The impact of a focused professional development project on the practices and career paths of early childhood education teachers
ABSTRACT Early childhood education (ECE) teacher professional development refers to the various modalities of providing new and or additional content knowledge to the teachers who work with children birth to five. The purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of an Arizona United Way-administered intervention project designed to provide focused professional development activities to 15 ECE teachers at seven high-need, center-based early care and education settings. Specifically, this study determined if these interventions influenced the teachers to undertake formative career path changes such as college coursework. In addition, the study also sought to understand the views, beliefs, and attitudes of these ECE teachers and if/how their perspectives influenced their educational career paths. Data were gathered through the triangulated use of participants' responses to a survey, face-to-face interviews, and a focus group. Findings demonstrate that the teachers understand that professional development, such as college coursework, can increase a person's knowledge on a given topic or field of study, but that they feel qualified to be a teacher for children birth to five even though 12 of the 15 teachers do not hold an AA/AAS or BA/BS degree in any area of study. Further, the teachers suggested that if they were to earn a degree it would most likely be in another field of study beside education. These responses provide another reason professional development efforts to encourage ECE teachers to seek degrees in the field of education may be failing. If ECE teachers wanted to invest time, energy and funds they would acquire a degree, which provided more financial reward and professional respect.