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Forum on Public Policy Online

Vol 2012 no1

Values||Poverty and Global Security||Environment||Early Childhood||Women's Issues

Early Childhood Education


Universal Design for Learning:  Cognitive Theory into Practice for Facilitating Comprehension in Early Literacy
Susan Trostle Brand and Elizabeth M. Dalton

Addressing the unique needs of children of all ages and abilities, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is gaining momentum in schools and preschools around the nation and the globe. This article explores Universal Design for Learning and its promising applications to a variety of reading and language arts experiences in the Early Childhood classroom. In UDL-infused classrooms, literacy experiences become multi-sensory and meaningful for young learners, thereby increasing their motivation and ultimate reading comprehension. The four core principles of Universal Design for Learning--multiple means of representation, multiple means of engagement, multiple means of engagement, and multiple means of assessment—are integrated into a sample literacy comprehension program designed to improve young children's text connections.  

The applications of UDL to enhancing children's reading and comprehension connections are demonstrated through the use of grand conversations, literacy circles, oral language experiences, creative dramatics, and play in teaching reading and language arts. This article illustrates how informed teachers may enlist a plethora of multiple intelligence and cognitive theory-based literacy strategies that promote automaticity and a life-long love of reading for young children. Using stimulating and engaging text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world connections, teachers and learners realize the rich implications of the four key principles of Universal Design for Learning.


Early Literacy Skill Development Provides the Key to Success for Preschoolers at Risk for School Failure
Rebecca J. Russell-Brinks, Education and Child Development Program Director, Grand Rapids Community College, Michigan


Literacy development in early childhood is a key factor in achieving success in school. The areas of oral language, phonological awareness, written expression, and alphabet knowledge are widely recognized as critical components. This paper details the results of year three of the 2008 Early Reading First grant, Early Accent on Reading and Learning for Young Children (EARLY). We asked whether the literacy skills of preschoolers were impacted after increasing preschool educators’ knowledge of and skill in using Scientifically Based Reading Research (SBRR) literacy practices. The Classroom Literacy Enrichment Model (CLEM), a play-based framework grounded in SBRR, was used to infuse literacy into all aspects of the classroom and child assessment was a common classroom practice. Professional development activities included coursework, cohort workshops, and site-based coaching. The project involved a treatment group of 176 four-year-olds in 11 classrooms and a control group of 6 classrooms from a demographically similar neighboring school district. All children were in a state funded program for four-year-olds deemed at-risk for school failure. Pre- and post-assessments (PPVT 4, PALS and PreLAS) were administered and compared between groups. Although EARLY children scored at a lower level initially, they outperformed the comparison group in most areas. For example, on the PALS they grew at 2.5x the rate of the comparison group. Using the PALS Readiness Summary parameters this reduced the number of students designated as at-risk for school failure from 93% in the fall to 19% in the following spring. These results highlight the importance of effective teacher education and professional development focused on utilizing SBRR literacy practices. Current and future work through the EARLY grant includes comparing half day versus full day programming, sustaining work after grant funds are exhausted, and promoting the use of intensive professional development for teachers in preschool classrooms.


Intimate Disclosure Among Best Friends Of Youth: An Opportunity For Prevention Of Internalizing Disorders
Allison Buskirk-Cohen, Assistant Professor, Counseling Psychology, Delaware Valley

As children move into adolescence, two important and contradictory changes regarding peer groups and psychopathology occur. While friendships become characterized more by emotional support than they did in earlier years (especially so for girls), rates for internalizing disorders, particularly depression, increase (again, especially so for girls). Since supportive friendships should protect against internalizing symptoms, researchers have examined the process of intimate disclosure—how youth discuss personal thoughts and feelings—as a potential explanation for this contradiction. This paper will explore youths’ responses to disclosure and the impact of these responses.
            A review of the literature reveals three constructs from different areas of psychology that offer insight into the disclosure process: reciprocity of disclosure, excessive reassurance seeking and co-rumination. A critical examination indicates that they over-lap greatly, and, may not, in fact, be truly distinct. Developmental differences and gender differences are similar among the constructs, with adolescents tending to disclose more and respond more in-depth than children, and the same being true for girls compared to boys. All are linked with internalizing symptoms, particularly for girls. Rather than viewing children’s friendships as superficial (especially those of boys), perhaps it would be advantageous to consider them as models for appropriate disclosure. Various types of prevention will be discussed with this notion in mind.


