In smaller groups, children are more verbal, more involved in activities and less aggressive, and they make the greatest gains in standardized tests of learning and vocabulary.
Where groups are smaller, caregivers spend more time interacting with the children and less time simply watching them. As well, because smaller sized groups permit children to have a choice of playmates while protecting them from over stimulation, social skills and peer relationships may also be enhanced.
An adult who is responsible for too many children can do little more than attend to their physical needs and safety.
The caregiver is also likely to feel stressed in such situations, and this increases the probability of harshness.
The term "curriculum" includes such items as program goals, planned activities, the daily schedule, and the availability of materials and equipment.
Children need choices and opportunities to explore their own interests and Educators ensure that the curriculum supports the development of the whole child. SPICE
Curriculum planning should be based on an educators observation of each child's special interests and developmental progress
Children demonstrate more advanced cognitive skills and greater social competence in environments that are safe and orderly, contain a wide variety of material, and are organized into learning or play centers
Environments must ensure a minimum number of square meters per child. Studies found that , as the number of children in a space increases, so does aggressiveness, destructiveness and behaviors.
Materials should be available in sufficient quantities to allow choices by children and avoid unnecessary competition
One of the most obvious environmental elements in quality ECE programs is health and safety, including such factors as personal safety, making time for nap/rest times, and nutritious meals and snacks.
The quality of the social environment in which children are brought up-especially interaction with peers and adults-is a major influence in early life and therefore is important to their competence and coping skills in later life.
How a child develops is related to the kinds and types of relationships they have with adults in their life.
Adult to Child interactions in an early childhood program must be positive, supportive and individualized.
Quality of interaction between educators and children is affected by the ratio of adults to children, caregiver education, group and program size, and continuity of care.
Continuity of Care
A secure attachment to a primary caregiver provides a child with the sense of security necessary to reach and explore people and the environment.
It is recommended that the child remain with the same caregiver for the first 36 months of life.
In a primary caregiving approach, babies interact with all adults in the environment but are assigned to a particular adult who meets most of their caregiving needs.
In programs offering continuity of care, the caregivers moves up with the children, staying with the same group of children for two, and sometimes three years.
Job dissatisfaction from low compensation and an undervaluing of work, which can lead to a high staff turnover, is a deterrent to providing this continuity of care.
Culture is an important building block of identity, and a program must be sensitive to all the cultural backgrounds of families being served.
Caregivers should represent as well as learn about the cultures of the families served, and the environment should include pictures and objects representing those cultures.
Quality Environments - Caregiver Characteristics
Education and Experience
The professional education of the staff is the factor that most positively affects the quality of early childhood programs.
Research studies report that caregivers with post-secondary education in early childhood development are more likely to be responsive, provide children with activities that are stimulating and developmentally appropriate, and support parents by providing them access to child development information.
Caregiver training in child development contributes to positive outcomes for children in areas such as social interaction with adults, the development of pro-social behaviors, and language and cognitive development.
Experience alone appears to bear little relationship to positive child outcomes. By itself, caregiver experience is not a predictor of effective caregiving, and in the absence of other factors, it has been linked to less cognitive and social stimulation among children and apathy among infants.
Stability and Job Satisfaction
Highly qualified, competent ECE's are leaving the profession because they cannot afford to stay at their current wages.
Staff who are paid better tend to stay longer in their jobs, forming consistent relationships with the children and fostering the emotional stability necessary for learning and growth.
Caregiver continuity is particularly important for infants and toddlers, because they are in the process of forming attachment relationships. With caregiver turnover rates averaging 21.7% annually in Canada, with a high in Alberta of 44.8% and a low in Prince Edward Island of 15.5%, lack of caregiver continuity is a serious concern.
Stability is only one of several ways in which job satisfaction among caregivers results in better child behaviour and development. Studies indicate that salary is the best predictor of job satisfaction: higher salaries are more associate with higher job commitment, and ECE's with higher salaries are more likely to view early childhood development as a viable career.
