- B.S. in Early Childhood Education
- Program Director
- Dr. Judy Herr
- PRC Consultants
- Dick Tyson and Ann Cross
- Committee Findings
- The committee recommends continuation of this program through the next scheduled review in 2010. The committee recommends that the student survey be conducted again in Fall 2005 with a subsequent status report by the program director addressing the student concerns noted in this report.
Purpose of the Review
The review was conducted to assess the quality of the B.S. in Early Childhood Education degree program as part of the ongoing seven-year review cycle of every UW-Stout program.
UW-Stout's B.S. in Early Childhood Education program trains students to become professionals who understand and meet the needs of children from birth to eight years. It has four foundational elements: Developmentally Appropriate Practice, Pedagogy, Appropriate Disposition, and Theory and Research. The program trains students to work with families of young children in a variety of settings including Preschool childcare, Kindergarten and primary Grades 1 through 3. The program emphasizes both liberal studies and preparation for a professional career. Courses and practicum experiences introduce students to an array of topics. Students have the opportunity to work with children early in the program; this interaction continues culminating in student teaching.
The newly revised degree program includes 45-46 credits of general education requirements, 79 credits of ECE professional course work, and student teaching in Pre-school, Kindergarten, and Primary education to gain broad certification.
The B.S. in ECE is now the third largest program at UW-Stout, with an enrollment of about 500 undergraduates or over 7% of Stout’s undergraduate enrollment. These enrollments have fluctuated around 475-522 between in 1998 and 2002. It continues to be a popular program as can be seen by its enrollment and demand for admissions. Openings for positions and placement rates are high, with employment and employment related to major being at or exceeding the Stout average. Earnings of graduates are among the lowest, however, at about $26000/yr.
Recommendations for improvement include: consideration of curriculum for course overlap, consideration of additional K-3 classroom and laboratory experiences, monitoring student satisfaction with the new curriculum, staffing and facilities (CFSC) improvements.
It is recommended that the B.S. in Early Childhood Education continue as a degree program at UW-Stout and that recommendations made by the committee be implemented to further strengthen the program.
Process Followed for the Current Review
Under guidelines developed by the PRC, information regarding the program was gathered from the Placement Office, Institutional Research Office, the program director, key instructors, Program Advisory Committee, students, and one-year and three-year graduates. Fifty-seven students, mostly juniors and seniors, participated in the survey of current students conducted on-line. Twelve key instructors and ten Program Advisory Committee members responded, while 35 of 102 graduates in 2000 and 29 of 72 graduates in 1998 responded (34% and 40% of those polled). Observations were made by the consultants based on these surveys and institutional data and were reported to and discussed by the PRC. The program director presented a summary of her report to the committee and had an opportunity to address concerns. The dean from the School of Education was also available to answer questions.
The last PRC review of this program occurred in the 1995-96 academic year, with Dick Tyson and Karen Martinson serving as consultants. That review resulted in the following recommendations. In her 2003 report, the program director has responded to these recommendations. Her responses are summarized in italics below.
“A great number of 1- and 2-credit courses are required; some consolidation or generalization may be considered.”
In her 2003 report, the program director indicated that four one-credit courses have been deleted, with content subsumed elsewhere as necessary.
“Laboratory space for curriculum development needs attention.”
Two rooms for curriculum were remodeled, though there continues to be a serious need for remodeling/replacing the Child and Family Studies Center, a problem noted even in the 1989 PRC review.
“The program doesn't appear to directly acquaint students with computers/technology which might be related to ECE. While computers/technology literacy among K-12 teachers is generally low nationwide, perhaps some effort to integrate this knowledge into the curriculum may provide one type of "edge" for graduates in a very competitive job market.”
Efforts have been made to incorporate computers into curriculum classes in a developmentally appropriate way.
“The significant increases in program enrollments have not been accompanied by increases in program staffing. Some difficulties will be manifest if staffing isn't increased if enrollments are to continue at the current level.”
Staffing concerns continue to exist, particularly as the program has grown to about 500 students. Five staff are needed.
“Students' perceived preparedness for teaching the early primary grades is a concern. The program director indicates that the program exceeds DPI education requirements and that a reconfiguration of education courses may emphasize K-3 teaching competencies. Knowledge of the substance of teaching rather than the process may be the concern, however. Two courses of action should follow: students ought to be surveyed again or otherwise monitored regarding the success of the new configuration, and an effort to discern confidence in subject-matter competencies should be undertaken. If students are concerned with inadequate K-3 classroom experience, more opportunities for classroom observation and lessoned preparation before student teaching need to be explored.”
The primary grades curriculum has been recently improved significantly, as evidenced by the gains made which are noted in the Assessment in Major report. Students need to understand more fully the range of Early Childhood Education licensed in Wisconsin.
“Allowance for minors or specializations should be investigated, especially in foreign languages such as Spanish, which would allow ECE graduates more flexibility in the job market.”
The program was not able to consider the recommendation regarding minors due to the already large number of required classes for certification.