Developing a Theoretical Framework for Examining Student Understanding of Fractional Concepts: An Historical Accounting
Susan M. Cooper, Trena L. Wilkerson, Mark Montgomery, Sara Mechell, Kristin Arterbury, Sherrie Moore


In 2007, a group of mathematics educators and researchers met to examine rational numbers and why children have such an issue with them. An extensive review of the literature on fractional understanding was conducted. The ideas in that literature were then consolidated into a theoretical framework for examining fractions. Once that theoretical framework was in place, it was decided that we would utilize this framework to develop an assessment of student understanding of fractions and to create lessons that would hopefully impact the understanding of the participating students. The intent of this paper is to describe that journey to examine the past research and theory around fractional understanding that lead to a theoretical framework. The paper will also share this framework, as well as provide some information about the instruments and lessons that were created as a result.

The Assessment of Young Children Through the Lens of Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
Elizabeth M. Dalton and Susan Trostle Brand


Early Childhood Education (EDE) describes the education of young children from birth through age 8.  EDE reports have concluded that traditional approaches to curriculum, such as those emphasizing drill and practice of isolated, academic skills, are not in line with current knowledge of human learning and neuropsychology.  These approaches fail to produce the higher-order thinking and problem-solving abilities that students need in the 21st century.  Similar limitations in assessment process and scope also exist.  Often, there is a poor match between the nature of young student learning and form of assessment.  In reading and writing, for example, experts find informal observations and structured performance samples more appropriate than standardized tests for measuring early childhood literacy learning. These assessments are more consistent with developmental characteristics of young children.  When considering childhood learning principles (i.e. children construct knowledge; children learn through play; children's interests motivate learning; child development and learning are characterized by individual variation; etc.), assessing the achievement of young children must be a multiply varied process that addresses all students’ needs and capacities.  UDL is a flexible structure of curriculum development that addresses learner variability.  Learner variability dictates a need for assessment variability.  By implementing UDL core principles, variation in assessment methods, formats, scope/range/level, product/outcome, and instructor feedback can support more authentic and, likely, more accurate assessment results for young children.   

Perspectives in Early Childhood Education: Belize, Brazil, Mexico, El Salvador and Peru
Judith Lynne McConnell-Farmer, Pamela R. Cook and M. W. Farmer

Early childhood education (ECE) provision is becoming a growing priority. During the past twenty years, Latin America has shown a growing recognition in the provision of educational programs for young children, birth to age eight, is essential. Urban and rural populations intimated in 2009, that many countries utilizing equitable access to quality early childhood programs is often seen by policy makers as a means of achieving economic and political goals (United Nations, 2012). Unfortunately, a pre-occupation with economic and political goals may conflict with the provision of quality programming for young children. Chavez and McConnell (2000) stated, “Early childhood education in Latin America has been fragmented, and in some places nonexistent. In general, those that are able to afford it place their children in private preschool programs or hire a staff person, servant, or babysitter to provide the daily custodial care for the child”. (p. 159)
            In a number of Latin American countries provisions for educating young children exist as intent to provide quality services. The continuing challenge is to finance, organize and regulate those well-meaning intentions. As the, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Starting Strong II, reported: “In many OECD countries, the level of regulationof services for children under three gives rise for concern: much of the childcare sector is private and unregulated, with staff training and pedagogicalprogramming being particularly weak.” (OECD, 2006, p. 12) 

Therefore, the objective of this article is two-fold. Firstly, to describe national policy efforts which regulate the education of young children consistently. And, secondly, to reflect the status of early childhood education programming; and to examine the possibilities for the improvement of the quality and accessibility of an education for all young children. Five Latin American nations have been chosen for examination, including: Belize, Brazil, El Salvador, Mexico and Peru.