Caregivers who are satisfied with their jobs are more likely to provide encouragement and guidance to children. Caregivers who are dissatisfied tend to be harsher and more restrictive with children and less likely to proved activities that will support and encourage child development.
Did Ya Know?
Quality programs are just slightly more expensive than poor quality programs.
While only 1/7 of programs assessed for quality provide care that promotes healthy development and learning, better quality services cost, on average, just 10% more that mediocre care.
Programs that don't follow regulations or are "less strict" with following regulations score lower in terms of quality.
How Well Do You Know The Saskatchewan Child Care Guidelines/Regulations???
The Saskatchewan Childcare Regulations: http://www.qp.gov.sk.ca/documents/English/Regulations/Regulations/C7-3R2.pdf
Please Note: ECE's and administrators must not confuse provincial or territorial licensing standards/regulations for early learning and childcare environments with quality measures. Some administrators and ECE's may focus almost exclusively on meeting licensing standards and regulations and think they are meeting measures of quality. However, such standards are "minimum standards" that centers must achieve to be able to offer services to the public. They primarily establish minimum levels of environmental conditions and programming requirements necessary for public safety, such as liability, security and health. Compliance with defined standards and regulations, although critical, is only one small step in establishing quality and best practice. Some of the more common features assessed are the setting, equipment, and program, how children engage in experiences, as well as the roles of ECE's, administrators, families, and community.
1. Natural Lighting
The licensee of a center must provide at least ______% of the areas used for children's play space.
2. Adult to Child Ratio
The adult to child ratio that applies in respect to a group of children in the "preschool aged category" while they are on an excursion/field trip away from the center is?
3. Usable Floor Area
A center must provide a minimum of ______ square meters of usable floor space for each child care space; and a sleeping area of at least ______ square meters that is separate and apart from the usable floor area mentioned above for each infant space.
"Usable Floor Area" does not include space used for ______,
hallways, entryways, washrooms, ______, closets, locker areas, furnace and
boiler rooms and large or fixed equipment.
4. First Aid & CPR Training
A licensee of a center must ensure that at least ______ individual who has completed a
first aid course is on the premises during the hours of operation of the center. (current)
5. How often should toys be sanitized in an operating center? (blocks, plastic dishes, animals, etc)
How is Quality Assessed?
To determine the level of quality that early learning and child care programs offer children and their families, continuous assessment and evaluation processes are necessary.
Meeting licensing standards and applicable regulations is only a small part of quality.
The assessment and evaluation of quality programming for young children require a variety of tools, as well as objective and subjective methods of data collection.
The purpose of assessing the quality levels is to determine the value and appropriateness of the programming and experiences offered to children and families using the service.
Assessing quality of a program focuses on children's developmental needs and children's responses to experiences offered to support those needs.
The assessment and evaluation process uses a team approach, with input from ECE's, the children, program administrators, families, and the board of directors's. This assessment team gathers information about children's strengths, needs, progress, and interests. The team also examines a measure of the ECE's actions or practices to determine how and how well the program outcomes have been achieved.
The team evaluates the data collected and uses the information to make recommendations about continuous improvements to programming.
The Purpose of an Assessment and Evaluation Process
Document program effectiveness
Provide information for program improvement
Align program practices with program standards and benchmarks leading to best practice
Difference Between Assessment and Evaluation
Observing, gathering, and collecting information.
Judging the value and worth of program elements.
Documenting the value and worth of program elements
Forming judgments from the information gathered.
Making recommendations based on results after the assessment.
Documenting effectiveness and discussing results.
Presenting options for improvement.
Roles of Administrator and ECE's in the Assessment and Evaluation Process
Administrators have the overall responsibility for ensuring that children and families have a high quality program. Administrators put in place total-quality-management strategies to maintain or increase the quality of programming experiences offered to children.
Determining trends in child learning, appropriate developmental outcomes, and program-participation strategies.
Evaluating the effectiveness of the program, early childhood practices, and service delivery.
Determining the level of funding and resources needed to provide an early learning environment that is safe, healthy, and stimulating.
