Early Childhood Education Research Paper

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This research paper begins with a glance in the rearview mirror to consider what different sources had to say in the first half of the twentieth century. In 1929 the National Society for the Study of Education (NSSE) published its annual yearbook on the topic of preschool and parental education, in which editors referred to a

new and different conception of the educational significance of the first half-dozen years of life. This new conception of the significance of the preschool period has led to the development of several new educational activities, more especially to the development of nursery schools and of new organizations and methods for the better training of parents. (NSSE, 1929, p. iv)

From the 1920s to the 1950s preschool or nursery school education were considered by most educators, researchers, and parents to be the only legitimate manifestation of what was referred to as early childhood education. The 1929 yearbook refers to full-day child care programs as “day nurseries,” which were part of the parallel and very different world of child welfare, clearly distinct in purpose, orientation, and content from the early childhood education programs of nursery schools. When the 1939–1940 yearbook titled Intelligence: Its Nature and Nurture was published (NSSE, 1939), the primary focus was, again, on one kind of setting (half-day nursery school programs) and on one specific outcome (IQ scores). Titles of chapters in the 1939–1940 yearbook included the following:

  • “A Longitudinal Study of the Effects of Nursery-School Training on Successive Intelligence-Test Ratings,”
  • “The Effect of Nursery-School Attendance Upon Mental Growth of Children,”
  • “Influence of the Nursery School on Mental Growth,”
  • “The Mental Development of Nursery School Children Compared With That of Non-Nursery-School Children,”
  • “MentalGrowthasRelatedtoNurserySchoolAttendance,”
  • “A Follow-Up Study of a Group of Nursery School Children,” and
  • “Subsequent Growth of Children With and Without Nursery School Experience.”

Early childhood education—as a discipline, a discourse of inquiry, and a body of educational practices and approaches—has changed dramatically since those early chapters written by the leading scholars of the day.The current research paper does not attempt to be either “definitive” or “comprehensive,” but it does attempt to provide an accurate reflection of the diversity of philosophies, theories, and practices into which the field of early childhood education has matured. We no longer identify one specific program as “typical” or model, and the once-firm line between “child welfare” and “educational” programs has all but disappeared. In this research paper we consider the wide range of settings in which young children participate from birth to approximately age 8 years. The paper is designed to provide an understanding of both the breadth and depth of early childhood education and, in so doing, to give the reader the opportunity to become acquainted with what we consider to be some of the major themes in this field. It is our intention that the reader will gain this level of understanding and will be able to use the paper to identify further sources of information and knowledge based on what we present here.

This research paper on early childhood education draws on Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model of child development in order to share our understandings of the most recent developments in early childhood education and research at the different nested systemic levels of analysis (Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 1998). At the center of these nested concentric levels is the microsystem, which is seen as the immediate and naturalistic ecological niche within which the child develops. Examples of microsystems are home environments, child care settings, and classrooms. The mesosystem is the network of relationships among the various microsystem environments. For example, the degree of continuity or conflict between the home environments and school environments is a mesosystem dynamic. Embedding both of these inner systems is what Bronfenbrenner refers to as the exosystem, which includes broader societal influences that impact on the meso- and microsystems. Exosystem factors include legislation and social policy, labor force participation rates, neighborhood characteristics, teacher training programs, and the like. The overarching macrosystem refers to the societal and cultural values, beliefs, and attitudes that shape and influence the creation of policies and programs that ultimately impact on the lives of young children and their families.

In the first section, titled “Learning and Teaching in Early Childhood Education: Art, Literacy, Music, and Play,” we focus on child growth and activity as it is observed within the early childhood microsystem environments in which young children play, learn, and develop. In this section we explore what is known about the abilities and interests that young children bring to early childhood settings, and how the early childhood environment can challenge, engage, and interact with their abilities and interests. Within and across the areas of art, play, literacy, and music this section explores the dynamic tension between more endogenous and maturational views of early education and development at one end of the continuum and an approach that advocates for more direct instruction at the other.

The second section, “Diversity in Early Childhood Education: Individual Exceptionality and Cultural Pluralism,” considers the importance and impact of diversity in early childhood education. Although much of the work in early childhood education in the early twentieth century represented an attempt to define a set of universal norms, our understanding today is that early childhood education includes a very wide continuum of children with diverse abilities and disabilities who come from an ever increasing range of cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Rather than attempting to reduce the field to a few narrow common denominators, we wish to reflect the diversity that enlivens this field and challenges practitioners, researchers, and policy analysts. In this section we maintain our focus on the microsystems of early childhood education but broaden our perspective to include the mesosystem relationships among the various microsystems, and we begin to explore the exosystem levels of the social, legal, and regulatory contexts of early childhood education.

In the third section, “Programs and Quality in Early Childhood Education,” we attempt to integrate theory, research, and practice in early childhood education as we consider the impact of ECE programs on the children and families who participate in them. Specifically, we examine two of the most dominant forms of ECE programming: compensatory education programs for at-risk children and nonparental child care programs. The issue of quality relates directly to the notion of an ecology of early childhood care, education, and development. Within this complex ecology there are dynamic interactions between the endogenous, biological factors of individual children and the environmental influences of classrooms, curricula, and the social, economic, and demographic realities that frame the development and education of young children. This framework, in turn, is informed by societal values and beliefs that contribute to the very definition of “quality” in ECE programs. In this third section we present a model of program quality that draws on empirical data from the different systemic levels of early childhood education and child care programs, across the curricular areas discussed in the first section of this research paper and in recognition of the individual differences and cultural diversity that are presented in the second section.

Learning and Teaching in Early Childhood: Art, Literacy, Music, and Play

Many textbooks on early childhood education are organized by curriculum subject areas with discrete how-to chapters on teaching literacy, music, art, science, social studies, movement, and mathematics to young children. The lives and abilities of young children are not so easily compartmentalized. For this reason we take a different tack when considering what children learn and how children learn in their early childhood years. We consider the ways in which children comprehend and represent their own lived realities across subject areas and domains of development. We open this discussion with an exploration of the nature and significance of art in early childhood education and artistic development in children. This discussion of the representational and semiotic functions of children’s art is followed by a consideration of children’s representations of thoughts, scripts, and inner realities in their spontaneous play. We then turn to children’s early encounters with the world of literacy in which the written word is seen as yet another powerful representation of both thought and language. The section concludes with an exploration of the significance of music, yet one additional form of representation and meaning in the child’s world that develops throughout the early childhood years

Art and Aesthetics in Early Childhood Education

The artistic production of young children has been a source of delight and enjoyment for many parents and early childhood educators. It is difficult to resist the simplicity of early forms that depict with enthusiasm and energy the worlds of childhood. It is hard not to be seduced by the directness and expressive quality of images that in their apparent inaccuracies, approximations, and technical deficiencies capture the element of youthful innocence that is but a memory in the adult universe. The aesthetic appeal of young children’s pictorial imagery seems to be closely bound to the emotional response that they evoke that allows for a nostalgic journey back to one’s early years. Fineberg (1997) highlighted the significance of these sentiments in Picasso’s fascination with the “visual inventiveness of children” by pointing to its connection with the artist’s “own extraordinary access to the memories and urges of childhood that most of us have buried beyond the reach of our adult consciousness” (p. 137).

The value of early childhood as a period of uncontaminated purity where one has the benefit of perceiving the world through what Vasily Kandinsky (1912) called “unaccustomed eyes” and thus has the ability to attend to the “pure inner tone” of the objects in the world has been strongly reflected in the work of many artists of the modern area and has created a powerful legacy. Jean Dubuffet, who “turned in the 1940s to children’s drawings as a means of cutting to the truth of the ordinary experience” (Franciscono, 1998, p. 116); Joan Miro, whose work associated with the phenomenon of primitivism in French art of the 1920s and 1930s; and Paul Klee are among the icons of modernism who elevated children’s art to an unprecedented height. Consider Picasso’s famous remark made to Sir Herbert Read in 1956: “It took me years to learn to draw like . . . children.” This one sentence captures the respect and admiration for young children’s artistic production shared by the most influential artists of the modern era (quoted by Fineberg, 1997, p. 133).

The sentiment expressed by Klee (1957) that “the more helpless they [children] are, the more instructive their examples and already at an early stage one has to save them from corruption” (translation by Hofmann, 1998, p. 13) echoes in the works of one of the most influential Western art educators of the twentieth century, Victor Lowenfeld. In his most acclaimed work Creative and Mental Growth, Lowenfeld and Brittain (1964) argued that if “children developed without any interference from the outside world no special stimulation for their creative work would be necessary. Every child would use his deeply rooted creative impulse without inhibition” (p. 20). Needless to say, these assertions have never been empirically tested; nor have any scientific grounds been provided to offer them validity. Furthermore, it is impossible to conceive of circumstances in which children would grow up in environments devoid of visual manifestations of culture.

Yet, contemporary early childhood art education has been greatly affected by what had earlier been referred to as “a myth of natural unfolding” (Kindler, 1996). This is the notion that artistic abilities are contained within the child at birth and that a nonintrusive social environment is what is needed to bring them to the surface. This sentiment often echoes in early childhood texts and is well exemplified by Morgan (1988), who stated that we should consider “children’s symbolic activity to be sacrosanct in early years . . . and therefore teacher intervention is inappropriate” (p. 37). The nonintervention approach relies on the assumption that children are happy explorers who have an innate ability to satisfy their creative desires.

Art educators and researchers in day care, preschool, and primary classrooms have frequently witnessed children’s frustrating struggles with producing art rather than the happy explorations of young children trying to negotiate solutions to pictorial problems. Regretfully, many children emerge from these struggles with a loss of confidence that eventually leads to the abandonment of pictorial efforts. A question can then be asked about the merits of theoretical frameworks and pedagogical approaches that sacrifice on the altar of “natural development” opportunities of young children to grow into individuals who can use with confidence and competence pictorial means for expression and communication throughout their lives. This question is particularly valid in the light of alternative theories that stipulate that development in pictorial representation is in fact a process of learning from cultural models and that these models are absolutely essential in artistic development (Wilson & Wilson, 1977, 1981). Wilson and Wilson’s research clearly contradicts the idea that “creative expression comes from within the child” (Edwards, 1990, p. 66) or that “talent doesn’t need any experience of life” (Klee, quoted by Franciscono, 1998, p. 98). Instead, this work points to the significance of socialization and cultural exposure in the development of pictorial vocabulary that can be used for expressive purposes.

The very concept of artistic development and some longstanding models developed to describe it (e.g., Gaitskell, Hurwitz, & Day, 1982; Lowenfeld & Brittain, 1964; Luquet, 1977) have in fact become a subject of criticism in recent years. Four particular issues have been identified in this collective body of criticism. First, questions have been raised about the appropriateness of unilinear conceptions of development in explaining a wide range of pictorial imagery produced by children, adolescents, and adults. Second, a disparity has been noted between the breadth of the world of art and the narrowness of the focus on visual realism that has served as the endpoint in these developmental models. Third, cultural biases that mark these models have been identified theoretically and empirically. Fourth, insufficient recognition has been paid to the role of other modalities of expression in some forms of pictorial representation (e.g., Duncum, 1986; Golomb, 1994; Kindler & Darras, 1997b, 1998; Korzenik, 1995; Wolf, 1994; Wolf & Perry, 1998). Critics of the traditional stage models of development argued that alternative explanations are necessary to account for the range of pictorial systems that children begin to develop early in life and to engage in research relating to the reasons for selecting specific pictorial solutions. It has been pointed out that even very young children have at their disposal more than one pictorial system and that they choose among them as a function of their representational intentions and purposes (Bremmer & Moore, 1984). The notion of the significance of purpose—or teleology—of pictorial behavior in the discourse about development of graphic abilities has been at the center of a maplike model of development that has emerged as an alternative to the traditional stage models (Darras & Kindler, 1996; Kindler & Darras, 1997a, 1997b, 1998).

This model regards emergence and development of pictorial imagery as a semiotic process occurring in an interactive social environment that leads to pictorial behaviors that may engage single or multiple modalities of expression. This framework acknowledges psychobiological factors that found development of pictorial activity while emphasizing the role of culture in validating or deselecting specific pictorial systems. It constitutes an attempt to decolonize discourse about artistic development by pointing to the usefulness and value of pictorial repertoires that have remained outside of the acclaim of the Western art world and yet play a significant role in children’s lives (Kindler, 1999). In addition to highlighting the dimension of pictorial choices and their relationship to specific purposes of pictorial behavior, the model proposed by Darras and Kindler recognizes frequent interplay of the gestural, vocal-verbal, and graphic actions in the emergence and development of pictorial systems. This is consistent with Parsons’s (1998) notion about the nature of cognition in the arts. Parsons argues that the prevailing systems approach to cognition identifies the different arts as each being a different symbol system and “requires thought to stay within the boundaries of a single medium it is dealing with on the assumption that, if it moves from one system to another, it looses its coherence” (p. 106). He expresses concern that such understanding of cognition in the arts “transforms a dimension of difference into a principle of separation” (p. 106). The repertoire model of development in pictorial imagery moves beyond this principle and accommodates cognitive processes that result in pictorial systems contained within a graphic medium as well as those that cross traditional boundaries of music, drama, and visual arts. This broader conception of development is also more accommodating of cultural factors that define artistic growth than some of the earlier proposed models. The issue of a cultural bias in these earlier theories has vividly surfaced in recent studies that revisited the long-standing notion of the U-shaped curve of artistic development (Davis, 1991, 1997a, 1997b; Gardner, 1980; Gardner & Winner, 1982). The proponents of the Ushaped model argued that while young children exhibit very high levels of creativity in their pictorial work, older children and adolescents suffer from a serious decline in their artistic abilities, which are regained in adulthood only by artistically gifted individuals. The empirical data that confirmed the U-shaped developmental pattern were collected in North America and relied on aesthetic assessments of artistic merit executed by North American and other Western judges.

When this study was recently replicated in settings involving Chinese populations, the U-shaped pattern failed to be confirmed (Kindler, 2001; Pariser & van den Berg, 1997). In none of these recent studies was young children’s work considered to be artistically superior to the work of their older peers or nonartistic adults. This suggests that the cultural criteria of artistic merit indeed played a powerful role in defining the very concept of artistic development in research that led to the universality claims of the U-shaped developmental progression. It is important to note that the repertoire model of development does not disprove the U-shape model. In pictorial repertoires that emphasize modernist values, this prediction quite possibly continues to hold true. However, the repertoire model provides also for alternative developmental trajectories in other areas of pictorial pursuits, where technical mastery and preciseness of line, for example, may be of more interest and significance than the image’s overall expressive quality.

The revised understanding of development in pictorial representation presents an exciting challenge to the field of early childhood art education. It defines a teacher’s role in much more complex terms and places more responsibility on his or her shoulders for ensuring that children’s development in this domain does not become unduly constrained by a narrow set of cultural biases and preferences. Valuing and encouraging what we see as children’s spontaneous selfdirected explorations need to remain an important consideration in structuring learning environments of young children. However, in order to solve pictorial problems, children also require active assistance in (a) pursuing their own intuitive interests in the visual culture that surrounds them, (b) helping them achieve success in meeting their own pictorial expectations, and (c) exploring their emerging metacognitive abilities in relation to their pictorial production and strategies that can enhance this production. It draws on the use of peeras well as adult-generated examples and readiness to discuss ways in which different systems of pictorial representation can be further mastered and extended to suit children’s specific needs and ambitions.

While advocating a much greater sensitivity to and use of cultural models in early childhood education, it is important to clarify that the intention is not to train young children into able performers within a particular system of representation. The answer to early childhood art education will never be presenting children with coloring books or insisting that they copy a particular pictorial schema as the way to learn how to draw. However, a sensitive introduction of activities that help children understand the nature, value, and place of iconic representation and introduce them to a wider range of pictorial systems that function within their culture, supported by conversations and modeling of how different effects can be achieved, will provide children with freedom to choose whatever systems may best serve their purposes and needs in different times in their lives.

It is important to note that especially in the early childhood years children’s pictorial intentions may have little to do with creating a picture meeting the modernist standards of “child art.” Their graphic activity is often just one component of a semiotic process in which sounds, gestures, and words carry a significant portion of meaning. In this context, a teacher’s ability to accept these images as active happenings rather than as objects to be posted on day care or primary classroom walls may help children understand the value of this unique multimodal system of representation and see it as an alternative to other pictorial efforts where, in conformity with the deep-rooted tradition of Western art, images are supposed to stand on their own. Similarly, understanding that telling of a dynamic story may require a child to use different pictorial devices than in the case of a descriptive effort, a greater range of imagery can become socially encouraged and validated (Kindler, 1999). Activities that combine musical, dramatic, and visual art dimensions can further help children grow in pictorial repertoires that rely on multiple modalities of expression and that are often a natural choice of young children who spontaneously combine the gestural, the vocal, and the visual in their everyday play.

The importance of teachers’assistance in a child’s growing understanding of the technical possibilities and limitations of specific artistic media can perhaps be best demonstrated by looking at young children’s clay productions. Children as young as 3 years of age who perform in nonintrusive selfexploration environments tend to be much more limited in subject matter, scale, detail, and stylistic diversity in their clay productions than are those who benefit from appropriate instruction (Kindler, 1997). But perhaps most important, sensitive teaching that relies on constructivist approaches and actively guides children toward important discoveries that support their pictorial efforts translates into a sense of accomplishment and pride that sustains children’s interest in creative endeavors and encourages them to continue to use and further master this medium of representation. These recommended forms of adult intervention and teaching can be easily integrated into the play format, and skillful and sensitive teachers can make a tremendous difference in children’s artistic growth without compromising the child-centered emphasis and the relaxed and playful atmosphere in their early childhood classrooms.

