Professional organizations consistently define the early childhood period as the years from birth through age eight. The field of early childhood education differs significantly from other domains of teacher education. Linked by common developmental issues and learning needs, children in this age group require teachers and other professionals with specialized preparation and professional development. An explosion of research in the neurobiological, behavioral, and social sciences has led to changes in policy and practices in the field, which support the importance of the environment and early relationships to development and learning.
The unique nature of working with young children implies that professionals develop the skills necessary for working with and collaborating effectively with families and other professionals. A broad knowledge of development and learning across the birth through eight age range is necessary for educators to provide appropriate curriculum and assessment approaches. The fact that not all children develop at the same rate and children with developmental delays and disabilities are included in typical early childhood classes requires that professionals have knowledge of an even wider range of development and learning. Without knowing the precursors of children’s current development and learning and the direction that they will follow, teachers cannot design effective learning opportunities.
In response to this challenge, the Inclusive Early Childhood Education (IECE) Program at the University of the Virgin Islands was created. Our goal is to:
- Improve the quality of child care provided.
- Upgrade the knowledge and skills of child care providers and early childhood professionals.
- Ensure that these professionals are trained to provide quality inclusive early childhood programs in which children from birth through eight years with different abilities and their families have the same educational opportunities.
- Provide continuum of educational opportunities through which the student in Inclusive Early Childhood Education. Through this program a student can recieve an Associate of Arts Degree and a Bachelor of Arts Degree.
The program design is a product of a local task force. In their work, the task force drew on the recommendations and guidelines of national legislation and standards for teaching and professional development established by national organizations which reflect research and recommended practices in Inclusive Early Childhood Education. These include:
- No Child Left Behind Act.
- Good Start Grow Smart.
- Head Start and Early Head Start Performance Standards.
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
- National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC): Standards for Early Childhood Professional Preparation.
- National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education: Program Standards for Elementary Teacher Preparation.
- Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children: Personnel Standards for Early Education and Early Intervention.
- National Council for Teachers of Mathematics: Principles and Standards for School Mathematics.
- National Science Teachers Association: National Science Education Standards.
- The Consortium of National Arts Education Associations: National Standards for Arts Education.
- National Board for Professional Teaching: Standards for Teachers: The Early Childhood Generalist Standards.
- International Reading Association: Standards for Reading Professionals.
- International Reading Association and National Association for the Education of Young Children Joint Position Paper: Overview of Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children.
- National Association for the Education of Young Children and the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics Joint Position Paper: Early Childhood Mathematics: Promoting Good Beginnings.
All aspects of the IECE Program at the University of the Virgin Islands are designed to ensure that students learn about the variability of young children and the adaptations and modifications that can be made to ensure typical development and learning experiences for all children. The program stresses the importance of natural environments, play support, and the integration of developmental and learning experiences into the curriculum. Students are trained to assume the primary role of facilitators of child development and learning and parent-child relationships.
The IECE Program utilizes principles of adult learning in its teaching strategies which involve learning by doing, reflecting, analyzing and synthesizing through structured, as well as open-ended activities, sharing and interacting with others. Students learn through a combination of coursework, creation of portfolios, and guided and supervised fieldwork that teach about and demonstrate inclusionary early childhood education models and principles. Classes are comprised of lectures, group activities, videos, discussion, case studies, role plays, and opportunities to develop and practice observation, recording, and analysis skills.
All aspects of the Inclusive Early Childhood Education (IECE) Program at the University of the Virgin Islands are designed to ensure that students learn about the variability of young children and the adaptations that can be made to ensure typical developmental experiences for all children. The program stresses the importance of natural environments, play experiences, family-centered practices, family support, and the integration of developmental/learning experiences into the daily routines of children. Students are trained to assume the primary role of facilitators of child development and parent/child relationships. Development is viewed as continuous sequences that are integrated and then observed in the child's natural environments through their play experiences.
The IECE Program utilizes principles of adult learning in its teaching strategies which involves learning by doing, reflecting, analyzing and synthesizing through structured, as well as, open-ended activities and sharing and interacting with others. The program also provides an opportunity for the University to form partnerships with existing early childhood educational resources and expertise in the Virgin Islands in its development and implementation. This partnership takes practical form in the use of a team approach linking community-based professionals and university faculty.
Please contact Dr. Habtes at 340-693-1323 or Dr. Sandra Ross at 340-692-1919 for