In alignment with the WCJC Mission of educating the total person, the Department of Education/ Early Childhood strives to facilitate students’ understanding of a variety of theories of child development. Each child development theory emphasizes only one domain, yet children develop in physical, cognitive, social, and emotional areas simultaneously, suggesting the need for a comprehensive theoretical foundation. In addition, since children develop within a unique social-cultural context in a particular historical setting, contextual theorists (Maslow, Vygotsky, Bronfenbrenner, and Erikson) are applied to the study of children. The department believes that students should discover a variety of theories to use as tools to assist them in the interpretation of children’s development within the context of the family, child care setting, peer group, educational setting, and larger community. Theories are analyzed for their strengths and shortcomings from an objective, logical perspective. This belief is aligned with the college’s mission to encourage the pursuit of knowledge, with the department’s mission to increase students’ knowledge about child development and best practices in Early Childhood Education, and with NAEYC Standard 1: Promoting child development and learning.
In order to properly apply theoretical tools to instruction of children and administration of programs, instructors strive to equip teacher candidates with a scientific approach to evaluating and understanding children through observation, assessment, and interpretation of observable behavior and patterns. This approach is in line with the methods of Montessori, Gesell, Piaget, Parten, Ainsworth, and others and supports the WCJC mission to promote the development of the total person through scholarly and creative activity as well as NAEYC Standard 3: Observing, documenting, and assessing to support young children and families. Afterward, candidates apply observational data to the creation of developmentally appropriate environments and guidance (NAEYC Standard 4: Using Developmentally Effective Approaches to Connect with Children and Families). This is in keeping with the college’s mission to apply knowledge for the good of the community, and the department’s mission to create optimum children’s programs in the larger community. The AAS degree offers students a broad foundation of general education courses in communication, math/science, humanities/fine arts, and social- behavioral science supporting their ability to use content knowledge to build meaningful curriculum (NAEYC Standard 5).
Candidates work with families of children in the communities in which they live, and they must develop strategies and skills over time in working with families (in their various forms) and community members. This supports the department’s mission to facilitate the creation of optimum children’s programs in the larger community and NAEYC Standard 2: Building family and community relationships. Candidates are guided to incorporate a professional, yet nurturing attitude into their conduct. This is accomplished by observing the modeling of instructors, respectfully participating in class, and engaging in observational and lab experiences in the larger community, in alignment with NAEYC Standard 7: Early Childhood Field Experiences. The program does not have a lab school and is offered on three campuses, so affiliations with child care and educational programs within the community provide varied field experiences for candidates who then practice professional conduct, guided observations, and reflective teaching during a sequence of capstone experiences. To ensure a breadth of exposure, the department utilizes a “content verification form” with a range of required categories to be visited. This supports the college’s mission to provide opportunities for individual growth and expression, the department’s mission to support the fullest achievement of each student’s potential, and NAEYC Standard 6: Becoming a professional.
In accordance with the college’s mission to benefit the community and the program’s mission to provide optimum early childhood programs for the larger community, the department seeks the counsel and advice of professionals from the Early Childhood field who work and reside in the larger community (Wharton, Matagorda, and Fort Bend counties). This is accomplished through regular interaction with the Early Childhood Advisory Board. Each semester, feedback from the board helps assure that the Early Childhood program accomplishes the college’s mission to prepare graduates for entry-level positions, for advancement in various occupations, and for transfer to baccalaureate granting institutions. Additionally, this advances the program’s mission to support the fullest achievement of each student’s potential.