Child development theory and research have had a profound influence on early childhood education and care (ECEC) policies, programs, and services in the United States and internationally. In eight weeks (three hours/week), this course provides an overview of the research on young children (birth to age five), demographics of this population, critical domains of development, significance of early brain development, and issues of inequality and disproportionality that deeply shape child outcomes. It attempts to explore what develops in the first years of life, why this period is so critical, what have been the central questions that have driven both research and policy, whether policies and research have helped to reduce inequality and advance equity, and what critical issues are still unanswered (or even unasked).
The course familiarizes students with the cultural ideas, beliefs, values, and social purposes that have shaped and continue to influence children and families in the United States. Further, the course presents research from a range of disciplines (e.g., psychology, sociology, education, neuroscience, economics) to help students understand the complexity of developmental factors relevant to ECEC policy development and program design.
The goals of the course are to help students understand the importance of early development, the critical need to develop ECEC policies grounded in research and practice, and the effectiveness and limitations of ECEC policies to address fundamental issues of inequality. Finally, the course is intended to enable students to place their own professional interests and concerns in a broader historical and educational context.