The learning and developmental outcomes listed in the Head Start Child Outcomes Framework are goals for all children to progress toward during their participation in the Head Start program. In this section of the Guide, each of the 8 learning Domains is addressed to help education leaders get a more detailed picture of what happens every day in a program committed to helping children achieve these positive outcomes.
Each Domain and Domain Element is described, and an explanation is given as to why they are important. Understanding the rationale for each aspect of the Child Outcomes Framework is essential if education leaders, Early Literacy Mentor-Coaches (ELMCs), teachers, assistant teachers, home visitors, family child care teachers, and other staff are to be fully committed to achievement of the outcomes. Also included in each section are examples of effective teaching strategies that help children achieve the desired outcomes. Because the 1998 Head Start reauthorization legislation mandates, that is, requires by law that programs demonstrate children's progress in certain Domain Elements and Indicators, these are addressed in somewhat greater detail. The Child Outcomes Framework also affirms the importance of a number of Domains and outcomes not specifically addressed in legislation, and these are discussed as well.
The suggested effective teaching strategies that are listed under each Domain are by no means the only practices that are of value. The main point is: The teaching team needs to plan learning experiences and use teaching strategies in a thoughtful and intentional way in each Domain. Teachers also must regularly track children's progress in achieving the desired learning outcomes and adapt teaching strategies or learning experiences when children are not making expected progress. [A description of research-based adaptations for children with special needs, or an individual child who is not making expected progress is found in "Children with Disabilities". A description of research-based adaptations for gifted children is found in "Children Who are Advanced in Development".]
All the learning outcomes in the Child Outcomes Framework matter, and each needs attention in the early childhood curriculum. Because the Domains are so interrelated and the early childhood curriculum lends itself to integration across Domains, many teaching strategies appear in several Domains. This redundancy is deliberate in order for teachers to see that good learning experiences can meet many different objectives. For example, storybook reading could promote listening and understanding, vocabulary, phonological awareness, alphabet knowledge, print awareness, knowledge in a subject area such as science or math, and even social problem-solving skills. Dramatic play can support language development, understanding of narrative and functions of print, social skills, problem solving, emotional self-control, and many other important learning outcomes. Good learning experiences often promote outcomes across multiple Domains.
Even though there is considerable connection between Domains, progress in one area does not ensure progress in another. At times, it may be helpful to focus on learning in relation to a specific Domain Element or Indicator. At other times, it is better to integrate teaching and learning experiences across Domain Elements.