Trends In Research: Focus on The Journal of Early Childhood Research and Practice
When we think of the word “trends” often times our mind begins to think about whatever fashion or music style might be trendy at the moment. However, fashion, music, and other aspects of pop culture are not the only areas of our lives that have trends. In fact, even the type of research that is published by peer reviewed journals can often be influenced by trends or create trends themselves. The following review will look specifically into the peer reviewed journal of Early Childhood Research and Practice. This journal has existed since 2001 and publishes biannual Journals which each contain seven different articles. This review will look for trends in the research topics the journal published, the types of articles published such as research reviews or theoretical papers, the rigor in the research,and finally the review will end with recommendations that could possible strengthen the journal.
First we will look at trends regarding what is being covered in the journal and if those have changed in the last ten years. One topic that seems to have consistently come up in the past 10 years is research into early learning education standards relating to what children should know as they enter kindergarten. For example, in the most recent edition of the journal, there was a qualitative study where they interviewed preschool teachers and parents about the what they believe “kindergarten readiness” standards meant and what role preschool should play in meeting those goals (Hatcher, B., Nuner, J., & Paulsel, 2012)In 2011 another study concerning early learning standards was published; however, in this case it was a quantitative analysis that was designed to determine the validity of a screening tool used to evaluate children who are entering kindergarten in the state of Connecticut in a variety of developmental areas(Goldstein, J., & McCoach, D. B. 2011). A study in 2010’s goal was to determine if early learning standards were even being used and understood by early education center directors by conducting a quantitative study using telephone interviews and questionnaires of directors of early education programs (Ackerman D.J., Sansanelli R.A. 2010) . This study was spurred because of the early learning challenge fund that was created by congress which is similar to the aforementioned Connecticut study which was spurred by recent government legislation that revolved around the creation of early learning standards. This focus on attempting to determine what is best included in early learning standards has been in hyper focus of late which is evident by the many recent aforementioned studies published in this journal; but the focus is nothing new. In fact, as far back as 2003 the journal published a study which attempted to collect data on the various types of early learning standards that the states were creating in, how they created them, how they were being used, and how they could possibly be improved (Frelow, V.S., Kagan S.L., and Little, C.S. 2003).
The only topic that seems to be covered more in the journal than the discussion over standards is professional development training for early childhood educators. In the fall of 2012 issue there were two different articles that revolved around this topic. The first article was a qualitative study that focused on how to provide professional development trainings which were culturally relevant (Kruse 2012); while the second article in that same issue concerning itself with how early childhood educators used the internet in order to improve their skills and practice. The study obtainedquantitative data via conducing a survey of over 1600 early childhood professionals about how they use the internet. (Weigel, D. J., Weiser, D. A., Bales, D. W., & Moyses, K. J. 2012).Even a cursory look through other years of the journal in the past 10 years reveals many similar studies attempting to determine what are both the current and best practices in terms of professional development experiences.
So far we have focused on trends of topics covered but not on the types of articles published in if they are studies and if so what type. Using the search features for the journal, one finds that the vast majority of the articles that are published appear to be peer reviewed studies. The fact that they were peer reviewed studies lends some credence to the proposition that these studies were methodically thorough. While this review did not look at every last one of the studies in the past 10 years of the journal, it did appear that there was a nearly fifty/fifty split between the number of quantitative and qualitative studies that were published. It is important to not just rest on the fact these studies are peer reviewed and to also examine the rigor in which they were conducted. Because reviewing every last one of these studies would be a herculean tasks, we will focus on reviewing the thoroughness of the studies that have already been mentioned in the first part of this paper.
One of strength of many of the published studies that used quantitative methods appears to be sample size. In the study of preschool teachers online professional development habits over 800 teachers from a wide range of demographics were surveyed (Weigel, D. J., Weiser, D. A., Bales, D. W., & Moyses, K. J. 2012) and in the study looking into early learning standards in Connecticut nearly 400 Directors of Early Education Centers were surveyed (Ackerman D.J., Sansanelli R.A. 2010). Thisleads us to a possible short coming of these studies; in both cases large numbers were reached by surveys. On the other hand, it appears not much was done to determine the validity of the surveys that were used which could possibly lead to information that is not useful or valid being attained in the study.
Now this article will look at some of the qualitative studies in the journal. In the qualitative study that revolved around parental and preschool teachers notions of kindergarten readiness, open ended interviews were conducted with 29 different females who were either preschool teachers andparents. The interviewees were from a wide range of background and types of communities from suburban and urban, to rural; the interviewees however did all have a common train in that they were all female(Hatcher, B., Nuner, J., & Paulsel, 2012).
This last fact leads us to the first recommendation for improving the journal. In both the participants of the studies conducted and the topics that were looked into, there is little about men’s impact young children’s lives whether it be as fathers or teachers. While this issue is not unique to this journal, it could be a possible area where they could expand the types of topics they look into. Another potential place of improvement it follow up studies. Many of the studies that are published appear to be one offs that use a new instrument such as a questionnaire to investigate a topic; however, often times questionnaires or even interview techniques can have problems or biases so finding and publishing follow up studies to the initial research could very well be important and improve the journal as a whole.
Ackerman, D. J., & Sansanelli, R. A. (2010). The source of child care center preschool learning and program standards: Implications for potential early learning challenge fund grantees. Early Childhood Research & Practice, 12 Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.umb.edu/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA227012748&v=2.1&u=mlin_b_umass&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w
Frelow, V. S., Kagan, S. L., & Scott-Little, C. (2003). Creating the conditions for success with early learning standards: Results from a national study of state-level standards for children's learning prior to kindergarten *. Early Childhood Research & Practice, 5 Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.umb.edu/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA134007236&v=2.1&u=mlin_b_umass&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w
Goldstein, J., & McCoach, D. B. (2011). >The starting line: Developing a structure for teacher ratings of students' skills at kindergarten entry.Early Childhood Research & Practice, 13Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.umb.edu/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA276438053&v=2.1&u=mlin_b_umass&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w
Hatcher, B., Nuner, J., & Paulsel, J. (2012).Kindergarten readiness and preschools: Teachers' and parents' beliefs within and across programs. Early Childhood Research & Practice, 14 Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.umb.edu/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA324982672&v=2.1&u=mlin_b_umass&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w
Kruse, T. P. (2012). Making the match: Culturally relevant coaching and training for early childhood caregivers. Early Childhood Research & Practice, 14 Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.umb.edu/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA324982673&v=2.1&u=mlin_b_umass&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w
Weigel, D. J., Weiser, D. A., Bales, D. W., & Moyses, K. J. (2012). Identifying online preferences and needs of early childhood professionals. Early Childhood Research & Practice, 14 Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.umb.edu/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA324982676&v=2.1&u=mlin_b_umass&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w