What is needed, however, is a paradigm shift from understanding the concept of developmentally appropriate art education in terms of curricula targeting children’s actual levels of attainment to that of creating environments that allow children to perform within their “zones of proximal development” (Vygotsky, 1978).This shift can take place only if we free ourselves from the cultural baggage of romanticized notions of child art and accept that while it certainly can appeal to our aesthetic sensitivities and emotions, there are other territories of pictorial worlds that children should be free to explore, encouraged to learn about, and provided with assistance to master. Our love of children’s natural creative efforts should not become detrimental to their artistic growth in the broadest sense of the term.

This revised conception of human development in the area of the pictorial extends the discourse to a new territory inclusive of a wide range of manifestations of visual culture. It still accounts for repertoires that conform to the modernist expectations or give prominence to visual realism, but it also embraces pictorial worlds that rely on different rules, salient attributes, and criteria of excellence. In pluralistic, diversified societies it is especially important to plan early childhood education in ways that do not define artistic growth in hegemonic terms laden by a strong cultural bias. Recent research on artistic development has provided a platform for accommodating this diversity not by proposing a tight universal developmental sequence, but rather by suggesting a range of pictorial repertoires along which children’s growth in art can be witnessed and encouraged. The work needs to continue with mapping of the different repertoires and exploration of them in regard to the nature and modes of acquisition of these pictorial systems. Some of them may rely on self-directed discovery; others may require guidance and teaching starting early on in one’s life. Because the concept of art is constantly broadening and multicultural awareness is leading to a more inclusive dialogue about aesthetic merit and value of different kinds of pictorial imagery, the need to explore diverse avenues of growth and pedagogies that will support it along these multiple dimensions will continue to be an important area of concern and research for the years to come.

Literacy in Early Childhood

From Reading Readiness to Emergent Literacy

There were considerable changes in our understanding of early literacy development in the last decades of the twentieth century. Prior to the late 1970s, a reading readiness paradigm dominated thinking about early literacy development. Central to the concept of reading readiness was the notion that children need to acquire certain prerequisite perceptual and motor skills and to attain a certain mental age before they could begin learning to read (Teale & Sulzby, 1986). Also implicit in reading readiness was the notion that children could not write (i.e., compose) until they had learned to read.

However, in the 1960s researchers began to conduct research on literacy development in children prior to their introduction to formal literacy instruction in school (i.e., Clark, 1976; Durkin, 1966). This groundbreaking body of research revealed that for many children literacy development begins long before their formal schooling and that, indeed, some children entered school as competent and independent readers. This early work precipitated a flurry of research in a number of aspects of literacy. Clay (1979) and Holdaway (1979) showed that young children’s reading behaviors developed along a continuum from initial, rough approximations of reenacting texts to accurate decoding of print. Research on emergent literacy included work on children’s writing as well their reading. For example, Bissex (1980), Chomsky (1977), and Read (1975) investigated young children’s writing development and were able to show that children’s early attempts at spelling were not random but were quite systematic and demonstrated a sophisticated and developmental understanding of phoneme-grapheme relationships. Working from within a Piagetian tradition, Ferreiro and Teberosky (1982) demonstrated that young children formed hypotheses about representing speech through writing that they modified as they refined their knowledge. From this collective body of work with young children sprung the theory of emergent literacy (Clay, 1966). Sulzby and Teale (1991) defined emergent literacy thus:

[A]n emergent literacy perspective ascribes to the child the role of constructor of his or her own literacy. Unlike previous work, the central issues now being addressed are the nature of the child’s contributions (i.e., individual construction), the role of the social environment in the process (i.e., social construction), and the interface between the two. (p. 729)

The research in emergent literacy had a profound impact on our understanding of both how literacy is learned and how it could be taught. For example, many of the tenets of whole language, a movement that flourished in the 1980s and 1990s, could be traced to this work.As this body of research on emergent literacy grew, so did the number of questions in four specific areas: the generalizability of the research, the presumed similarity between oral language learning and the development of literacy, the impact of culture on literacy development, and the importance of storybook reading.

Questions about the generalizability were focused on both the methodologies that were used as well as on the target populations under study.AsAdams (1990) pointed out, much of the research in emergent literacy has been limited to “case studies, chronologies and descriptions” (p. 336). Heath and Thomas (1984) pointed to the fact that in many of these studies the children on whom the research was conducted were the children of “parent-academics” (Heath & Thomas, 1984, p. 51) with their own children.

Questions were also raised about the presumed similarity between oral language development and literacy learning. For many researchers (i.e., Holdaway, 1979), literacy development was portrayed as a natural process that paralleled the development of language acquisition. A number of critiques attempted to refute this notion by pointing out the ways in which literacy acquisition was fundamentally different from first-language acquisition (i.e., Luke, Baty, & Stehbens, 1989); in particular, other research showed that in contrast to natural language development, some children did benefit from direct instruction in literacy (e.g., Adams, 1990).

Increasingly, researchers have begun to address questions of social, cultural, and linguistic diversity. When many of the original studies on emergent literacy were replicated with diverse populations, the initial positive findings on the effects of whole language–emergent literacy approaches were not replicated. For example, Anderson and Matthews (1999) and Elster (1994) found that children from working-class homes did not always follow the developmental trajectory of storybook reading that Sulzby (1985) found with the children from middle-class homes in her study. Other researchers have found that parents from diverse cultural groups support their young children’s literacy development differently (i.e., Anderson, 1995; Reyes, 1992). For example, many of the Chinese-Canadian parents in Anderson’s study expressed very strong opposition to many of the literacy practices considered sacrosanct within an emergent literacy paradigm. These practices included accepting the use of invented spelling and children’s pretend reading behaviors. The initial position paper by the National Association for the Education of Young Children on developmentally appropriate practices in literacy reflected a more or less homogenous prescription for a universal application of the principles of emergent literacy; it was later revised in recognition of cultural diversity in literacy learning (Bredekamp, 1997).

Related to questions of culture, researchers and practitioners have also raised questions about the relative importance of storybook reading in the early years. Because some of the earlier research with precocious readers (i.e., Clark, 1976; Durkin, 1966; Wells, 1985) found that storybook reading was often a part of their daily literacy routine, the general assumption was drawn that this activity was a necessary prerequisite that applied to all children (Pellegrini, 1991). This sweeping assumption tended to prevail even though in some cultures where storybook reading to children is practically nonexistent, most children in that culture still can achieve literate competence (Mason, 1992). Further, a major meta-analysis has suggested that storybook reading accounts for only about 8% of the variance in reading (Scarborough & Dobrich, 1994).

Despite these issues and concerns, the concept of emergent literacy has fundamentally altered the way that literacy learning in early childhood is conceived (Adams, 1990). Consistent with the basic premises of emergent literacy, for example, it is now widely acknowledged that literacy learning should be meaningful, functional, and contextualized and that a great deal of literacy learning occurs before children enter school. Research on literacy continues to focus both on some traditional areas of debate (e.g., the relative importance of phonics instruction) as well as on some emerging areas of interest (e.g., family literacy). It is to these two perspectives on literacy in early childhood education that we now turn.

The Role of Phonological Awareness

Perhaps no other single issue in early literacy has received as much attention over the decades than has phonological awareness or the ability to segment the speech stream into its constituent parts (e.g., phonemes). For example, many literacy researchers and educators see phonemic awareness as a prerequisite to learning to read and write (Bradley & Bryant, 1983; Stanovich, 1986). In contrast, other researchers (Malicky & Norman, 1999) acknowledge that while a certain level of phonemic awareness is needed to learn to decode print, children can become more phonemically aware through the process of learning to read and write. Mustafa (1997) and others argue that phonemic awareness is but one component of a more general competency in language and that it relates, for example, to vocabulary size. The debate continues whether phonological development is best achieved through direct instruction or through more informal, meaningful, and contextualized activities such as word play, rhymes, games, and songs.

Perhaps the most contentious issue in early literacy over the past half century has been the role of systematic instruction in the alphabetic code, commonly known as phonics (Chall, 1967). Although the debate still rages, especially in the United States, a more moderate position or middle ground is evolving. Recent reports have called for direct instruction in the phonics code but in contextualized ways with ample opportunity for children to apply the skill being learned in meaningful situations (Pressley et al., 1998; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998).

The relationship between phonemic awareness in writing as well as in reading has been the focus of much research in recent decades. For example, whereas proponents of whole language once argued that children learned to spell through writing and “invented” spelling, researchers have shown that structured word study could also help young children become more proficient spellers (Templeton & Morris, 1999). These researchers have also shown that although it was once thought that learning to spell essentially consisted of memorizing lists of isolated words, efficient spellers use layers of information to help them learn the orthography. During the heyday of the process writing movement (e.g., Graves, 1983), personal writing such as journals, diaries, and so forth was heavily promoted. An underlying assumption of the writing process movement was that writing skills are generic and transferable from one context to another. However, researchers are now beginning to find that such is not the case and that each particular genre requires specialized knowledge and forms. Chapman’s (1995) research has shown that children who are exposed to a variety of genres in their daily experiences will also incorporate the specific features of different genres into their writing at a young age.

The debate on the relative importance of phonemic awareness in children and of phonics instruction with young children manifests itself in a variety of curriculum debates as well. There has been a general trend away from the use of programs based on behavioristic psychology (e.g., DISTAR) and toward approaches that are based more on principles of cognitive psychology. One widely known and widely applied curriculum program, Reading Recovery, was developed by Marie Clay in New Zealand. In Reading Recovery the children who have the most difficulty in reading and writing receive one half hour of individualized tutoring per day with teachers specially trained in Reading Recovery techniques. Despite the ubiquity of this program and even though generally favorable research reports on its effectiveness, it has received criticism on a number of points, including the following: The program is overly structured and inflexible (Dudley-Marling & Murphy, 1997); it does include a specific phonological awareness component (Chapman, Tumner, & Prochnow, 1998); it does not remediate the needs of those children most in need of support (Santa & Hoien, 1999); its initial gains wash out after children have attained expected grade-level proficiency in reading and, in the terminology of the program, are discontinued (Chapman et al., 1998); it does not lead to the staff development that its originator and proponents argue would happen (Center, Whedall, Freeman, Outhred, & McNaught, 1995); and it expends scarce resources without being any more effective than alternate, small-group tutoring (Santa & Hoien, 1999). Whereas the concept of multiple literacies (the notion that meaning is encoded in myriad ways other than print) has been around for some time, Luke and Luke (2001) argued that mainstream thinking in the early literacy field still privileges print literacy. That is, despite the advances in technology that allow for new ways of constructing and communicating meaning, the focus in early literacy still seems to be on decoding print. This fact is evidenced by recent trends in some parts of the United States to prescribe decodable texts for early reading instruction and to emphasize basic reading and writing skills. Decodable texts are texts written specifically for beginning reading instruction. They have a very high level of grapheme-phoneme agreement, which proponents argue helps children learn to crack the code. Critics argue that such texts use contrived, unnatural language that will not engender a desire to read in children. Thus, at this point in time it appears unlikely that curricula and instruction in early literacy will begin to reflect in any significant way a multiple-literacies perspective in the near future.

Family Literacy

Another trend that will deserve increasing attention in the coming years is the proliferation of family literacy programs. Taylor (1983) initially coined the term family literacy to describe the myriad ways in which the middle-class families with whom she worked embedded literacy in their daily lives. Taylor’s portrayal of the family as a site where considerable literacy learning takes place generated substantial interest in this phenomenon. Educators have subsequently been involved in developing family literacy programs that are intended to help parents support their young children’s literacy development. Critics of family literacy programs contend that underlying many such programs are some very troubling deficit assumptions about families that are poor where relatively little literacy is observed. There appears to be some kind of causal or predictive relationship between a family’s poverty and their lower levels of literacy practices in the home. Further, the argument has been that the literacy that does occur in these homes is not the “right” kind of literacy that will adequately prepare the children for school. The criticism has also been raised that many of these programs are gender-biased in that they are targeted specifically at children’s mothers. Mace (1998) has argued that

[t]he evidence of a literacy “problem” in industrialized countries with mass schooling systems has revealed that schools alone cannot meet this need. Families must be recruited to do their bit too. This is where the spotlight falls on the mother. She it is who must ensure that the young child arrives at school ready for school literacy and preferably already literate. (p. 5)

Whereas play has traditionally been seen within the early childhood community as the medium through which children learn (see also the section on the role of play in early childhood education), it is only recently that researchers have begun to investigate the role of play in young children’s literacy learning. For example, using an ethnographic research approach, Anderson (1995) documented the many ways in which one child incorporated various forms of workplace literacy into her play. In their work in day care settings, Neuman and Roskos (1993) found that children’s interest in literacy and their interaction with literacy materials were enhanced when appropriate literacy materials were placed in different play centers.They also suggested that “more challenging and complex language use may be produced in play environments that are literacy based” (p. 221). These authors cautioned that the literacy knowledge that children develop through play may not be sufficient for literacy acquisition. However, they argue that children’s “comprehension of the act of literacy” is developed through play (p. 221). Purcell-Gates (1996) proposed that this comprehension is crucial to children’s literacy development. She commented, “Grasping the signifying nature of print and the many ways it can function in peoples lives has been called the big picture . . . and is basic to any further knowledge about the forms and conventions of written language” (p. 422). However, the importance of play in literacy development is not universally embraced, as the pendulum appears to be swinging back—at least in some quarters in the United States—toward formal instruction in phonics. Thus, the zeitgeist of literacy theory continues to include simultaneously both advocates of child-centered, emergent literacy approaches and those who focus on the importance of phonemic segmentation and code breaking that can only be acquired through direct formal instruction.

Concluding Thoughts on Literacy in Early Childhood

Increasing trends of globalization are beginning to raise important policy issues in the area of early literacy. For example, in Vancouver, Canada, over 50% of the children entering kindergarten speak English as a second language, and there are over 50 different foreign languages that these children collectively bring to school. In a landmark report, Snow et al. (1998) proposed that initial literacy instruction should be in the child’s first language. Although this might be possible where there are concentrations of families and children with a common language, it would not be possible for the 50% of children entering Vancouver kindergartens every year who speak English as a second language as well as for countless others such as those in the schools in Canada alluded to earlier. The issue of literacy in one’s own first language in addition to literacy in English will continue to grow in complexity as society becomes increasingly diverse.

Music in Early Childhood

All children are born with some degree of music ability. A major challenge that confronts ECE music educators and researchers alike is to determine the relative importance of (a) a child’s innate music aptitude, (b) the music environments that contextualize the child’s life, and (c) the roles of indirect and direct instruction in music in the early years. This discussion briefly addresses each of these issues from theoretical, empirical, and applied perspectives.

It is widely understood that a child’s music aptitude has an ideal chance for optimal development if parents, caregivers, and teachers provide a varied and rich music environment for a child early in life (Brand, 1982, 1985, 1986; Gordon, 1990; Pond, 1981; Simons, 1986). In fact, some researchers have hypothesized that children can suffer severe music developmental delays when music is not a frequent part of their home and school environments. Beyond enhancing the development of a child’s music abilities, Doxey and Wright (1990) also reported significant positive relationships between music and mathematics abilities in their study of music cognition and general intelligence. Subsequent research conducted over the past decade has also reported findings of enhanced cognitive development and spatial-temporal reasoning as the result of rich, stimulating preschool music activities (Rauscher et al., 1997; Shaw, 1999). The research evidence strongly suggests that an enriched music environment—a combination of quality, quantity, and a variety of music experiences—in the first several years of a child’s life can impact strongly on a child’s success in and enjoyment of music, as well as in other areas of cognitive development.

Innate Audiation and Learned Music Skill Development

Although environmental factors can contribute to a child’s success in music, the most important factor for potential growth in music is the child’s innate music aptitude, an ability that can now be evaluated by a reliable, standardized test (Gordon, 1978, 1979, 1986a, 1986b, 1989). In contemporary terms, standardized music aptitude tests measure a child’s ability to audiate music. Audiation is the innate human ability to create and recreate music, to conceptualize and comprehend and to compare music that has been heard in the past with music being heard in the present, and to music that may be heard in the future (Gouzouasis, 1992). Humans sing, chant, move, play instruments, and respond to music that they audiate. Humans audiate when they listen to music, recall music, read music, improvise music, and compose music (Gordon, 1986b).

In all of these ways and more, children, adolescents, and adults play music and play with music. Music play may occur consciously or unconsciously, spontaneously or planned, in unstructured or structured environments, and in informal or formal contexts, and may either be child initiated or adult initiated. Fundamental to all of these forms of music comprehension, production, and enjoyment is the child’s ability to audiate. A child’s ability to audiate may greatly influence the way in which he or she organizes the physical aspect of music (i.e., sound) in terms of melody, harmony, form, texture, and timbre and may greatly influence the way a child produces music through singing, chanting, moving, and performing on instruments. Of the many different elements of music, the tonal and rhythmic aspects can be most reliably measured in young children (Gordon, 1979).

Research has shown that children’s audiation abilities fluctuate during the early childhood years (Flohr, 1981; Gouzouasis, 1987, 1991; Jessup, 1984; Levinowitz, 1985; Zimmerman, 1986). It is widely accepted that children by the age of 9 years can learn to play an instrument, to dance, to sing, to read, to improvise, and to compose music. Although music achievement can certainly continue to develop in and beyond middle childhood, after age 9 the degree of music achievement a child may attain is seriously attenuated by his or her stabilized level of audiation ability. Indeed, there is ample evidence to support the notion that even young adults can be taught music listening strategies and instrumental performance that enable them to maximize their basic audiation ability in a variety of music contexts (Gouzouasis, 2000). Ultimately, however, their success in those music activities will be restricted by their ability to make connections between a broad range of acquired music skills and their innate audiation ability.

