Almost everyone recognizes the importance of having an effective early childhood workforce in programs that serve young children and families. Less clear is how to ensure that all early childhood practitioners have the essential knowledge and skills they need to be effective. Increasingly, policymakers are turning to professional development as the solution to adequately preparing practitioners or helping them improve their instructional and intervention practices. This focus on effective practices is associated with the goal of improving child outcomes as part of the standards and accountability movement. However, strikingly little scientific research exists to indicate exactly what approaches to professional development are most likely to enhance practices. Perhaps even more unsettling is the realization that there is no agreed-upon definition of the term professional development in education or related fields.
This document presents a definition and conceptual framework for professional development in early childhood. Defining what is meant by professional development is intended to guide efforts aimed at ensuring that the early childhood workforce is highly qualified and effective in working with young children (birth through 8) and their families. What Do We Mean by Professional Development in the Early Childhood Field? [PDF, 171KB]