“Significant course overlap is noted. Under the new administrative arrangement, opportunities should exist for better cooperation in order to determine educational objectives in the program and coordinate delivery, freeing coursework time for computing, languages, laboratory time, or other subject competencies as needed.”
Reduced duplication should occur following the new curriculum and the program’s placement in the new School of Education. Additionally, new and part-time faculty will be mentored and supervised better.
“The program director should continue her commendable efforts for the training of advisees and for development of a program instrument to guide students through all of the requirements for the degree with certification so as to allow students to be well informed as they go through their career. Efforts to make her office more approachable for students should be considered.”
The prospect for further improvements in advising will be difficult due to the high demands and no release time.
In her 2003 report, the program director is positive about the new administrative structure and support for the program as well as the new curriculum which will improve it significantly.
- Enrollment in the program is strong. There were 290 in 1989 and 463 in 1995. Since 1998, enrollments have averaged around 500 students. It is now the third largest program at UW-Stout, enrolling about 6-7% of the total undergraduates.
- Graduates have risen steadily. There were 42/yr. from 1989 to 1990 (3.5% of total undergraduate degrees) and are now in the range of 80-100 (~ 8%). The relation between the percent of enrollments vs. the percent of graduates has gone from below average to above average.
- The program receives certification from the Wisconsin DPI, which has a profound impact on its curriculum. The 2003 program revisions are reported by the program director to be in conformance with the new standards (PI-34).
- The Placement Office reports that placements of recent graduates are excellent, at 98-100%. Placements within the field are also excellent (virtually all within the major) relative to all Stout undergraduates. About 90% of ECE graduates available for placement have been placed in employment in or related to their major, a percentage comparable to the Stout average. In the past, ECE placements in their major tended to be below average.
- Recent graduates surveyed over the past few years reported higher than average employment and satisfaction with their career development. Understanding of other cultures stood out as a competency gained. They felt that course availability and scheduling (but not the time of day) was quite good. ECE students are more likely to want the same program if they were to do it over again.
- Employers of recent graduates surveyed over the past few years reported higher than average competencies of Stout ECE graduates, including problem solving, analyzing information, making decisions, conducting research, using math, interpersonal relations, creativity, and plan and carry out projects.
- Three-year graduates’ employment levels trail the Stout average, though those employed are more likely to be in their field. Their feelings about their preparation for employment and career development/advancement (vs. other Stout grads) varies by survey year, but have been high recently, perhaps as more are placed in the primary grades. They also rate their appreciation of diversity very high. Employers of these grads, however, rate them higher on most competencies surveyed than employers of other Stout grads. Employers also find their preparation for employment to be high.
- Current students perceive as program strengths education in multiculturalism and diversity as well as good library resources.
- Current students indicate that they are really pleased with the "hands-on" experiences (particularly with Pre-kindergarten and Kindergarten) as a real positive aspect of the program, though with the large program they are not able to get enough time in before student teaching. The core faculty are thought to posses considerable knowledge and are very helpful. Students like the Child Development/Developmentally Appropriate Practices focus and its tie in with classes. They have considerable respect for the new program director and selected faculty.
- Program Advisory Committee members believe that they are now well informed about the program, meet adequately, and are now able to contribute to the program. They saw as program strengths the staff expertise, the quality of instruction, appropriate and up-to-date curriculum, and program reputation.
- Key instructors in the program rated instruction, current (but not past) leadership of and communication with the program director, and library support as very good. Faculty are caring, and the senior ones have high professional visibility. They have fairly good facilities and equipment. There is general positive feeling about being in the new School of Education for the success of the program.
Opportunities for Further Program Enrichment
- Though ECE placements in their major now tend to be at or slightly above average, salaries are among the lowest reported for undergraduates at Stout, ranging around $26,000 or perhaps $6-8,000/yr. lower than others placed.
- Recent graduates rated problem solving skill development, analysis of information, decision making, conducting research, using math and computers lower than other Stout grads (employers of recent graduates, however, reported higher than average competencies). The quality of instruction, labs, faculty and advisor availability, and level of training relative to others was also rated lower. ECE graduates are less likely to say they’d attend Stout again, but are more likely to want the same program.
- Three-year graduates’ employment levels trail the Stout average, though those employed are more likely to be in their field. These grads’ rating of their math, computer, and analytical skills is low (employers of these grads, however, rate them higher on most competencies surveyed than do employers of other Stout grads). Employers also find their preparation for employment to be high. Three-year grads also say the quality of instruction and its content, faculty and advisor availability, level of training relative to others, and value of their education was rated lower. They also are less likely to say they’d attend Stout again, but are more likely to want the same program.
- Current ECE students rated most of the skills developed and resources quality and availability (including instructors and advisors), and program implementation lower than did students in other programs (using data from 1999-2003). Students were much less likely to consider ECE to be a quality program and would choose ECE (~.5 less).
- Current ECE students cite significant course overlap (almost 1.0 above average on a 1-5 scale) and consequential program length is noted. They believe that less duplication would allow them to learn many other skills that they feel they will need teaching but do not posses or to get more practice time with children. This duplication results in difficulty completing the program in a reasonable amount of time.
