, as well as important social skills (paying attention in class and peer relationships).
Through all these activities, teachers should create positive relationships through warm, sensitive, and responsive care, which will help children feel valued and gain more from their learning experiences. Children need positive relationships so that they feel comfortable and learn how to cooperate with others. This is where skilled early childhood educators should come in. Early childhood care and kindergarten education need teachers who are educated enough to handle young children from infancy through age six.
Relationships between teachers and families are also important, and help build environments that nurture children’s growth and development. Children observe the interactions between caregivers and their parents, and what they observe in these interactions is used to build their own relationship with these new adults in their lives. This is a process called social referencing (Hutchins & Sims, 1999). There are many ways that quality early childhood programs build relationships with children and among teachers and adults.
In visiting a program, how teachers interact with the children fostering positive relationships is clearly seen. Classrooms are welcoming to all children, and children are encouraged to join the group. Teachers communicate with children in a warm manner, including laughing and showing affection, and responding to their needs. Teachers use a gentle tone of voice with children, and bend down to speak with them at eye level. Teachers provide a balance of group activities and one-on-one activities, to encourage children to develop both group and individual relationships.
Children in turn have opportunities to play and interact with other children, who help them build friendships and develop social skills, such as working together and taking turns. In good child care program, infants get individual attention from teachers, who communicate with smiles and other nonverbal behavior, and also talk with them, so that infants start to recognize and understand words. Quality early childhood programs foster positive relationships – among the children, between children and adults, and among teachers and families – to help children get a great start on learning.
In view of the need to acquire good educators, the development of professional standards for teachers has grown in importance in the field of education in Australia and overseas. At the national level, development of the National Framework for Professional Standards for Teaching is a key initiative. The Competency Framework for Teachers was created and standards were developed by national teaching associations for English, Mathematics and Science. This Framework is the product of a comprehensive consultation process involving teachers, professional associations, tertiary institutions, the Australian Education Union and other key stakeholders.
The Competency Framework for Teachers articulates the complex nature of teaching by describing three professional elements of teachers’ work: attributes, practice and knowledge. These elements work in an interrelated way as they are put into practice in classrooms. Early childhood professionals working in diverse situations and resources are responsible for implementing practices that are developmentally appropriate for the children they serve. These teachers have an ethical responsibility to practice, to the best of their ability, according to the standards of their profession.
They are required to acquire the knowledge and practical skills needed to practice through college-level specialized preparation in early childhood education/child development. Moreover, aside from teachers, administrators of early childhood programs are also encouraged to acquire necessary skills in maintaining good practices in their field. In addition to management and supervision skills, administrators have appropriate professional qualifications, including training specific to the education and development of young children, and they provide teachers time and opportunities to work collaboratively with colleagues and parents.
Providing appropriate curriculums or programs to meet the desires of individual children who learn at different rates and in different ways needs much skill and knowledge from the educator or teacher. In planning the everyday program a wide range of teaching strategies will be needed that involve individual, and large and small group activities. Not simply should the provision offer children opportunities for a broad range of creative and ingenious play activities, but there must be sufficient time and space to permit children to develop and extend their play, sometimes alone and at times in the company of other children or an adult.
Programs have changed in response to social, economic, and political forces. However, these changes have not always taken into account the basic developmental needs of young children, which have remained constant. Programs should be tailored to meet the needs of children, rather than expecting children to adjust to the demands of a specific program. In the Hyson, Hirsh-Pasek, and Rescorla study (1990), pre-school children enrolled in child-initiated programs displayed lower levels of test anxiety than children enrolled in academic programs, regardless of parental preferences for classroom approaches.
In the second study (Burts et al. , 1990), children in inappropriate classrooms exhibited more total stress behaviors throughout the day and more stress behaviors during group times and workbook/worksheet activities. Early childhood teaching is simply and completely about children and their well being. The tenet that each child is unique is basic in early childhood philosophy. It is very important therefore that early childhood educators should plan flexible programs that accommodate individual growth.
Additionally, an early childhood perspective acknowledges the importance of providing children with opportunities to interact, understand and cooperate in groups (Day & Drake, 1986). In view of these arguments, the principle of programming in the framework of the KLA and in the context of a formal academic education should not yet be employed in the early childhood education, in particular, kindergarten class. The Curriculum for early childhood education must be subjected to vigilant evaluation. The program should see children as active learners, supporting them to become self-determining, being problem solvers and decision makers.
