What does a degree mean when you are teaching
preschool? It is hard to qualify but, Pre-K Now's recent report, A Matter of Degrees, enlisted some researchers to discover
why a college degree and specialized training matter to preschool
quality. What they found is that degrees and training do matter when
child outcomes are the measurement. This confirms some suspicions I have
had since I pursued my own graduate degree 15 years ago, that it was
important that I went to college, and that there were things I needed to
know about teaching very young children that were not addressed in my
bachelors program or teacher prep. The report by Marisa Bueno, Linda
Darling-Hammond and Danielle Gonzales looks at the relevant research and
tries to understand some conflicting studies.
From the report:
"Research suggests that both teachers and parents with higher
levels of education expose children to broader vocabularies, fostering
the development of better language and literacy skills."
"Teachers with specialized training have been found to provide
more appropriate direction, build upon children’s prior knowledge,
“scaffold” – or layer – activities to develop emerging understanding and
skills and engage students in activities that are appropriately
challenging rather than merely repetitive."
As a young adult deciding on a career in education in
Virginia, I could have taken multiple pathways to teacher certification.
When I decided to become a teacher I already had one degree, a BFA in
sculpture. My art degree prepared me for some crucial aspects of pre-k
teaching like the need for a disposition towards experimentation and
learning (not to mention experience with Play-Doh).
I decided to pursue so many professional development
opportunities to flesh out my own understanding of teaching pre-k, even
though I was already considered competent by the state. My state-funded
program provided me additional training in curriculum development and
the processes of a high-quality preschool classroom. Things like knowing
when to say no, when to say maybe, when to ask the hard question and
when to just let kids explore.
of Degrees found that the cumulative effect of both a bachelor's degree
and specialized training is the most powerful form of pre-k teacher prep
because it provides the specialized knowledge of teaching young
children and language and concept knowledge of a liberal college
education. My own experience supports this finding because without both,
I could have made a lot of mistakes with kids who can't afford any. My
application of basic literacy principles based on my love of reading,
and my application of child development theories based on specialized
training helped me to be much more effective in my first couple years
than if I had lacked either one.
Image from: https://selfmadescholar.com/b/2009/05/22/should-we-abolish-the-college-degree/