To foster learning, you will need knowledge of subject-matter content, an understanding of how children learn specific skills and develop background knowledge at various stages of their development, and an ability to select the instructional strategy that will best promote learning at any given time. For example, there are multiple techniques that you can use to support language and literacydevelopment. One is to facilitate “serve and return” interactions with young children that help build their vocabulary skills. When children have experiences with frequent and elaborate language from an early age, they build vocabulary and background knowledge. This also teaches children how words work together. By listening and then speaking children understand more words, which eventually translates to reading.
Similar techniques are becoming better understood for helping teachers to develop children’s early math skills, provide them experiences with scientific practices, and nurture their social and emotional development. Helping children to learn to regulate their actions and emotions, for example, requires learning environments that are organized, predictable, and focused on developing warm relationships with you and their peers. For all of these subject areas and domains, Transforming the Workforceconcludes that teachers need to use research-based curricula and take advantage of opportunities for professional learning.
In addition to knowing how to teach subject matter and skills, you will need to know how to apply these strategies for specific populations of students, such as dual language learners or children with disabilities. Part of your job entails being able to identify which children need additional supports, which requires understanding the different types of screening and assessment tools, including how to interpret assessment results and make appropriate changes to instruction in response.
In short, being an early educator requires a whole host of competencies and a deep base of knowledge. And while there are meaningful differences in these competencies depending on whether you are working with infants and toddlers, preschoolers, or elementary school students, professionals working across the B–8 continuum should have a shared knowledge base and skills to provide quality practice and ensure continuity for children.
On pages 328–329 of Transforming the Workforce, you can see a fulllist of the competencies that educators need. The report organizes these competencies into five categories:
- Core knowledge of the science of child development and early learning
- Practices to help children learn and develop based on this science
- Knowledge and skills for working with diverse populations of children
- Development of partnerships with families and support services to bolster child learning and development
- Ability and motivation to continually improve the quality and effectiveness of one’s practices
- Review the list of competencies on pages 328–329. Which ones do you feel most confident about as an educator? Which ones do you want to develop further?
- Are professional learning opportunities offered by your state, school district, or community to fill the gaps?
- Do you have access to research-based curricula and tools to help support children’s learning? Are those tools equally strong in all domains (such as social-emotional development, literacy and language development, math, and science)?
- How are you using assessment in your classroom or program to inform lessons and improve child learning and development?
- Do you need more training in learning how to adjust instruction in response to assessment results?
This synopsis was drawn from oursummary of chapter 6andsummary of chapter 7ofTransforming the Workforce; we encourage you to go to those summaries for key takeaways, examples, graphics, important quotations from the National Academies’ volume, and more.