It should not be a stiff program but offers a framework for children’s learning. Though it has much in common with usual nursery practice, it places greater accountability upon children for planning and executing their own actions. Working on an idea of the plan, do and review, the environment is arranged so that it optimizes children’s learning, using key experiences to examine and plan for the individual needs of children, for instance adult-child communication strategies, partnership with parents, observation and record keeping. The key experiences embedded concept of active learning are:
• Using language such as depicting objects, events and relations; • Active learning such as controlling, transforming and mixing materials; • Characterizing ideas and experiences such as role playing, pretending; • Developing rational reasoning such as learning to label, match and sort objects; • Understanding time and space such as evoking and anticipating events, learning to get things in the classroom. (Curtis, A. , 1999) These key experiences not only offer the framework for planning and evaluating activities but also facilitate the staff to guide children from one learning incident to another.
They suggest questions to put to the children and facilitate staff to assess children’s development and offer a basis for discussion with the parents. To achieve individually appropriate programs for young children, early childhood teachers must work in partnership with families and communicate regularly with the children’s parents. During early childhood, children are largely dependent on their families for identity, security, care, and a general sense of well being. Communication between families and teachers helps build mutual understanding and guidance, and provides greater consistency for children.
Joint planning between families and teachers facilitates major socialization processes, such as toilet learning, developing peer relationships, and entering school. Mutual sharing of information and insights about the individual child’s needs and developmental strides help both the family and the program. Regular communication and understanding about child development form a basis for mutual problem solving about concerns regarding behavior and growth. Teachers seek information from parents about individual children.
Teachers promote mutual respect by recognizing and acknowledging different points of view to help minimize confusion for children. The positive attributes of parent/teacher relationships are relatively easy to develop when teachers and parents have the same backgrounds, speak the same languages, share values and goals for children, and, in general, like one another. Parents are also more likely to relate to their children’s caregivers and teachers in positive ways, and are aware of the conditions under which the staff is working.
For both parents and teachers, continuity of the children’s educational experience is critical to their development. Such continuity results from communication both horizontally, as children change programs within a given year, and vertically, as children move on to other settings. As such, programming of early childhood education should be based more on creative learning and not on rigid academic programs and they should be the same from child care to kindergarten. Lastly, the community and the society at large also have a stake in the quality of early childhood programs.
Early childhood education entails an informed community willing to act upon the idea that high quality early education is necessary for future generations (Pascall, C. and Bertram, T. , 1997). When early childhood programs succeed in getting children off to a good start, families, schools, and communities will be strengthened. Children will grow up to be responsible, law abiding and productive citizens who will contribute to the country’s progress. In this sense, posterity itself eventually reaps the benefits of high-quality early educational experiences. Conclusion
Curriculums and programs are frequently viewed only in terms of the product or the content to be taught. It is far more encompassing than this, though. The curriculum should also be considered in terms of the processes linking to learning and teaching, the objectives that both teachers and learners hold, the contradictory social and cultural experiences’ learners and teachers bring, and the realities that occur from classroom interactions and situations. In early childhood education, set programming standards that are based on academic formal structure and being practiced in classrooms should not be employed.
Teaching and learning programs and the assessing and reporting of student achievement that relates directly to the learning outcomes and curriculum content provided in the NSW Board of Studies K-6 syllabuses is not yet applicable and favorable for very young minds. Instead, programs and teaching practices in early childhood settings should be more responsive to the needs and interests of the children. Programs should include a plan of activities that matches the children’s needs and promotes their independence. The plan should contain activities and exercises that help children to develop social, motor, language, and thinking skills.
Programs should also provide a variety of experiences designed to encourage exploration and problem-solving, and an awareness of how diverse the world is beyond the home. Daily morning schedule for kindergarten as well as child care should be very similar. The only difference between the two settings is that kindergarten school children tend to arrive all at once while children arrive at child care centers according to their parents’ work schedules. Early childhood education in both kindergarten and child care settings must actively work to provide learning in a nurturing environment that matches the needs of the children.
Parents also have active role in this endeavor. Children learn much from the adults around them, not simply from the planned learning opportunities but also from the customs and routines of daily living. The attitudes of the adults and other children and the shared relationships that are formed are as vital to children’s development as the activities in which they are engaged. The goals of the entire child care community, then, must be to encourage and support early childhood professionals to raise standards in our young children’s education.
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