Central to developing a child’s music ability is the importance of objectively assessing each child’s music aptitude level. This allows the child’s teacher to teach to the child’s music strengths, thereby facilitating the child’s level of music achievement. In the early 1980s a number of researchers began to scrutinize traditional music-teaching practices in an attempt to observe how very young children acquire music in natural and noninstructional settings. This research represented a sharp departure from earlier top-down curriculum approaches that had been generated primarily by Western European composers and practitioners (Andress, 1986, 1989; Boswell, 1986; Goetze, Cooper, & Brown, 1990). This was in stark contrast to traditional, historical recapitulation models of music teaching and learning. Within this body of work four specific areas of focus (discussed later) are (a) the development of a child’s singing voice, (b) the relationship between music and movement, (c) the implications of “hot” and “cool” music media on children, and (d) children’s singing songs with and without words.

The research on singing voice has revealed that two- and three-pitch diatonic stepwise patterns are easier to sing than are arpeggiated patterns (Gordon, 1990; Gouzouasis, 1991; Guilmartin & Levinowitz, 1989–2000; Jersild & Bienstock, 1931,1934).Becausepitchedvocalglidesareeasilyproduced by children as young as 1 month of age, stepwise patterns are a natural feature in the developmental sequence of pitched vocalization. In contrast, arpeggiated patterns require more vocal precision. The research demonstrated that when young children move their bodies to music, it is important that they experience the free exploration of weight, flow, space, and time with the whole body and various body parts without the expectation that they attempt to coordinate their movements with an externally imposed steady beat (Gouzoausis, 1991). Because singing is in many ways a movement activity, the acquisition of a sense of steady beat is fundamental to all aspects of music learning, and it needs to be nurtured in a variety of play activities, with and without music accompaniment.

Gouzouasis (1987) drew metaphoric allusions between McLuhan’s idea of “cool” and “hot” media and the effects of two types of music accompaniment and nonaccompaniment on the singing achievement of 5-year-old children. There is evidence that nonaccompaniment facilitates the learning of songs, especially for children who possess low tonal audiation ability. Ironically, because of the prevalence of heavily textured, hot music learning contexts in contemporary music, twenty-first-century culture may be depriving young children of informal exposure to music experiences presented in developmentally appropriate learning contexts, or cool music media. Further, children who possess high tonal audiation ability can be expected to acquire a singing voice and sing songs consistently better than children who possess low tonal audiation ability, regardless of style and accompaniment texture. Thus, children who have inherently lower levels of audiation may have their music potential additionally compromised by the intensity and texture of much of the hot music media to which they are exposed.

A related application of that line of research led to the practice of singing songs without words with very young children (Gordon, 1990; Gouzouasis, 1987; Levinowitz, 1987). Very young children who possess few linguistic skills tend to respond very positively to singing activities with a neutral syllable such as “bah” or “too” than to songs with many words, sentences, and lyrics. Many young children sing the songs with which they are most familiar in tune, and they sing less familiar songs out of tune. That may be because they are better able to concentrate their listening, audiation, and vocal-production abilities on the music aspects of the song rather than the text, a characteristic that seems to be true of children who possess low to average music aptitude (Gouzouasis, 1987). Children seem to benefit most from singing songs without words because an emphasis on learning the words of the song can distract and detract from their attention to the music content. As a child’s language skills develop, song texts (i.e., lyrics) seem to interfere less with vocal development. A mixture of songs with and without words should be of benefit to older children (Levinowitz, 1987). Parents, caregivers, and teachers may still teach their favorite songs, but they can teach them using a neutral syllable instead of text. The ability of a child to sing one or more short phrases of a song, with or without text and in tune, is evidence that he or she has emerged from the tonal babble stage.

Music Acquisition and Language Acquisition

Although music is not a language, it is acquired in a manner and context similar to those in which language is learned (Gouzouasis & Taggart, 1995). The mechanisms that a young child uses to produce sounds are the same for both music and language. The throat, mouth, nose, lungs, and diaphragm are used in a variety of ways to produce meaningful music and linguistic sounds. For both music and language, sounds may vary in loudness, pitch, duration, and stress. When sound (or, technically, phones) in the form of vowels and consonants (segmentals), is organized into morphemes—the smallest meaning-based unit in language—the sound is expressed as a linguisticmedium(Jakobson,1968).Similarly,whensoundin the form of pitches and durations is organized into tonal and rhythm patterns, it may be considered a music medium (Gouzouasis, 1987). Young children are encouraged to produce linguistic sounds from the time they enter our world through what psycholinguists have described as motherese, a reciprocal and contingent interaction between parent and infant (Broen, 1972; Cross, 1977; Newport, Gleitman, & Glietman, 1977; Phillips, 1970; Snow, 1977). Motherese is characterized by language that is simplified and limited in vocabulary, with words pronounced slowly with careful and exaggerated enunciation and in a repetitive manner. Motherese makes use of three different components of language: semantics (vocabulary), syntax (the predictability of sentence patterns), and pragmatics (the social and instrumental uses of language). Although there appears to be a similar babbling and mimicking stage in music, most young children are not exposed to a corresponding music variant of motherese (Holohan, 1984), perhaps because a shared system of semantics, syntax, and pragmatics has not yet been worked out between parent and infant.

Research has shown, however, that the music babble stage has at least two parts, rhythm and tonality, which seem to operate independently of each other (Gordon, 1990). Although the music babble stage can last essentially from birth until the child is 6 or 7 years old, some children have been observed to leave the babble stage completely as early as 24 months, depending on their music aptitude and environmental influences. A child can still be engaged in tonal babble after he or she is out of rhythm babble, and vice versa. On their own, children may babble by singing short patterns and experimenting (i.e., playing) with their voices. Children who babble on a tonal level seem to be singing in a monotone; that is, it centers in a narrow range around one pitch. The songs that such children sing are often unrecognizable to an adult, and the children may be unaware that their singing is different from that produced by adults. Although tonal babble may sound amusical to an adult, it should be encouraged through parental play and imitation that can begin as soon as an infant begins to produce pitched sounds (Stark, 1977; Stark, Rose, & McClagen, 1975). Many children who babble early and often tend be identified as those who learn to sing with the music syntax of an adult earlier than children who babble considerably less.

When a child is at the stage of using tonal babble, rhythm babble, or both, all music instruction should be informal (Gordon, 1990). Children who emerge from the tonal babble stage are able to audiate music with tonal syntax and are able to audiate and sing music with a sense of tonality—with a sense of how patterns are organized. They learn to sing what they audiate and to audiate what they sing (Gordon, 1990). In essence, they learn to coordinate their listening (perception) of music, their audiation (conception), and their vocal production of music (through their breathing, diaphragm, and vocal chords) in order to sing with a sense of tonality.

Play and Music Play

In many ways babble is an elemental form of play in music. Play, imagination, and creativity are naturally rooted in music activities in early childhood. In fact, one may consider music itself as a form of play. Humans play music. Young children play in a variety of activities while listening to music, and they play musically in a variety of contexts—with their voices, with their bodies, with props, and with music instruments. Observational research reveals that children spontaneously accompany their play with music. It is a simple form of multitasking, in that young children possess the abilities to attend to more than one activity while engaged in conscious and unconscious music making. Music play may be child initiated or caregiver initiated. Both forms are equally as diverse, rich, and valuable in learning. Moreover, music play may occur in both structured and unstructured and formal and informal settings (Gouzouasis, 1991, 1994). An understanding of the multifaceted relationships between play and music is central to both theories of music acquisition and learning. Moorehead and Pond (1981), Pond (1978), and Littleton (1999) provided brilliant insight to this topic, which sadly has been neglected by education researchers and psychologists.

Concluding Thoughts on Music in Early Childhood Education

Achild who is developmentally delayed in music learning deserves the same type of specialized instruction that a child receives who is developmentally delayed in some other aspect of learning. Although it seems that various forms of media made positive contributions to the proliferation of music in the twentieth century, the developmentally detrimental aspects and negative influences of electronic and digital media are too numerous to mention in this research paper (Gouzouasis, 2000). One may begin by scrutinizing the use of music in children’s television programming and the lack of quality music for young children on radio, recordings, and new forms of digital media (e.g., the Internet). Much of what is marketed as music for young children is actually developmentally appropriate for older children and is composed to appeal to parents and caregivers. Those factors are compounded by the gross commercialization of early childhood music instruction by corporate early childhood music trainers. From a perspective informed by both research and praxis, it is arguable that any music instruction is better than none at all.

Play in Early Childhood

“The play of children may strike us at times as fragile and charming, rowdy and boisterous, ingenuous, just plain silly, or disturbingly perceptive in its portrayals of adult actions and attitudes” (Garvey, 1977, p. 1). A plethora of scholars have focused on these and other aspects of play’s characteristic forms, which has led to a proliferation of theories to account for the origins, properties, and functions of these forms. Thus, to begin to understand play, in all of its ambiguities, requires multiple perspectives. This section provides a brief review of selected theories and research on children’s play, highlighting the paradoxical nature of the phenomenon.

Defining Play

Given the protean nature of play, defining it has proven problematic in the literature. In Western cultures, our understanding of play has been influenced most significantly by shared attitudes about what play is not; for example, “play is not work, play is not serious, play is not productive—therefore, play is not important” (Schwartzman, 1991, p. 214). Caillois (1961) argued that “in effect, play is essentially a separate occupation, carefully isolated from the rest of life and generally, is engaged in within precise limits of time and place” (p. 6). Denzin (1980a), on the other hand, proposed that the world of play is not distinct from everyday taken-for-granted reality, but that it occurs in the immediately experienced here and now. He also stressed that on an a priori basis play cannot be distinguished from other everyday interactions, including conversation and other activities of habit. Other definitions of play include that play is pleasurable and enjoyable, has no extrinsic goals, and is spontaneous and voluntary (Garvey, 1977); that play is free, separate, uncertain, unproductive, governed by rules, and full of make-believe (Caillois, 1961); and that play is a story that children tell themselves about themselves (Geertz, 1973). The ambiguity of these definitions reflects Western society’s struggle over how to conceptualize and value play.

Perspectives on Play

The diversity and ambiguity inherent in definitions of play have resulted in broad conceptualizations of the forms and functions of the phenomenon. These conceptualizations include play and cognition, psychoanalytic theory, educational perspectives, play and literacy, and play as communication, among others.

Traditional Theories of Play and Cognition. Child development theorists and researchers have attempted to explain the relationship between play and children’s cognitive development. Two major theorists, Jean Piaget and Leo Vygotsky, are perhaps the most noted for furthering our understanding of this relationship. Piaget (1962) believed that children gain knowledge through the dual processes of assimilation and accommodation. In assimilation, children take in information from their experiences in the external world, which is then integrated—assimilated—into existing mental structures. Because children’s cognitive structures are often inadequate to incorporate new information, they must learn to change or accommodate their mental structures to better accept information that is inconsistent with what they already know. Typically, the opposing forces of assimilation and accommodation must work in tandem to reach a state of equilibrium. The activity of play, however, is unique because children are able to suspend reality and make the world adapt to them; thus, assimilation assumes primacy over accommodation (Saracho & Spodek, 1995). Piaget (1962) offered an account of children’s unfolding cognitive process by identifying three stages of play: sensorimotor, symbolic, and games with rules. According to Piaget, each stage is part of a sequential order in a child’s development. The first stage involves repetitive actions that focus on physical activity. In the second stage children use their symbolic abilities to create and act out stories. The final stage involves the social conventions of rules in games. The cross-cultural applicability of Piaget’s theory, however, has been widely questioned because his data are based primarily on observations of White, middle-class children in Western society (see, e.g., Denzin, 1980b).

Vygotsky’s view of the relationship between play and development differs significantly from Piaget’s. Vygotsky (1976) argued that children’s play extends their cognitive development. Specifically, children have a “zone of proximal development,” a range of tasks between those that can be completed independently and those that can be mastered only through the mediation of adults or more competent peers. Vygotsky believed that social interaction with more competent others is critical to a child’s cognitive development because it is the social context of socialization experiences that shapes the thought processes of the young child. The emphasis on social interaction renders Vygotsky’s theory of play and cognition applicable across social and cultural contexts.

Psychoanalytic Theories of Play. Freud (1909) used the pretend play of children as the medium for understanding their conscious and unconscious wishes and fears. His theory of play was based on the idea of internal conflict, and he postulated that play is cathartic for children because it allows them to resolve negative feelings that may result from traumatic experiences. For instance, a child who has experienced the trauma of an accident and must be taken to the hospital, away from the safety and familiarity of home, may later play and replay various hospital scenes in order to cope with feelings of fear and pain. Other theorists have modified Freud’s psychoanalytic theory and have related play to wish fulfillment, anxiety, and ego processes (see Takhvar, 1988, for a review). Erikson, in contrast, believed that children use play to dramatize the past, present, and future, and to resolve conflicts that they experience in each stage of their development. Peller (1952) thought that children’s imitations of life in their play were caused by feelings of love, admiration, fear, and aggression.

Educational Perspectives on Play. Since the early nineteetn century, educators have observed the transition from play to learning as children struggle to leave the world of play at home to enter the world of learning at school. The idea that play could be used as an articulation of teaching practices and curricula was first put into practice by Pestalozzi (1827), who believed that young children could be educated to develop an inquiring approach to things and words. He developed a pedagogy that encouraged the development of children’s activity that was built on their potential for moral and aesthetic discernment through reflection.

It was Froebel’s modification of Pestalozzi’s theory, however, that became a medium for learning within the context of schooling. Froebel proposed that “play is the purest, most spiritual activity, and at the same time, typical of human life as a whole—of the inner hidden natural life of [human beings]” (Froebel, 1885, pp. 86–87). Froebel also suggested that children attempt to maintain continuity in their lives by bringing playful activity to their formalized learning experiences. For example, he argued that play allows children to achieve mastery over many aspects of themselves and their environment through symbolic enactment of roles, exploration of feelings, and interaction with others (Garvey, 1977). Such themes are typically repeated during several play episodes, which suggests that play is also cathartic for children because it allows them to reexperience and thereby resolve or master a difficult situation.

Froebel observed that the way in which children play often reveals their inner struggles (Adelman, 1990) and that play is often the primary means for children to learn social expectations, attempt to understand culturally appropriate behaviors, struggle to learn to manage emotions, and gain access to the techniques and skills of the world in which they live (Michelet, 1986). According to Froebel, it is essentially the child’s whole personality that can be seen to be involved in play. He in fact contended that to understand the whole child, it is crucial to understand that the inextricable link between the inner and the outer parts of children’s play have a visible and metaphysical aspect (Adelman, 1990). All of Froebel’s activities and materials symbolized spiritual meanings that he wanted children to gain (Saracho & Spodek, 1995), and the activities he developed were based on observations he made of German peasant children.

Maria Montessori (1965) also conceptualized her teaching methods from the natural play activities of children. She developed her methods by bringing into the classroom materials she was designing. She watched children play freely with them and then abstracted what she considered the essential elements of the play. Free play, however, was discouraged after she decided how the materials could be used best (Montessori, 1965). Montessori contended that by using her materials, “children could sharpen their abilities to gather and organize their sensory impressions in order to better absorb knowledge” (Saracho & Spodek, 1995, p. 130).

It was the advent of the progressive kindergarten movement, however, that provided the basis for contemporary educational uses of play (Saracho & Spodek, 1995). The movement was spearheaded by Dewey, who broke from the colonial view that children should avoid play to become more work oriented as they matured (Hartley & Goldenson, 1963). Dewey argued that play could be used to help children construct their understanding of the world, and that through play, children would learn to function at higher levels of consciousness and action (Saracho & Spodek, 1995). Play in Dewey’s terms, however, was still not a free activity. Instead, teachers were to use play to create an environment to nurture and enhance children’s mental and moral growth (Dewey, 1916).

Play and Literacy

Understanding the connection between children’s knowledge and use of literacy and their play behavior is a focus of current research. Research in the area of play and literacy is grounded in the theoretical work of Piaget (1962) and Vygotsky (1976). Both theorists compare the use of symbols in symbolic play and literacy. Piaget described play as being largely assimilative and viewed it as a reflection of the child’s cognitive development. He maintained that during play children demonstrate a mental distancing from what is real in the here and now through their symbolic representations of people, places, things, and actions. Moreover, he suggested that play may serve as a catalyst for the child’s emerging literacy skills. Vygotsky (1976) described how children represent literacy— from the gesture to the written word—as a unified process. He also believed that the social meaning of marks on a piece of paper is rooted in how a child’s indicatory gestures are responded to during play. Unlike Piaget, however, Vygotsky proposed that play is the primary factor in fostering children’s development, liberating their thoughts from specific contexts and from the literal meanings of concrete actions and uses of objects. He also theorized that the ability to engage in symbolic play enables children to develop a variety of represented (symbolic) meanings that serve as the basis for later success in literacy.

Other theorists have also hypothesized about the relationship between play and literacy. Bruner (1983), for example, advised that children’s early literacy development should be an integral aspect of play-based experiences that support children’s ideas, purposes, and social interpretations. He cautioned, however, that structuring and organizing play for educational purposes often results in “taking the action away from the child” (p. 62). Others, such as Donaldson (1978) and Heath (1983), pointed out that engaging in play and learning to read and write demand similar cognitive abilities; that is, through interacting with print, the learner moves from episodes of the here and now to settings that are decontexualized within text.

