Child, Youth, and Family Studies, Department of


Document Type


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education 38:2 (2017), pp 182–208.

doi 10.1080/10901027.2017.1280862


Copyright © 2017 National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators. Published by Routledge/Taylor&Francis. Used by permission.


This study investigated eight prekindergarten teachers’ underlying assumptions about how children learn, and how these assumptions were used to inform and enact instruction. By contextualizing teachers’ knowledge and understanding as it is used in practice we were able to provide unique insight into the work of teaching. Participants focused on children’s ability to remember information, frequently through engagement and repetition. Teachers also anticipated what children would be learning in the early elementary years and taught that content, yet they did not necessarily expect children to remember the information, or even know if children learned the information. Implications for the design of both preservice and in-service teacher education are discussed. This includes helping teachers develop a strong foundational understanding of how children learn, establishing the pedagogical content knowledge relevant to teaching advanced symbol systems like literacy, and shifting pedagogical reasoning about practice. Given the link between the quality of instructional support and learning in the early years, developing the early childhood teaching force’s capacity to use knowledge to reason skillfully about teaching offers a critical lever for creating robust learning in the early years.