The Curry School Partners with the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation to Offer Free Online Course

Nearly 100 early childhood educators across the Commonwealth are taking advantage of a new online college-level course to boost their skills in teaching and motivating young children during the preschool years.

The early education advocacy group, the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation (VECF) will offer a free online course called Effective Classroom Interactions developed by the Curry School of Education’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL). It is the first such course targeting the types of teacher-child interactions that are essential to children’s development and learning. 

Over the next two years, 200 teachers will participate. To be eligible for the course, participants are required to be employed as teachers at child care centers, preschools or family child care homes that participate in the Virginia Star Quality Initiative (VSQI) — a partnership between the Office of Early Childhood Development and VECF. The VSQI is a voluntary program that assesses, improves and communicates the level of quality in early care and education settings.

The online course, developed by CASTL with funding from the Institute of Education Sciences, allows participants to complete a two-semester early childhood development course at their own pace, which is important for these individuals who are currently working as full-time preschool teachers. Those enrolled will also have support through the VSQI to help them successfully complete the course. It is designed to zero in on teachers’ competencies in effectively supporting children’s development in learning social/emotional, self-regulatory, cognitive, and language and early literacy skills. These skills form the foundation for students’ successful achievement in school, the workplace and life.

Results from early pilots demonstrate that teachers who complete the course make significant changes in their daily interactions with children in ways that have direct consequences for the children in their care. The VECF-CASTL partnership will provide important insights into how to make these resources most useful to a broad range of teachers working in Virginia and beyond. 

“The faculty and researchers at the Curry School of Education are national leaders in improving the quality and effectiveness of early childhood education,” said Dr. Robert C. Pianta, Dean of the Curry School of Education and founder of CASTL. “This course reflects our understanding of the principles of effective teaching for very young children.” Dr. Pianta also is a member of the statewide Advisors Council for VECF.

“Dr. Pianta’s research gives us powerful insights into effective teaching and learning. As we help teachers improve their interactions with their preschool students, the children’s learning and development will improve as well,” said Kathy Glazer, President of VECF.

“This higher-ed course offered through the Curry School of Education is an exciting leap forward to elevate the expertise of early childhood educators who play such a vital role in ensuring the school readiness of our state’s young children,” concluded Glazer. “That’s the best foundation for school, life and workforce success.”

For more information on this online course for early childhood educators, please contact the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation at (804) 358-8323.

NOTE: The course offered through the VECF-CASTL partnership will not provide college credit. However, the Curry School of Education is also offering these courses for credit for early childhood teachers starting in the fall of 2014. For more information on these courses for credit, please visit http://curry.virginia.edu//research/centers/castl/project/ecicourses.