Just as we wish for children to be treated uniquely in their classroom and family, so we wish for students to be treated uniquely in their program of study here at Western Piedmont Community College. Required to demonstrate competencies at certain levels and in certain areas of development, students enrolled in the Early Childhood Program are offered individual attention and support as they develop the necessary skills to teach young children.
Because we believe the well-being of all children is the foundation for the existence of the Early Childhood Profession, the Early Childhood Program of Western Piedmont Community College is committed to the preparation of students who understand the scope and importance of developmentally appropriate early childhood education and their place in it, and will positively impact the lives of young children through knowledge, reflective practice, and professionalism. Faculty and students work collaboratively on an ongoing basis to fulfill this commitment.
To meet the challenge of enabling all children to develop optimally, the early childhood professional must be grounded in general knowledge, content knowledge, and pedagogical knowledge. We teach and expect students to demonstrate general knowledge of communication skills, mathematical and scientific concepts, interpersonal skills, critical thinking, technology, global perspective, and wellness. Students acquire this knowledge through general education coursework, preparing them for a lifetime of inquiry, discovery, and responsible citizenship.
Furthermore, we teach and expect students to demonstrate content knowledge of child development, health, safety, nutrition, guidance, communication with families, community resources, technology, language and literacy, creative arts, mathematics, social studies, and science as these topics support the holistic development of the child. Students acquire this knowledge through specific early childhood education coursework taught in the college classroom, natural environment and field experiences. They then apply this knowledge through various practicum experiences, thus preparing the students to meet the needs of young children and their families.
Finally, we teach and expect students to demonstrate pedagogical knowledge of history of the profession, theories of child development, philosophies of education, models of curriculum design, and instructional strategies and methods. Students acquire this knowledge through general early childhood education coursework, giving them a foundation in the teaching profession.
In this fast-paced world of new discoveries and ever changing technology, life-long learning is essential. As professionals, we encounter new curricula, methods, guidelines and research findings on a regular basis. With the focus of instructors and students on the well-being of all children, we cannot accept these new ideas and products passively, nor can we continue as we have just because something is familiar and worked in the past. We must be sensitive to the needs of the child, which requires us to think about, consider, and reflect on our current beliefs and practices as early childhood educators. Posner states, “Non-reflective teachers rely on routine behavior and are guided more by impulse, tradition, and authority than by reflection….reflective teachers actively, persistently, and carefully consider and reconsider beliefs and practices ‘in light of the grounds that support them and the further consequences to which they lead’” (Posner, 2005, 21). Making reflection an ongoing practice as Posner suggests, allows both teachers and students to keep check on not only their present practices but also consider the future implications and consequences of these practices.
Reflective practice should occur as part of the daily planning process before, during, and after encounters with children in the classroom. Reflective practice is taught by focused observations of children, teachers, and classroom environments, complemented by journal responses and reflections. Class discussions involving critical thinking, analysis, and evaluation are three additional approaches to teaching reflective practices. Reflective practice is then demonstrated by students through application in their service learning, practicum experiences and class assignments. As Posner explains it, Experience + Reflection= Growth, and we must grow if we are to be recognized as professionals.
In addition to knowledge and reflective practice, we concentrate on bringing professionalism to our program’s course of study.
To positively impact the lives of young children, we teach and model for students the importance of professionalism as demonstrated through our values, ethical behavior, advocacy, collaboration, and commitment to quality. Through personal reflection, we help students to identify their own value system and recognize the value systems of others. Using the NAEYC Code of Ethical Conduct, case studies, and real-life, diverse practicum experiences, teachers and students articulate ethically-based responses and practice ethical behavior in their field experiences. Advocacy in the associate degree program is comprised of discussion of early childhood issues, awareness of policy-making agencies, and strategies for communicating thoughtfully considered opinions. Students become aware of community resources and gain the knowledge to collaborate with community members, colleagues and other professionals in order to provide support and services to children and families. The commitment to quality by engaging in continuous learning is essential and is reflected in the growth and development of the professional.