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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Linking Workplace Trainers and College Faculty to Create Learning Pathways for Early Childhood Teachers

Florence L. Nelson.

Today we are increasingly aware of the importance of the early years in shaping learning success. Demographic trends show that many children under the age of five spend time weekly in the care of someone other than their parents. Many people who work with young children have no specific training in child development or early education pedagogy.

In the U.S. this issue was addressed with the development of the Child Development Associate credential (CDA), a professional credential offered to caregivers of young children. The CDA builds on workplace learning by helping candidates demonstrate competency in 13 knowledge areas. Candidates are assessed through written and oral examinations and present a competency portfolio. The typical CDA candidate works in a child care program and has not taken college courses in early childhood education. Over 100,000 people have completed the CDA since 1985.

The CDA requires 120 hours of classroom training. This training can be delivered by a private consultant, community training agency, or local college. The CDA is the first specialized training that many paraprofessionals undertake. CDA training gives many workers the confidence to enter a college teacher preparation program. Since the CDA credential is also required in some early childhood job settings, obtaining the CDA can help advance the career and compensation of credential holders.

This presentation describes a collaboration between community trainers and college faculty that strengthened linkages between workplace learning, community-based training, and college coursework. Issues include evaluation of experiential learning, establishing parallel standards for acceptable performance in community training and college coursework, and literacy challenges faced by paraprofessionals on entering formal college instruction. The implications for planning paraprofessional workplace training programs will be discussed.


Florence L. Nelson  (United States)
Executive Director
New Jersey Professional Development Center for Early Care and Education
Kean University

Leads New Jersey's early childhood professional development initiative. 15 years experience in a childcare agency serving 1,000+ children. Instructor, Dept. of Early Childhood & Family Studies, Kean University. Member: New Jersey Child Care Advisory Council, Interagency Coordinating Council (Early Intervention); NJ Dept. of Education Early Childhood Ed. Advisory Group, co-chair, Committee on Teacher Recruitment, Retention & Certification; Vice-Pres., Coalition of Infant/Toddler Educators.

  • Teacher Preparation
  • Paraprofessional
  • Early Childhood
  • 'Real World' Learning
  • Workplace Literacy
  • Learning Pathways
  • Adult Literacy

(30 min Conference Paper, English)