Academic journal article Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin

Early-Childhood Teacher Candidates' Service Learning with Family Book Celebrations

Academic journal article Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin

Early-Childhood Teacher Candidates' Service Learning with Family Book Celebrations

Article excerpt

An associate professor and a public school district administrator formed a family-school-community partnership to introduce family book celebrations to an early-learning center located in a high-poverty area in a midwestern city with more than 80% of children (n = 75) who attended the center qualifying for free and reduced lunch. Primary goals for the celebrations were (a) to offer a venue for book-related experiences with families of children attending the early-learning center; (b) to engage early-childhood teacher candidates in service with families in an authentic and meaningful way; and (c) to analyze efficacy of the service-learning experience on teacher candidates. Overall, teacher candidates reported benefits in working with families, fostering interaction, and using props and concrete materials to promote successful book celebrations. Although this service-learning experience was relatively small, limited, and exploratory, it served as an initial study to inform further inquiries into early-childhood undergraduate service-learning experiences with families.

In early- childhood teacher education, one overarching goal is to develop undergraduate teacher candidates' knowledge, skills, and dispositions in developmentally appropriate practice (Coppie & Bredekamp, 2009). Core to the multiple components that formulate developmentally appropriate practice is an education based on relationships.

Service learning in teacher education is a venue for developing and nurturing relationships (Swick, 1999). First, relationships with children enable a pedagogy of care when teacher-education students both engage in service-based community work and also develop their knowledge of children's strengths, group stamina levels, interests, and developmental steps (Noddings, 2005). Next, professional relationships with colleagues expand inservice learning experiences when teacher-education students plan, implement, and reflect on experiences with each other, as well as with classroom teachers and community members. Cultivating professional relationships is important to the teaching profession because child outcomes are strengthened when professional, collaborative-learning communities develop and grow, drawing upon strengths of individual members within educational settings (McWilliams, Maldonado, Szczepaniak, & Jones, 2011). Finally, service learning offers a venue for growing relationships with parents and families, typically difficult to offer as part of a college course due to timing and access to families. In early-childhood education in particular, teachers and families work together to support the development of common educational goals such as transitions to and from school.

Service learning offers an especially beneficial pedagogical approach for teacher educators (Alverez, 2009; Root & Furco, 2001; Swick, 1999). When quality- driven servicelearning experiences are part of teacher education, teacher candidates are offered venues for action research, reasons for authentic inquiry, and contexts for building and applying knowledge of children and families (Swick, 1999), as well as potential to develop awareness of how relationships serve effective teaching in early- childhood education. Among some of the many other benefits of service learning in teacher education is the potential for developing awareness and sensitivity to diverse ethnicities (Anderson, Daikos, GranadosGreenberg, & Rutherford, 2009).

Quality service-learning experiences in teacher preparation programs have potential to produce positive outcomes (Anderson, Daikos, Granados-Greenberg, & Rutherford, 2009). Faculty and students in colleges of education across the country engage in servicelearning activities as a means for facilitating the development of responsible citizens. In addition, service learning is practiced and accepted within school districts across pre-Kthrough-Grade-12 settings (Fair, Davis, & Fischer, 2011). Anderson and his colleagues (2009) indicated, however, that collaborative service-learning partnerships between teacher educators on the university level and pre-K- through-Grade- 12 school administrators and teachers are more difficult to implement. …

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