This chapter aligns with SLO #7: apply the professional code of ethics for early care and education to resolve dilemmas.
In chapter 1 we introduced the practice of teaching and referred to the “field” of early childhood education (ECE). In the last two decades, there has been much attention paid to the difference between a “field” and a profession of ECE (e.g., Goffin & Washington, 2007). While the intensity of attention about defining ECE as a profession has increased considerably, this attention is far from new. As early as the mid-1960’s Bettye Caldwell wrote about the relatively little concern for defining the field apparent in discussion about how early childhood education should operate (Caldwell, 1967). In this chapter, you will explore the definition of “profession” and consider whether ECE fits that definition. You will learn about a recent effort to move to finally position ECE to be recognized as a profession. You will also become aware of the currently used and various systems of standards and codes that define professional behavior and conduct of the ECE practitioner. The goal of this chapter is for you to understand the expectations of a professional early childhood educator as you prepare to move into that role.
Key points from this chapter
A profession is defined by criteria that guide professional practice.
Current thinking suggests early childhood education does not fully meet the definition of a profession.
While ECE may not yet fully meet professional criteria, many systems of standards exist to guide practice.
Terminology found throughout this chapter
ECE Field: All programs, services and occupations that currently reside within the boundary of what we call ECE.
Field of Practice: Specialization or a defined scope of work undertaken by an identified group of practitioners.
Profession: An occupation that serves the public welfare and that requires specialized educational training in some branch of learning or science.
Professional: The inhabitant of a role in that occupation—the person who does the work of the profession.
Early Childhood Education: The title of the profession chosen by the Power to the Profession Task Force.
Early Childhood Educator: The title of the professionals chosen by the Power to the Profession Task force; those who provide direct service to children, birth to age 8.
Unifying Framework: The final product of the Power to the Profession Task Force. Reports on recommendations made by the Task Force to define the profession and create infrastructure to support implementation of the recommendations.
Scope of Practice: The responsibilities and authority granted to an ECE professional.
WAC: Washington Administrative Code. Sets regulations for licensed childcare.
Stackable Certificates: 3 credentials granted by community and technical colleges in Washington. They build on one another and set the foundation for acquiring an associate degree.
NAEYC: National Association for the Education of Young Children. Prominent professional organization for early childhood educators.
Ethical conduct: Behavior following moral and right principles.