Children’s Language Production: How Cognitive Neuroscience & Industrial Engineering Can Inform Public Education Policy and Practice
Gerry Leisman, Professor of Rehabilitation Sciences, Nazareth Academic Institute

Little of 150 years of research in Cognitive Neurosciences, Human Factors, and the mathematics of Production Management have found there way into educational policy and certainly not into the classroom or in the production of educational materials in any meaningful or practical fashion. Whilst more mundane concepts of timing, sequencing, spatial organisation, and Gestalt principles of perception are well known and applied, the nature of Receiver Operating Characteristics (ROC) and the responsibility of the sender in that regard, as well as the maintenance of simplistic notions of developmental brain organization and hemisphericity for language rather than the neurophysiology of embodied language as an example, still inform pre-K-3 curriculum.
The paper intends to overview the science of human physiologic efficiencies in engineering terms in an attempt to develop novel approaches and thinking to classroom-based practice and subsequently leadership and policy informed by current neuroscientific realities and by production management and optimization principles now applied to schools, and their consumers.  

Teacher Knowledge and Dispositions towards Parents and Families: Rethinking Influences and Education of Early Childhood Pre-service teachers
Joan Y. Pedro, Regina Miller and Paige Bray

Historically teachers’ knowledge, attitudes and dispositions towards parental involvement have been considerably non-existent and negative. This trend is well documented in the research on parental involvement in education. In the twenty-first century, early childhood educators must possess the current requisite knowledge and skills to meet existing challenges in their work with diverse students and families. Although the tide has changed in contemporary times and the research now points to achieving parental involvement in the various activities of their children’s education,  recent research stresses the importance of teaching pre-service teachers with the focus and experiences on working with families (Abrego et al. 2006, Graue, 2005). Moreover, to better prepare future teachers, schools of education need to help teacher candidates develop positive attitudes toward families and encourage teachers to draw upon the knowledge and strengths of families to make the classroom education students receive relevant (Knopf, H., & Swick, K. 2008).  The question remains how do teachers develop the knowledge as well as these attitudes and dispositions to work successfully with families?  A review of research finds that although practicing teachers believe that working with families is important to positive outcomes for children, teachers reported receiving little formal training and, therefore possess minimal knowledge and skills to work with parents (Hiatt-Michael, 2001). In this paper we explore the various ways that pre-services teachers are exposed to information on parents and families and discusses the important issues related to pre-service teachers’ knowledge and dispositions on the importance of working with families as an integral part of the education of children.  We examined the pre-service teachers’ perceptions of their dispositions towards working with families. The survey data on teacher knowledge and dispositions gathered as part of this study is shared and we provide  some strategies for  a curricular approach towards working with families.

The Impact Of The Shifting Knowledge Base, From Development To Achievement, On Early Childhood Education Programs   
Kathleen P. Tyler, Associate Professor, Early Childhood Education, Alabama State University


Interest in child development as a knowledge base for early childhood education programs flourished in the 1970s as a result of the theories and philosophies of Jean Piaget and other cognitive developmentalists. During subsequent decades in America, reform movements emphasizing accountability and achievement became a political and social imperative, resulting in the 2002 U.S. Law No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The mandate of the NCLB emphasized “consequential accountability,” now permeating American schooling and curriculum development. The law’s impact on early childhood education is discussed with selected professional judgments and data outlined particularly in federally designated Poor Black Belt Alabama counties. Finally, suggestions are offered regarding clarification of cognitive developmental theory with evidence of misunderstanding of Piaget’s theory that may have weakened applicability to early childhood programs and curriculum. Political and professional discussions are included regarding modifications of the NCLB law allowing for regeneration of emphasis on child growth and development as a knowledge base for early childhood education.



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