Theoretical studies on the play-literacy connection have provided the impetus for a number of empirical studies. There are two main strands of research in this area, both of which focus on the parallel representational processes involved in literacy and play. One strand of research examines how to enhance literacy use and knowledge through symbolic play (see, e.g., Jacob, 1984; Miller, Fernie, & Kantor, 1992; Neuman & Roskos, 1992, 1993; Roskos, 1988). Schrader (1991) and others (see, e.g., Roskos & Neuman, 1993) have been interested in the ways that children pretend to write as part of their dramatic play. Michaels (1981) examined children’s sharing-time narrative styles and differential access to literacy. Dyson (1997) studied the reciprocal relationship between children’s writing and the superhero dramas and discussions that followed in the classroom and on the playground.

Asecond strand of research has emphasized children’s use of language in symbolic play. Much of the research in this area has demonstrated that when teachers and parents become involved with children’s pretend play, there are positive increases in children’s literacy, language, reading, and writing (Bloch & Pellegrini, 1989; Christie, 1991; Galda & Pellegrini, 1985; Goelman & Jacobs, 1994; Pellegrini, 1984; Pellegrini & Galda, 1998).

Play as Communication

It was Bateson (1955, 1972) who first suggested that play was a paradoxical form of communication. He argued that play is socially situated and characterized by the production and exchange of paradoxical statements about people, objects, activities, situations, and the relationships among these. Bateson (1972) saw play as an ancient form of communication, which was based on his notion about animals’play fighting. He argued that because animals have no negatives (i.e., they cannot say “no”), negative behaviors such as “biting must be illustrated positively by not really biting” (KellyByrne, 1989, p. 246). Playful nipping must be communicated as not really biting, even though it stands for biting. Thus, play is not merely play, but is also a message about itself. In Bateson’s words, “these actions in which we now engage do not denote what these actions for which they stand denote. . . . The playful nip denotes the bite but it does not denote what would be denoted by the bite” (1955, p. 41). Play is therefore paradoxical because the behavior engaged in by the players is at once real and not real. Thus, the child playing mother is both a mother and yet not a mother. Other players’ awareness of this paradox is, according to Bateson (1955), a form of metacommunication.

Both Garvey (1977) and Schwartzman (1978) have expanded Bateson’s perceptions of play. Their body of work has concentrated on how children organize and communicate about make-believe, how the message “this is play” is signaled, and how play is initiated, sustained, and concluded. Schwartzman (1978) extended Garvey’s work by focusing on the meanings children attached to the texts they generated in play. Following the work of Geertz (1972) and Ehrmann (1968), Schwartzman (1978) argued that children’s pretend play could be analyzed “as a text in which players act as both subjects and the objects of their created play event” (p. 232). In her interpretations of play texts, she emphasized the importance of social and cultural contexts and suggested that play was very much about dominance and manipulation. Schwartzman’s understanding of hierarchical relationships in play “illustrates the weaving of the children’s social histories with the texts of their play and the relationship of both elements to the wider sociocultural context of the place of children and their hierarchical ranking in a variety of institutions such as the family and school” (Kelly-Byrne, 1989, p. 12).As children weave their social histories into their play texts, they fashion their relationships with others and express in subtle— and sometimes not so subtle—ways their individual perceptions of the world around them (Bakhtin, 1981). In other words, play is a medium through which children communicate and make sense of who they are in relation to others.

Closing Thoughts on Play in Early Childhood Education

Play has been defined and examined across a number of disciplines including biology, psychology, linguistics, sociology, anthropology, art, literature, and leisure studies. It has provide the means to delve into children’s inner thoughts and feelings, extend their cognitive growth and development, enhance their language and literacy development, and understand how they communicate their perceptions of the world. Such diversity in the interpretation of play both augments and constrains our understanding of the phenomenon, making reconciliation among play scholars difficult. Perhaps the best point of convergence is for both researchers and teachers to adopt an interdisciplinary approach focusing on the meanings that children themselves attach to play. Children are, after all, the ultimate authorities on the subject.

Diversity in Early Childhood: Individual Exceptionality and Cultural Pluralism

Giftedness and Early Childhood Education

Gifted children are found in every community. These very able youngsters reason, create, speak, write, read, interact, feel, make music, or move in ways that distinguish them from their age peers. They are developmentally advanced in one or more areas of human accomplishment and often demonstrate early indicators of their gifts as infants. As they enter ECE settings, they may encounter mixed reactions to their abilities that have consequences for the educational programs they are offered. Appropriate educational experiences for young gifted children are impacted by different macrosystem factors: the ideologies of parents, teachers, and society as a whole; the education system; and psychology, the discipline that provides a knowledge base for understanding and educating young gifted children and important directions for research. This discussion on giftedness presents some of the issues relevant to ensuring appropriate early childhood education for gifted children within the context of contemporary psychological knowledge. It also summarizes directions for research that will have implications for gifted children in ECE classrooms, for although the early years are acknowledged as critically formative, a significant body of research focused on gifted young children has yet to accrue (Robinson, 1993, 2000).

Prevalent Ideologies and the Education System

A number of powerful ideological factors may influence how young gifted children are educated. In some cases, ideology is combined with systemic factors, resulting in school administrative structures that are not responsive to individual children’s needs. First, an age-grade mindset may prevail, resulting in the belief that, for example, all 6-year-olds belong in first grade for both academic and social reasons (Robinson & Robinson, 1982). Second, a prevalent ideology is that special programming should begin in middle childhood. Underlying this ideology are several beliefs: (a) Ability will have stabilized by the time children are about 8 or 9 years old; (b) psychoeducational testing is unreliable before middle childhood; and (c) early childhood and primary school educators are well equipped to meet individual needs within their classrooms.

Another powerful ideology is that matching advanced developmental characteristics with appropriate curricula puts unnecessary stress on young children. Parents and teachers who respond to children’s advanced capabilities by offering them opportunities to develop these abilities often are viewed with suspicion as being “pushy.” Advocacy for accelerated school placements may also be viewed as a desire to speed up development in an unhealthy fashion, with negative socialemotional consequences (Southern & Jones, 1991). Also influencing the availability of educational opportunity is the belief that gifted young children have the intellectual and social-emotional resources to get what they need from the educational system; in other words, they will “make it on their own.”

There is little research support for the ideologies and systemic perspectives just described. Most of these powerful beliefs stem from anecdotal data. This is not to say that there may not be some children for whom one or more of the issues may be salient. There is always the imperative to consider each child individually, taking into account family, school, and community contexts. However, there also is a compelling imperative to examine these ideologies in light of relevant research.

Psychological Perspectives and the Nature of Advanced Development

Psychology offers important perspectives on the nature of advanced development, including explanations and descriptions of conceptual understanding and skills, different developmentalpathwaystogiftedness,asynchronyindevelopment, motivation, and social and emotional development. Precocity in development may be evident in infancy. Retrospective parental reports of unusually advanced development in infancy (e.g., Feldman, 1986) may be questioned for their reliability; however, observations and behavioral ratings of infants have been linked prospectively to intellectual and academic precocity (e.g., Gottfried, Gottfried, Bathurst, & Guerin, 1994; Louis & Lewis, 1992). Domain-specific abilities (e.g., linguistic or mathematical precocity) are apparent in very young children, and these abilities tend to be stable over time (Dale, Robinson, & Crain-Thoresen, 1995; Robinson,Abbott, Berninger, & Busse, 1996).

In addition to the strikingly advanced capabilities of young gifted children, some age-typical or even below-average capabilities may be evident. Gifted young children demonstrate considerable inter- and intra-individual variance, a phenomenon described as asynchronous development (Morelock, 1996). One of the ways in which their development may be more closely related to chronological than mental age is in their conceptual understanding of a domain. Gifted young children may bump up against a conceptual ceiling that is related to maturation (Fischer & Canfield, 1986; Porath, 1992).

For example, in coordinating plot elements in narrative or rendering perspective, abilities that are related to stage and structure of thought (Porath, 1996a, 1997), gifted children may be distinguished more by the complex use of the thought available to them than by exceptional developmental stage advancement. Gifted young children also may differ from each other in their developmental pathways.

Multiple Expressions of Giftedness

Each young gifted child has a distinct profile of abilities. In addition, there are multiple pathways to, and demonstrations of, giftedness in any one domain (Fischer, Knight, & Van Parys, 1993; Golomb, 1992; Porath, 1993, 2000; Robinson, 1993). Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is to introduce some young gifted children: Jessica, Holly, Sara, Sam, and Jill, five of the gifted children who participated in a series of studies on giftedness.

Six-year-old Jessica arrived to participate in a research project on narrative full of enthusiasm about her abilities to read and write: “I can read. Do you want me to read? I can write stories. Can Iwrite astory for you?” (Porath, 1986, p. 1). Jessica and the researcher settled on tape-recording a story to allow for production to keep pace with thinking. Jessica told “The Leprechaun’s Gold,” a story richly representative of the fairy tale genre (see Porath, 1996, for the story’s text). Jessica had a strong sense of story and a remarkable feel for language. Her vocabulary and syntax were mature, and she incorporated appropriate dialogue into her story.All of the aforementioned are advanced capabilities in a child of 6 years. Other 6-yearolds with whom Porath has worked have demonstrated their advanced verbal abilities in different ways: by playing with words (a story featuring a cat named Nip); through understanding the power of language (using rhymed couplets as humorous additions to a story); and by wanting to know all they can about words and their derivations.

Holly, aged 4.5 years, drew pictures in an enthusiastic, confident way with obvious mastery of different media. Her drawings of human figures were detailed and well proportioned. Most striking was her feel for composition, described by an art educator as entailing “some rather sophisticated propositions regarding spatial organization” (p. 31). The simple formal harmony of the composition also was noted. Sara, age 6, showed her talent in a somewhat different way, producing elaborate drawings with colors chosen for contrast and detail (Porath, 1993). Sam, age 2, showed advanced social role-taking ability. While playing with the toy telephone in his preschool, Sam initiated a conversation with, “Hello! I fine!” followed by adult-like speech inflections and twirling of the telephone cord. He engaged both a peer and his teacher by offering them the telephone and saying, “Talk to you?” (Porath, 2000, p. 203).

Jill, age 4, demonstrated social capability through her advanced interpersonal understanding, as elicited through responses to a picture story of a little girl who has lost her favorite book. Jill showed remarkable abilities to incorporate multiple emotions into her responses and empathize with the protagonist. Part of the discussion with Jill is reproduced below:

Researcher: How was the little girl feeling?

Jill: Surprised, mad, and sad—all three.

Researcher: Why?

Jill: Because her friends were near. That’s why she’s mad; and she was sad and surprised because her book was lost. [Upon being asked what another character in the story would do, Jill replied that he would help].

Researcher: Why?

Jill: Because he didn’t want her to be sad and lost it again. You know why? Cause I lost my kitty . . . my favorite kitty, I would be feeling like that. (Porath, 2001, p. 20)

Motivation, Social-Emotional Development, and Giftedness

Young gifted children are notable for their motivation to learn (Gottfried et al., 1994; Robinson, 1993). Winner (1996) characterized this high intrinsic motivation as “a rage to master” (p. 3). Claire Golomb (1992) powerfully illustrated this rage to master in her research on an artistically gifted boy who, from the age of 2, explored topics by drawing numerous variations on a theme from every possible point of view. Similarly, at age 4 Wang Yani, an artistic prodigy, painted monkeys until she had exhausted the subject, often sustaining interest for incredibly long periods of time (Wang, 1987). Young gifted children may play an important role in creating environments that sustain them (Robinson, 1987).

In general, young gifted children are well adjusted socially and emotionally (Robinson & Noble, 1991). They tend to be socially mature, preferring older children’s company. However, young gifted children’s social-emotional development, while mature, still can be discrepant from their cognitive development. This asynchrony can interact with parental and teacher expectations of across-the-board maturity, with the possible result of denial of appropriate programming until the child “improves” socially. Another conundrum is that young gifted children, faced with an insufficiently challenging curriculum, will “act their age,” again with the possible result that social behavior becomes the focus of educational efforts rather than appropriate curriculum (Keating, 1991).

Very highly gifted children are the exception to the general finding of healthy social-emotional adjustment among gifted children. Because these children’s capabilities are so unusual, they find it very difficult to find their place in the world (Hollingworth, 1942; Winner, 1996). When asked how he was the same as and different from other children, a highly gifted 6-year-old replied, “I like Raphael and Michelangelo, but as artists not as Ninja Turtles” (Porath, 1996b, p. 15). This child struggled to find his place, both academically and socially, from the time he entered school.

Educational Implications

Psychological perspectives on the development of gifted children have important implications for early childhood education. The findings on the early emergence and stability of exceptional capabilities strongly suggest that the provision of an optimal curricular match to these advanced abilities in early childhood settings is essential to nurture young children’s curiosity, motivation, and accomplishment (Keating, 1991; Robinson et al., 1996). Well-designed programs that honor the constructive nature of understanding sustain children’s excitement in learning and extend their achievements (Freeman, 2000; Robinson, Abbott, Berninger, Busse, & Mukhopadhyay, 1997). These programs also have the potential to support different developmental pathways.

The importance of considering the nature and structure of conceptual understanding in planning educational programs is underscored by work on expertise. The knowledge structures of experts are complex; instruction that has as its objective the nurturance of expertise incorporates meaningful conceptual material (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1986). Instruction that fails to incorporate conceptual material can lead to cumulative deficits in achievement (Meichenbaum & Biemiller, 1998). This outcome was illustrated powerfully by Jeanne Bamberger (1982) in her study of gifted adolescent musicians. These young musicians went through a sort of midlife crisis when called on to learn formal theoretical musical concepts. Having experienced a largely skills-based approach to musical instruction since early childhood, they were unprepared for the demands to think more deeply about music and became frustrated and unmotivated.

Well-planned academic programs also support social and emotional development (Keating, 1991). Creative and flexible options are needed to address the diversity of development among young gifted children. Most particularly, highly gifted children need options that are sensitively matched to the needs implicit in development that includes abilities far ahead of even other gifted young children. A “nurturant resourceful environment” (Meichenbaum & Biemiller, 1998, p. 13) is necessary to support high motivation. Children need to be helped and supported to be interested (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1986), even when they are highly intrinsically motivated. Intensive early support and education result in high levels of competence and satisfaction (Bloom, 1985).

Giftedness is apparent in early childhood. Its presence signals a need to step outside the confines of a lockstep approach to education in which age and grade seem inextricably joined. When faced with compelling advanced developmental needs, the predictive question of subsequent performance is not relevant; however, an optimal match between school program and abilities is. Keating (1991) suggested that the following question be posed: “Is there an appropriate match between the child and the program?” If the answer is negative, then we must ask what needs to be done to make the program appropriate.

Directions for Future Research

Important guiding principles for early educational experiences for gifted children are apparent in psychological research. These principles need to be translated into an applied researchprogramtoguidepractice.Weneedrichlydescriptive classroom-based and system-based examples of exemplary practice and studies of intervention effects. Coupled with a need to expand how we conceive of intelligent behavior (see, e.g., Ceci, 1996; Gardner, 1983) is the need for valid and reliable assessment tools that go beyond IQ. Basic research into cognitive processes and the nature of abilities across domains needs to continue. Longitudinal research that includes an applied dimension would strengthen our understanding of the nature and development of giftedness. The complexities of gifted abilities and achievements are recognized (Freeman, 2000), as is the dynamic relationship between young children and their environments (Smitsman, 2000). This intensive and challenging research agenda is essential to ensuring appropriate early childhood education opportunities for children who demonstrate exceptional potential.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in Early Childhood

Recent decades have witnessed an increasing number of immigrants to many, if not most, Western industrialized countries. This continuing upswing in immigration and demographic changes has resulted in a dramatic increase of students with diverse ethnic, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds in the school system and in ECE programs of many industrial societies, especially in NorthAmerica. Within existing societal contexts where family values, education equity, and human rights are discussed, contemporary education faces new understandings andchallengestomeettheneedsofculturallyandlinguistically diverse students who had been historically placed in contexts of social, economical, and educational vulnerability.

An important challenge in educating minority students has been how best to help them learn the majority language and culture without precluding them from developing and maintaining their native languages and cultures. In fact, decades of literature addressing best educational practices for minority children continue to stress the importance of developing home languages and cultural identity (Campos, 1995; Cummins, 1979, 1992; Hakuta, 1986; Paul & Jarvis, 1992). Such findings, however, have not exerted much influence on the practices in early childhood education (Bernhard, Lefebvre, Chud, & Lange, 1995; Kagan & Garcia, 1991; LaGrange, Clark, & Munroe, 1995; Soto, 1997). Research in this area has indicated that large numbers of early childhood settings have adopted at best superficial or token expressions of cultural diversity, such as presenting diverse holidays, foods, or customs. The issue of how to balance the competing interest between developing native and second languages during the early years has still relied ultimately on parental and individual struggles. A lack of responsiveness and efficacy for the diverse populations in many early childhood programs may be due partly to the limited understanding of cultural and language issues in the process of transition from the home culture to that of the school in minority children (Bernhard et al., 1991).

This brief discussion is an attempt to introduce some of the language and cultural issues raised regarding young immigrant children with a focus on the role and importance of the children’s home languages and cultures in ECE settings.

