Archive for February, 2011

SKiP Call: Writing a Conceptual Framework

I had the pleasure of attending the first SKiP professional development phone conference yesterday.

Debra Murphy, VP of Professional Development, set up the meeting and facilitated the conversation and I wanted to write something about the experience of being a participant. There were about 7 or 8 people from all across the country on the call and the topic was about writing a conceptual framework. Some of us on the call have gone through the process, others have started the process, and others are thinking about starting the process, so it was a small but diverse group.

Shared Knowledge & Practices:

  • Start the conversation about a conceptual framework by discussing theories and approaches that are important to your program.
  • Look at the mission of the college and the mission of the program and think about how your program fulfills these missions. The framework can help one to lay out the “how to” of the mission.
  • Engage your Advisory Board. In a meeting, you can do some writing together using large post-its on the wall.
  • Start with a curriculum map of your program. Look at what you are currently doing and look for themes across the program of study. What seems to be emphasized? This may be a good place to start your conceptual framework. It should be about who you are and what you value as a program.
  • Don’t think of it as an exercise for ECADA or for NAEYC. Think of it as something for yourself, your institution, and the community. It should be a document that makes sense to you, to your students, and to your partners in the field. One person shared that she gives the conceptual framework to her students and they bring it with them when they go on site visits or observation hours. It helps to communicate to others about the key components of your program.
  • Play with it. Don’t stress out about writing the document as this will give you writer’s block! Get a draft down and simply play with it. Don’t be afraid to put something on paper and show it to others for feedback.
  • Think of the conceptual framework as a living document rather than something etched in stone.
  • Take the time to write something that you are satisfied with. It should reflect who you are as a program and what you value for students and ultimately for young children and their families. If you take this time, the other pieces of the self-study will flow. It should all be connected. When you start to write your assessments, it should be clear that the conceptual framework guides your assessment practice.
  • You are not writing this in order to be judged by others. Rather, you are writing this as a way of making what you value more visible to yourself and to others.

I really enjoyed talking with ACCESS members about things that are important to them. It is clear to me that we are a group of people who can truly help each other to think through complex issues together as well as share practical resources with one another.

Debra has designed a Wikispace where we can post samples of conceptual frameworks and other self-study documents. This will be a place to share our stories and resources with each other. Please check it out!


Accreditation, Assessment, & Context

This is the first post in a series that will focus on stories in ECADA accreditation and developing a meaningful assessment program.

I’ve spent some time with the ACCESS State Affiliate groups lately, and what I am hearing from them is that folks want to share their self-study stories and would like to hear from others about various strategies for assessing student learning using the 5 Key Assessments through ECADA.

This is a general presentation that I’ve given that describes the relationship between accreditation, ACCESS, NAEYC, and assessment of student learning. It’s an orientation to the discussion and I hope you will join in! A key theme to the presentation, posted below, is the importance of context.

Assessment & Accreditation 02-03-11

It is  important, when thinking about a standard process, to consider how using the process of self-study can help each of us make what we do more visible to ourselves and to others. The curricular decisions we make including the development and ongoing process of an assessment plan should be deeply embedded in the goals and outcomes of each program.

This is why rubric sharing is meaningless in some ways. I think rubric sharing is fine on the one hand. We need to see how others are designing their rubrics. Just like our students, it helps us when we see various examples. However, just like our students, we need to make the work our own. Rubrics are highly personal and should be fine-tuned instruments that measure the specific stated learning outcome of a particular program.

If you are interested in sharing your self-study story particularly about how your assessment activities align with your context, please send me an e-mail at or place a comment on this post.

I look forward to the conversation!

A Need for Practical Wisdom

As faculty, we often think about what it is that our students most need in order to be good teachers of young children. This is what we talk about around the water cooler, it is what we discuss in faculty meetings, and hopefully it is the basis of the curricular decisions we make both in long-term planning, as well as  in-the-moment teaching. We speak of content knowledge, skills, dispositions, values, and ethics. We assign vignettes, video and real-world observations, and even faciliatate role-play activities for students, but ultimately we are not able to provide them with a step-by-step guide for every challenge they will ever face in the field – it’s impossible!

I’ve just read a book that I found rather intriguing. It’s called, “Practical Wisdom: The right way to do the right thing” by Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe. I enjoyed the book immensely and I’m finding it difficult to explain why. Perhaps because wisdom seems to be a quality I most hope will develop in early childhood professionals and yet I find it very difficult to define, much less teach. There is more to wisdom than content knowledge. There is more to wisdom than technique. There is more to wisdom than caring. It’s difficult to pin down. However, this book does a very good job of it.

I highly recommend the book, but if you don’t have time right now to read something like this, consider taking the time to watch Barry Schwartz’s TED presentation,  The Real Crisis? We stopped being wise.  I assure you it is worth the 20 minutes. Watch it to the end if you can – I think you will be glad you did.

“The rules and incentives that modern institutions rely on in pursuit of efficiency, accountability, profit, and good performance can’t substitute for practical wisdom” (Schwartz & Sharpe, 2010. p.9).

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