It’s easy enough to identify a quality preschool by how we react: We feel amazed. We smile. We grow excited. We say “aww.”
But while it is easy to recognize quality education, the challenge for early education leaders and policymakers often lies in prescribing quality education. When we see good practices in education, how do we record what made them great — and how do we replicate them in other contexts?
At the latest convening of the Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media shared one model of good practice.
With an initiative called Simple Interactions, the Fred Rogers Center is researching the importance of simple, caring, stimulating interactions between children and caregivers — the so called “active ingredient” to a child’s development.
Junlei Li, a developmental psychologist who has spearheaded this work, discussed the importance of early education centers finding a balance between this “active ingredient” and other “inactive ingredients” like curriculum, facilities, materials, and accountability systems. Over the past decade, he said, the Fred Rogers Center has gone into “settings where low resources and adversity intersect,” such as low-income family childcare providers, schools for the deaf, and youth residential homes, to figure out where, when, and how these simple interactions can help promote positive development despite adversity.