The University of Washington is launching a new effort to strengthen the nation's early care and education workforce by increasing access to programs preparing these professionals.
EarlyEdU, developed by the UW College of Education's National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning and initiated by the Office of Head Start, is an alliance of institutions of higher education that will collaborate to offer affordable bachelor's degrees delivering relevant coursework and effective instruction for professionals who work with preschool-age children.
Gail Joseph, associate professor of education and co-director of NCQTL, said EarlyEdU addresses the growing demand for early learning professionals who help children — particularly those in poverty-impacted communities — enter school ready to succeed.
"Our nation has a substantial need for affordable, high quality degree completion programs in the early education field," said Joseph. "EarlyEdU will help us prepare more teachers with the latest knowledge about early learning and relevant coursework."
EarlyEdU consists of a set of competency-based courses in early childhood education, delivered in conjunction with students' field-based learning. National experts at the UW led development of the courses, which include open source reading, video lectures, interactive knowledge checks, guest expert lectures, student reflection and peer learning, coaching, and competency-based assignments.
More than a dozen institutions in eight states have joined the EarlyEdU alliance to date and will participate in an initial pilot of courses early next year.
Carolyn Brennan, higher education manager at NCQTL, said members of the alliance can choose from 15 in-person courses, with another seven online courses in development. Benefits of those courses include:
- Competency-based assignments with access to Head Start's Coaching Companion, an online platform where students and instructors upload and comment on videos to foster coaching and consultation.
- Content developed by leading experts in early learning.
- Rich media examples from classrooms across the country.
- Fully produced courses include syllabi, learning activities, assigning, grading rubrics and other materials.
Brennan noted that almost every EarlyEdU course requires field-based learning, with three to five hours at a practicum site each week. Assignments require students to capture their practice on film and reflect on their improvement over time.
Alliance partners also will participate in a national community of practice in which members can share their own innovations, improve courses and offer their own courses.
The roll out of EarlyEdU includes a special focus on partnering with tribal colleges, historically black colleges and universities, and Hispanic-serving institutions to support a diverse, high-quality early learning workforce.
Joseph recently joined U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and Deputy Assistant Secretary Linda Smith at Flathead Reservation in northwest Montana to welcome Salish Kootenai College into the EarlyEdU alliance.
"This first-of-its-kind partnership between SKC and EarlyEdU is an important step forward in ensuring that young children in tribal communities have access to high-quality early childhood programs, with knowledgeable teachers who are well equipped to provide enriching and nurturing early experiences," Smith said.
Gail Joseph, Associate Professor of Education
Dustin Wunderlich, Director for Marketing and Communications