Academic journal article Childhood Education

Discovering Curriculum Concerns of Beginning Early Childhood Teachers

Academic journal article Childhood Education

Discovering Curriculum Concerns of Beginning Early Childhood Teachers

Article excerpt

"Every artist was at first an amateur."

--Ralph Waldo Emerson

I believe that beginning teachers are essentially amateur artists beginning the craft of teaching. A first-year teacher does not walk into a classroom with everything perfectly planned and in its place. They grow and transform a great deal as they are initiated into teaching. During these first few years, novice teachers also encounter many challenges. Researchers have identified a multitude of these challenges, including, but not exclusive to, those dealing with planning, organizing, and managing instruction; managing professional needs; using effective teaching methods; dealing with individual students' needs; time management; assessment; classroom management; and working with colleagues/administrators (King, 2004; McCann & Johannessen, 2004; Veenman, 1984; Voth, 2002).

These challenges, if not appropriately addressed, may contribute to the attrition rates of new teachers. The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) reports that approximately one-third of beginning teachers leave the profession within the first three years (2006). This exodus of beginning teachers affects our young children, as they lose qualified teachers to guide them. AASCU suggests that beginning teacher induction programs have a role to play in decreasing this number of teachers leaving the profession.

Interviews of first-year teachers indicated that assistance with instruction and curriculum was their primary concern (Quinn & D'Amato Andrews, 2004). Now more than ever, beginning teachers experience extreme pressure to prepare and deliver the curriculum, often with little or inadequate support. And teachers are being bombarded with accountability issues. Case study research (Certo, 2006) has indicated that more frequent testing has increased the amount of responsibilities that new teachers face. Imagine a first-year teacher who is trying to fit together a curriculum that addresses predetermined standards, and faces the added demand to have his or her students do well on the state's assessment.

CURRICULAR CONCERNS OF EARLY CHILDHOOD TEACHERS

This study focused on four beginning 2nd-grade teachers to determine their specific curricular concerns, which were identified through personal interviews and participant journals. I also reviewed pertinent artifacts, such as lesson plans, copies of plan books, and curriculum training materials.

Interviews

I conducted two interviews with each participant, with sufficient time between interviews to allow the beginning teacher to have more experience in developing the curriculum in her classroom. The interviews were semi-structured, allowing flexibility, yet still targeted the topic in question. Questions were developed prior to the interviews, and the same questions were used for all participants. Probing and follow-up questions were spontaneous and unique within each interview, sometimes stemming from information gained through the participants' own journals.

The first interview was a rapport-building session aimed at providing information about the study, informing the participants about informed consent, and gaining background information from the participants (biographic information, teacher preparation, student teaching experience, goals for first year, anticipated challenges). The final interview focused on specific concerns regarding the curriculum (emerging planning style, support, planning strategies, resources, teacher preparation, and school expectations). The final interview also focused on identifying potential support structures, how the beginning teacher used available supports, and the closure of the study.

Sample Interview Questions

1. If asked to define curriculum, what would you say it is?

2. How do you decide what to teach?

3. What or who influences your curriculum?

4. …

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