Many community colleges, distance learning providers and colleges and universities off Early Childhood Education (ECE) certification, diplomas and degrees. Most certificate, diploma and associate degrees can be completed in one or two years, while university degrees, which are specialized and tend to focus on specific skills or areas of study such a special needs or administration, are four year programs.
One thing in common for all types and lengths of programs is the need for observation and hands-on learning through volunteering and practicums. Child development classes are an important component for all the programs as well, focusing on stages of development, instruction techniques and classroom management, and these are more effective when the information taught can be observed first-hand.
It is crucial to observe the developmental levels and teaching methods, and to practice the techniques in an actual classroom setting, with typical children and teachers in a standard early childhood program. While personal experience as a parent, sibling or babysitter can be incredibly helpful, it isnt the same as observing a group of children in a preschool or childcare setting.
A crucial part of an ECE program is the supervised observation and practicum. Many programs have access to an on-site daycare or preschool, sometimes known as a teaching lab, even while it is a functioning, licensed childcare program. Other programs, such as distance learning providers, will help to arrange practicum placements with programs in the community.
Students are never expected to work with the children at the beginning of their practicum, especially not in a teaching capacity. The first sessions in a classroom are observing children, often with specific assignments of what is to be observed, and assignments based on their findings. Very gradually students are given teaching tasks, from small lessons and circle activities through to planning and leading full lessons and activities independently. All of this is under the direct supervision of licensed ECE staff on site, who are in consultation with the course instructor. This is a crucial part of the certification program, regardless of the level of certification being pursued.
It is important to check with the state or provincial licensing body to ensure that the minimal number of classroom volunteer hours have been clocked. Usually, practicum hours can count for part, though not all, of these hours.