Identifying the ongoing professional-development needs of staff.
Facilitating policy development.
Being accountable to all stakeholders -children, staff, families, boards of directors, and the community at large
ECE's use the assessment and evaluation process to guide them in the design and delivery of the children's programs.
Determine individual children's needs/interests and developmental milestones.
Plan experiences based for individuals and groups of young children based on their expresses interests or on ECE's observations.
Use data to effectively communicate with families about their children's development.
Use data to examine the developmental levels of children and determine specialized services and interventions that may be needed to support particular aspects of a child's growth and development.
Identify areas of the program or practices that require further development or evaluation.
Are accountable to all stakeholders - children, staff, families, boards of directors, and the community at large.
Models for Assessment and Evaluation
The "Top-Down" Model
Examines the setting, the equipment, and the adult's perspective of the program.
For example, the assessment team examines the space's square footage, the number of play centers available to the children, as well as the variety of materials and equipment
The "Bottom-Up" Model
Focuses on attempting to determine how each child experiences the program.
As a result, the team examines the children's feelings within a particular environment.
For example, they would examine the play centers, materials, and interactions that each child engages in.
The "Outside-Inside Model
This model requires the assessment team to examine how the program supports families who use the services; as well, the team examines the parent/family-ECE relationships, and measures the number of support services and the number of families using them.
The "Inside" Model
This model examines colleague relationships, staff-parent relationships, and relationships with sponsoring agencies.
For example, this model examines the ways in which family members are involved in components of the program design and governance structure.
The "Outside" Model
This model examines the center's relationships with the outside agencies and support networks.
For example, this model determines the number of partnerships the center has with outside agencies that support the center's families.
The Progressive Best Practice Model (Levels)
Another model used extensively in our work with early learning and child care programs is the Progressive Best Practice Model.
This model has levels: each level is a foundation for the next, and achieving each level supports the early learning and child care program to move toward achieving best practice.
The levels contain a series of detailed or specific elements that support the program design and requirements for developmentally appropriate outcomes.
This model requires ECE's to examine all of the elements within each level. The linkages between each element and level are also examined.
This determines the functioning level at each phase, and what the potential impact may be if and early learning and child care center is missing key elements within each level or if it is performing below expectations. For example, if the only art-experiences available to the children are at the easel, then opportunities for creative expression is restricted or hindered. (When children engage in art in their natural environment, they increase their observation skills and their understanding of natural products vs man-made, and they expand their vocabulary . Children become more aware of color, context, mediums, and options they may use to create an image when materials and the environment provide choices.)
Level 1 - Physical Play Space
The foundation of the model includes the physical dimensions and equipment within the indoor and outdoor early childhood physical play space.
Such th things as materials, appropriate toys, playground equipment, display material, physical layout, and bathroom facilities occupy this level.
These physical elements respond to requirements such as safety, health and security, child capacity, the amount of floor and ground space, play equipment and materials, floor - and ground - space design, maintenance and hygiene practices, and supplies and environmental factors, including lighting and air quality.
The physical play space and equipment are necessary to support a child's programming outcomes. However, identifying true program quality and achieving best practice extends beyond physical elements of an early learning and childcare center, which is described in the next three levels.
Level 2 - Program Inputs
The programming and experience elements are divided into two separate levels - the program inputs and the program outputs.
Level 2 is the programming -input layer. It builds on and connects to the physical play space and equipment described in level one.
Typical program inputs in level 2 of the model include the process of programming to meet the children's needs, leadership practices, and the knowledge and skills of the early childhood ECE's and families.
Other important elements include the quality and frequency of early childhood professional development and training to provided to the staff, the role modeling and mentoring offered to new ECE's, the quality of the children's program, the academic achievement and practical experiences of the ECE;s, and the ability of the team to plan and implement a program that is based on children's developmental needs and interests.
Level 3 - Program Output
The programming-output level represents how the inputs compare to the identified best practices.
By comparing the inputs with children's inputs and point of view, as well as with predetermined standards, ECE determine where the experiences may be improved.
