Early Childhood Professionals’ and Students’ Experiences and Supports Needed to Complete Degrees and Certification: A Mixed-methods Study

Breakout Session

Early Childhood Professionals’ and Students’ Experiences and Supports Needed to Complete Degrees and Certification: A Mixed-methods Study

Date & Time:
Wed, Jun 26, 2024 | 10:30 - 11:40am CDT
Room: Diamond 8 (Map)

About this session

Track: Early Education
Audience level: Intermediary

Nebraska is not immune to the widespread shortage of early childhood educators currently occurring across the United States. This lack of highly qualified teachers and care providers prevents parents and families from accessing quality, affordable care and education for their young children hampering the developmental potential during the critical years of early childhood. Unfortunately, this shortage is further constrained by a lack of accessible and equitable systems of learning that can qualify early childhood educators from multiple and diverse communities around the state. To address the developmental needs of young children, and to address childcare scarcity and early childhood workforce shortages, changes are necessary to design adequate, equitable, and accessible pathways for early childhood degrees and credentialing. The Responsive Equitable System for Preparing Early Childhood Teachers (RESPECT across Nebraska) project was organized to strengthen Nebraska's early childhood workforce by creating more inclusive, accessible, and culturally-sustaining pathways to teacher preparation, certification, and credentialing. Its mission involves three key strategies designed to support and facilitate early childhood educators in degree completion and credentialing by (1) removing barriers to facilitate completion; (2) designing accessible and equitable pathways to higher education and credentialing; and (3) building systems of support to ensure equitable opportunities for all of Nebraska's early childhood workforce. To address and implement this mission, the RESPECT team adopted a data-informed approach to understand and identify key facilitators and barriers to advancing education for early childhood educators. These findings are crucial to recruit and retain a diverse, skilled, and informed workforce. In this session, we will introduce the RESPECT across Nebraska project aims and the challenges that the project is working to address such as ECE workforce shortage, childcare scarcity, inadequate pathways, and limited accessibility. We will also report on the facilitators and barriers to early childhood education preparation identified through interviews and surveys with early childhood professionals and students. Moreover, we will introduce the ways in which the RESPECT project will facilitate the education and career advancement of ECE professionals, leverage the support mechanisms that currently exist within communities and the state, and design and develop new support systems. Approximately 15 minutes each will be allotted to these points of discussion, with the remaining 25 minutes reserved for audience discussion, feedback, and brainstorming on how to apply the information to their roles and further the impact on their communities. This will involve discussions to solicit points of reflection and questions that will inform the successful implementation of the project, having in mind that the project is striving to be guided by community-based and culturally-sustaining practices, and echoing the voices of the ECE professionals and students in order to build the pathways in a way that will address their needs and challenges in a more equitable, inclusive and culturally-sustaining manner. 

Intended Audience: Head Start personnel, school representatives, early childhood educators, service providers

Learning objectives

After this presentation participants will: 

  • Be familiar with the aims of the RESPECT across Nebraska project
  • Know the key facilitators and barriers to advancing education and teacher certification reported by early childhood students and professionals in Nebraska.
  • Understand how the RESPECT across Nebraska project is removing barriers and building pathways to address them.
  • Brainstorm how to apply the information to their roles/communities.