Field Experiences in the Preparation of Early Childhood Teachers
Learning to teach is a complex process and continues throughout a teacher’s career; teacher preparation can provide the foundation for becoming a teacher (Feiman-Nemser, 2001). Although discussion and debate continues about four-year degrees versus two-year degrees and education requirements for early childhood teachers (Early et al., 2007), merely knowing whether a teacher has a certain degree or not, provides very little information about how effective that teacher may be (Whitebook, Gomby, Bellm, Sakai, & Kipnis, 2009). Rather, efforts are moving forth in early childhood teacher preparation programs to examine the potential effectiveness of teachers. In fact, recent attention has shifted to the specialized training within the applied components (i.e., ﬁ eld based experiences) of teacher preparation programs. Examination of teacher preparation programs seeks to address the question of how to prepare early childhood education teachers so that the students who graduate from these programs are well prepared to be effective teachers in both the speciﬁ c settings in which they will teach and across the range of settings that provide care and education to young children. These efforts can draw from what has been learned in K-12 preparation, but they must also address the uniqueness of early childhood education which includes children in classrooms and programs spanning a range of ages often from birth to kindergarten and diverse settings, including community child care, Head Start, public pre-K programs, and kindergarten and early elementary classrooms. This chapter provides an overview of ﬁ eld based experiences, the theory and historical perspectives related to teacher preparation, and current research focused on ﬁ eld experiences for preservice teachers. The chapter concludes with challenges, as well as promising practices for ﬁ eld based experiences in early childhood education.