For example, each of the experiences is examined relative to satisfying children's curiosity, being appropriate to children's needs, being season-and child appropriate, being culturally sensitive, being aesthetically pleasing to children, and being designed for children's convenience.
Experienced ECE's and administrators undertake this level of examination. They guide less experienced ECE's in connecting program inputs with program outputs
Level 4 - Best Practice
ECE's and leaders who establish strategies to achieve the first three levels have a solid programming foundation established. This is essential to proceed to examine how practices may be adjusted to reflect the next level of quality, known as best practices.
Best practice refers to evidence-based outcomes that describe an ideal early learning and child care practices. It assumes all of the appropriate physical and programming dimensions are in place, are active, and are responding to children's cultural and developmental levels and needs.
Best practice requires observation, learning, adapt ion, analysis, and refection about similar actions among individual children, either inside or outside of the group and in the overall early learning and childcare environment.
To achieve best practice, early childhood administrative leaders and ECE's are continuously committed to change and to improvement.
The most knowledgeable staff person who has a combination of theoretical and application skills in program design, child development, and assessment and evaluation strategies leads the assessment at this level. (It is not unusual for some early learning and childcare centers to ask/contract reviewers to conduct assessments at this level - Provincial Consultants/Tribal Council Consultants)
What When Where How Why of Assessment
Family and community partnerships, including cultural diversity, communication, and community resources.
Responsive play environments, including the physical environment, daily routines, observation processes of children's responses to the program, children's interests and needs, programming options and play/experience center options, and documentation of children's interests and learning.
Environmental factors that support developmental tasks, including social/emotional , cognitive, language, physical, problem solving, critical thinking, and communication interaction.
Health and safety factors, including how children develop and awareness of healthy active-living practices, such as nutrition, self-help, and personal hygiene skills.
Programming components that contribute to children's exploring, wondering, and discovering about math, science, language, visual arts, block building, dramatic play, literacy, culture, etc.
ECE's assess and evaluate programming on an ongoing basis each day.
The timing and frequency of a more comprehensive assessment and evaluative process will vary according to strategies that are in place to support ECE's in moving toward best practice.
When corrective action is delayed, early childhood staff, children, and parents may assume that assessment is just a "time-waster" and is not a serious component of the center's program delivery.
The frequency of program assessment is determined by both internal factors and external factors. Administrators examine how rapidly program changes occur to determine the frequency of assessment.
Administrators consider changes to the program, such as new staff, as a guide to determine the frequency and type of assessment. For example, if two experienced ECE's resign from their positions, and an administrator hires two new college graduates, the frequency of assessment needed and the type of assessment required may differ from previous assessment because of the experience levels, the currency of theory and application processes's, and the personal attributes that each new staff member brings.
External pressures, such as changes to operational standards, new playground standards, parental expectations, new center ownership or leadership, or new research information on children's learning, also affect the timing of an assessment and evaluation process.
It there is a major shift in children's socioeconomic mix, a change in staff, or a new program design resulting from previous evaluations, the assessment and evaluation process may be frequent, so that the change in service can be measured appropriately.
The assessment and evaluation process occurs where the program delivery takes place.
Observations occur in the active indoor and outdoor play environments.
Assessment and evaluation may focus on a series of single experiences, projects, field trips, group play, or routines. or the process may take a more holistic view by examining the entire program rather than segments of it.
There is considerable flexibility in how the process in conducted and documented.
The process will reflect the established program-outcomes documented, and may be completed at the end of an activity (summative evaluation) or throughout an activity's entire time span (formative evaluation), or the process may be cumulative, whereby a center revisits its evaluations on an annual or biannual time frame as a way to document changes and progress
The assessment and evaluation process helps to identify program strengths, areas requiring further development, how change is being achieved, what problems are being overcome, what new challenges are developing, and what new support mechanisms need to be considered or added.
The attributes of ECE's are identified, and a workplace learning community is formed.
Motivation or ECE's are determined, learning from one another is supported, and collectively the team develops new ways of thinking and innovating.
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