Students begin Eastern Kentucky University’s child and family studies program by taking foundational classes at the 200 and 300 level. Everything they learn in those classes melds together into an upper division curriculum class: Program Planning for Preschool curriculum (CDF 406).
The course deals with topics ranging from the foundation of early childhood, through curricular domains, and development around those domains, blending the disciplines of psychology and education.
A Foundation in Theory
The course incorporates elements of psychology and sociology as students learn about different child development theories. Examples of developmental theories that are referenced when we look at curriculum planning include Erickson and Piaget. These early scholars asked, “How does a child develop?” They recognized that before we can create curriculum for children, we have to understand their development.
An example I always give is a two-year-old. Sometimes they go through a period of biting. Not every child bites, but it’s very concerning when that happens because it shows aggression. However, there’s a developmental reason why children bite. It has to do with speech and language. If their speech and language is a little bit delayed or behind others, they become frustrated. Consequently, they don’t know how to communicate, and they might bite or throw something as a way to express their frustration. We understand that’s their level of communication.
Curriculum Built Around Developmental Stages
Teachers of young children who know and understand those developmental stages are better able to develop curriculum around those needs. Yuri Bronfenbrenner is a theorist who took an ecological systems approach to the development of children and families.
We refer to that theory to understand children in society. We can see that children tend to be like the nucleus of a circle and all around the child they’re being affected by different things. For most children the closest person or the closest people to that inner circle is their family. This leads us to know that they’re going to have the biggest impact on most children. However, for some children, it could be a foster family or other individuals. We pull from a number of these theories when developing curriculum, which is why this course incorporates so much psychology and sociology.
Misconceptions About Childcare Workers
It’s unfortunate that some of society views early childhood educators as babysitters or daycare workers. The field prefers the term childcare or early educator because we’re caring for children. Children should be considered a precious resource to our nation and to the world. We know that development is so important in those first few years of life. The brain is developing at a very fast rate. It’s important that we have nurturing caregivers with them that understand their development and can provide the curriculum needed to encourage and enhance that development.
Consider again that two-year-old who bites. What if someone was caring for that child, who didn’t understand their development? That child might be punished for something that could be considered a non-punishable offense because they’re progressing along this developmental line. It’s important for those of us in the childcare field to understand development and be ready to assist, guide, or intervene in a developmentally appropriate way . Doing so helps to ensure the safe and proper development of children from all walks of life.
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About the Author
Dr. Dana Keller Bush is the associate dean in the College of Education and Applied Human Sciences and professor of Child and Family Studies. She holds a PhD in Studies in Higher Education from the University of Kentucky and an MS in Family Studies with an Early Childhood Development emphasis, also from the University of Kentucky. Dr. Bush’s research interests are in early childhood curriculum and leadership. She has presented these findings at numerous national and international conferences, as well as published in scholarly journals.