Have you got CLASS?

Contributed by Jolene Pearson, PhD

Director of Early Childhood Services Bethel University

The Classroom Assessment Scoring System training   (CLASS) was offered for higher education faculty on June 28 and 29., 2017. A big thanks to June Reineke at the MN Department of Education for making this opportunity available! While I had read about CLASS and understood the general framework, this was my first time attending a CLASS training. Every minute of the training was purposeful and engaging. Once you complete the initial training there is an additional step to becoming a reliable CLASS observer. That process involved viewing five video segments of classroom interactions on-line rating them using the CLASS tool and submitting them with an aim to be reliable with the TEACHSTONE scoring.    In addition, once I was enrolled in the training TEACHSTONE made many resources available that will be very useful in working with my pre-service students at Bethel. I would highly recommend the CLASS training to other higher education faculty.

Too Important to Ignore: A Post-Intentional Phenomenological Investigation of Teaching Pre-Service Early Childhood Teachers About Infants and Toddlers

Jolene A. Pearson – Bethel University PhD Jolene-pearson@bethel.edu

This is a summary of my research which I completed in the spring of 2016 as part of my doctoral program. I was drawn to conduct this research because of the growing appreciation for critical development that takes place in the first three years of life in juxtaposition with the early childhood teacher education literature pointing to a less than robust inclusion of infant and toddler content in early childhood teacher education programs. My research questions were as follows:

Primary Phenomenological Research Question

How might infant and toddler content take shape in BA/BS early childhood teacher preparation programs?

Secondary Research Question

What might be important to know about teaching BA/BS pre-service teachers about infants and toddlers?

My qualitative study used a post-intentional phenomenological approach (Vagle, 2014) examined the phenomena of how infant and toddler content took take shape in bachelor’s degree (BA/BS) programs that offer Early Childhood teacher (birth to grade three) licensure in Minnesota. The phenomenon was studied though investigating the experiences of six faculty members who teach courses about infants and toddlers and seven staff members of university-sponsored child development centers who host students in their classrooms in an infant or toddler practicum. Findings from this study are depicted through six tentative manifestations of the phenomenon: Swimming against the Current, Complexity, Un-like, Mentoring Students, Perspectives on Parents and Beyond Standards.


Swimming Against The Current The content was shaped by actively working to overcome the stigma that teaching infants and toddlers is merely ‘babysitting’, not something considered a professional role or requiring education and training.

Complexity: The context was shaped by the complexity due to the multiple topics and bodies of knowledge that were accessed in the courses and the range of assignments need to complement the range of topics.

Un-like: The content was shaped by a focus on differentiating the infant and toddler curriculum, particularly the pedagogical strategies, as very different from curriculum and pedagogy that would be effective for preschoolers or older children. Included in this differentiation was a focus on what it ‘takes’ to be an infant and toddler teacher.

Mentoring Students: The content was shaped by intentional actions taken by the infant and toddler teachers to ensure the college students felt a sense of belonging and comfort in the practicum so they would be open to learning and perhaps pursue it as a career.

Perspectives On Parents: The content was shaped by helping students develop various perspectives and skills in relating to parents.

Beyond Standards: The content was shaped by an awareness of societal issues that impact infants, toddlers, and their families and openness to bringing discussion of these issues into the courses.

The findings of the study were produced as a synthesis of the experience of faculty and staff: attending to the Minnesota Board of Teaching’s Early Childhood Teacher Preparation Standards (87100:3000); in dialogue with participants’ personal preparation, experiences, beliefs, and convictions; in consideration of the demographics of the pre-service students; and in response to current information and issues within early childhood education. This study also yielded significant practical implications for pedagogy in teaching pre-service teachers.


MnAECTE Letter to the Deans

January 29, 2016

Dear Deans of Education,

The Minnesota Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators (MnAECTE) needs your help advocating for the state’s youngest learners and the programs that prepare their teachers and caregivers. As a Dean overseeing these programs, we want to share some activities influencing our work right now.

First, the governor’s office and the legislature are working towards a plan that would provide universal preschool experiences for the 4-year olds in our state. Our programs need to be prepared for the resulting increase in demand for licensed Early Childhood teachers. The recent publication of Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation (Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, 2015) is guiding national and state policy on Early Childhood workforce issues. It recommends “a minimum bachelor’s degree qualification requirement, with specialized knowledge and competencies,” (in early childhood education) “for all lead educators working with children birth through age 8.” Right now in Minnesota, only “a quarter (23 percent) of Minnesota’s early childhood educators (licensed family child care providers, and center and preschool staff) are estimated to have a bachelor’s degree or higher in a child-related field.” (Valarose & Chase, 2012). We have much work to do to meet this recommendation.

