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

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.