Researchers have found that the instructional practices provided by pre-school teachers as a part of the early childhood education impacts the academic career and social skills of young children.
“High quality pre-school is one of the most effective means of preparing all children to succeed in school. However, this review of research indicates the need to expand our definitions of quality,” said Margaret Burchinal, senior research scientist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
According to the researcher, the review of the science suggests the field should continue to measure the quality of relationships of pre-school teachers and children, especially the sensitivity and warmth of the teachers.
The review, published in the journal Child Development Perspectives, helps untangle a complicated knot of factors that affect young children.
“The largest effects on child outcomes involve curricula. Some of the biggest impacts on literacy, math and other skills involved curricula focused on those specific skills with accompanying coaching or training for teachers,” Burchinal explained.
The researchers pointed to FPG’s Abecedarian Project as an example of a program that combined intentional teaching with warmth and sensitivity.
The project used an intensive, language-driven approach that involved teacher scaffolding of activity-based learning to build children’s knowledge base and language skills.
The centre-based, birth-to-5 program for children from low-income homes famously contributed to better cognitive, socio-emotional and physical health outcomes that have persisted for decades.
“As we think about the components of high-quality early childhood education, our policies and practices can reflect what this research tells us,” Burchinal said.
“Ideally, our new models of quality will encompass evidence-based curricula and intentional teaching within content areas, as well as professional development that focuses on the teaching practices that promote the skills young children need to succeed in school,” Burchinal noted.