In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Early Childhood Teacher Education

  • Introduction
  • Early Sources
  • Journals
  • Program Design and Evaluation
  • Policy, Research, and International Comparisons
  • ECTE Curriculum
  • ECTE Pedagogy
  • Professional Placement and Clinical Education in ECTE
  • Diversity in ECTE
  • ECTE Candidates’ Beliefs and Attitudes

Related Articles Expand or collapse the "related articles" sectionabout

Forthcoming Articles Expand or collapse the "forthcoming articles" section


Education Early Childhood Teacher Education
Joce Nuttall
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 April 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0076


Early childhood teacher education (ECTE) is focused on the preparation of educators who educate and care for our youngest citizens. The years from birth to eight years of age are generally considered early childhood, yet most programs of ECTE focus on the prior-to-school years and the periods variously known as infancy, toddlerhood, the young child, preschool, pre-K, kindergarten, and the early years (with the two last terms also applying to the beginning of formal schooling in some countries). Research in ECTE is also a subset of the wider teacher education research field, and ECTE researchers are engaged in many of the same debates. These debates include how best to prepare graduates to teach diverse and disadvantaged students in equitable ways, and the most appropriate forms of curriculum and pedagogy for the education of young children. For this reason, scholars of ECTE are advised to also study the related Oxford Bibliographies articles “Teacher Preparation” and “Teacher Training and Development.” Debates about ECTE are intensifying around the world at present as governments take increase their policy focus on early childhood education. Teacher qualifications are a recognized factor in the quality of early childhood programs, leading to an increased focus on the efficacy of ECTE and the capacity of teacher education institutions to attract and retain suitable candidates. Further challenges for scholars of ECTE include the wide diversity of services available for young children and their families in most countries, and the wide range of staff qualifications typically found in these services. The entries in this article attempt to navigate through this complex field but are principally drawn from descriptions of ECTE in university settings (since this environment is where most ECTE research occurs) and involving candidates who will work in the prior-to-school years. Two important themes thread through every section of this article. The first is the emphasis on describing personal and professional perspectives, particular of ECTE, within this literature. This emphasis is related to the second theme, which is the dominance of small-scale, single-cohort studies confined to individual institutions. There is a pressing need for more studies in ECTE that work with large data sets and that conduct research across institutions and across national borders, if scholars in ECTE are to respond effectively to global flows in policy, research, and practice.

Early Sources

The field of scholarship in early childhood teacher education (ECTE) is small. It is also a relatively new field of research, with commentary about ECTE programs only beginning to appear since the mid-1970s. Notable early scholars were Professors Lilian Katz, Bernard Spodek, and Olivia Saracho. Examples of their early work annotated here (Spodek 1975, Katz 1996, and Saracho 1988), and work they have undertaken since, continue to influence curriculum design in ECTE and ECTE research. The sources cited in this section date from the mid-1970s through the mid-1990s and provide an overview of debates in ECTE that persist today, particularly regarding the appropriate knowledge base for the profession. Most notably, a special issue of the prestigious journal Early Childhood Research Quarterly in 1996 confronted head-on the issue of the dominance of psychologically based theories of child development within ECTE curriculum, publishing critiques by Katz, Lubeck (Lubeck 1996) and Goffin (Goffin 1996). However, there remained several gaps in knowledge amidst these debates, including the perspectives of practicing early childhood teachers on ECTE; Goffin and Day 1994 attempts to address this specific gap. A further omission was international comparison of ECTE programs. Pascal and Bertram 1993 and Ebbeck 1993 are early attempts to bring a cross-national voice to these debates. The subsequent growth of cheap air travel and internet-based communications has increased this area of scholarship markedly since the mid-1990s. By the 1990s, ECTE in many countries, including Australia and New Zealand, was moving from institutions such as teachers’ colleges and community colleges into university settings. This move has resulted in a steady increase in research and scholarship in ECTE from the late 1990s onward as teacher educators in ECTE have taken up academic roles in university settings.

  • Ebbeck, M. 1993. Early childhood teacher education in Australia. International Journal of Early Years Education 1.1: 63–76.

    DOI: 10.1080/0966976930010106

    Rich description of ECTE in Australia in the early 1990s. Foreshadows key issues, such as teacher registration and the relationship between schools and early childhood education, that have persisted into the 2000s.

  • Goffin, S. G. 1996. Child development knowledge and early childhood teacher preparation: Assessing the relationship; A special collection. Special Issue: Early Childhood Research Quarterly 11.2: 117–133.

    The introductory paper to an important special issue of ECRQ from the 1990s; this paper raises questions about the appropriate conceptual basis for ECTE curriculum.

  • Goffin, S. G., and D. E. Day, eds. 1994. New perspectives in early childhood teacher education: Bringing practitioners into the debate. New York: Teachers College.

    Early childhood educators’ writing, and academics’ responses, about a wide range of issues in ECTE and teaching in early childhood. Valuable as one of the few collections of teacher educators’ perspectives in ECTE.

  • Katz, L. G. 1996. Child development knowledge and teacher preparation: Confronting assumptions. Special Issue: Early Childhood Research Quarterly 11.2: 135–146.

    This paper and the accompanying special issue papers by Goffin 1996 and Lubeck 1996 provide a good illustration of how differing theoretical perspectives contribute to debates about the preparation of early childhood teachers.

  • Lubeck, S. 1996. Deconstructing “child development knowledge” and “teacher preparation.” Special Issue: Early Childhood Research Quarterly 11.2: 147–167.

    This article illustrates debates during the 1990s about child development (particularly child psychology) as a basis for ECTE and early childhood education.

  • Pascal, C., and A. Bertram. 1993. The pitfalls and pleasures of conducting comparative research into early childhood teacher education. Early Years: An International Research Journal 14.1: 49–53.

    DOI: 10.1080/0957514930140110

    One of two articles reflecting on compiling a 1991 directory of ECTE programs across Europe. Describes methodological challenges and persistent themes in ECTE, both positive and negative, encountered in preparing the directory.

  • Saracho, O. N. 1988. An evaluation of an early childhood teacher education curriculum for preservice teachers. Early Child Development and Care 38.1: 81–101.

    DOI: 10.1080/0300443880380107

    Early critique of ECTE curriculum, including a brief history of ideas influencing ECTE curriculum. Reports an important early attempt to train ECTE candidates to quantify the roles of early childhood educators to support understanding of professional practice.

  • Spodek, B. 1975. Early childhood education and teacher education: A search for consistency. Young Children 30.3: 68–74.

    One of the earliest commentaries on the relationship between early childhood education and teacher education programs. Argues for the need for ECTE to align with the reality of programs for young children.

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