- Apparently they see considerable unnecessary overlap between the various Human Development courses and with Ed. Psych; with the reading and language arts courses; Curriculum & Assessment and Foundations of Ed. and the DAP courses; and nutrition and child nutrition. The ECE program has recently had an entirely new program approved which may make the program more cogent, coherent, and streamlined which may reduce perceived redundancies.
- One of the strongest and most consistent complaints from the students involved the programs emphasis on early childhood. Several students wrote that they needed more preparation for the elementary education jobs they planned to take after graduation.Current ECE students noted a lack of emphasis on Kindergarten through 3rd Grade education (vs. Pre-school). Sufficient time with children to practice lessons learned (and lesson plan writing) before student teaching is also noted.
- Current ECE students cite instability of advisement, program direction and content (and content consistency in courses) as a big problem. There are complaints about selected instructors and the prior program director. The (un)availability and quality of advisement is of note.
- Students portray the program as a place where a few helpful, professional, enthusiastic, and talented instructors stand out in an otherwise unprofessional, uncoordinated atmosphere. Several students complained about being “belittled” by instructors and about instructors being unapproachable or unavailable. Several students commented that instructors were unprepared for class or relied too heavily on group work or presentations.
- The content (and quality) of many courses such as Social Studies Curriculum is questioned by many of these students. Improvements in the quality of certain classes and by having more staff (and less staff turnover!) are needed.
- Program Advisory Committee members noted problems with prior program direction, needed staffing in relation to the growth of the program, greater attention to Grades 1-3 instruction, need to beef up the content courses (math, sciences – natural and social, etc.), needs for earlier field experiences, and needed expansion/remodeling of the CFSC.
- Key instructors noted that the CFSC is a problem, being undersized for the number of students and not in conformance with standards. Secretarial support is thin for 500 students, but apparently good (4.13 on a 1-5 scale). Too few faculty, and too many adjunct instructors is seen to cause students to be served poorly; the “team support/cohesiveness” suffers. They indicate that there is less student-centered education and lax standards which leads to less prepared students. Overlap is recognized in the language arts but that may be addressed in the new program.
For the Program Director:
- While the student responses should not be unduly emphasized, they do suggest something of a “disconnect” between the program and the students’ perceived needs and experiences. There seems to be a high degree of dissatisfaction among students and there seems to be little awareness among faculty of what appears to be pretty bad student morale at this point. Again, this may be a holdover from earlier times but it would seem worthy of more concern and awareness among instructors and other interested parties. It is recommended that in 2005 the program director, working with the PRC, assess and give a status report as to whether the new program, its housing, curriculum, and direction is meeting these needs in the eyes of the students by use of the PRC student survey and/or other suitable instrument(s).
- Significant course overlap continues to be noted in this review as was the case in 1996; it is significantly greater than noted by students in other programs. With the new School of Education, opportunities should exist for better cooperation in order to determine educational objectives in the program and coordinate delivery. Monitoring of this needs to be done and assessed in the 2005 review recommended above.
- Students' perceived preparedness for teaching the early primary grades remains a concern as it was in 1996. The program director report indicates that the program meets new DPI certification requirements and that a reconfiguration of education courses may emphasize K-3 teaching competencies more. Students (both upper and lower division) should be surveyed again as noted above and may be otherwise monitored by the director regarding the success of the new configuration, and an effort made to discern confidence in subject-matter competencies. The survey should be coded to reflect the level of the respondent. If students are concerned with inadequate K-3 classroom experience, more opportunities for classroom observation and lesson preparation before student teaching needs to be explored.
For the Department Chair(s):
- The quality of instructional staff is irregular as noted by students’ responses. Some problems involve very negative interactions that students have had with individual faculty and instructional academic staff. Other problems involve the instability of the staffing as well as the overuse of part-time staffing which also needs to be addressed. Students perceive inconsistency in many courses from section to section and semester to semester, causing them to question whether they are learning the “right stuff.” Working with the dean and program director, efforts must be made to stabilize the staffing with more full-time and (hopefully) faculty positions. If part-time and staff positions must be used, a plan to ensure consistent, quality instruction needs to be developed.
For the Dean:
- The problem of the Child and Family Study Center needs attention. Six courses use it for observation and practical experiences. With 500 students in the program, growing community child care needs, and modern standards for such facilities, the Center is increasingly inadequate. Further efforts to replace the CFSC needs to be made.
- The significant increases in program enrollments have not been accompanied by increases in program staffing. Some difficulties will be manifest if staffing isn't increased if enrollments are to continue at the current level. Working with the chair(s) and program director, serious consideration must be given to improved staffing and/or capped enrollments.
- The instability of the staffing as well as the overuse of part-time staffing is a problem which needs to be addressed. Students perceive inconsistency of many courses from section to section and semester to semester, causing them to question whether they are learning the “right stuff.” Working with the chair(s) and program director, efforts must be made to stabilize the staffing with more full-time and (hopefully) faculty positions.
- It is crucial that competent and consistent program direction, faculty, and advisement exists for the ECE program. Plans for replacement and retention of faculty in the program needs to be undertaken.