Early Childhood Education Curriculum Model
The associate's degree program was founded on the belief that all children have a right to high quality early childhood education and care. Curriculum development is viewed as a fluid process and content is ever changing as what we know about how children grow and learn changes. A significant goal early childhood education program is to provide meaningful learning experiences that meet the needs of individual children and families within the community.
Understanding and respecting the uniqueness of the learner and the context within which they function are stressed. Developing a professional identity that includes viewing oneself as valuable and effective; abiding by the National Association for the Education of Young Children code of ethics; forming effective collegial, family and community relationships; advocating for the profession and quality early education programs; and participating in continuous learning and professional development are important components of our curriculum.
Curriculum design follows the principle of developmentally appropriate practice. Such a program is rich in both experiences and content, providing the child with consistent acceptance and success. Authentic assessment is one of the hallmarks of the DAP model. Children’s development, interests and needs provide the scaffolding for curriculum development. Also, knowledge of families, culture and community is used in formulating and facilitating meaningful experiences.
Through a dynamic curriculum in a supportive learning environment, children are challenged to excel. The teacher is an ethical and reflective practitioner who challenges her values and beliefs, and continually evaluates children, methods and materials to create a learning environment that encourages positive social interaction, emotional well-being and active engagement in learning.
DAP is the umbrella under which several developmental theories and education models are discussed. Our approach to teaching our college students about how children learn can be considered eclectic in nature. Many theories of development (including Arnold Gesell, Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, Erik Erikson, B.F. Skinner, Urie Bronfenbrenner, Stanley Greenspan and Howard Gardner) are reviewed and analyzed and implications for practice are discussed. Also, many approaches to early education, including Montessori, Reggio Emilia, Bank Street, Creative Curriculum and High Scope are compared.
However, many elements of the constructionist perspective of Jean Piaget best describe our curriculum emphasis which is consistent with the curricula in our JCCC Hiersteiner Child Development Center (lab school) and Head Start which serve as our primary lab settings. We believe that the child constructs understanding through interaction with the environment (people and things). This is a learner-centered model where significance is given to the value of exploration and play in development. Emphasis is on creating a community of learners where both children and adults are contributors to the learning process.
Our curriculum model also includes families and other community agencies as important entities in a child’s early learning experiences. As the child’s first teachers, families must be acknowledged and engaged in partnerships to support not only the child’s learning but also physical and mental health. Collaboration with other community agencies, in the interest of the child and family, strengthens the curriculum and early education and care program.