Second-Language Learning in the Preschool Years

Historically, researchers who have explored issues of secondlanguage learning and language maintenance in immigrant populations have been more concerned with school-age children than with preschool-aged children (Cummins, 1986; Lyon, 1996). In the past decade, however, researchers have become increasingly concerned about language learning of 2- to 6-year-old immigrant children due to the general increase in early education enrollment and growing minority populations, resulting in more and more immigrant children becoming exposed to a majority language during this early period. In addition, because younger children are presumed to be better language learners than older children, there has been a strong emphasis on immigrant children’s being fluent in the majority language prior to school entry. As a result, the goal of preparing immigrant children in the majority language has been pushed down to the preschool level (Kagan & Garcia, 1991; Prince & Lawrence, 1994; Wong Fillmore, 1991).

Within this context, researchers have become increasingly concerned about the consequences of emphasizing English to language-minority children during the preschool years. The major concern is that this could result in a subtractive bilingual experience; that is, the addition of the majority (second) language can cause a deterioration or erosion of the native (first) language. Thus, instead of English serving as enhancement to the child’s linguistic repertoire, it often serves as a replacement (Lambert & Taylor, 1983; Wong Fillmore, 1991; Wright, Taylor, & Macarthur, 2000). Such subtractive processes can be associated with considerable cognitive, emotional, and developmental risks (Cummins, 1991; Skutnabb-Kangas, 1981; Wong Fillmore, 1991; Wright & Taylor, 1995). The extent to which such language loss or subtractive bilingualism takes place during the preschool years and the role that early educational institutions play in language development of these children, however, have been matters of significant debate. We turn now to this debate.

The Debate on Early Schooling of Language Minority Children

Perhaps the two important and interrelated questions raised in this debate are these: When should children be exposed to the majority language in a school-like setting? Is there a threshold of native language skills that children should reach before the majority language is introduced? In which language should children be instructed in their early years?

A rapid acquisition of English in a school-like setting before competence in the native language has been achieved, combined with a corresponding lack of incentive to develop the native language, not only slow the native language development but also adversely lead to difficulties in acquisition of a second language (Cummins, 1986; Schiff-Myers, 1992). To explain this bilingual language delay, many have cited Cummins’s (1984, 1986) hypotheses of threshold and developmental interdependence, which would suggest that a child’s second language competence is partly a function of the competence previously developed in the first language. The child must acquire and maintain a threshold level of proficiency, which include literacy skills as well as aural and oral skills, to avoid the subtractive effects of second language instruction. Therefore, if the first language proficiency is at a lower stage before the second language is introduced, it is more difficult to develop the second (Cummins, 1986; Lambert & Taylor, 1983; Skutnabb-Kangas, 1981; Soto, 1993).

The acquisition of a second language at the preschool stage can also lead to the loss of the home language (Cummins, 1991; Faulstich Orellana, 1994; Siren, 1991), which can, in turn, cause serious problems with communication and socialization within the families (Wong Fillmore, 1991). This does not mean that learning English, even in a limited way, should be a taboo for young minority children; however, as Wong Fillmore (1991, p. 345) stressed, “The problem is timing, not English. The children have to learn English, but they should not be required to do so until their native languages are stable enough to handle the inevitable encounter with English and all it means.”

However, other researchers have recommended that language-minority children take advantage of an early start in introducing both languages (Baker & deKanter, 1983; Porter, 1991). Language skills require up to 7 years of practice to reach the levels necessary for academic learning, and learning English in an ECE program can support the natural and easy acquisition of a second language. Porter (1991), for example, argued that early immersion in a second language, preferably between ages 3 and 5, offers the greatest opportunity to learn native pronunciation and the highest level of literacy in that language. The earlier the children learn a second language, the more easily they appear to achieve high levels of fluency.

The matter then rests as a problem of deciding the appropriate time and manner of exposing preschool-aged children to a second-language setting to promote the children’s bilingual competence, academic success, and family relations. A missing component in this discussion is how this issue can affect parents, who have the ultimate decisions of when and how to balance the competing interest between the two languages. How, exactly, are immigrant parents of young children dealing with these issues?

In a study of immigrant parents in Sweden, Siren (1991) reported that although most parents supported the goal of bilingual development, there were differences of opinion among parents regarding when this goal of bilingualism should be achieved. According to Soto (1993), parents of academically high-achieving Puerto Rican immigrant children in kindergarten through second grade strongly believed in developing a foundation in Spanish first while gradually introducing English to their children. Parents of children who were lower achievers also valued Spanish, but they expressed a preference for simultaneous learning in both languages and were much more ambivalent about the developmental progression of first- and second-language learning. In her study of Korean immigrant families in Canada, Koh (2000) similarly found that parents who enrolled their children in bilingual preschools expressed a strong preference for their children building a strong foundation in Korean before learning English. Accordingly, they tended to provide exclusive Korean language environments at home. In contrast, Korean immigrants who enrolled their children in English-speaking preschools believed that children at an early age could acquire two languages naturally and actively supported this scenario by their choice of preschool setting and the nature of home literacy activities. Thus, a major question among immigrant parents of young children concerns the most appropriate balance between developing fluency in both their native language and the majority language. Parental attitudes influence language practices and interaction patterns at home and parents’ selection of a particular preschool program.

There is general agreement among researchers that a child’s success in learning both the native language and the majority-culture language is more dependent on the nature of the home and preschool learning environments and less dependent on the child’s age per se (Arnberg, 1987; SchiffMyers, 1992). In other words, minority children’s secondlanguage learning in the early years is not always a problem if the home languages and literacy are valued and encouraged in the home, preschool, and community. Nevertheless, the appropriate balance between developing the native language and the majority language during the early school years is a critical issue about which language minority parents and ECE practitioners need to have more solid theoretical and empirical bases.

Another hotly debated issue surrounds the instructional use of the two languages in minority children’s early schooling (Garcia, 1993). At one end of this debate are proponents of native or bilingual language instruction who recommend learning of the native language prior to the introduction of an English curriculum (transitional or maintenance bilingual education). In this approach it is suggested that “competencies in the native language, particularly as related to academic learning, provide important cognitive and social bases for second-language and academic learning” (Garcia, 1973, p. 379). The other end of this debate recommends immersion to the English curriculum from the very start of the students’ schooling experience with the minimal use of the native language (English immersion education). Perhaps the most familiar examples of this debate are results on bilingual or native-language ECE classrooms for Spanish speakers in the United States (see Bilingual Research Journal, 1992). However, this issue could extend to a wide variety of languageminority groups who have a choice of native or bilingual language instruction in their early years. Evaluation of immersion, native, or bilingual programs includes political and ideological as well as methodological and technical debates.

However, a number of researchers have increasingly noted a positive outcome in the language and cognitive development for the children attending effective bilingual or native language classrooms (Campos, 1995; Paul & Jarvis, 1992; Rodriguez, Diaz, Duran, & Espinosa, 1995).

The language of instruction is but one of many factors that can determine the outcomes of learning in a specific early education program. These other factors could include teacher training, classroom interactions, the nature of peer relations, the curriculum that is used, parent involvement, or program philosophies that contextualize the teaching and learning in the programs. Further study of language practices in the early schooling of language-minority children should focus on more than the language of instruction alone and should include such ecological factors of the programs. The issue of minority students’ early education should also be understood not only in the classroom or school but also in a broader societal context where the children are learning the native and majority language (Garcia, 1993; Wong Fillmore, 1991).

The Role of Home Culture in Early Childhood Education

In the past, the language and culture that minority families and children brought from their home into new environment were considered to be deficiencies (Collins, 1988). Deficiency theory attributed the academic failure of children from certain ethnic groups to culturally determined socialization practices in the home. Much recent and current research has helped to refute this cultural deficiency model and has begun to contribute to our understanding of cultural differences between the school and the minority students. The cultural differences—or discontinuities—position, supported by a number of well-documented ethnographic studies, suggests that a major source of children’s education failure lies in the culture clash between home and school (e.g., Delgado-Gaitan & Trueba, 1991; Garcia, 1988; Heath, 1983).

Others have pointed out that deficit-difference models have oversimplified the problem of minority achievement by generalizing and perhaps overemphasizing home-school discontinuities (Goldenberg, Reese, & Gallmore, 1992; Weisner, Gallimore, & Jordan, 1993). Although home-school discontinuities must be recognized and accommodated appropriately in the school, not all cultural discontinuities between minority families and school are negative (DelgadoGaitan & Truba, 1991; Schmidt, 1998; Volk, 1997; Weisner et al., 1993). Thus, it is necessary to look at some new and emerging data that suggest certain positive outcomes of some discontinuities. Weisner et al. (1993) gave an example of how educators identified cultural differences between school and Hawaiian families and then incorporated the family’s teachinglearning style from the home culture into their classroom practices:

Sibcare is a ubiquitous aspect of Hawaiian child life; it reinforces habits of attending and orienting to siblings and other children rather than to adults. These habits can be generalized to the classroom by providing opportunities for peer teaching and learning. In a traditional classroom, these culture-based habits lead to problems; in classrooms using peer teaching, they produce better achievement. (p. 62)

Similarly, the Kamelahama Early Education Program (KEEP) in Hawaii showed that incorporating features of the home culture into reading lessons in primary classrooms resulted in an increase of the children’s reading achievement scores (Grant, 1995). Instead of mainstream classroom discussions of stories, discussions were adjusted to incorporate the Hawaiian storytelling tradition, which involves a high proportion of turn taking and cooperative production of responses (Au, 1997; Au & Carroll, 1997). Studies such as these showed that minority home cultures and values must be factored into children’s educational plans. Modifying old approaches and developing new conceptual insights and educational practices can help minority language children succeed in school.

The Socialization and Resocialization of Young Minority Children

Socialization is a means by which patterns of behavior, attitudes, values, and beliefs are transmitted to children from families, schools, peers, the media, and other influences (Garcia, 1993). During the early childhood years, family is essentially the major socialization source for a child. After the child enters early education programs, both the family and the school are primary socialization sources. The transition from home to early schooling marks a critical socialization period for all children, and perhaps more so for culturally and linguistically diverse children whose languages and ways of life are different from those of the mainstream (Kagan & Garcia, 1991; Villarruel, Imig, Kostelnik, 1995).

Families from diverse ethnic backgrounds may have different values, goals, and practices concerning what they consider important early experiences for children. These variations can reflect differences in their cultural belief systems about the status and role of children in society and their perceptions of how children learn (Goodnow, 1988). As an example, the traditional culture and socialization of northeast Asian countries are deeply rooted in Confucian philosophy, which strongly emphasizes interdependence from parents, group harmony, close family ties, and respect to adults. Children raised in this kind of cultural consciousness are not encouraged to initiate conversations with adults or to compete verbally with others publicly. These precise characteristics of socialization, however, are inconsistent with those of Western culture, which tend to emphasize the development of self-expression, autonomous choice, and independent individuals (Choi, Kim, & Choi, 1993). When the cultural climate of the home differs significantly from that of school and society at large, the child may be caught in the middle of home-school value conflict.

What happens if ECE programs of these children do not understand the values and child developmental goals behind cultural differences and seek to resocialize the children to a new set of values? Clearly, an appropriate function of education is socialization, and it is not unrealistic to expect that older children will accommodate such norms. However, asking very young children to be resocialized, just as formative socialization is taking place, unduly burdens them (Kagan & Garcia, 1991). The attempt to fit in to the socializationresocialization conundrum can result in confusion within the child and the rejection of the home culture and language. This in turn often creates a deep emotional gap between the child and the family and in some cases could lead to emotional or learning problems for the child (Delgado-Gaitan & Trueba, 1991; Kagan & Garcia, 1991). In fact, reports of Asian immigrants in North America have indicated a significant challenge in their children’s socialization and serious communication problems with their children at home (Kim & Choi, 1994; Lee & Lehmann, 1986; “There is no Utopia,” 1999). Pettingill and Rohner (1985), who compared children’s perception of parenting among Korean, Korean Canadian, and Korean American samples, found that perceived parental control was correlated with high parental warmth and low neglect, and slightly with parental hostility and rejection in the Korean sample. On the other hand, for the Korean Canadian and Korean American children, parental control was perceived as low warmth and high hostility, neglect, and rejection. This study showed that parental control—a positive feature of the parent-child relationship in Korea—was transformed into a negative feature for the children of Korean immigrants in North America.

Although there are always individual variations within the cultural groups, it is important to understand that the socialization characteristics of one cultural group are governed by its cultural values and beliefs and can be significantly different from those of another. Schools need to understand that minority families’ cross-cultural adjustments can be a difficult and complex process, so schools should provide learning environments that can mediate the adjustment and develop a healthy sense of self.

Closing Thoughts on Language, Culture, and Immigration

With so many children from diverse language and cultural groups in early childhood programs, it has become an increasingly important challenge to appreciate the significance of the family’s language and culture and to move from appreciation to action on the part of early childhood professionals. A number of key issues regarding language, culture, and the education of young immigrant children must remain high priorities for both early childhood educators and researchers.

First, there is concern with the possibility of subtractive bilingualism, that is, losing proficiency in the child’s first language. Supporting the child’s native language at an early age has been strongly encouraged for the children’s academic success, bilingual proficiency, family relations, and a healthy sense of self. ECE programs for minority children must encourage and appreciate the language skills and cultural values that these children bring from their home, so that they neither directly nor indirectly stop the children’s native language and cultural development.

Parents of minority preschoolers are challenged to decide when and how to provide the relative balance between the native and second languages for their children, and they need more information and support. Studies of the impact of family culture on children’s learning have showed that identifying cultural differences between the school and the families, and incorporating the information into classroom practices, resulted in better academic achievement.

For the children of minority groups, parenting values and practices at home may be very different from what educators expect, and socialization experiences may be unique and complex as children often interact in multiple linguistic and cultural groups. Thus, ECE professionals are expected to look at children within the context of their family and culture. The potential conflicts and confusion that these families and their children might experience in their cross-cultural adjustment must be acknowledged, understood, and overcome.

Child Temperament and Early Childhood Education

I didn’t get any information about temperament in my training. That community talk was when I first learned about Thomas and Chess’s study, you know, and about temperament. I didn’t learn that in my early childhood training. That’s terrible, right? (“Corinne,” cited in Andersen & McDevitt, 2000, p. 14)

The early childhood special educator just quoted reported that she had to remove her 3-year-old son from a day care setting in which he was in constant conflict with teachers and peers. She was on a desperate search for caregivers who were knowledgeable and skilled in working with challenging behavior. She was also seeking emotional support and practical suggestions for herself from early intervention professionals. This parent had learned from medical and mental health specialists that her child was neurologically intact but that his intensity, slowness to adapt, negative mood, high activity level, and short attention span were aspects of his temperament that were colliding with the expectations of his parents and teachers. However, her attempts to impart this well-informed assessment of the basis of her son’s behavior fell on deaf ears in her neighborhood day care center. The skepticism she encountered left her feeling judged and blamed, and her son was labeled “disturbed” and “troublesome.” Yet she herself could not blame the teachers, whose training, like her own, had included so little attention to the extensive research that now exists on child temperament (Andersen & McDevitt, 2000). Although her experience in encountering ignorance of temperament is tragically commonly reported (Andersen, 1994), it is also true that ECE professionals have been among the most enthusiastic supporters of the concept. Many have acknowledged that the topic needs more attention in personnel preparation and as a variable that affects the functioning of children in group settings (Andersen, 1990; Soderman, 1985).

The History of Temperament Research

The idea of temperament has a long history, dating back at least as far Hippocrates (Rutter, 1982). However, after the hereditarian views of personality that held sway in the nineteenth century were rejected, by the middle of the twentieth century children’s traits were considered either to be all learned or to be projections of their parents’ often-distorted perceptions. These psychodynamic and social-learning theories of children’s individual differences were first systematically challenged by the formulation and investigation of the construct of temperament by the American psychiatrists Stella Chess and Alexander Thomas. The attribution of all differences in children, including infants, to differences in parental (usually maternal) handling or to the projection of parental personality characteristics, ran counter to their own personal and professional experiences (Chess & Thomas, 1987). They knew that they could not refute these ideas on the basis of their opinions alone. The task called for a major research enterprise. Their New York Longitudinal Study (NYLS) was initiated in 1956 and followed 133 children from early infancy to adult life. This turned out to be a landmark study, and these two American psychiatrists paved the way for a veritable revolution in our understanding of children’s individuality and development. Their work was soon followed, and expanded upon, by other leading thinkers. The topic of temperament has consequently played a central role in the development of new interactionist theories of child development and in the formulation of etiological theories in child and adolescent psychiatry. It has been accompanied by intensive discussion of basic research and clinical questions, many of which continue to arise as children’s individuality is investigated today. It is therefore useful to consider first the central themes that have recurred as the concept of temperament has been put to the empirical test and as new conceptual issues have emerged. Following this, the implications and empirical investigation of temperament in early childhood education and day care will be discussed.

The Definition of Temperament and Temperament Traits

Chess and Thomas defined temperament as the behavioral style of a person, distinguishing this aspect from the person’s abilities and motivations (Chess & Thomas, 1987). They have also characterized it as “a non-motivational factor in the determination of behavioral patterns” (Chess & Thomas, in Carey & McDevitt, 1989, p. 26). They clarified this idea by explaining that an individual responds to an internal or external stimulus through the meditating effects of temperament, along with other factors, such as past events, cognitive level, subjective feelings, and ideals. Others have characterized temperament as a mediating variable, representing an individual’s response patterns and manner of coping with stress and adversity (Rutter, 1994). Carey and McDevitt (1995) stated that although there is still no universal agreement on a definition, the general usage is in accord with the view of Thomas and Chess’s original concept of behavioral style. They noted an important distinction between temperament and cognitive factors:

Thomas and Chess explain it as the “how” of behavior as contrasted with the “what” (abilities or developmental level) and the “why” (motivations and behavioral adjustment). This conceptual and empirical separation of temperament and cognitive function has been demonstrated at various times in childhood including infancy (Plomin et al., 1990, 1993) and the elementary school years (Keogh, 1986; Martin, 1989, 1989b). (p. 10)

Although new methods are now available to investigators, particularly in molecular genetics and in direct studies of brain function, no new findings have overturned earlier views that temperament represents an innate attribute of a child and arises from a combination of genetic, biological, and environmental contributors.

