All children have the capacity and an inherent ability to learn, especially in the most informative (early) years of their life. With this in mind, providing children a high-quality early childhood education is of the utmost importance and sets the stage for success not only in school, but also in life.
Your role as an early childhood educator is key to a young child’s success, so ensuring that you have the core knowledge and competencies will provide the necessary support for a child’s learning and development.
Here, we will introduce the Arizona Early Childhood Workforce Knowledge and Competencies (WKC’s), which lays the foundation for Arizona’s Early Childhood Career and Professional Development Network (Network).
First, let’s discuss the basics. What is the importance of core knowledge and competencies?
- They define what early care and education professionals need to know in order to provide quality care and education.
- They provide the groundwork for professionals to carry out decisions and practices required for early care and education settings.
- They play an integral role in a comprehensive professional development system.
Next, let’s look at a handful of examples of how these core knowledge and competencies are used:
- Individuals working directly with young children, such as, teachers, paraprofessionals, family, friend and neighbor (FFN) can use the competencies to not only assess their own skills and abilities but can pinpoint any areas for their own learning needs and any areas that require growth.
- When it comes to early intervention, education and special education, health, mental health, family support and social services – home visitors and early intervention professionals use the competencies to govern family-centered and driven practices.
- For directors, administrators, mentors, coaches and any individuals who provide support to practitioners utilize competencies to offer services such as, orientations, developing job descriptions and salary scales, evaluate job performance and guide these individuals in crafting professional development plans.
- Core competencies can be used by higher education faculty, staff and administrators to evaluate and refine course content as well as create and coordinate course content in order to facilitate transfer and articulation agreements.
Now, let’s take look at those guiding principles, which have shaped and developed the Arizona Early Childhood Workforce Knowledge and Competencies:
- Children – they’re born learning and develop their unique characteristics and individuality at their own pace.
- Inclusion – every competency and indicator is not exclusive, it includes young children that are both gifted and talented and those with developmental delays or disabilities.
- Diversity – this includes ALL children, with culturally and linguistically diverse families and those from diverse socioeconomic groups.
- Families – ALL families included, embracing diversified ethnic origins, value systems, faiths, customs, languages and compositions.
- Early Care & Educational Professionals – a relationship-based, high-quality educator who is led by continuous research-driven knowledge and best practices, and who continuously engages in high-quality professional development.
- Community – the trust and connections families, schools and early childhood programs and service have are further strengthened through high-quality learning experiences.
- Professional Development System – the Arizona Early Childhood Career and Professional Development Network not only offers support for professionals, families and organizations serving children but also boosts the services of children collectively and on an individual basis for the long term.
- Ethical Behavior – early childhood professionals should acknowledge the code of ethical conduct set forth by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) as a guideline for responsible behavior.
Continuing this overview, the Arizona Early Childhood Workforce Knowledge and Competencies offers a framework for early childhood professionals in identifying the basic knowledge, skills and abilities that are needed across all sectors, which include: Early care and education, early intervention, mental and physical health and social services/child welfare, who are working with expectant parents, infants, toddlers, young children (birth through age eight) and their families.
To further highlight this framework, we’ve listed the following eight Core Knowledge Areas:
- Child Growth & Development
- Curriculum & Learning Environment
- Child Observation & Assessment
- Effective Interactions (Adult-Child, Child-Adult and Child-Child)
- Health, Safety & Nutrition
- Family & Community Partnerships
- Program Management
Within each of these core knowledge areas, the competencies are specific to special needs, inclusion and cultural diversity and are made up of the following components:
- Rationale – illustrates the importance of why the core knowledge area is important for early childhood professionals.
- Core Knowledge Component – in order to provide high-quality services to children from birth through age eight and their families, this component defines the content an early childhood professional must know.
- Core Knowledge Competency – this component characterizes the knowledge, skills and abilities that an early childhood professional must know in order to provide high-quality services to children from birth to age eight and their families.
- Indicator – there are five levels of indicators for each core knowledge competency, which follows a progression of knowledge, skill and abilities. These levels build on one another, but there is a possibility that a professional could potentially be performing at different proficiency levels in different knowledge areas.
Note the following indicator levels:
- Level 1 – at this level, professionals are developing an awareness of the core knowledge areas.
- Level 2 – at this level, professionals are able to articulate core knowledge areas.
- Level 3 – at this level, professionals are able to apply core knowledge areas.
- Level 4 – at this level, professionals are able to analyze and create based upon core knowledge areas.
- Level 5 – at this level, professionals are able to judge and advocate for core knowledge areas.
Arizona’s children shine with diversity in racial and cultural heritage, language, health and family situations. This diversity coupled with high-quality early childhood education paves a path of success and a bright future!
Your professional competency has a profound impact on the young children and families you work with, and that professional quality matters. Not to mention that you’re always developing these competencies regardless of your professional development continuum. For a more detailed look at the core knowledge and competencies, the guiding principles and the specifics of the Core Knowledge Areas, download the Arizona Early Childhood Workforce Knowledge and Competencies for guidance on growing your professionalism in early childhood education.
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