“It is research that will spotlight the importance for supporting the early childhood field…”-Research-to-Practice session participant.

This April, the Professional Development Institute’s New York City Early Childhood Research Network kicked off its series of Research-to-Practice sessions.  These interactive sessions are an opportunity to engage early childhood workforce leaders in reflection on research supported by the Network. They aim to connect the research to practice in a collaborative and actionable format.

This first session, titled: “Where are the Babies?” was led by Jen Gilken, Jen Longley, and Jillian Crosby from the Borough of Manhattan Community College.  As evident in the previous quote by a participant, their research highlights important issues in the early childhood field. The team’s research included NY ECE undergraduate teacher education faculty and students. Issues explored by the research included:

What are best practices for working with infants and toddlers? and How are these best practices included in undergraduate programs for infants and toddlers?

Participants reflected on the research during breakout room discussions and through sharing their thoughts with the whole group. 

Key findings shared from the research included that:

  • 33% of two-year colleges and 18% of four-year colleges mentioned covering content that applied to children ages birth-to-36 months
  • 12% of two-year colleges and less than 1% of four-year colleges have infant-toddler courses
  • 10% of two-year colleges and 5% of four-year colleges have courses offering fieldwork with 0-3 year olds

Some powerful insights from the group of leaders centered around what they look for in an ideal infant-toddler teacher candidate. These qualities included: “cultural competence”, “strong knowledge of child development”, “organized”, “patient”, “flexible”, and that teachers “understand infant-toddler perspective”.

After reflecting on the research, leaders also offered suggestions for next steps.  These sentiments called for an increase in learning opportunities for educators.  Leaders expressed a need for relevant training. One leader voiced this need and the frustration often felt when it isn’t present stating “Updated trainings with new data! Most of the information shared in PD are outdated!”

As the conversation surrounding opportunities for professional development advanced, information was shared about the Enhanced B5 SUNY-CUNY Workforce Scholarship. This scholarship is a needs-based scholarship designed to support individuals working 20 hours or more in a licensed early childhood center. The Early Childhood Career Development Center, an initiative of the Professional Development Institute, is currently hosting a series of information sessions about the Workforce Scholarship.

Our first Research-to-Practice session demonstrated the deep interest the workforce has in current research surrounding early childhood. It also included a strong call from leaders for more professional development opportunities. The leaders who participated in the session showcased the enthusiasm and positive attitude they expressed looking for in teachers. We look forward to our next Research-to-Practice session in August! You can see highlights from the first session here.

Erica Yardy is a Research Associate with the New York City Early Childhood Research Network, a project of the New York Early Childhood Professional Institute, and is a preschool teacher in White Plains, New York.