Early Childhood Education Research Paper

Chess and Thomas identified the nine temperament traits listed in Table 13.1. Although the traits developed by Chess and Thomas have formed the basis of several temperament scales, which in turn have been utilized clinically as well as in vast numbers of individual studies, others have developed different formulations of the construct. Drawing on Carey and McDevitt’s (1995) discussion of these alternatives, a brief summary is presented in Table 13.2.

Early Childhood Education Research Paper

The Measurement and the Functional Significance of Temperament

Although temperament is manifested in behavioral styles, researchers, clinicians, and parents are aware that similar behavior can have any number of nontemperamental causes. It is not surprising, then, that the assessment of specific behavior as related to temperament and the measurement of an individual’s temperamental profile have posed especially difficult problems for researchers and clinicians alike. Although some investigators have used psychophysiological instruments to support their claims about biological factors, most contemporary research has been conducted using paperand-pencil checklists of children’s behavioral tendencies as observed by parents, teachers, investigators, and clinicians. These scales are usually based on the nine dimensions developed by Chess and Thomas. These instruments are designed to tap children’s behavioral dispositions by asking parents and other observers questions about the child’s typical behavior in day-to-day situations. These scales, and modifications of them, have been validated on large numbers of children internationally (Carey & McDevitt, 1995). Currently, several scales are available that are appropriate for use by ECE personnel, often in combination with parent ratings and observations (McDevitt, in Andersen & McDevitt, 2000). These include a new questionnaire for caregivers and preschool teachers, the Teacher and Caregiver Temperament Inventory for Children (TACTIC), which measures temperament, attention, emotions, and conduct in 2- to 7-year-old children, and the Basic Behavioral Assessment Scale (BBAS) by Carey and McDevitt, which measures behavioral adjustment in 4- to 14year-old children in the areas of behavior, achievement, selfrelations, internal state, and coping (S. C. McDevitt, personal communication, November 2001).

Although there appears to be a growing consensus on many issues raised in the earlier years, more recent discussions of temperament continue to reflect earlier concerns about measurement. In response to Clarke-Stewart, Fitzpatrick, Allhausen & Goldberg (2000) presentation of a short and easy measure of infant temperament, Carey (2000) has argued for caution when hoping that there could be a brief and simple way to capture a complex phenomenon.

Although the work of Chess and Thomas and their followers was published as early as the mid-1960s, the findings on the predictive validity of children’s individual differences in emotional disposition and behavioral style did not win acceptance until the early 1980s. This was in spite of the fact that several independent lines of research had essentially replicated the early findings (Graham, Rutter, & George, 1973; Barron & Earls, 1984; Maziade, Caron, Cote, Boutin, & Thivierige, 1990). Fears of a deterministic view of human behavior may have played a role in the reluctance of developmentalists to accept the notion that biologically based differences exist in children’s emotional and behavioral dispositions. Carey and McDevitt (1995) suggested that in clinical circles another central reason for the slow acceptance of temperament concepts may lie in the fact that the risks associated with temperament are seen to lie not in the temperament itself but in the lack of goodness of fit between the child’s temperament and the expectations and values of the environment. Clinicians may have found it difficult to consider the question of fit because this notion is not in keeping with the habit of looking for problems within either the child or the environment. However, such a contextual approach has become not only acceptable, but fully in keeping with current theoretical understandings of the interplay between children’s dispositions, abilities, and interests and the complex factors that interact with their individuality at all levels of the ecology.

Despite the early resistance to the concept and despite the clinical world’s slowness to adopt complex etiological models, accumulating evidence has left little room for doubt about the reality and importance of temperament. Research in temperament has now involved the efforts of hundreds of scientists in numerous areas, and the second wave of temperament research has adopted stringent methodological standards and extended its reach across cultures and into the genome, utilizing research methods ranging from ethnographic studies to the most recent technology such as brain scans and electrophysiological measurement. Clinician-researchers have been appraising the role of temperament across culture and socioeconomic differences, exploring the interaction between temperament and physical status, and behavioral-geneticists and neuroscientists continue to study the relative contribution of genes and the environment, including the environment of the womb. Twin and adoption studies have revealed that there is a substantial genetic contribution to temperament—about 50% on average. (Contrary to previous views, there is compelling evidence that temperament in infancy is not highly under genetic control and that genetic influences are stronger in the postinfancy years. In addition, temperament is not as stable or continuous as was once proposed.) Investigation of the role of maternal hormones, stress, prenatal infections, and perinatal stress has reminded developmentalists that environmental contributors to temperament can be biological (Carey & McDevitt, 1995, pp. 18–24).At the same time, interactions of parenting style, family stress factors, and social pressures continue to be seen as important contributors to outcome.

In the past two decades temperament has been shown to affect a wide range of areas of children’s functioning, no less so in the preschool and school years than in infancy. Current knowledge about the functional significance of temperament was recently summarized by Carey (1998, pp. 27) as cited by Andersen and McDevitt (2000) as

  • fundamental part of the parent-child relationship;
  • significant factor in patterns of growth and feeding;
  • predisposition to prolonged crying in infancy;
  • possible contributor to sleep problems;
  • reason some children are hard to discipline;
  • major risk factor for social behavior problems;
  • substantial component of school performance;
  • factor in physical conditions; one factor in recurrent pain;
  • partial determinant of response to crises.

Although temperament has been shown to play an important role in many areas of development, perhaps the most significant area for application in early childhood education is the role of temperament in children’s psychological adjustment and educational achievement. It is useful, therefore, to review the major findings about this relationship. One of the most important and replicated findings of the early temperament research was the identification of specific clusters of traits that differentiated parents’ experiences with children. Forty percent of the sample of children who were rated by their parents as adaptable, approaching, mildly active, mildly intense, and regular in biological rhythms were described by their middle-class North American parents as “easy.” These children fitted well with the demands of family life and cultural expectations and were found to be at low risk for (but not immune to) the development of psychological and educational problems (Chess & Thomas, 1987). Ten percent of the sample were, by contrast, described as “difficult.” These children were low in adaptability, predominantly negative in mood, irregular, withdrawn in new situations, and intense in reactivity. A third group of children, comprising 15% of the sample, were mildly intense in response, mildly negative in mood, and slow to adapt to new situations. This group was described as “slow-to-warm-up.”

The most important finding of the NYLS was the discovery that “difficult” children were at significantly higher risk of developing problems in behavioral and emotional adjustment. However, adjustment problems were not inevitable. Chess and Thomas invoked the concept of goodness of fit to describe a compatible relationship between parental expectations and a child’s temperament; when the fit was poor, the child experienced excessive stress and developed reactive behavioral and emotional problems. The finding that temperamentally difficult children were at higher risk of developing psychological problems has been replicated in subsequent research (Earls & Jung, 1987; Graham et al., 1973; Maziade, Cote, Bernier, Boutin, & Thivierge, 1989; Maziade et al., 1990). However, fit has been shown to be context dependent. Consequently, Carey and McDevitt (1989) proposed the term temperament risk factors:

Temperament risk factors are any temperament characteristic predisposing a child to a poor fit (incompatible relationship) with his or her environment, to excessive interactional stress and conflict with his or her caretakers, and to secondary problems in the child’s physical health, development and behavior. These characteristics are usually perceived as hard to manage, but may not be. The outcome depends on the strength and durability of the characteristics and the environmental stresses and supports. (p. 195)

Temperament Research in Early Childhood Education

Despite the consensus that now exists about the importance of the role of children’s individual differences in temperament as a significant risk factor in specific contexts, applications of this knowledge in all levels of early childhood education have been few (Andersen, 1990). In 1995 Carey and McDevitt published an extensive review of the extant studies of temperament. In their chapter on day care, they decried the failure of the prevention, intervention, and caregiving communities to apply this important knowledge. In their chapters on infants and young children, they noted that “behavioral investigation in the area [of child day care] has almost completely ignored the impact of children’s temperament on the experience” (p. 83). They summarized the little research there was at the time. However, what little research there is suggests that further investigation is likely to be fruitful (Anderson-Goetz & Worobey, 1984; Field & Greenberg, 1982; Keogh & Burstein, 1988; Palison, 1986).

Among the most important preliminary findings cited by Carey and McDevitt (1995) was the (counterintuitive to some) discovery that mothers of children with difficult temperaments were less likely to go back to work and to place their children in day care, although the authors commented that this study was conducted in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when “the pressure to seek employment outside the home might not have been felt quite as strongly by middleclass mothers as it is today” (p. 85). More recently, Canadian researchers McKim, Cramer, Stuart, and O’Connor (1999) examined the family and child factors associated with child care decisions and found that mothers who preferred to stay home were more depressed and that their children were more likely to experience unstable care than were those who were working and wanted to work. The age at which the child entered day care and aspects of the care such as quality were not related to attachment measures. However, infants with difficult temperaments were at higher risk of being rated as insecurely attached. Attending day care appeared to reduce the strength of this relationship. This study, though preliminary, lends some support to the notion that enrolling a difficult infant in day care might have beneficial effects for the infant and possibly also for depressed mothers.

Another important question is how children’s individual temperaments affect their socioemotional adjustment to, and functioning in, early childhood group environments. In an early study of 2.5- to 3.5-year-old children entering day care, Billman and McDevitt (1980) obtained mothers’ and observers’ temperament ratings on a sample of 78 predominantly White middle-class children ranging in age from 34 to 64 months and attending two nursery schools in a small Midwestern American community. There were 40 girls and 38 boys in the study. The researchers set out to clarify the relationship between home-rated temperament and social behavior at nursery school, to investigate any relationship between difficult temperament and peer interaction, and to assess the consistency of temperament ratings made by different raters in different settings. Parental ratings of the temperament characteristic of low approach predicted teacher evaluations of slower adjustment. It is interesting to note that the “difficult child” cluster of traits emerged as a significant predictor of peer interactions. Although convergence between the two temperament ratings was moderate (.18–.46), correlations were statistically significant for all dimensions except mood. Activity level, approach-withdrawal, and sensory threshold were significantly related to peer interaction. Very active children were both more sociable than inactive children and more often involved in conflictual interactions. More rhythmic children spoke more to peers and got on with their tasks more effectively. When the children were assigned to the temperament clusters identified by Chess and Thomas, the difficult child was found to engage in more wrestling, hitting, jumping, pushing, and beating.

More recently, Harden et al. (2000) used Bronfenbrenner’s ecological framework to explore externalizing behavior problems among children enrolled in a suburban Head Start program and compared them with a subgroup of children with behavior problems in the clinical or borderline range. Children’s externalizing behavior was positively associated with internalizing behavior, parent psychological adjustment, child temperament, family environment, and exposure to community violence.

Yen and Ispa (2000) tested the hypothesis that curriculum type (Montessori and constructivist) moderates the impact of temperament (specifically, activity level and attention span and persistence) on the classroom behavior of 3- to 5-yearold children. A near-significant trend suggested that temperamentally active boys were more likely to be perceived by their teachers as having behavior problems if they were enrolled in Montessori programs than if they were enrolled in constructivist programs. An interesting finding was that attention span and persistence did not have any effect on the impact of the type of curriculum on children’s behavior. This is one of the few studies that explores the important question of the goodness of fit between specific types of curriculum and children’s temperament.

Stansbury and Harris (2000) conducted a study to ascertain whether standardized peer entry paradigm would produce stress responses in 38 3-year-olds and 25 4-year-olds and how such stress responses might correlate with temperament, approaches to peers, and peer competence as perceived by the children themselves. Four-year-olds were significantly less avoidant and were rated higher on the temperament trait of “approach.” They showed larger Hypothalamic-PituitaryAdrenal Cortical Axis (HPA) stress responses to new peers, and the disparity between self-reported peer competence and behavior in the peer-entry situation was associated with greater stress responses on a physiological measure. The researchers stressed the importance of examining discrepancies between self-perception and action in research on stress.

The need for the education of early childhood professionals about temperament was acknowledged in a study by Franyo and Hyson (1999) of the effectiveness of temperament training of early childhood caregivers. This study provided information about caregivers’ preexisting knowledge of temperament concepts and investigated the effect of educational workshops about temperament concepts. The findings were that without training, caregivers had heard about temperament but knew little about the specifics of the empirical findings. Without training, caregivers did not appear to have many ideas about how to achieve a goodness of fit by using behavioral management techniques, although this was an area in which they showed special interest. Encouragingly, caregivers were very accepting of the concept of temperament, and training sessions were effective in increasing their knowledge about temperament concepts. However, the investigators reported that there was no statistically significant evidence that the training was effective in improving the caregivers’ acceptance of children’s behaviors and feelings.

Implications for Further Research

Although these new efforts are encouraging, there continues to be a dearth of empirical research on the role of child temperament in early childhood group settings. Much more work remains to be done. There are many areas of child temperament research that have direct implications for early childhood education. The first of these is the direct education of caregivers and teachers about the origins and significance of individual differences in children’s behavioral styles so as to avoid misattributing all these differences to central nervous system dysfunction or parenting. Second, research is demonstrating that temperament has an impact on the way children experience, and affect, their environments. Active children are often criticized by staff for their restlessness when a programmatic modification may be in their interests. Children who need time to adapt to new situations require teachers who have the patience to help them overcome their period of hesitation (Soderman, 1985). There is particular concern about children whose temperaments challenge and frustrate caregivers and about peers who may be the recipients of rejection or neglect, leading to the development of secondary problems. More work is needed in formulating effective training programs that will bring about both significant attitudinal and behavior management changes in caregivers. This is particularly important in view of the fact that families of children with challenging temperament-related issues may seek assistance from ECE staff. Because there is often an overlap between this group of children and those diagnosed at school age with attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder or oppositional defiant disorder, early intervention agencies should recognize that these children are at very high risk when the fit is poor and should be eligible for services under such circumstances (Andersen & McDevitt, 2000).

No less important than applying research about temperament risk factors is an appreciation of the fact that temperament traits can serve also as assets (Carey & McDevitt, 1995). Researchers would do well to explore how specific temperament traits may benefit children in their interactions with adult caregivers, with peers, and with the curriculum of ECE programs, and practitioners need to avoid automatically associating the word “temperament” with risk factors. Carey and McDevitt stated the key questions for the conduct of research on temperament in day care this way:

What kinds of children do better in what kinds of care arrangements? Does a child’s temperament influence his or her behavior with peers and child care professionals in the day care situation in the same ways as in the home? How can we deliver day care that best meets the needs of parents and children? What happens when there is a poor fit between the child’s characteristics and the handling provided by the day care facility? How is this dissonance best detected? Will the management principles that seem to work for parents in the home also prove effective in the day care setting? What do day care workers generally know about important mental health matters, including temperament differences? Where do they get such information, and how successfully do they apply it? What is the best way to augment such knowledge? What benefits can be demonstrated for its use? What are the consequences of day care workers not having this knowledge? For aggressive or non-compliant behavior, what management strategies beside time-out are suitable? How can parents and day care workers best collaborate for the well-being of the child? (Carey & McDevitt, 1995, p. 90)

Closing Thoughts on Child Temperament

The field of early childhood education has made great strides and, indeed, has demonstrated leadership in showing respect to cultural diversity among young children and their families and in serving as teachers of, and advocates for, young children with disabilities and social risk factors. A burgeoning body of empirical studies in a wide range of fields has led to a consensus that child temperament exists, can be reliably measured, and is an important and universal individual difference among infants and young children that can serve as an asset or create risk. Respecting diversity among young children must now be extended to respecting this diversity in behavioral style. Early childhood researchers and practitioners will undoubtedly rise to the challenge of the new millennium by absorbing and applying the substantial knowledge that has been accumulated about temperament in the past four decades. We can look forward to seeing further attention to this important variable in empirical studies, in personnel preparation, and in curricula and programming.

Programs and Quality in Early Childhood Education

Compensatory Programs and Early Childhood Special Education

The title of “father of the kindergarten” was given to Friedrich Froebel. If Froebel is granted this acknowledgement, then the title of mother of early childhood special education (ECSE) should be granted to Maria Montessori (1870–1952). Indeed, Montessori anticipated the broad sweep that the field would make across the spectrum of childhood experiences and needs. In 1901 she became the director of the “orthophrenic” school associated with the University of Rome, a former asylum for city children, most of whom were likely intellectually disabled or autistic. She mounted a campaign to reform the system that had previously confined these children to a life of isolation and neglect. Montessori understood the need they had for purpose in life, for stimulation and for achieving a sense of self-worth. Anticipating the modern ethos, Montessori emphasized the importance of showing respect to all children and of teaching them self-care skills as well as to observe and respect the world around them. Also foreshadowing current trends, Montessori took an interest in children who were at risk because they were poor.

