3 Trends in Early Childhood Education that You Should Know About

trends in early childhood education

In 2016, educators, lawmakers and researchers put a lot of time and effort into analyzing the true importance of early childhood education (ECE). Studies have concluded that, when done right, ECE provides lasting benefits to all students—although the impact is even greater among low-income students.     

With the world of education constantly adapting to the changing times, it can be difficult to keep up with the trends that make ECE so effective. Whether you have children in preschool or you are working in the field, we compiled three trending topics to help keep you in the loop on the current and future trajectory of ECE.

3 trends in early childhood education to watch for

1. Minimizing the achievement gap

The achievement gap focuses on the academic achievements of different social and economic groups. Output includes the differences in grade point averages, standardized test scores, dropout rates, college enrollment and college graduation metrics. The gap is measured between low-income and high-income households, white and minority students, males and females, students whose first language is English and students for whom English is a second (or third) language, among other factors.

The achievement gap is often used to determine funding for ECE. On a federal level, a new policy will go into effect during the 2017–2018 school year. It is called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and it overturns the No Child Left Behind policy of 2002. Instead of the Federal government determining progress, this new policy gives the power back to the state to determine how its education system can improve.

How does it affect early childhood education?

The assessment of students is a crucial element of a successful education, as it can help educators identify learning needs early on. ECE providers can then make parents more aware of a child’s learning style and their individual needs.

Early education centers with disadvantaged students—such as children from low-income families, foster children or children who are learning English as a second language—may gain more funding from the state when they can prove academic progress with these students is closing the achievement gap. The demand for quality educators with a contagious passion for learning can only grow.

What does this mean for those working with children in early education? Expect more ongoing education, formal assessments and technical help such as Shine Early. If you are a parent, there are four habits you can help develop at home to encourage your child’s growth.

There are a handful of things you can do to support your child’s learning at home. Here are some habits you can start implementing today:

  • Read to your child at least 20 minutes a day.
  • Speak to them about small things, such as selecting food at the grocery store.
  • Establish consistent routines at home.
  • Use positive reinforcement—praise the child when they do something good, instead of saying “no” when they do something wrong.

The more communication among parents, teachers and children, the better the learning process will be.

2. Technology and the classroom

One way the achievement gap is being minimized in ECE classrooms is through the use of technology as a resource. However, an ongoing trend in the field is to debate the pros and cons of technology for children.

Technology is so widespread that more and more resources for learning are made available to the public. For instance, low-income households often still have access to computers and internet, making technical skills and knowledge more available. In fact, 84 percent of U.S. households own a computer and 73 percent of U.S. households have a computer with a broadband connection to the internet, according to the Pew Research Center.

Of course, at an early age, technology can be destructive if not used properly. Some fear that too much screen time can stunt growth that comes through exploring the outdoors and the community, interacting with peers and gaining patience and fine motor skills through hands-on activities.

How does it affect early childhood education?

Discovering the software and resources that meet the needs of students can greatly enrich the current material they are learning. Even with the proven effectiveness of technology in the classroom, educators are left with a few questions: Which technology is best? How should we incorporate it into our lesson plans? How often should technology be used with our students?

There are varying answers to these questions, but consider the following example. Social skills are rapidly developing in children during their time in early education centers. Early Childhood News suggests that instead of students working individually with their own computers, once children are each practiced with a computer program, they might work in groups around an element of technology. This gives an opportunity for peer tutoring and for cooperative learning activities.

As far as which technology is best, it depends on the effectiveness and the accessibility of the technology. If it is something accessible to all the students, even from home, it is even more desirable. One of the most important elements to consider is how children are interacting with the technology, ensuring the new tools are developing positive behavior. Technology—or screen time—also comes in many forms. According to the Common Sense Census, these are the four main forms:

  • Passive consumption: Watching TV, reading and listening to music
  • Interactive consumption: Playing games and browsing the Internet
  • Communication: Video-chatting and using social media
  • Content creation: Using devices to make digital art or music

When it comes to the question of how much technology to incorporate into lesson plans, Common Sense Media recommends no more than one hour per day.

3. Classroom principles

In any classroom—but especially for students at an early age—teachers are encouraged to integrate core principles to develop Emotional Cognitive Social Early Learning (ECSEL).

ECSEL helps children to manage emotions to become confident, resilient and understanding—all of which are important components in learning and growth. At this age, emotional experiences shape the brain.

For ECE professionals, this means understanding family dynamics and leading by example in how to handle emotions. Teaching children how to identify feelings and respond to them spurs on understanding, acceptance and healthier relationships.

Are you prepared for the future of ECE?

An important characteristic of the most effective ECE professionals is the commitment to always continue educating themselves regarding the trends, changes, studies and conversations in the industry. Armed with these three trends in early childhood education, you may find yourself better prepared to help your students succeed.


Follow our Education Blog to keep tabs on career resources, classroom ideas and other hot topics in the world of ECE.


EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published in December 2013. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2017.


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Annie researches and writes student-focused articles with Collegis Education on a variety of topics for Rasmussen College. She is passionate about learning, writing, and encouraging students toward success.

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