Open Access
Bechtold, Joy Marie
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
August 19, 2011
Committee Members:
  • Dr James Johnson, Dissertation Advisor
  • Dr James Johnson, Committee Chair
  • Patrick Willard Shannon, Committee Member
  • Dr Richard Fiene, Committee Member
  • Edgar Paul Yoder, Committee Member
  • Teacher Education
  • Early Childhood
  • Early Childhood Education
Early-care and education research, relative to positive outcomes for young children, birth through age five, enrolled in high quality early-care and education programs is compelling. This same research also names the classroom teacher as pivotal in establishing and maintaining high quality within their classrooms and practices. Currently, within the United States, this represents 2.3 million employed early-care and education professionals. Additionally, statistics point out that currently in the United States, more than 11 million children under the age of five are in some type of early-care and educational program for an average of 36 hours every week. Approximately one-third of these children are in multiple programs so that parents can meet the demands for care during traditional and non-traditional working hours. In this research study I wanted to listen to the “voices” of early-care and education teachers as they define and describe their perceptions of what a high quality classroom looks like and the teaching practices that they identify and use within their classrooms. Since research also proposes that the educational level of the teacher makes a difference in the quality of their practices, I also wanted to explore their perceptions regarding higher education and their motivation to return to post-secondary education to obtain a degree. The research study was guided by the following six research questions: a) How do early-care and education teachers define and describe a high quality classroom, b) what teacher practices do they identify as necessary in a high quality classroom, c) what influences their descriptions of high quality and their identification of the teacher practices that support high quality: i.e. educational attainment level, experience, or a combination of educational attainment and experience, d) do early-care and education teachers identify a higher level of education as an indicator of quality, e) what is the perception of early-care and education teachers regarding years of experience, and f) what are the perceptions and reactions of early-care and education teachers regarding the current expectation or requirement that in-service teachers obtain a degree (Associate or Bachelor)? Multiple research tools such as open-ended interviews, field observations, informal surveys and reflection journals were used to gather data. It was through this data collection that I was able to authentically represent the “voices” of the early-care and education teachers and see patterns within their written and verbal responses. The data revealed a number of findings. First, the early-care and education teachers’ describe high quality early-care and educational programming as a) child-centered , b) involves parents, c) teamwork within the center, d) environment of the classroom, e) developmentally appropriate curriculum, as well as the f) education and the g) experience of the teacher. The second finding was that the teaching practices identified as necessary in a high quality classroom reflect either structural or process quality. My third finding, regarding the educational level and years of experience that represent early-care and education teachers was mixed. The majority of the participants did agree that some level of education is beneficial, such as, a Child Development Accredition Certificate (CDA), Associate in Applied Science (AAS) or Bachelor (BS/BA). However, the participants pointed out that the focus of the degree program must be Early Childhood Education, preferably birth through age five years. Longevity or their years of experience within the field of early-care and education is highly important and viewed as valuable to the participants and should be positively recognized and validated at institutions of higher education. Lastly, the trials and tribulations facing teachers going back to school were heard in many interviews, their hopes and dreams too often, and always at least an implicit dedication to quality for children and families they serve.