An Overview of the History of Early Childhood Special Education

In 1907 Montessori began an experimental school in the poorest part of Rome to demonstrate that her educational methods could be effective with inner-city preschoolers who were not disabled. She also anticipated the contemporary approach to the field of ECSE by applying herself to a rigorous analysis of research on the education of the mentally handicapped, focusing on the work of two French doctors, Jean Itard and Edouard Seguin. Itard’s work with the Wild Boy of Aveyron brought into focus another constant theme in contemporary ECSE, the long-standing question of the relative weights of nature and nurture in children’s development. Seguin’s influence was to encourage Montessori in her already-strong belief in making education systematic and specific. Although many consider Seguin to be the father of special education, it is an irony of history that in North America Montessori’s influence was not felt in the education of young children with special needs as much as it was in the development of Montessori nursery schools for normal children of middle- and upper-middle-class parents.

Indeed, in most Western countries the early education of young children at risk for compromised development was a neglected field until shortly after World War II. Although each modern state has followed its own path in developing and expanding services for children at risk, the United States is unique in mandating these services—a mandate that has driven academic research as much as it has program delivery. As a result, much research on the education of young children at risk has been conducted in the United States, and it is therefore the American experience in the field that followed federal legislation that will be reflected, for the most part, in this section.

As was described in the opening section of this research paper, the theme of nature versus nurture was present in the earliest years of the field of early childhood education. The 1961 publication of McVicker Hunt’s Intelligence and Experience fueled a renewed emphasis on the role of environmental experience in cognitive development. In 1965 the U.S. federal government initiated the first Head Start program, a summer initiative to bring America’s poorest children into programs in which they would receive stimulation and nutrition and that would involve their parents in a broad-sweeping and early attempt to provide compensation for the known detrimental effects of poverty and social disadvantage on children’s development. These early short-term programs were followed by programs that were more intensive and broader in conceptualization. Consequently, by 1972 a mandated quota of 10% of children with disabilities in Head Start programs was established. And although the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (PL 94-142), passed in 1972, did not cover children from birth to 3 years of age, in time services for preschool-aged children were mandated, and standards and incentives for providing services to infants and toddlers were included. One outcome of international significance in the American legislation and experience has been the emergence of a unified discipline that subsumed all the early childhood risk factors under its umbrella: ECSE. This new field was heralded by the formation of the Division for Early Childhood as a subsection of the Council for Exceptional Children in 1973 (McCollum, 2000).

Early childhood special education is the branch of the field of early childhood education that addresses the diverse educational needs of children with disabilities and developmental delays. The field has also come to include children whose developmental risk was at first seen to arise from the disadvantage of being raised in certain family and sociocultural contexts. Although the term compensatory education has been used to describe the aim of programs attempting to make up for presumed deficits in children’s environments, many theorists now regard it as unreasonable to think in terms of a dichotomy between children with endogenous difficulties and those with problems arising from environmental factors. It has been known for some time now that many risk factors arising from social conditions, such as maternal ingestion of alcohol, are translated into biological problems in children. In addition, many genetic risk factors are triggered only in the presence of certain environmental conditions. Recent neurobiological research has confirmed the potentially devastating impact of social stresses on young children’s neurodevelopment. Recent medical research has also shown that the technologies that are used to sustain survival of very high risk infants may create additional disabilities in those children.

Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Early Childhood Special Education

The complexity of the difficulties that face contemporary young children is matched by the need for multidisciplinary academic inquiry informed by many specialties and with a knowledge base of evidence-based practices that are reproducible in a field that continues to be marginalized and underfunded. One consequence of the scope and diversity of needs in the field of ECSE has been a major effort, in past decades, in the development of a professional identity. McCollum (2000) discussed how, between 1976 and 1985, several related movements were influential in shaping the nature of ECSE. The development of empirically based systematic instruction, furthered by academic investigation based on current learning theories, came first. Second, attention to preventing school failure became a mandate of the states, and the beginnings of a relationship between early childhood education and ECSE were forged as attempts were made to identify those young children who might be in need of early intervention. Third, increasing attention was paid to the noninstructional roles of teachers as ecological theory began to influence the way that interventionists understood the importance of the social context of development. Finally, younger and younger children began to receive attention and intervention programs because infants and toddlers grew rapidly.

The impact of these diverse influences challenged the assumption that this new field was a branch of special education alone. As the influence of other specialties was brought to bear on the questions of how best to help young children whose development might not proceed well, the new field was increasingly being referred to not only in educational terms. In keeping with paradigm shifts that occurred in early childhood education in general, ecological perspectives transformed the way in which relationships between culture, society, family, and the individual child were construed. In addition, the vocabulary of health and human services became recognizable in the discourse of the field, which became more broadly known as early intervention. This term, which was formerly used exclusively to refer to a point of time in a clinical intervention, had now become a separate area of study and of practice. As Bailey (2000) has commented, in the past three decades the field of early intervention has grown rapidly from its inception to its current state of maturity.

As diverse as its origins were, it is to the credit of its leading thinkers that the field of early intervention has reached a remarkable consensus about its goals, methods, values, and achievements. This consensus, sharpened by the presence of self-critical dialogue within its ranks, is well demonstrated by the publication of two recent special issues of Topics in Early Childhood Special Education (TECSE) that present a compelling picture of the field as it stands today: Early Childhood Special Education in a New Century: Voices from the Past, Visions for Our Future, Parts 1 and 2. These papers provide rich and often personal historical accounts of issues as far-ranging as personnel preparation, remedial teaching, inclusion, new theoretical understandings, child care, social conditions, the role of governments in mandating services, methodological issues, interdisciplinary relations, and interventions for specific disabilities. Only some of the major themes of these special issues will receive attention here: (a) inclusion; (b) new theoretical and empirical influences, including a clearer conceptualization by Dunst of familycentered intervention as evidence-based practice; (c) lessons learned from the past; (d) current issues in personnel preparation; and (e) the impact of legislation on services.

The Principle and Practice of Inclusion

Zigler and Styfco (2000) pointed out that Head Start programs were deliberately segregationist at their conception. The idea was to provide special and separate programs for young children from disadvantaged environments. Although this practice effectively cut them off from opportunities to learn in the company of peers from wealthier backgrounds, at the time it was considered that these children would not otherwise attend community nursery schools. Rather, the motivation was to offer them enriching opportunities, including nutritional and health care, that could not be provided by their homes. Likewise, programming for young children with disabilities was equally separate because it was thought that community preschool teachers did not know how to teach them. The inclusion of young children with disabilities in regular preschool and day care programs began slowly, and with much resistance. It is of interest that inclusion is less often justified on empirical grounds than defended in terms of a philosophical position regarding the rights of children with disabilities to experience the same privileges as those without. The emergence of day care into the field of early childhood education added a new dimension to these issues as educational questions became intertwined with questions about custodial care and the needs of working parents.

Although there have been many separate rationales invoked from time to time as policy makers and trainers have sought to persuade communities to move toward the adoption of inclusive practices, Bricker (2000) reminded us that the movement was originally driven by a clearly formulated developmental integration approach, which emerged from examining the detrimental effects of institutionalization on young children. She commented that this was by no means a well-accepted notion at the time. Her account of the gradual acceptance of the principle of inclusion demonstrates how quickly a questioned idea becomes its opposite: “Perhaps the biggest change has been the shift in perspective of inclusion from an idea about how to improve services to young children with disabilities to a human ‘right’ that has become closely tied to important movements focused on social equality” (p. 17). She acknowledged that inclusion is still hotly debated despite an apparent consensus about its desirability, as evidenced by position papers put forth by organizations such as the Division of Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children. Bricker herself stated that

the continuing debate over inclusion will do well to focus on the reality of current parental choices when facing placement options for their children. For many parents, the debate raging at the philosophical level may be very different from the realities they face when deciding on a placement for their child. (p. 17)

On a more optimistic note, Odom (2000) argued that

thirty years of research and practice have produced a knowledge base that informs policy and practice. . . . [N]ow, more than any time in the past, we have a greater awareness of the type of support professionals can provide to create productive learning environments for children with and without disabilities and inclusive settings. With political will, local leadership, willing parents, and committed teachers, most young children with disabilities can benefit from inclusive settings. (p. 25)

It is noteworthy that Odom did not use the rather absolute statements—that inclusion benefits all children—that have entered the position papers put out by both professional and advocacy organizations.

The issues that surround the implementation of inclusion and the emergence in the next decades of large-scale research projects bring us to consider the strengths and struggles of the endeavor to subject early intervention programs to rigorous inquiry. The Head Start experience demonstrates how essential it is to consider how laudable programs can fail in the details of their implementation when errors are made early in their planning. Zigler and Styfco (2000) acknowledged the extent of the problems that surrounded Head Start from its inception: First was an exclusionary ethos, in which economically disadvantaged children were served separately from their peers from wealthier homes. This segregation extended to excluding those who were disabled until recent times. Second, the lack of a broad unitary goal in favor of a set of discrete objectives led to a misconception of Head Start as a cognitive enrichment program and a decreased emphasis on its original interest in social competence. The third problem was that programming was based on the questionable construct of school readiness. Finally, and perhaps most seriously, was lack of attention to quality. The first of these problems and the difficulties surrounding solutions to it were discussed earlier. The likelihood that topics of school readiness, social competence outcomes, and quality of programming will continue to be pressing issues in the field is acknowledged briefly here.

As researchers look at outcomes in diverse populations, they will be challenged to define common goals that should receive emphasis in the education of all at-risk young children. It is therefore of significance that the special issues of TECSE that were published in the summer of 2000 highlighted two interrelated themes: social competence and language development. In examining the question of social competence, Strain and Hoyson (2000) used research on social-skills intervention with children with autism to illustrate how increasingly sophisticated theoretical formulations of essential research-to-practice questions have produced gains in our ability to engender “rapid, occasionally sustainable, and socially meaningful changes in children’s social behavior” (p. 116). They identified four basic assumptions that historically have been used to determine the targets of intervention: (a) the notion that the difficulty with communication is intrinsic to the individual; (b) the notion that the individual has acquired the difficulty as a result of a long-standing interactional history; (c) the notion that dyadic interactions between children sustain the problem; and (d) the notion that the entire ecology of the child with special needs is responsible for altering its norms and the manner in which it structures opportunities for social interaction.

Arguing that none of these assumptions is sufficient to produce effective intervention, they described how a fifth assumption has led to a comprehensive research-to-practice model for children with autism in the past two decades: the LEAP program. The positive results of LEAP are presented to illustrate the potential of both short- and long-term positive benefits of interventions that are individualized and datadriven, have a generalization (transfer of skills) focus, maximize learning opportunities, and add a focus on family skills to the preschool intervention. These results identify the intensity of the intervention as a critical variable in yielding sustainable, long-term outcomes. One of their conclusions will likely be absorbed as the next generation of researchers attempts to achieve similar gains with other populations of children at risk:

The social interaction challenges presented by young children with special needs represent a complex, multivariate universe. That multivariate universe demands complex, longitudinal, intensive approaches—approaches holding greater promise for children and families but also greater challenges to our ways of designing, executing, and describing credible studies and longitudinal data sets. These are challenges worthy of all eager pioneers with a visionary spirit. (Strain & Hoyson, 2000, p. 121)

A complementary theme that emerges from Hart’s (2000) review of studies observing young children is the nature of the language interactions between children and their parents. As the field shifts from theory to data and back again, there is a constant return to children’s ecologies as the source of new understanding about how they learn. In reflecting on how much has been learned from observing the way children learn to express themselves in their conversations with their parents, Hart commented on the need for more information on the nature and extent of conversation between teachers and young children and between children and their peers in group environments. She discussed the challenges of group education in enhancing the ability of young children to express themselves:

Some teachers, like some parents, need more information concerning what children should be learning through play and how to arrange environments, materials, and activities that prompt and facilitate talking. Research is needed to add to interventions the power of engagement (Risley, 1977) and to design lowdemand environments (Wasik, 1970) that encourage children to talk when the only object is conversation. (p. 31)

New Theoretical Influences and Their Implications

The themes of social skills and communicative competence are not new to the field, but many argue that they still remain underemphasized in programming. Perhaps two of the most central, truly revolutionary theoretical and empirical influences facing the field in the next millennium are those emerging from brain research and those supporting the use of family-centered practices. New brain research is currently the political driving force behind many fresh initiatives for young children in North America (Greenspan, 1997; Shore 1997). It is of interest that despite its great press appeal, this paradigm is not widely heralded in the summer 2000 issues of TECSE as either the rationale for or the solution to the most pressing problems facing young children today. In fact, it is telling that Zigler and Styfco (2000) appear to be urging some caution in this regard as they reflect on the wildly exaggerated hopes that fueled the original Head Start programs: “Indeed, the current bandwagon that infant brains need constant stimulation for superior neural wiring and growth is the environmental mystique with a biological twist. . . . [T]he moral is that there is no quick fix for poverty and no magical treatment that will turn us all into Nobel laureates or Rhodes scholars” (p. 68).

Models stressing the importance of social processes as conceptualized by Vygotsky (1978) and of social contexts as conceptualized by Bronfenbrenner (1979) and his followers continue to hold sway. In his review and in anticipation of the “third generation” of research in the field, Dunst (2000) pointed to the intersection between children’s learning opportunities and parental supports as the pathway to instructional practices that are most likely to be development enhancing and reminded us that the influence of social support variables on parents’ contingent responses to children continues to draw empirical support. He calls for further research on natural learning opportunities provided by family and community life, reminding us that interventionists often have to more learn from families than they have to teach them.

Dunst’s (2000) social support paradigm links child developmental outcomes clearly to family-centered interventions. He pointed out that evidence-based, family-centered help giving is becoming more highly specified and can be divided into two central elements: relational and participatory. “Relational practices are a necessary condition for effective practitioner/ family transactions. . . . [T]hey are not sufficient for either strengthening family competence or promoting new capabilities. The latter has been found to be the case only when the family is an active participant in achieving desired outcomes” (pp. 100–101). Dunst acknowledged that his own interest in family-centered practices has become increasingly conceptual and empirical rather than philosophical: “I believe that a philosophically-based, family-centered approach is likely to run its course as a fad and is open to all kinds of criticism, as has recently occurred” (p. 97). He anticipated the continuance of third-generation research that establishes and describes the evidence that supports specific early family-centered intervention practices shaped by an evidence-based social support paradigm. As the field absorbs the impact of the hard data, practitioners will be increasingly asked to demonstrate, rather than discuss, the specific skills that emerge from this knowledge.

Current Issues in Personnel Preparation

McCollum (2000) stated that “between the late 1960s and the present, personnel standards and preparation opportunities have grown from no state certification in ECSE and no targeted preparation programs to widespread certification and many pre-service programs” (p. 80). By 1996 a set of published personnel standards were adopted by the Division of Early Childhood (DEC) and the NAEYC, and most states had some sort of certification for teachers of young children with disabilities. Credentialing programs had been set in place in many states, and ECSE programs at the university level became widely available. It is noteworthy that these events appear to be related directly to the United States legislated mandate described earlier, as there has not been a parallel growth in personnel preparation in countries such as Canada, where university-based ECSE courses are still something of a rarity (Andersen, 1999). However, even in the United States, personnel preparation has not kept pace with the expansion of services. This situation has led contemporary commentators to call for a renewed emphasis on this topic and for new training models that take account of important systemic changes. McConnell (2000) highlighted two such changes that she believed should receive special attention: The first is how both the content and the context of personnel preparation for those working at the preschool and primary levels should be altered given the inclusion of young children with disabilities in community settings. This new context calls for a revised understanding of the relationship of the early childhood educator to the early childhood special educator. The second change regards the delivery of services to infants and toddlers in the United States: The fee-for-service structure is driving a fragmented approach that is not in the interests of children and families. Regarding the latter, McConnell stated that few parents or practitioners are fully aware of the danger that this practice poses to the ability to provide integrated, family-centered interventions. In turn, this may lead to the loss of ECSE generalists and to their replacement by a service coordinator who lacks a solid foundation in child development. She called upon the field to protect children by more clearly defining its own identity and importance for their development.

Winton (2000) argued that the field has currently failed to implement what research has demonstrated needs to be done toimprovetheoutcomesforallyoungchildren.Shepositsthat the development of learning communities of multiple partners at multiple levels will help to create the shared vision and commitment from the community that will help to bridge this research-practice gap. She claims that this in itself is an empirically supportedapproach to personnel preparation, in spite of the very real barriers to its implementation. She suggested a series of small stepping-stones and identified some successful models as the pathway to this important destination.

The Impact of Legislation

Bailey (2000) stated that the field of ECSE in the United States would never have arisen in this fashion without the commitment of the U.S. government. He anticipated that the role of the federal government will now shift from its emphasis on legislated mandates to a more facilitative role, with more decision-making power being left in the hands of the states. He asserted that a strong federal presence will continue to be needed and anticipated the funding of large research projects of nationally representative populations.

Most contributors to these special summer 2000 issues of TECSE see legislated mandates as a positive measure but not without problems. Bruder (2000), in arguing that the field has not successfully fulfilled a commitment to the familycentered practices it espouses, suggested that the programmatic requirements under some sections of the legislation are complex and require more skills and knowledge of the theory than are currently held by state and local administrators. (This problem is complicated by the use of finance models made up of billable services created on a child-centered rehabilitation model rather than a family-centered approach.) She also saw categorical and discipline-specific funding streams as creating barriers to the implementation of truly familycentered services. Odom (2000), too, saw similar bureaucratic barriers to the effective implementation of inclusive practices, some of which arise from administrators’ misconception that inclusive programs cost more than traditional special education programs. Other barriers include policies over the manner in which funds are used: In some states money can be spent on tuition to permit a child with disabilities to spend some of his or her day in a community-based program; in other states this is not permissible. The allocation of special education teachers to nonspecialized settings is prohibited in some programs because the specialized teachers are paid out of special education funds. He regarded the flexibility with which administrators handle budgets as a key factor in overcoming these bureaucratic obstacles.