Second, it is critical that we figure out articulation with 2-year Early Childhood Education programs in the state. For the last couple of years, MnAECTE has worked with ACCESS (the state organization of 2- year Early Childhood faculty) to create a general approach to articulation between 2- and 4-year Early Childhood programs in the state. Our progress has come to a standstill due to uncertainties about what role A.A.S. and A.S. programs should play in teacher licensure programs. Because the Board of Teaching has authority in determining what is acceptable in addressing licensure standards, we have reached out to the executive director to help us with this and other issues. Early Childhood is the only discipline in the state that allows teachers to be prepared at less than the baccalaureate level. This has created unique challenges as we work to create clear career pathways in our field.

Third, our articulation work has also raised questions about the intersections between 2- and 4-year early childhood programs. Fortunately, the Minnesota Department of Education recently released a set of tools to help address these questions. The “Minnesota Knowledge and Competency Framework for Early Childhood Professionals” is a series of documents identifying different levels of competencies for the specialized knowledge and skills unique to early childhood. The documents were developed in partnership with various state stakeholders including institutions of higher education. Through grant funding, MDE is currently supporting efforts to clarify different competency levels in 2- and 4-year early childhood coursework. Please use the “Minnesota Knowledge and Competency Framework for Early Childhood Professionals” as a resource for discussion and decision-making in your Early Childhood Education Programs.

Finally, we have been working hard to build positive relationships with various governing bodies, agencies and organizations involved in Early Childhood Education throughout the state. Many stakeholders have goals geared toward ensuring all young children have access to high-quality early childhood experiences. In order to accomplish these goals, it is imperative we all work together to transform our current system into one that is intentionally organized, accessible and clearly aligned. We are committed to supporting one another in this work and ask your help as we strive to do right by our youngest learners and those who teach and care for them!

Thank you for your support and leadership!



MnAECTE Executive Board

Layna Cole, PhD; President, Minnesota State University Moorhead

June Reineke, ABD; Secretary, Winona State University

Jolene Pearson, ABD; Member at Large, Bethel University

Steven Reuter, PhD; Past-President, Mankato State University

Carmen Cook, MAEd (Doctoral Student); Treasurer, Metropolitan State University

Joan Sax-Bendix, EdD; Communications & Outreach, Winona State University


MnAECTE Members:

Karin Ihnen, MEd; St. Cloud State University

Ming Chi Own, PhD; St. Cloud State University

Heidi Frankard, PhD; Metropolitan State University

Karen Peterson-Kremer, MAED; Metropolitan State University

Erin Gillette, PhD; Minnesota State University-Moorehead

Marilyn Labrensz, MS; Minnesota State University-Moorehead

Sandi Baty, MEd; University of Northwestern, St. Paul

Carrie Brouse, PhD; Winona State University

Penny Warner, PhD; Winona State University

Sue Starks, EdD; Concordia University

What Early Childhood Educators Need to Know and Be Able to Do

Minnesota’s Knowledge and Competency Framework for Early Childhood Professionals is now available. The framework is based on the Board of Teaching standards and combines what an early childhood educator needs to know about research and theory, with the skills and abilities needed to work effectively in the field.

The framework puts into action the idea of “tiered representation of shared and specialized standards” found in the report Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth through Age 8: A Unifying Approach. It has versions for those working with preschool-age children in center and school programs, those working with infants and toddlers, and family child care providers. Each version includes the core skills needed to work with young children, with more specific skills in added for areas of specialization.

The competencies are arranged in eight broad content areas, including: child development and learning; developmentally appropriate learning experiences; and assessment, evaluation and individualization. There are three levels of competency: Explores—Implements—Designs and Leads. Each level includes and builds on the competencies of the level before it.

Find Minnesota’s Knowledge and Competency Framework for Early Childhood Professionals on MDE’s website. (http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/EdExc/EarlyChildRes/index.html)

Then, share it with others!

Debbie Hewitt
Inaugural Guest Blogger, Debbie Hewitt, MDE