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The ECE program focuses on young children, from birth through age 8. Frequently, students in this degree teach in early childhood settings. However, we recognize and honor the many ECE roles that support young children, families, and their communities beyond teaching as well as teaching outside of formal settings.

"When I think about the future of education, I think about abolition. I think about decolonization. I think about placing value on children and families and their funds of knowledge and their unique ways of being. And I really am committed to seeing a world and a future of education that is more humanizing and just."
— Dr Jamie Cho, Assistant Teaching Professor of Justice in Early Learning

Program Philosophy

The ECE program philosophy incorporates several important aspects: 

  • Our approach to early childhood education considers the role and contributions of families and communities as inextricably linked to effective teaching practices. 
  • We make it a priority to help students to develop and enhance deep respect for the dignity and worth of all people, as well as an appreciation of human diversity  through their time in the program. 
  • We are committed to drawing on interdisciplinary research and developmental theories to inform instructional strategies and pedagogical approaches that support children’s holistic development within families and communities.   
  • Cohorts of students come together in smaller Communities of Reflection and Practice throughout courses to examine resources, reflect together on their intersecting identities, and offer feedback.
  • Transformative teaching practice, a fundamental component of the ECE curriculum, is built on ongoing observation, reflection, and planning, especially in the context of video observations of one's own teaching and interactions with children. 

Intentional Teaching Framework

The ECE program follows the Intentional Teaching Framework–your teaching practices will be reflective, purposeful, and child, family, and community-centered. This teaching and learning model is reflected in the readings, discussions, activities, and assignments. You will have opportunities to:

intentional teaching framework graphicKnow  Learn about and critically examine current research and developmental theories, develop a common early learning vocabulary, and build your understanding of anti-racist, anti-bias teaching practices and environments through a strengths and assets based lens. 

See  Observe various teaching practices in action and be able to identify those practices. Identify instances of teacher bias and examples of anti-bias and just practices. Reflect with others about the practices you see as part of this process.

Do  Set goals, plans, and implement strategies working towards disrupting systems of oppression. Design classrooms and instruction that demonstrates your critical understanding of theory, research, and high-quality teaching practices.

Reflect  Engage in various opportunities to reflect on your practice, including self-reflection, shared reflection within Communities of Reflection and Practice, and instructor, family, and child feedback.

Improve – Plan and implement improved teaching practices, grounded by your knowledge, skills, and your own and others’ reflections of your practice.

Community-Based Learning Experience

Community-Based Learning Experience is an integral part of the ECE practice-based curriculum and will be guided by your instructors. We believe early childhood professionals learn by applying knowledge through action, observation, and reflection. Working with children, other professionals, and families enriches your learning experience as you connect knowledge and practice in community contexts. Those already working with children in an early learning setting can complete community-based learning experience at their current jobs, while others can connect with early learning sites in their community.

ECE students live around the world, and we recognize the profound and varied impacts of our present time. Your safety is very important to us and we will offer accommodations that will meet your needs and support your learning. 

Learn more about Community-Based Learning


Undergraduate Research

The College of Education provides opportunities for students to expand their learning through a variety of school and community based activities. Students interested in exploring the impact of research have the opportunity to work with faculty on current research projects in a plethora of areas.

The Undergraduate Research Program facilities research experiences for UW students. These opportunities often lead to students being mentored through the process of completing and presenting their research experience at the Undergraduate Research Symposium, as well as other local and national research conferences.