Although her discussion of the impact of federal legislation on personnel preparation is largely positive, McCollum (2000) stated that “the different paths taken by those interested in birth to 2 and in ages 3 to 8 after the passage of PL99457 was an unfortunate outcome of the new legislation” (p. 85). When states were permitted to use different agencies and different personnel requirements for the two age groups, a dual system of service and personnel preparation was enabled that created identity problems in the field. The field of ECSE was redefining its identity in relation to early childhood education and special education, with services delivered in educational settings; but with the younger group of infants and toddlers, professional identity was being reconceptualized through comparisons to noneducation disciplines. Indeed, the publications or organizations such as Zero to Three clearly demonstrate the influence of fields such as social work. As well some infant-parent intervention programs have adopted psychotherapeutic models from infant psychiatry. Corresponding with this divergence from the main discipline of ECSE, a number of systemic changes were occurring, complicating the question of personnel roles even further. In the same series, Smith (2000) discussed the need to shift efforts from the federal to the local level so that widespread community support, including fiscal support, will sustain and enhance the achievements begun with federal initiatives and legislation. Smith (2000) argues that communities need to be willing to invest tax dollars and to rethink social policy so that parents can spend more time at home. She also calls for greater respect for early childhood professionals and enhancement of the work environment and salaries so that the field will attract better qualified individuals.

Bailey (2000) noted that the role of the U.S. federal government was shifting from its emphasis on legislated mandates to a more facilitative role, with more decision-making power being left in the hands of the states. He asserted that a strong federal presence will continue to be needed and anticipated the funding of large research projects of nationally representative populations. Perhaps this is where the international field of early childhood education will feel the impact the most—as new research projects of sufficient scale and quality emerge that further our understanding of the impact of specific educational practices with targeted but representative groups of young children.

If the next decade will bring new large-scale studies with results that convince policy makers, there will continue to be a major challenge in bringing that knowledge to the field. Several authors of the special issue decried the researchpractice gap in ECSE. Bruder (2000), in particular, focused on the failure of trainers and agencies to adopt truly familycentered approaches, in spite of the substantial amount of evidence of its desirability and effectiveness. She also called for learning communities that can reform current efforts at personnel preparation “in which the norm is the use of ineffective training models (episodic, short-term workshops)” (p. 111). The learning communities that Bruder envisioned are ongoing, make use of technology such as Web sites and e-mail, and are founded on mentorship and distance education models. What is at stake when personnel are inadequately prepared is poignantly demonstrated by her use of three case studies of young children (one of whom is her own nephew) served dismally by intervention staff. About him, she stated, “I am as responsible as any for the shortcomings in our field that are currently impacting his life” (p. 108).

Bruder’s (2000) injection of a personal confession into the academicdiscourse is an appropriate noteon which to end this section.Itistothecreditofleadingearlyinterventiontheorists that in being invited to reflect on the state of the art of early intervention, they do not rest on their laurels. They stand united in recognizing that in spite of the very significant achievements of this fledging field, a great deal of work remains to be done to serve the growing numbers of young children in need of specialized and compensatory early childhood education.

Child Care and Early Childhood Education

The Ecology of Child Care

Beginning in the mid to late 1970s, a number of major changes in North America and other parts of the developed world began to have an impact on the provision of child care services and the nature of research that was conducted on child care. One major change was the sharp increase in the number and percentage of mothers of young children who worked in the paid labor force outside the home. For much of the century until this point, day nurseries were largely provided to low-income families either as part of governmental child welfare programs or by private philanthropists or religious organizations. Child care was now changing from its previous status as a welfare service for poor parents (who, it should be noted, were assumed to provide poor parenting to their children) to its emerging status as a family-support program for working parents in all income levels. Further, the programs were seen less as providing custodial baby-sitting and more as a setting in which young children’s early development could be stimulated and facilitated through appropriate kinds of learning activities and materials.

As pointed out in Belsky and Steinberg’s (1979) seminal literature review, another major change was the growing interest by researchers in what they referred to as modal child care programs as opposed to model programs. The model programs to which they referred tended to be situated in or affiliated with university settings. These programs tended to be well funded and staffed by well-educated professionals and to serve the children of university faculty, staff, and students. Questions began to be raised around the generalizability of findings drawn from these model programs to the more frequently used—or modal—community-based programs that tended to suffer from low and unstable funding and lower levels of staff training and that were not restricted to university-affiliated families.

Another shift was that researchers were increasingly critical of earlier studies that had reported that enrollment in child care programs could have a negative impact on motherinfant attachment patterns. Based largely on Ainsworth’s strange situation paradigm, these studies tended to focus on one-time observations of mother-infant interaction patterns in laboratory settings and typically included very little contextual data on the participants in these studies. Cross-cultural comparisons began to identify different patterns of motherchild attachment even within Western, developed countries (Lamb, 2001), calling into question the notion of a universal construct of attachment. Researchers began to examine attachment patterns within a broader range of child, maternal, family, and child care variables. The largest study of this kind was conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD), a multisite study of 576 infant-mother dyads. While different patterns of attachment were found in this sample, none of the differences were attributable to the different kinds of child care arrangements in which the children participated (NICHD, 1994, 1996, 1998). In other words, there were no differences in the attachment patterns of children who were cared for by a parent in their own home or by a nonparent in a group care setting outside the home.

This shift in the attachment-related research reflected a significant shift in the nature of the research questions being posed by child care researchers. Much of the previous research on child care tended to focus on such main-effects questions such as, “Is child care good or bad for children?” This research tended to examine specific domains of child development with the child’s enrollment in a child care program as the only major independent variable. The emerging consensus was that it was not simply a child’s attendance in child care that impacted on that child’s development, but also the quality of the child care program in which the child was enrolled. Questions regarding the definition, measurement, and impact of quality child care have framed and guided much of the recent and current research. These programs of research have been guided very much by Bronfenbrenner’s (1979; Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 1998) work on the ecology of childhood. Bronfenbrenner argued that a child’s development is influenced by a number of concentric systems within which the child lives and grows. The microsystem includes the immediate setting in which the child is found and the nature of the experiences and activities in those settings. The mesosystem is the network and relationships among the various microsystems in which the child participates (i.e., home, child care, swim lessons, etc.). The exosystem includes these two primary systems, but its impact on the child is mediated through other individuals and institutions. Exosystem variables include legislative and policy factors that determine licensing requirements, staff education requirements, funding mechanisms, and so on. All of these systems are embedded within what Bronfenbrenner called the macrosystem, which is the virtual space in which societies and communities articulate their beliefs, attitudes, and values toward public policy regarding children and families.

Structure and Process Variables in Child Care Quality

In short, then, instead of the main-effects question (“Is child care good or bad?”), researchers began to explore the ways in which different factors from different systemic levels interacted and to determine how that interaction of factors contributed to child care quality. A number of small-scale, local studies conducted in different parts of North America in the same time frame reported a consistent and complementary set of findings regarding both the structural and the process variables that impacted on child care quality. Structural variables are those standardized, quantifiable, and regulatable variables such as group size, the adult-child ratio, licensing auspice (nonprofit or commercial), and levels of staff education. These variables were found to be significant predictors of child care quality in different sociocultural contexts using similar instruments: Los Angeles (Howes, 1987); Victoria, British Columbia (Goelman & Pence, 1987); Bermuda (Phillips, McCartney, & Scarr, 1987); and Chicago (Clarke-Stewart, 1987).

These structural factors frame the child care experience for the children and the staff and provide actors a basic foundation on which process quality could then be constructed. The term process refers to the kinds of caregiving, facilitating, educating, and playing that go on within the structural framework.

Measures of process quality extended far beyond the strange situation laboratory procedures and examined the nature of adult-child and child-child interactions in the child care setting. Goelman and Pence (1987) observed the frequency with which children engaged in activities that promote positive developmental outcomes (i.e., emergent literacy, dramatic play, fine motor play) and activities that do not (i.e., excessive television watching). Adult-child interactions were observed by Howes (1987), Phillips et al. (1987), Clarke-Stewart (1987), and others who focused on such adult characteristics as sensitivity, receptivity, detachment, and punitiveness (see Table 13.3).

Early Childhood Education Research Paper

Thus, in contrast to the earlier generations of child care research, which treated child care as a uniform and universal treatment variable, researchers became much more keenly aware of the tremendous diversity that exists in the daily lives of adults and children in child care settings and of how the dynamics of those settings impact both the children and the adults. Perhaps the most consistent conclusion drawn from studies of quality in child is that the concept of quality is dynamic and does not rest on any one measure, scale, or quantifiable variable.

Toward a Predictive Model of Child Care Quality

The drawback to these smaller scale local studies was that while they represented careful analyses of child care in different communities, the small numbers of children and child care programs included in these studies put serious limitations on their interpretation and generalizability. In the 1990s, therefore, a new trend in child care research was to mount research studies that included larger numbers of children from larger numbers of communities in very distinct policy and jurisdictional contexts. For example, the U.S. National Staffing Study collected data from 643 child care rooms in urban and suburban communities in Arizona, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Washington (Howes, Phillips, & Whitebook, 1992). The U.S. Cost Quality and Outcomes Study examined quality in 604 rooms in California, Colorado, Connecticut, and North Carolina (Hellburn, 1995). The CanadianYou Bet I Care! Project examined quality in 308 rooms in nonprofit and commercial infant-toddler and preschool centers in the provinces of New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia and in the Yukon Territory (Goelman, Doherty, Lero, LaGrange, & Tougas, 2000).Although the different studies used somewhat different sampling and instrumentation techniques, there is a strong and consistent pattern across all of these findings that both confirms and extends the findings from the earlier, smaller scale studies.

The quality of child care centers was found to be strongly linked to a combination of variables at the center, classroom, and teacher levels. Higher quality programs were found in centers that were operated as nonprofit organizations (as opposed to a commercial centers), with well trained staff both in terms of their overall levels of education and their levels of ECE-specific training. Group size and ratio provided the conditions for higher quality care, but the quality of care itself was found in distinct patterns of adult-child interaction. These patterns were characterized by heightened levels of sensitivity, responsiveness, and contingency on the part of child care staff and lower levels of punitive or detached patterns of interaction. Although it was important that the child care setting be well supplied and well stocked with developmentally appropriate materials, it was the training and education of the staff that determined whether these materials were used in the most appropriate manner. Michael Lamb (1998) summed up this body of research in this way:

Quality day care from infancy clearly has positive effects on children’s intellectual, verbal, and cognitive development, especially when children would otherwise experience impoverished and relatively unstimulating home environments. Care of unknown quality may have deleterious effects. (p. 104)

The identification of specific child care predictors can provide guidance and assistance to legislators, policy makers, and educators who deal with child care programs and the preparation of child care professionals. A closer look at the Canadian study (Goelman et al., 2000) suggests that whereas all of these are critical factors in child care quality, the responsibility for achieving these different quality criteria would fall to different groups of stakeholders. The quality criteria appear to fall into four distinct groups. The first group would be factors that are regulatable by local authorities: staff education levels, group size, and the adult-child ratio. Elsewhere we have argued at length for the primacy of training of staff both in terms of their overall education levels and their ECE-specific education levels (Goelman et al., 2000). Because the data from all of the studies just cited report that higher quality tends to be found in nonprofit centers than in commercial centers, there appears to be an implicit endorsement for regulatory statutes that encourage the creation of child care programs in the nonprofit rather than in the commercial sector. The establishment, implementation, and monitoring of these regulatable variables would help to provide the structural framework for quality.

A second set of variables consists of those that are related to the financial operation of the child care center. The critical financial factors were found to be staff wages, parent fees, and whether the center receives free or subsidized rent. All of these factors point to the financial vulnerability within which child care centers operate and the positive impact that is created when staff are well-compensated for their time. Subsidized or free rent helps to create additional funds that can be directed into salaries, in turn leading to lower levels of turnover. There appears also to be a set of administrative factors that can contribute significantly to child care quality. For example, the presence of student teachers from early childhood training programs has a number of positive effects on the life of the center. It assists with the adult-child ratios and brings highly motivated individuals into the center. The presence of studentteachers also helps to create a culture of inquiry and discourse among the student teachers, their supervising teachers, and their supervisors from the ECE training programs.

Finally, and as reported elsewhere, the Canadian study also found that specific attitudinal factors among the staff contributed to child care quality. Attitudes are difficult but important factors that cannot be regulated, factored into financial spreadsheets, or implemented as part of a novel administrative framework. Yet it appears that all of the three preceding categories of variables can contribute to the positive attitudes and levels of staff satisfaction that are so critical to the creation of a positive child care environment. A much-cited (but unsourced) quotation attributed to Albert Einstein claims that, “Not everything that can be counted counts. And not everything that counts can be counted.” Positive attitude may or may not be able to be assessed accurately, with validity and reliability, but the data suggest that when it can be identified, it provides a vital piece in the puzzle of quality child care.

What then, precisely, does this child care puzzle look like? Most studies of child care have relied on traditional analyses of variance, covariance, or multiple regression to bring statistical rigor to their arguments for including different and discrete pieces of the child care puzzle. Lamb (2001) and others have pointed out that in many of the child care studies the effect sizes tend to be very modest and the amount of variance accounted for is not overly impressive. Another challenge to data analyses is the determination of precisely how the variables interact. It is not clear, for example, whether the cumulative effect of these various predictors is additive, multiplicative, or exponential. For these reasons researchers are turning increasingly to more sophisticated and more powerful hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) techniques. In addition to identifying the discrete pieces of the child care puzzle, techniques such as path analysis can suggest the directionality of the paths. The metaphor of the puzzle, then, should be replaced with the image of an engine that has different parts, working together to move the vehicle forward.

Path analyses were applied to the data generated in the Canadian study (Goelman et al., 2000), and the resulting analyses identified a set of direct and indirect predictors of child care quality in rooms for infants and toddlers (0–35 months) and in rooms for 3- to 5-year-old children. Table 13.4 shows the seven direct predictors of quality in the preschool room, four staff predictors (staff wages, staff satisfaction, staff education, number of staff in the observed room), and three center predictors (whether the center receives free or subsidized rent, whether the center uses student-teachers, and the adult-child ratio in the observed room). These paths are shown graphically in Figure 13.1. The path analysis strongly suggests, however, a more complex interaction among these and other predictor variables. For example, although the auspice of the center and the parent fees were not found to be significant direct predictors of quality, their indirect impact on quality was found to be mediated through the direct predictors (see Figure 13.2). Auspice was a significant predictor of both staff wages and centers that received free or subsidized rent, both of which were found to be significant direct predictors. Parent fees were a significant predictor of wages and staff education levels, both of which, in turn, were direct predictors of quality. Finally, we note that two of the variables (staff education levels and number of staff in the observed room) served as both direct and indirect predictors of quality.

Early Childhood Education Research Paper

Early Childhood Education Research Paper

Early Childhood Education Research Paper

Conclusion

The role of child care in early childhood education continues to grow and evolve both as part of broader social and cultural changes in which the field is embedded and in terms of the practices and policies that determine the shape and content of child care programs. The demand for quality, licensed child care programs will continue to increase with the rising numbers of families with two working parents in the labor force and of single-parent families. We can expect the demand for infant child care to grow as part of this general trend. In addition, we are already witnessing an increasing demand for child care services and professionals who can respond appropriately to children with a wide range of special needs. This demand represents a challenge to create more spaces—and more appropriate spaces—for children with special needs, and a challenge to train more early childhood educators who have the skill set and knowledge base to work with young children who have special needs. At the policy level, schools, school boards, and training institutions will have to recognize that child care is no longer remedial service for poor children or a child-minding service for the children of working parents. Child care represents a major environmental niche for the majority of young children in industrialized societies, and it is in child care settings that children’s development can be facilitated and supported given the right combination of predictors of quality.

Closing Thoughts on Early Childhood Education at the Beginning of the Twenty-First Century

This research paper began with a brief reflection on how early childhood education was seen at the beginning of the twentieth century and then proceeded to discuss recent, current, and emerging areas of research and practice. The field continues both to deepen and to broaden its perspectives on the innate learning and developmental abilities of the young child and the ways in which those abilities are acknowledged and facilitated in the wide range of early childhood settings in which young children participate. The developing child represents his or her world through a variety of media, modalities, and disciplines including art, reading, writing, and music. Whereas the adult world divides the world of early childhood education into content or subject areas, it seems increasingly clear that it is that complex set of behaviors, insights, expectations, and explorations known collectively as play that is the major and overarching phenomenon that infuses, guides, and largely determines what and how children learn in their early years.

What currently captures the imagination and what drives the disciplined inquiry of ECE researchers are questions about how adults and learning environments facilitate the development of a more diverse population of children than had been the focus in earlier periods. This diversity includes, but is not limited to, children at both the highest and the lowest ends of the continuum of cognitive development, the social and linguistic needs of an increasingly multicultural and immigrant early childhood population, poor children, and children whose special needs are seen as problematic but more harder to diagnose and harder still to respond to.

Early childhood theorists, researchers, and practitioners have made significant strides by acknowledging the relevance of Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems approach to the field of early childhood. It allows for the consideration of child actions and interactions in the microsystems where the children play, learn, and grow within the broader contexts of the legislative, regulatory, and societal values in which those immediate early childhood programs are embedded. The continuing challenge to the field is to find ways of operationalizing the ecological model in ways that inform and guide emerging areas of interest, research, and practice in early childhood education.

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