Conceptual Framework

The ECE program’s conceptual framework was collaboratively developed and is recognized and used by faculty, candidates, and field placement supervisors. The program’s conceptual framework is a flowing tidal creek representing the children we serve, a constantly changing population, always growing and needing our guidance to stay healthy, secure, and eager. We believe in the importance of developing candidates who are prepared to teach, nurture, support, and interact with children in various ways, similar to the different animals fulfilling their roles in the ecosystem of a tidal creek. Our conceptual framework is built upon the core values of our program and aligns with the six NAEYC standards in the following ways:

  1. Knowledge of child development is the heart of understanding what each child needs to grow and develop in positive ways. Candidates study the educational theories of Erikson, Piaget, and Vygotsky, as well as the curriculum models of High Scope, Montessori, and Reggio. Thus, they are able to design and implement environments that reflect Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) and facilitate healthy development in all domains.
    • NAEYC Standard 1: Promote Child Development and Learning
  2. Inclusive practices recognize families as children’s most significant context for development and celebrate the uniqueness of each child. Investigation of Bronfenbrenner’s Bioecological Systems and Howard Gardner’s theories encourages candidates to appreciate the many contexts and influences on children’s development. Through multi-faceted explorations and interactions, candidates develop cultural competence as they participate in experiences that validate multicultural and inclusive approaches.
    • NAEYC Standard 2: Build Family and Community Relationships
  3. Assessment partnerships endorse thoughtful, systematic, and authentic assessment with documentation that yields superior learning outcomes. Candidates use an array of assessment tools and technology resources to inform their practice and collaborate with families and other professionals to promote positive outcomes for children.
    • NAEYC Standard 3: Observe, Document, and Assess to Support Young Children and Families
  4. Intentional teaching improves teaching and learning and requires knowledge of children’s unique characteristics and pedagogy. Planned observations, interactions with children, and skilled role models ensure candidates view children as active learners. Field experiences in multiple courses require candidates to plan and implement approaches and environments that focus on playful learning and child-initiated exploration to build a foundation for later learning.
    • NAEYC Standard 4: Use Developmentally Effective Approaches to Connect with Children and Families
  5. Skillful teachers are engaged in the learning process and become content and technology experts as they design effective curriculum for young children. Candidates are required to take and pass college courses that develop the academic skills they need to effectively teach young children. In field placements candidates work with college and site professionals to develop and implement appropriate activities that are aligned with learning standards and address children’s unique characteristics.
    • NAEYC Standard 5: Use Content Knowledge to Build Meaningful Curriculum
  6. Reflective practitioners are more intentional and skillful teachers who demonstrate a commitment to ethical practices and the children they serve. Early in their course work, candidates identify dispositions critical to their success and formulate a plan to achieve these dispositions. Professional development is ongoing throughout the program and includes cultivating a passion for critical early childhood issues. This passion fuels candidates’ desire to engage in informed advocacy and become reflective and knowledgeable practitioners.
    • NAEYC Standard 6: Become a Professional
The Early Childhood Educator will be a good steward of young children as:

An Observer, who like the turtle, patiently waits, observing the surroundings to make critical decisions about the next steps, assessing the environment and all inhabitants.

1a: Knowing and understanding young children’s characteristics and needs

1b: Knowing and understanding the multiple influ­ences on development and learning

2a: Knowing about and understanding diverse fam­ily and community characteristics

3a: Understanding the goals, benefits, and uses of assessment

3b: Knowing about and using observation, documentation, and other appropriate assessment tools and approaches


The Relationship Builder, who like the otter, merges his home with the elements using valuable resources effectively, constructing pathways for playful learning, and building positive partnerships with all processes.

2b: Supporting and engaging families and communities through respectful, reciprocal relationships

2c: Involving families and communities in their children’s development and learning

3d: Knowing about assessment partnerships with families and with professional colleagues

4a: Understanding positive relationships and supportive interactions as the foundation of their work with children

6b: Knowing about and upholding ethical standards and other professional guidelines

6c: Engaging in continuous, collaborative learning to inform practice

6e: Engaging in informed advocacy for children and the profession


The Facilitator of Learning, who like the oyster, maintains the health of the system by filtering the water, cultivating the precious pearl: the child.

1c: Using developmental knowledge to create healthy, respectful, supportive, and challenging learning environments

3c: Understanding and practicing responsible assessment to promote positive outcomes for each child

4b: Knowing and understanding effective strategies and tools for early education

4c: Using a broad repertoire of developmentally appropriate teaching/learning approaches

5a: Understanding content knowledge and resources in academic disciplines

5b: Knowing and using the central concepts, inquiry tools, and structures of content areas or academic disciplines


A Reflective Practitioner, who like the egret, gracefully flies above the flowing creek, taking a bird’s eye view of the overall picture to ensure that all is well within the system.

4d: Reflecting on their own practice to promote positive outcomes for each child

5c: Using their own knowledge, appropriate early learning standards, and other resources to design, implement, and evaluate meaningful, challenging curricula for each child.

6a: Identifying and involving oneself with the early childhood field

6d: Integrating knowledgeable, reflective, and criti­cal perspectives on early education