UMass Boston Faculty Share Preschool Teaching Techniques with World
February 28, 2012
Not all of Mary Lu Love, Angela Stone-MacDonald, and Lisa Van Thiel’s students actually attend UMass Boston. Through UMass Boston’s OpenCourseWare system, teachers, family child care providers, and after school coordinators in China, Tanzania, South Africa, England, India, and other locations around the world are learning about new ideas and techniques in early childhood education.
Stone-MacDonald, an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction, estimates that to meet the standards set by the Massachusetts Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), all educators in Massachusetts working with children under five years of age will be utilizing at least some of the modules available through the courses within the next five years.
Using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, UMass Boston and the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) started offering courses through OpenCourseWare in February 2011. Stone-MacDonald; Love, the director of early childhood services at UMass Boston’s Institute for Community Inclusion; and Van Thiel, a senior early childhood specialist at ICI; have created six courses covering topics such as preschool learning standards and guidelines and infant and toddler guidelines. Two courses are in Spanish. Anne Douglass, program director for the BA Degree Program in Early Education and Care in Inclusive Settings (EECIS), is an investigator who helped to design and implement the research study on the use and feasibility of the online course modules.
All courses are made up of self-contained modules that can be used individually or strung together to make up a course. The material is free to access, although educators who wish to get college credit need to pay tuition and any related fees.
“Students are learning new ideas related to art and music, how to teach music and rhythm, and connect literacy activities,” Stone-MacDonald says.
In a year’s time, these courses have been accessed more than 72,000 times worldwide. In a particularly telling statistic, more than 780 assessments have been completed. The results of these assessments can be submitted to supervisors of preschool and day care facilities and be applied toward staff professional development requirements.
“All of the courses have somewhere to verify that students participated in the content. In one, they need to produce a lesson plan, in another, take a self-assessment,” Stone-MacDonald explains.
Stone-MacDonald is doing a research project related to online coursework. She has discovered that more than half of those surveyed like online coursework and the ability to complete work when they have free time. She’s also discovered that respondents say they’d like to interact with a trainer or a peer. Because of this research, Stone-MacDonald is encouraging the state to have preschool directors lead the online training, or provide an in-person debrief at the end of the course.
The online courses have also brought greater recognition to the Early Education and Care in Inclusive Settings (EECIS) major. The program has grown 200 percent since its creation two and a half years ago.
“This has been a way of demonstrating what Chancellor Motley says about UMass Boston being a research university with a teaching soul,” Stone-MacDonald explains. “We’ve been able to connect the work we do, research, and service in our field, in the city of Boston and the entire state of Massachusetts.”
UMass Boston has another opportunity for anyone interested in working with infants, toddlers with special needs, and their families. The new Early Intervention (EI) Scholars Program allows highly qualified students with an AA or 60 credits to complete a BA degree in EECIS, with a concentration in Early Intervention. Upon graduation, EI Scholars repay the loan that provided tuition support at UMass Boston by working in an early intervention program. Financial support will vary based on student need and length of time in the program. The deadline to apply is May 1. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.