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CASTL Spearheads VPI+ Blog to Tackle Common Misconceptions About Preschool Instruction

Published on 06/09/17 in News » Articles

VPI PLus BlogWhat does good teaching look like in preschool? And more importantly, what does it not look like?

These are the questions a new blog produced by the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) is working to address. Designed for Virginia’s school administrators, the blog aims to help dispel common myths about what good teaching looks like in preschool.

Bridget Hamre, Research Associate Professor at CASTL and the Curry School of Education, says the idea emerged when she noticed a disconnect among the various expectations that teachers, principals and administrators have about effective preschool instruction. “Over the past two years, we’ve been working to support preschool teachers in their work as part of the Virginia Preschool Initiative Plus (VPI+) program,” she says. “We’ve learned that teachers often feel caught in the middle when principals, coaches and administrators have different expectations about what good preschool instruction is.” Hamre says the blog is designed to start a dialogue between those different groups across Virginia. “Everyone wants the same thing – experiences in early childhood classrooms that best support learning and development. Unfortunately, as a field we haven’t done a good job of communicating what that really looks like. We know a blog won’t solve that problem. But it’s a first step to get the conversation going.”

Ann L’hospital, a CASTL VPI+ Support Specialist and author of the latest post, “What Does Rigorous PreK Look Like and How Can I Support It ?” hopes the blog will provide a balanced perspective on topics that are often controversial and highly debated in education. “Our most recent topic tries to tackle how much child-directed play versus teacher-directed instruction should be happening in preschool,” she says. “In this case, we want to share what the research says about balancing the two.”

In addition to presenting the latest research findings, L’hospital says the blog integrates video snippets of classroom instruction to make that research come to life. “In this latest post we feature two video examples of preschool math instruction. At first glance, both may seem okay, but as our discussion unfolds, we show how one teacher’s approach is more effective because it actively engages students, connects to the real world, and supports their thinking skills.” L’hospital says actually “seeing” effective instruction can help school educators and administrators develop a shared vision of good preschool teaching.

The VPI+ blog, which launched in April of 2017 as a collaboration between CASTL and the Virginia Department of Education, plans to publish a new post once a month. Both Hamre and L’hospital are looking forward to tackling other sensitive topics about preschool instruction. “In talking with principals, many have expressed interest in learning about quality preschool education, because it’s typically not emphasized in their training. So, we’re excited to take on this challenge,” says Hamre.

The CASTL research team also plans to invite early childhood education experts to be guest authors of the blog, so they can tackle a range of current topics, from the role of teacher evaluation to the benefits of play in early childhood.

The blog’s next topic, “Fostering Active Engagement for 4 & 5 Year Olds”, will be available on July 1 on the VPI+ website (http://www.vpiplus.org/blog/).

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