22 December 2009

Preparing Early Childhood Staff To Adapt To The Diverse Educational Setting: Findings From a Recent Study

Today’s early education environments exhibit our country’s evolving cultural landscape. In the future, most early childhood educators will doubtlessly interact with an increasing number of children from families very different from their own. The transforming makeup of the American educational system demonstrates the advancing unification of ethnicity, faith, physical capability and language. This inspiring (yet demanding) cultural phenomenon mandates that new educators be increasingly perceptive and ready to teach young, multifaceted pupils, as well as become powerful advisors in the multicultural educational setting.

Leaders in college-level early childhood education programs have reacted uniquely to this crucial concern. Little is understood about variables that may influence how diversity and language issues are approached in university early childhood degree programs. Recently, the FPG Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina conducted a study examining the impact of geographical locations, institutional features and program components on the diversity-related educational requirements in over 400 Bachelor’s degree programs that educate early childhood teachers.

Some Findings:
- Four-year degree programs with a higher number of nonwhite faculty were more likely to mandate more coverage of cultural issues in the ECE program. This finding implies that attracting and maintaining a diverse faculty may be a critical approach for creating a culturally sensitive early childhood labor force.
- Early childhood programs in rural locations were less likely to require coursework focused on linguistic diversity than programs located in metropolitan areas[1].

The complete results of the study emphasize the significance of coordinating best practices with teacher readiness mandates, retaining a diverse faculty, and providing information about cultural contexts to the largely White early childhood teaching personnel.

The University of Memphis offers a four-year program in which students can earn a Bachelor’s of Science degree in early childhood education. Prior to earning the degree, students are required to complete coursework relating to race and ethnicity, family and culture and gender issues. For more information about the early education program, please call 901.678.5915.

For more information on the well-being of children in Memphis and Shelby County, please visit The Urban Child Institute at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/Home/.

[1] For a more complete listing of the findings, please visit the UNC Child Development Institute’s website at http://www.fpg.unc.edu/

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