In the May 2014 article, The preschool puzzle, the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology discuss the ever-important national conversations about early childhood education and the role psychologists are playing in that conversation. One-third of the article, the portion focused on defining quality, features Curry dean Bob Pianta and the Classroom Assessment Scoring System(TM) created under his leadership at the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL).
The mixed findings on early education may be frustrating for policymakers, but in many ways they’re not surprising. After all, preschool education programs vary dramatically in all sorts of ways, from class size and length of the school day to teacher education and program curricula.
“Every policymaker says we want a high-quality program,” says Robert Pianta, PhD, a psychologist and dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. The big question is: What’s high quality?
Policymakers tend to focus on structural features such as curriculum or teacher training, Pianta says. “Those become proxies for what kids are experiencing in classrooms. But those structural features don’t really capture the features of programs that actually [affect] children’s learning and development.”
To move beyond those proxies, Pianta and his colleagues developed a system known as the Classroom Assessment Scoring System™ (CLASS) for evaluating teacher-student interactions. This system measures such classroom elements as how well a teacher tunes into behavioral cues (whether a child is losing interest in a classroom activity, say) as well as a teacher’s conversational style (whether he or she asks for one-word answers or engages students in more complex dialogue, for example). “You can score those things in a fairly standard way,” Pianta says.
To read the entire article, visit http://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/05/preschool.aspx